Amid tears and testimonies and proclamations of patriotism, 11 women were honored Thursday at the Utah Women's Achievement Awards ceremony at the Capitol.
They were honored for saying "yes" to life, for making the most of their opportunities. Many were honored as advocates for the poor and the disenfranchised. Many of the honorees had themselves been disenfranchised.
Lt. Gov. Olene Walker spoke first during the ceremony, which was sponsored by the Governor's Commission for Women and Families. She noted that this year is the 163rd anniversary of the women's rights movement, a movement that officially began in 1848 with a declaration signed in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The movement "changed this nation and the hopes of its women," Walker said.
In accepting her award, Miliama Peters, who was born in Samoa, praised America's Founding Fathers, especially Benjamin Franklin. "Oh, I love him," she declared. "I love that he is not so holy-holy." She said she thinks Franklin envisioned this country not as a melting pot but as a fruit salad, where the mix is lovely but where each individual can be individually enjoyed. Peters is also an advocate for single parents.
Jini Roby, who now teaches in the social work department at Brigham Young University, was honored as an advocate for children. Roby is an attorney who founded the Family Support and Treatment Center and who started the Victim Advocate program in Utah in 1988. She was adopted at age 14 from an orphanage in South Korea. In accepting her award, she thanked her Utah parents, saying, "The love and security of a family unleashed great potential in me."
Jean Alder, who is about to retire from Utah State University's Extension Services, was honored for the way in which she has helped Hispanics in Cache County. Alder started a host of new programs, from the hiring of bilingual nutrition experts to the teaching of computer skills to English as a Second Language students.
The director of the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center at the University of Utah, Irene Fisher was honored for doing what she loves, she told the audience. When she came to the Center 11 years ago, there were 42 volunteers. Today more than 5,000 students, faculty and staff volunteer through the Center.
In 1977, attorney Sheryl Hayashi fulfilled a dream when she helped to start the Multi-Cultural Legal Center in Salt Lake City. She is still the executive director of the agency, though she does not take a salary, said Carole Mikita, who was the mistress of ceremonies. Instead, Hayashi provides for herself and her son by working as assistant attorney for the Labor Commission.
Activist Francis "Paquita" Lopez works tirelessly in the Hispanic community. She organizes food drives, acts as an interpreter and is always willing to drive a needy family to a doctor's appointment or to church. Over the years, Lopez has lost two children to cancer. Her grief did not stop her work.
Linda Myers, founder and director of the Adopt-A-Native-Elder program was honored for building bridges between cultures and for bringing millions of dollars worth of food to the older people on the Navajo Reservation.
Ivoni Malohifo'ou-Nash serves on a half dozen boards for various Polynesian associations. She also supports every festival and fair, always bringing twice as much food as requested, and offering the same bounty in support and community pride.
Eartha L. White was honored for her work with children and the elderly. A surrogate parent in the Ogden and Weber School Districts, White is also an advocate for the disabled, the homebound and newcomers.
At 93, Revo Young still drives, still volunteers and still speaks and writes about the history of her beloved Sevier County. She was honored for her knowledge, for 42 years of teaching and for her enthusiasm and zest for life.
Theresa Walker serves on the Governor's Black Advisory Council and works hard in her church, her career and in a variety of community organizations. Walker says "yes" to life, but not in those exact words, explained her friend, Jackie Thompson, who introduced her.