Are we defined by who we marry? Regardless of anything else we do in our life, do we end up being viewed as an adjunct to our partners?
Absolutely not. The notion that anyone's identity and status are dictated by a choice in partners is an archaic and anti-feminist one.
Lisa Halaby, who later became Queen Noor, entered Princeton in its first year of coeducation (along with the elder of these two writers). She was among the first female cheerleaders and athletes and architect majors on our campus. She was a thoughtful, humorous and energetic person to be around. She also graduated with a B.A., not an M.R.S.
Queen Noor's personal accomplishments and character makes her an ideal Baccalaureate speaker, not her choice of husband. She clearly represents the best of Princeton. Her achievements in Jordan and the world outside her chosen country are impressive, and she is a strong, outspoken and down-to-earth person. She is someone any of us, female or male, could be proud to emulate. Lisa Halaby, a smart, talented, attractive and independent American woman, married King Hussein. She could have receded into the background and lived in his shadow and on his arm. Instead, she came forward – despite the fact that she was not immediately embraced by the Jordanian people – and spoke and worked on behalf of the poorly educated children of her new country and the disenfranchised women. She worked tirelessly to improve the educational system and to bring women into the workforce. She initiated projects to introduce the craftsmanship of Jordan to the rest of the world. And she did all this while maintaining her humility, her sense of humor and her very strong commitment to her family. But her interests extended to a commitment to safety and peace throughout the world. When Princess Diana died, the world lost an important voice in the campaign against land mines. Queen Noor stepped in, and has since been an articulate and steadfast crusader in this effort. For these reasons, we are privileged to have the opportunity to hear Queen Noor. The fact that Lisa Halaby fell in love with the King of Jordan was a positive force in their lives. Who she is enabled her to do wonders for the people of Jordan and the world outside it. If she wanted to use her husband's wealth as a chance to live simply in the lap of luxury, she could have. That was not her style. She went to every corner of Jordan and grew to know and love her new country and people.
There is no reason that Queen Noor's accomplishments should be diminished because her husband was a man of accomplishment and power. There is no reason that his position in the world should lessen hers. Lisa Halaby is a charismatic, beautiful, intelligent and creative woman. She was King Hussein's Queen, but he was also her husband. He showed pride in that role. Each showed respect and care for the other. Queen Noor is all that we have described but also a devoted wife and mother. She is who she wishes to be and defies any narrow categorizations. Queen Noor is exemplary as a person, independent of her marriage. She is exemplary as a Princetonian. She has proven herself to be in the service of the world. (Anna and Dr. Marsha Levy-Warren are guest columnists from New York City. Anna is a junior in the history department and women's studies program. Her mother, Dr. Levy-Warren, entered Princeton with Lisa Halaby and graduated in Princeton's first coeducational class. She is a University Trustee and a professor in the psychology department and women's studies program. Both women can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).