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Civil Discourse and Non-Partisanship: Legacies of the League

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January 27, 2011

OLD GREENWICH, Conn. - The League of Women Voters of Connecticut began 90 years ago, and one of the organization’s top priorities through the decades has been civil and non-partisan political discourse - including today, when many in political life are calling for toning down the rhetoric.

League chapter president Cheryl Dunson says the group was founded right after women won the franchise, and their mission was clear.

"Now that women had the right to vote, they wanted to be able to cast their vote in an informed way. So, central to our mission is informing and engaging residents on the workings of government."

The organization will celebrate its anniversary tonight with a gala event featuring former New Jersey governor and former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

Dunson points to Connecticut as a good example of how women, once they won the vote, went on to run for office. She says Ella Grasso was the first female governor of any state who was elected in her own right.

"I'm sure our founding mothers and the suffrage leaders would be very proud to know that of the six executive branch offices in Connecticut, three - 50 percent - are held by women today."

Those offices would be Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of the State and State Treasurer. Dunson says Connecticut ranks ninth in the number of women holding legislative office at the state level.

Christine Todd Whitman, with her high elective and appointed government experience, can address some of the big issues of the day, Dunson says.

"How do we address the challenges of working in a polarized political climate? We felt she could shed light on how to engage an increasingly disaffected public, how we can encourage a more civil discourse in our democracy."

A press conference featuring Whitman and others will be held tonight from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich, Winthrop AB Room, 1800 E. Putnam Ave.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT