Janet Reno never abandoned her principles, in spite of criticism. “I am not fancy. I am what I appear to be,” she said. She inspires us to remain true to ourselves, to speak for ourselves and to protect those who need our strength.
When Janet Reno attended Harvard Law School in the 1960’s women were not called on in class because their voices were not deemed strong enough to be heard, but by 1978 Janet Reno was finding her voice. Appointed state’s attorney for Dade County in Florida, the first woman in that position, she worked to protect children, contain drug dealers and rid government of corrupt judges and police officers. She was re-elected to office four times.
In 1993 President Clinton appointed her Attorney General of the United States. She was the first woman to hold that position and served longer than any other attorney general in the twentieth century. Her tenure was not free from controversy, but she stood strong. She won praise for convicting those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, initiating a lawsuit against tobacco companies, taking Microsoft to court for antitrust violations, and capturing and convicting the Unabomber. She was criticized and sometimes reviled for the force used in the Ruby Ridge incident, the storming of the Branch Davidian compound, and the return of Elian Gonzales to his father in Cuba.
In spite of her tough demeanor, Janet Reno has a sense of humor. She appeared with Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live in a sketch called “Janet Reno’s Dance Party” and voiced herself for an episode of The Simpsons. She speaks often, working to convince others of the connection between the quality of education and crime rates, and of the benefit of an improved juvenile court system that reaches troubled children before they become adults.
For online biographies of Janet Reno, see:
Janet Reno: Doing the Right Thing by Paul Anderson
QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
When Janet Reno was at Harvard Law School, one of the professors did set aside a “Ladies’ Day” so that the 16 women in the class of 500 could ask questions. Were you ever in a situation where you felt you could not speak because you were a woman?