NEW GLASGOW – A weekly magazine from the United States has put Elizabeth May in some good company.
The Green Party leader, who made Central Nova her home in 2007 and 2008, has been named by Newsweek’s as one of the world’s most influential women, along with United States First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard.
“I appreciate being recognized by Newsweek and only hope that their series on women leaders will inspire other women worldwide to speak out and become leaders in their own communities. Young women in particular need to be encouraged to speak up and defend their rights, their communities, and the planet. Women are very powerful and, working together, can be effective initiators of much-needed change,” said May in a press release.
May has been an environmental activist for 40 years, in addition to being a lawyer, author, mother and grandmother. She served as executive director of the Sierra Club for 17 years before becoming leader of Canada’s Green Party.
To people who have gotten to know her personally over the years, seeing May’s name on the list is no surprise.
“I’ve seen the charisma she has and it shines through,” said local businesswoman Sherry Blinkhorn, who is not a member of the Green Party, but considers May one of her best friends.
She said May is the “real deal” when it comes to “practising what she preaches.”
“She walks the walk and she really does care about saving the world,” Blinkhorn said. “When you are one-on-one with her, people will see that she genuinely believes what she says. She is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.”
Blinkhorn said she met May before she decided to run for politics in Central Nova and developed a lasting friendship with her.
“When I suffered the house fire, Elizabeth May laid aside her busy schedule, and as my friend, was there for me in every way as a support person. It’s just her nature, always looking out for the other people.”
She said it is this personal touch that has helped make her an influential person in the world because anyone who meets her can tell she is genuine.
“We travelled the train together to New York for a little holiday and I was shocked to see that even in New York, people were coming up to her outside of Canada, recognizing her and wanting to shake her hand,” she said. “She always makes a point to acknowledge as many people as she can and it’s genuine. I am proud to call her one of my best friends.”
Mary Gorman of The Save our Shores and Seas Coalition, says she had gotten to know May years ago and calls her an “exceptional mother” who is tireless when it comes to standing up for what she believes in.
“I would says she is the most intelligent, selfless, courageous leader that Canada has ever had,” she said. “She has more energy than an 18-year-old.”
Ron Kelly, a friend and someone who worked on her local campaign, said it’s May’s ability to bring the most complex issues down to a grassroots level that helps make her such an influence on others.
“She connects with the emotions of an issue and she is absolutely genuine, committed and tireless,” he said.
Kelly said he first heard May speak about 30 years ago and was spellbound by her speech to a group of teachers learning about environmental issues.
“She is a very special person,” he said. “When I heard her speak I was completely amazed. She really knows how to relate to people.”