Evelyn Lord, 91, is a resident of Calder Woods senior living community in Beaumont, has served four terms as Beaumont mayor (the first female to ever be elected) and was the third female elected to the Delaware state legislature.
Her political career has taken her around the country and the globe, so this Presidents’ Day she’s sharing memories from a lifetime of rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s most high-profile leaders.
Q: What made you get involved in politics?
A: I belonged to the League of Women Voters. We were very active in the slum clearance movement (now called urban renewal) and the Ladies’ Home Journal featured our work. When the story was published, both political parties asked if I would consider running on their ticket. This was the 1960’s, so it was still a big deal for a woman to run for state office.
Q: What did you love most about politics?
A: I loved making a difference in people’s lives. There was no satisfaction greater than when people would call me with a problem and instead of solving it for them, I would teach them how to solve it themselves. During my career I was the founding member of several initiatives that are still going, many of which involve young people. It feels good to look back and know that I ran my race and ran it well.
Q: Did you ever meet a sitting president?
A: Yes! I met President Clinton once at a White House event with mayors representing different parts of the country. It was a thrill! Of course, it’s always a thrill to meet anyone who’s famous. I’ve met some of the royal family and had several different opportunities. Once, I was seated next to President Nixon at a dinner party in Delaware. He asked to change seats because after he reprimanded our waitress I told him, “We’re in the public life, so don’t you think it’s our duty to be a little nicer?” It was quite the experience!
Q: What president most inspires you?
A: At first I’d think maybe George Washington, but really it’s Harry Truman. They were salt of the earth kind of people. And he had the courage to drop the atomic bomb. I can only imagine how difficult that was for him, but he had the courage to do it nonetheless.
Q: What advice would you give to young leaders today?
A: To me, the leadership model that works best in today’s mobile society is “bloom where you’re planted.” To enjoy any place you live, you have to become part of it. Join up. Participate. If you do this, it works! Becoming involved is what got me opportunities like meeting Dr. Martin Luther King and his wife, going to Argentina and meeting the royal family. Get busy and make yourself part of the community. Your reputation will follow you wherever you go.