This week two women showed us what “class” looks like: These women could not be more opposite. One is black, the daughter of a family that was deeply involved in America’s civil rights struggle. She worked her way through college and into a good government job. The other woman is white, a blonde, blue-eyed former model from a successful European family who has always enjoyed a life of wealth and privilege.
Shirley Sherrod and Elin Nordegren traveled very different roads to end up in the same place; betrayed by people they trusted. Nordegren described it as “being in hell.” Both responded to their respective situations, at least in public, with a reserved dignity that is seldom exhibited in today’s media-manic society. As their stories rolled across our televisions and computer monitors, they may have first been viewed as victims, but they’ve finished the game as victors.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the stories: Sherrod was asked to resign over a blogger’s hatchet-job video edit of one of her speeches. The panicked pressure from Washington came on so fast and heavy that she was forced to pull over on the side of a road to resign after being told that the While House was calling for her resignation.
When the powers-that-be, and the MSM, got around to viewing the video in its entirety, it was clear Sherrod’s message had been almost diametrically opposite to the edited version. But by then the damage was done.
Sherrod’s news conference yesterday, with her former boss, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, made for riveting television. Fox News stayed with it till the very end while the other cable news channels tuned out. During a quick check of CNN, I found them talking about how McCain was no longer a maverick. But I digress. Standing strong and looking straight into the camera, Shirley Sherrod made it very clear that no matter how much of a promotion they offered her, and they did, they weren’t going to get another shot at dissing her ever again. And under repeated questioning in follow-up interviews, she would not back off the belief that despite repeated denials, the White House was involved in her departure. Shirley Sherrod showed she is one tough, classy cookie.
Nordegren, whose divorce from Tiger Woods was final this week, held no news conferences, opting instead to give one “exit interview” to People magazine. As tempting as it must have been to call him a cheating dog, she choose to take the high road by focusing on their mutual love for their children and their commitment to joint-parent them. I’m sure the estimated $100 million dollar settlement and its restraints on what she can say in public about their marriage had something to do with it, but as smart as Ms. Elin is, she could have sliced and diced him between the lines if she wanted to.
And speaking of between the lines; as Shirley Sherrod was ever so graciously making Secretary Vilsack twist in the media wind, she was also making clear that she’ll be out on the high-priced speaking and consulting circuit very soon. More power to you, Shirley. And as for Elin Nordegren, she’s going to continue to live in her Florida mansion with her children and her nine-figure settlement and never have another care in the world. Class may be color-blind, but the reward for having it may mean you end up with a whole lot of green.
Pamela Varkony is a writer and commentator whose work has taken her across four continents including two fact-finding missions to Afghanistan. Her blog is: http://perspectives.pamelavarkony.com.