Women Leaders Center Kicks Off
The world's first female head of state visited Harvard last night launching a new international organization of women leaders that will be based at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Former President of Iceland Vigdis Finnbogadottir, addressed a crowd of more than 100 people celebrating the establishment of the Council of Women World Leaders at the Taubman Center.
In her speech, Vigdis drew inspiration from a woman who according to the Icelandic saga of Eric the Red, was probably the first European to set foot on both sides of the Atlantic.
"The courage she showed and the respect she engendered as mankind crossed the first millennium can serve as an inspiration for us, now that the next millennium is beginning to dawn upon us," Vigdis said.
The council brings together women who have held or hold the highest offices in their respective countries to generate practical solutions for global policy.
In addition, the council will work closely with Kennedy School faculty and students and encourage the participation of young women in leadership roles.
Vigdis said the council will go beyond its stated mission and express a "symbolic value for a country, for a man or woman, for a young girl or boy-of the vision of women leading their country.
During her speech, Vigdis said the all-female council was not a council for women's rights, but a council to discuss the world's situation.
"My belief, my wish and my conviction is that through friendship of men we will manage to change a lot of things as long as it includes women," she said.
Kia J. Coleman, a student at the Kennedy School who attended last night's event, said she admired "her commitment to creating links between young women coming out of school and women who have already achieved some level of success."
Vally Helgadottir, a native Icelander studying at Middlesex Community College who also attended the event, called Vigdis an "inspiration to every woman-a teacher, a woman in politics, a woman on any career path."
When Vally asked how Vigdis and the council would encourage women to participate in leadership, Vigdis answered, "By being there I invite you up to this table to meet these leaders from the four corners of the world."
Vally then went to the front of the room and shook hands with the women there, including the former prime ministers of Dominica and of the Netherlands Antilles.
Other women associated with the Vigdis, who presided over Iceland for 16 years, encouraged women to "get educated, get educated, get educated so that you have some knowledge to cling to.
Vigdis, who presided over Iceland for 16 years, encouraged women to "get educated, get educated, get educated so that you have some knowledge to cling to.