Robert Menendez: Every woman’s BFF in the Senate

By Hannah Botjer –

Host April Woodard walks up to the stage with a warm smile. She starts off with, “Now it gives me great pleasure to introduce a man who represents the best of New Jersey,” and goes on to tell how Senator Robert Menendez is working hard in the senate for women’s rights by fighting those who seem to want to take us back to the days when women were just given the rights they deserve. Menendez is an advocate for equality, fairness, and women’s rights. With a final glace at the Senator, she addresses the audience again with her smile, “I said last year as I do again, Senator Menendez is every woman’s BFF in the Senate, that’s best friend forever, and we should be grateful that he represents us and that we’re represented by a Senator who cares about us.” With a thunderous round of applause Senator Robert Menendez is welcomed to the stage.

Senator Menendez is at NJCU for the third annual women of distinction awards, the Evangelina Menendez Trailblazer Award. For the past three years Senator Menendez presents this award during Women’s History Month to revere extraordinary women. This award is to honor women, not to have to defend them, and it honors those who are blazing their own trail and making a difference.

These women have distinguished themselves in their fields, with one common goal; to make New Jersey a healthier, happier, more caring place to live and to raise a family. The Evangelina Menendez Trailblazer Award is given in Menendez’s mother’s memory.

“My mother, Evangelina Menendez, represented the kind of determination, wisdom, and leadership these awards are meant to celebrate. I will continue to honor her, and all women, whose strength, courage, wisdom, and dedication to doing what is right for the people they serve, makes our state and our country a better place,” Senator Menendez said.

Menendez’s mother, Evangelina Menendez was born in Cuba at a time when they were living under the country’s dictator General Fulgencio Batista. She feared for her family’s safety and security under the dictator’s rule, she wanted a better life for her family and urged her husband to move to the United States. She worked hard in America at a time when women we still fighting for the fairness and equality they deserve. Like so many immigrants, Evangelina worked hard to instill her core values in her children including the importance of education, hard work, and perseverance.

“My mother would have said wow you have six incredible women of distinction to honor. She would have recognized and admired their quiet strength, their courage, their wisdom, their dedication to doing what is right for the people they serve she would have been proud of these women,” said Senator Menendez.

Award winner Colonel Terese Bernadette Acocella is one of the women who are breaking these barriers and leading the way for change in this world. More women have served in armed forces now then ever before. She puts her experience from serving in Iraq to use as the chairwoman for New Jersey’s commission on women’s veterans. Acocella never stops learning, caring, and giving back.

These women are brave to give voice to an issue that may not have a voice.

Award winner Linda Walder Fiddle is the founder of the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation. She has developed, advocated, and funded programs for adults with autism so they can fulfill their god given potential. She wanted to provide the most fulfilling lives possible for adults living with autism as she had wished for her late son Danny.

Award winner Jeanne M. DelColle is the “real Indiana Jones.” She was voted teacher of the year in 2011. She is not just a teacher, but also a doer, she has traveled the world and her knowledge gives her students a better learning experience. For her, success is her drive that helps her get up when she’s been knocked down.

Award winner Katherine Grant-Davis lives by the motto: whether the task be big or small do it well of not at all. She is the president and CEO of New Jersey Primary Care Association. She addresses the health needs of families and advocates for a healthy New Jersey. She is the “queen” of health care and is doing her best to make it affordable for families.

Another woman who is essential to our advancement as a nation, is award winner Esperanza Porras Field. She is recognized around the world for her entrepreneurial skills. She brings her expertise to mentor the next generation by teaching at Farleigh Dickenson University. She cares about bringing along the next generations of business leaders and their futures.

Award winner Phyllis Salowe-Kay is an unstoppable force. She is the executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action. She uses her position to advocate on the behalf of those who don’t have a voice. Strong women build a nation, and she is just that.

“I am proud to honor six extraordinary women who have distinguished themselves in their field. They represent many walks of life, but with one common goal: making New Jersey a better, safer, healthier, smarter, more-caring place to live and raise a family.” said Senator Menendez.

Empowering women means that there is no longer the choice between motherhood and having a career. It’s about opening the world to the things women can offer.