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Barbara Jordan

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In her later years, Barbara Jordan impacted America through her career as a professor and continued political influence. After announcing her retirement from politics due to health problems, she taught an ethics class at the University of Texas at Austin, which was so demanded that it required a lottery system (Jeffrey 90). She continued to influence the world of politics and education and was invited to speak at the 1996 National Democratic Convention as a Keynote Speaker. Her other credits included the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, the highest honor given to civilians and a statue at the University of Texas at Austin (Jeffrey 91). Even in death, she achieved a first. After succumbing to pneumonia on January 17, 1996, Barbara Jordan was the first African American woman buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin (“Barbara Jordan: Representative, 1973-1976, Democrat from Texas”).

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As the fifth female and only African American student in a class of 597, Jordan overcame numerous difficulties. She realized that “no matter… how many frills you attached to it, separate was not equal. I was doing sixteen years of remedial thinking” (Jeffrey 55). Jordan’s imbalanced educational background required her to fervently reread and analyze legal books to even catch up to her classmates. During those years, she “rarely slept more than three or four hours each night” (Jeffrey 56). Nonetheless, Jordan, one of the two female graduates noted that she was “challenged” and “finally educated” (Jeffrey 57). She applied this knowledge to the Massachusetts and Texas bar exams, passed them, and moved to Texas to launch her career (Jeffrey 57). After five years of practicing as the third female Texan lawyer from her parents’ house, Jordan realized that politics was the true avenue to exercise her intelligence and perseverance (Jeffrey 64).

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The “strong,” “aggressive,” and sharp-witted speaker graduated magna cum laude in 1956, and enrolled in Boston University School of Law, where she again shattered adversity and discrimination with her resilience. (Barbara Jordan: Politician)

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At the young age of 16, during her senior year of high school, she declared, “I never intended to become a run-of-the-mill person.”

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She was “outraged” if she “got one B out of a row of A’s on her report card,” as Rose Blue and Corrine Naden comment in Barbara Jordan: Politican

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With a subtle nod of the head and practically indistinguishable breath, the presenter commenced her speech. Immediately, every restless, preoccupied auditor in Madison Square Garden, the location of the 1976 Democratic Convention, rested his eyes on the first African American, Texan, and female member of the United States House of Representatives. In a regal, eloquent, and striking tone, the orator declared, “I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker” (Jeffrey 20). The audience interrupted to erupt in applause, which they would nineteen more times throughout the presentation (“Barbara Jordan: Representative, 1973-1976, Democrat from Texas”). The first African American and female keynote speaker proceeded to use the significance of her presence as a bridge. She neither spent the “time praising the accomplishments of this [Democratic] party and attacking the Republicans” nor listing “the many problems which Americans have” (Jeffrey 21). Barbara Jordan called for the cohesion of the American people and the Democratic party while delivering one of “The Top 100 American Speeches of the 20th Century,” compiled by “leading scholars of American public address” (“Barbara Jordan: Representative, 1973-1976, Democrat from Texas”). Indeed, the address was one of her many fine hours.

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I am related to this otherwordly woman. Any genetic influence from her comprises --- without a doubt ---the most scared atoms of my DNA.

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