By Derek Schlom
Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas denounced the war in Iraq as a mission to spread democracy âwith the barrel of a gunâ at an assembly last Monday celebrating Womenâs History Month in Taper guy.
Thomas, 86, heavily criticized President George W. Bushâs decision to invade Iraq, declaring it âimmoral, illegal, and unconscionable.â
Thomas was the first female White House bureau chief for United Press International and is often referred to as the âFirst Lady of the Press.â She expressed concern that women still donât have the same opportunities as men.
âWomen can do anything,â Thomas said. âWe should not rest until we have equality in the workplace. We have to strive for a better world.â
Thomas referred to journalism as âthe only institution in our society that can question the President and hold him accountableâ and proudly called the First Amendment âa weapon.â
Thomas, currently a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, recalled some humorous memories from her 57 years in Washington.
With a smirk, Thomas related a comment made by President Jimmy Carterâs mother Lillian. âMiss Lillian,â as she was called, once told the press that âwhen I look at my children, I wish I had remained a virgin,â a comment that had the audience packed into Taper auditorium roaring with laughter.
On President Richard Nixon, Thomas joked, âHe always had two roads to go, and he always took the wrong road.â
Thomas described Congress, now led by a Democratic majority, âa whole new ball game on Capitol Hill.â
âThe country has long been ready for a woman, a black, a Mormon,â Thomas said on the upcoming presidential election.
âThey just have to do the right thing for the country.â
She also criticized the governmentâs decision to grant tax cuts for the rich in a country where 48 million citizens live without health insurance.
When Thomas began her era at the White House, âthe world really did have nothing to fear but fear itself,â but now, she urged, the world needs to change.
Thomas concluded her speech with a plea to âgive peace a chance, and let it begin with us.â