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The 2004 American Woman Award
Anne Dibble Jordan


A cultural and educational leader recognized across the nation and in the nation's Capitol, Ann Dibble Jordan became the first African American to chair a Presidential Inaugural in 1996. Formerly a social worker, a professor at the University of Chicago, and the director of the Social Services Department at the Chicago Lying-In Hospital, Mrs. Jordan now works tirelessly to better the position of women and minorities across the country. She is a leader who has made civic society stronger and richer.

Ann Jordan serves on the Board of Johnson & Johnson, Automatic Data Processing, Citigroup, and Catalyst and is a trustees at The Brookings Institute, the University of Chicago, WETA (Washington's PBS affiliate), and The Phillips Collection. Mrs. Jordan also chairs the Board of Directors at the National Symphony Orchestra and works with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Washington Area Women's Foundation. She and husband Vernon have four adult children.


Mrs. Jordan accepted the 2004 American Woman Award on September 29 at The Mayflower Hotel with these remarks:

Thank you for this great honor which you have given me this evening. WREI, through its many programs, has had a great impact on the status of women in this country and in other parts of the world.

As I was preparing these remarks, my sister called and we were reflecting on the historic changes we have experienced in our lifetime. We grew up in a small town --Tuskegee, Alabama -- which was unique in many ways. It is the home of an historically black college, Tuskegee Institute, and there was a large Black veterans hospital there. Tuskegee is located in the middle of a state known for its prejudice toward Blacks and little interest in protecting the rights of women.

But we were lucky. Our parents were highly educated and committed to ensuring that we would have access to the best education possible. This community shared this value about education as a way to escape the confines of segregation and poverty. Education was viewed as the way to overcome the inequalities and barriers to achieving personal goals. We were taught to be optimistic, positive and prepared. High school standards were set for us and from grammar school on, we were encouraged not only to think of college but to strive for graduate or professional education. They lived the motto "Leave No Child Left Behind" in Tuskegee.

This was 60 or more years ago and we have lived through the many epochs of change. It has been a long, hard road to the successes which we have earned. When I finished college many years ago, it was difficult for a woman to get a job in corporate America and almost impossible for a Black to get a job. And while we have achieved much, we must remain vigilant. Organizations such as WREI are our insurance that progress will continue forward.

Yet we face different challenges today. It is a world wracked by war, terrorism, hunger, pestilence, hate and disease. It is a world where countless numbers of people are ruled by despots, deprived of the most basic freedom we in America take for granted. It is a world where an unknown virus mysteriously appears in a corner of China and then engulfs the globe with fear and trembling within weeks. We did not need a SARS epidemic or an AIDS crisis to teach that this world has shrunk into a small speck spinning in a wide universe. And on that speck, the fate of all humanity is bound together as never before. The extraordinary advances in civil rights for various groups in our society were made with alliances, coalitions and support groups. There was disagreement, dissent and debate out of which flowed strength, determination and resolution.

That is why it is so important that organizations like WREI and you in this audience who continue to work to ensure that all our citizens have the opportunity to fulfill their potential and live their dream. The American dream is the dream of freedom. It is the dream that rescued us from despair in the worst of times and filled us with hope in the best of times. Thank you.

Click here to see photos from the Awards Reception and Gala.