St. John’s University presented the documentary Paving the Way, a film dedicated to Geraldine Ferraro, the women who thirty years ago made history as the first female nominated as a vice presidential candidate of the United States. The film directed and produced by Donna Zaccaro, the politician’s daughter, is an historic documentary that shows how a woman of great strength paved the way for all other women in the National political field.
The film was presented on Monday, July 21, at St. John's University, where more than 100 people attended the event. Mr. Brian Browne, Vice President for Government Relations at the University, opened the event by saying: “It was 30 years ago this month that Geraldine Ferraro made history when she accepted her party’s vice presidential nomination. We are now meeting in Queens County where it all began to look back and forward at how our national politics has changed over the last three decades.” Mr. Browne is the founder of PARTICIPATE, a program of the University that promotes and stimulates students’ participation in political-activities events. Each year, this program sponsors candidates forums, academic lectures, public debates and screenings of political documentaries such as Gerrymandering, Street Fight and Koch.
Donna Zaccaro, who is a journalist who worked for NBC, summarized her mother’s personal and professional life by showing how Geraldine Ferraro, with her candidacy and her manner, changed the national perception of what was possible in the political field for American women. The documentary Paving the Way, narrates the story of an Italian American woman, a daughter of Italian immigrants. Despite her passion for politics, Geraldine Ferraro remained a simple woman attached to her family values and Italian traditions. She was a woman committed to pave the way for all other future women who want to dedicate themselves to politics. The documentary also examined the political life of the Democratic Party in New York State and in the USA, by highlighting the advantages, disadvantages, prejudices and stereotypes that politicians of Italian heritage are suffering during the course of their candidacies and elections.
The film also collects never-before-seen footage of Geraldine Ferraro as a politician and as a woman and it explores all stages of the life of the politician: from a poor childhood to the struggles of a girl who grew up without a father (who died when she was eight years old), to the professional and personal obstacles she had to face and overcome. Intimate interviews, comments from politicians, Democrats and Republicans, and comments from journalists who have followed his campaign enrich the material of the documentary. Among the famous appearances: Bill and Hillary Clinton, George HW Bush, Walter Mondale, Madeleine Albright, Barbara Mikulski, Olympia Snowe, Nancy Pelosi, Cokie Roberts, Al Hunt, Ed Rollins, Eleanor Smea.
She was born in the city of Newburgh, New York on August 26, 1935. Her father was an immigrant from Campania and her mother was Italian-American, first-generation born in American. She was the fourth and last child, but Geraldine lost two brothers born before her, one died as an infant and the other, Gerry, was killed at the age of three by a drunker-driver. Geraldine’s father ran two restaurants and was often working at night, while her mother worked as a seamstress during the day. Ferraro’s father had a heart attack and died when she was eight years old. As a result, they were forced to move into a low-income South Bronx apartment. In the movie, Geraldine Ferraro describes the apartment as “tiny but full of love.” In the Bronx, her mother worked as a seamstress in a factory. Geraldine was a very intelligent, hard worker and she finished high school at the age of sixteen with a scholarship to attend Marymount Manhattan College. She was involved in extracurricular programs while working three part-time jobs. After graduation, she taught in a public school in Astoria for five years, and attended evening classes at Fordham Law School.
Geraldine married John Zaccaro, a real estate agent and owner of P. Zaccaro & Company. Together they had three children: Donna, John and Laura. Geraldine stayed at home to raise the children until Donna was thirteen but after that she dedicated herself to her career and joined the Queens County District Attorney, where she created an office for Special Victims (sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence and crimes against the elderly). In 1978, Geraldine Ferraro was elected to Congress, where she voiced her opposition to the economic policies of the Reagan administration and she engaged in the struggle for equal rights for women by sponsoring, among other things, the Equity Act of 1984.
In the course of her well-known career, Geraldine Ferraro achieved what no other woman had ever achieved before and made history, even though the Democratic Party did not win the election. Walter Mondale lost the election to President Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush who sought re-election. Even though there were many difficult times, Geraldine Ferraro faced everything with dignity and an enormous self-control while campaigning for the election. Mondale was defeated but Geraldine Ferraro continued her political activities and was later appointed by President Clinton as the head of the Delegation of the United States, and to the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations. She was a delegate of the United States at the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in June 1993. In foreign policy, she was a member of the Board of the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Ferraro wrote numerous articles and two books: Ferraro: My Story, which recounts the campaign of '84, and Geraldine Ferraro: Change History. Even after being diagnosed with the serious illness that would eventually take her life, she continued to work and to keep her social commitments to the end: engaging herself in politics, the society and the country. Geraldine Ferraro died on March 26, 2011, at the age of 75, eleven years after she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.