Who was that smiling woman standing arm-in-arm with Vice President Al Gore and next to President Clinton at the Earth Day celebration in Havre de Grace a week ago?
The caption beneath the picture the following day identified her simply as "Mary Rosso, an Anne Arundel environmental activist." The article said Mrs. Rosso has "fought against pollution near her home."
But neither description does justice to the woman who for more than 20 years has been a grass roots activist fighting against everything from corruption on the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals to waste incinerators to juvenile crime. Small wonder Mrs. Rosso was among a half dozen activists who were given a private meeting with Mr. Clinton when he came to Maryland for Eath Day's silver anniversary last Friday.
While over the years others said they were too busy, Mrs. Rosso found time to attend five-hour sessions of the County Council, testify before the General Assembly, demonstrate against polluters, field phone calls from reporters and research laws and policies. And somehow, she still found time to care for her husband, raise her children and hold down various paying jobs.
At times she was called a gadfly. Sometimes she was dismissed as a meddlesome housewife. She may not have accomplished all she wanted, but she has made a difference. She helped keep an oil refinery out of North County, assisted in drawing up Anne Arundel County's General Development Plan, helped win passage of a law regulating fly ash fills and fought for a compost and recycling plan in lieu of a waste incinerator.
Of course, Mrs. Rosso did not do it alone. She has been helped by her colleagues in the Maryland Waste Coalition, by her neighbors in the Solley Road community and by sympathetic politicians and policy makers. But if anyone deserved to share the podium with Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore, it was Mrs. Rosso.
Not long ago, Mrs. Rosso, 57, said she intends to slow down in her work so she can spend more time with her family. She has earned that right. While we don't expect Mrs. Rosso to give up on environmental causes altogether, the challenge is on for a new generation to step to the forefront and find the time to make a difference.