At my very first Eagle Council meeting in October, 1976, Phyllis and the Eagles awarded First Prize to my speech, titled “Why I Know the ERA Will Fail”. In it, I 'd called attention to the biblical underpinnings of our mission to stop the Equal Rights Amendment. At the behest of my pastor, I had recently found myself heading up a fledgling group from my church, “Women to Rescind the ERA in RI”, and suddenly, with hardly any notice, was plunged into “politics” and the need to muster some opposition to a bill which my RI State Representative had recently introduced in support of a State ERA. Having just read a number of Phyllis Schlafly Reports on this complex issue, I remember feeling so desperate that I dared to call Phyllis and ask her if she would consider coming to RI to testify against the ERA at what would be RI's first televised legislative hearing. Not only did she personally answer the telephone, but also she immediately agreed to come. I just admired and loved her from that moment on, and that was the beginning of our long friendship which continues to this day. Phyllis' personal affirmation proved to be a true encouragement to me, giving me the confidence to continue on for many years, even in a hopelessly blue state like RI.
Later, when Phyllis founded Eagle Forum, she was looking for a State Chairman in every state. When she asked me to chair Eagle Forum of Rhode Island, I said that although I'd be willing do it, as a born-again Christian I would need to feel free to express my own religious views which, I explained, are not Catholic. To my great amazement, Phyllis replied that she was perfectly fine with that, and actually provided several opportunities in the future for me to do so. At a number of Eagle Councils, she invited me to pray in front of the religiously diverse group.
I always appreciated that while modeling her own excellent speaking, writing, and leadership abilities, Phyllis unfailingly encouraged each of us Eagle Forum Chairmen do things our way, using the gifts and talents we had been given. She strengthened us by believing in our innate good judgment, and in the meantime kept training and educating us, giving us whatever would be helpful to know. Then, at each annual meeting of Eagle Council, she would find, highlight, promote, and cause to be shared individual success stories from which all of us could profit. It reminded me of the principle expressed in Luke 10:37 when Jesus taught, “Go and do thou likewise.”
Phyllis' courage and perseverance and personal integrity through the years has made all the difference in the many battles we Eagles have fought together. She has an infectious optimism tempered by reality, years of experience, and political/strategical know-how, all of which lend credibility and authority to whatever she tackles. In Genesis 18:24, when the Lord was speaking to Abraham and Sarah about His plan for the childless Sarah to bear Abraham a son in her old age (it is recorded that Sarah laughed out loud at the prospect), the Lord asked, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” I must say, the same thought has occurred to me with respect to Phyllis and the numerous ”impossible” challenges she has successfully undertaken.
Judith F. Ryder, (past) president if Eagle Forum of Rhode Island