March 29, 2004

Press 'First Lady' to keynote WHM

By Katherine Baust

Helen Thomas, longtime journalist and author, will give the keynote address for Emory's Women's History Month celebration, themed "Women Expressing Truths Through Expression," Tuesday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. in the law school's Tull Auditorium. Following the lecture, Thomas will sign copies of her most recent book, Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President: Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House.

The theme for Women's History Month is chosen in the fall by a diverse group of people from around campus, according to Ali Crown, Women's Center director. Once the decision is made, she said, it is broadened to incorporate various modes of expression, producing a comprehensive program offering "something for everyone."

This year's topic of "truths" made Thomas an easy choice for the keynote lecture. "There can be no other person who has for so long been so boldly speaking truths," Crown said.

In Thomas' own words, she sees her role as keeping "faith with the people's right to know." Commonly referred to as the "First Lady of the Press," Thomas broke down barriers for women journalists while covering every president since John F. Kennedy. It was during her first White House assignment, covering Kennedy, that Thomas began closing presidential press conferences with her signature, "Thank you, Mr. President."

According to Crown, "she had to overcome many hurdles as a woman to achieve the status of a preeminent journalist. From very early on, Helen made it clear that she was not willing to limit her reporting to the woman's angle. She has never given up the battle for equal treatment for women in the Washington press corps."

After Thomas graduated from Wayne State University, she began her career as a "copy girl" at the now-defunct Washington Daily News . In 1943, she joined United Press International (UPI) and the Washington press corps. For 57 years, she served as UPI's White House correspondent, traveling around the world many times with Kennedy and his successors, right up to George W. Bush. The World Almanac has cited her as one of the 25 most influential women in America.

Thomas recently left her post at UPI and is now a syndicated columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

"She certainly has a lot of grist for the mill at this point in time in our nation's history," Crown said of what Thomas may talk about in her address. "Whatever she says, you can be sure she will be speaking the truth as she sees it."

The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information or a full listing of all Women's History Month events, visit or call 404-727-2001.