Behind the Curtain at TMM

Women's History For $1000

  Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., is the first woman and first African American to serve as President of

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., is the first woman and first African American to serve as President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hide caption

itoggle caption Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Hi. Cheryl Corley, here ... sitting in for Michel.

Ever watch the TV show "Jeopardy"? It's one of my favorites, and a recent show I watched was a clear indication of why we still need to set aside months to celebrate the history of African-Americans and women — until, of course, that history is fully incorporated in school lessons.

... Okay, I'm not going to go there. I'll just say we profiled two fascinating women on Tell Me More today.

One woman made her mark during the last century, and another continues to make history today.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a crusading journalist who ran an anti-lynching campaign and helped co-found the NAACP. Shirley Ann Jackson, a physicist, is now the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Jackson is the first woman and the first African-American woman to hold that post. She's also been a trailblazer in the world of science, and she has definite ideas about how to tackle what she calls a "quiet crisis" in science — a dearth of young people studying engineering and science as current scientists and engineers retire.

Crisis, or at least trying to get through it, was a thread that ran throughout the program today. Hence, our conversation about New Orleans. After three and a half years, that city is still trying to recover from the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. We checked in with one of our New Orleans regulars, Gralen Banks, and also with his Congressman, Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, the country's first Vietnamese-American Member of Congress. Cao is a Republican but represents a mostly Democratic district. Many residents have criticized him because he voted against the Obama stimulus package, but Cao isn't backing down. He says it wasn't about politics, but serving the best interest of his district (Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District).

He knows he has some convincing to do at home.

Meanwhile, leaders in California's farming community say they're trying to work through the "perfect economic bomb." The ongoing drought has brought an unemployment rate of nearly 40 percent in some areas, according to local officials. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has also declared a state of emergency in the wake of the water crisis, asking residents to cut back on water, which has made it even more difficult for farmers.

Tomorrow, the Obama administration grapples with another pressing problem by holding a day long summit on health care. We checked in with former Surgeon General David Satcher to get his take on the Obama administration's proposed health care reforms.

We'll talk more tomorrow.

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