"I'm glad to be here, and honored to be invited to speak with you about Women's History Month. This month is like every other holiday we honor and celebrate for one month but really should be celebrating every month and throughout the year," said Janis Kearney, an author, book publisher and writing instructor from Little Rock. Kearney was the guest speaker at Pine Bluff Arsenal's Women's History Month luncheon March 23 at the Armed Forces Reserve Center.

Kearney was born to a southeast Arkansas cotton sharecropper in Gould, Ark. She served nine years as a project manager and public affairs director in Arkansas state government. She served briefly as managing editor for civil rights legend, Daisy L. Bates' historic Arkansas State Press newspaper, before purchasing and becoming publisher of the newspaper in 1988, upon Bates retirement.

From 1993 to 2001, she served in the Clinton administration, working briefly in the White House Media Affairs Office before being appointed by President Bill Clinton, as Director of Communications for the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 1995, she was selected by Clinton as the first personal diarist to a president, serving in that role through June 2001.

"We have come a long way, but we still have a ways to go as far as women in the workplace. First came the women's vote and the struggle for equal education for women, and then came the right for women to hold jobs," said Kearney. "For many decades, job were relegated to just men. We know we will continue to struggle but we have made great strides and we are grateful for those."

Kearney, who in 2014 founded the Celebrate! Maya Project which promotes the life and legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou throughout Arkansas communities and schools, said that women are doing far more things now than they were just 10 years ago. "We have to continue to hope and believe that we will move forward. Change is not a passive word. Change depends on us and has to be an active word. It has to mean that we are going to do something to make change a reality."

If we continue to move toward that change, Kearney said she believes that in the next generation, young women will be able to say there is true equality in the workplace and our country. "Women are natural leaders. A leader is someone whose example guides others to become their very best. They embrace other women's strength and encourage their possibilities and promise," she said. "Women leaders are those who have the capacity to dream big dreams and dare to do the work that makes a difference."

Kearney said that when she looked out into the room she is reminded of the fact that our differences made us stronger. "We each bring our own backgrounds, cultures, and our own personal stories to the table. Our unique stories are invaluable to the job that you hold and role that you play in an organization," she said. "Our strengths outweigh our detriments. Being a woman is a strength and a gift that we should never see as a threat or a detriment."

We still have work to do, said Kearney. "As women I would say to find the thing that you do best and make a difference. Find your niche in the world. The world really does need you," she said. "We do have problems that need addressing. Why not you? Why not here?

The program ended with the presentation of the FWP Woman of the Year and Supervisor/Leader of the Year awards.