First Lady Presents Leadership Awards to Perry, Holm
By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 15, 1998 Former Defense Secretary William Perry and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm received the first Sen. Margaret Chase Smith Leadership Awards June 11 at the Women's Memorial at Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery.
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton presented the awards to Lee Perry, who accepted on her husband's behalf, and Holm, in recognition of their actions in furthering the service of women in the military.
The Women's Memorial Foundation sponsors the award. Smith, the award's namesake, authored the Women's Armed Forces Integration Act of 1948, which established permanent professional status for women in the military.
"Even with the deck stacked against Sen. Smith, she never gave up," Clinton said. "She never gave up on the idea that the best military in the world needed the best of all our citizens -- men and women."
Clinton described how Smith once wrote that public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. "It must be complete dedication to the nation with full recognition that every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration," she added. "That honor is to be earned, not bought."
Perry earned the honor, Clinton said, because, "Under his watch more than 250,000 new positions were opened to women. He oversaw the first women assigned to Navy combat ships, the first women promoted to three-star rank and women filling top jobs all over the Pentagon.
"He made it clear that support for women's progress and support for this memorial went all the way to the top, ... that Secretary Perry opening the doors of the U.S. military to our best citizens in the finest tradition of Margaret Chase Smith was not just the right thing to do, it was the smart thing to do, and he worked as hard as he knew how to make it happen."
Perry's award had been announced in advance, but Holm's was not. It was kept a secret until the official ceremony, when Clinton announced there would be a second award. She began by sharing some of Holm's accomplishments, to build the suspense. As soon as Clinton said, "She was the first Air Force woman promoted to brigadier general," all eyes turned to Holm.
"Always the first and never satisfied to be the last, she inspired all women to follow her force," Clinton said. Holm "fought those who claimed that women could not be both mothers and soldiers. She fought for women to be allowed in military academies. She fought for the 1967 removal of the cement ceiling that had kept too many women from serving and advancing, and she did it by bringing people together, even people who disagreed in order to get things done."
The awards were presented on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the integration act. The Women's Memorial also hosted a Margaret Chase Smith Symposium June 12, highlighting two areas where Smith made a lasting impact -- space and medical research.
The Women's Memorial Foundation will present the award annually to honor leaders who follow in Sen. Smith's footsteps by furthering the advancement of women in the armed services.