Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Women's Policy Inc. Anniversary Dinner in Washington D.C. Below are the Leader's remarks.
“Thank you very much, Debbie. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the first woman elected to be Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and we're very proud of that. I'll never forget when she made the decision to run for Congress, and there were other people who were interested, shall we say. But her determination, her commitment to a better future for her beautiful family, and for all of America's children, and her political astuteness--pretty soon the field cleared. She came to Congress effective from the start, and is a leader in our country. We especially admire, and we couldn't be prouder of Madam Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Thank you.
“Thank you all for being here tonight. Your presence here in support of this event is an eloquent statement of what women can do, working together.
“Women's Policy Inc. is a reflection of what happens in a bipartisan way, as our Women's Caucus in the Congress--I guess there's a train going on underneath. We have our hopes riding on this room, and that train is taking our hopes into the future. The Women's Policy Inc. and the Women's Caucus in the House of Representatives has for, what, 35 years, transformed a small bipartisan group of women. They came together around the problem of spousal abuse and moved on to being a powerful institution in the Congress on a wide range of issues. I mention to you this fact because it was one of the first issues that brought women together in the Congress. Because it's a coincidence, maybe a reason why.
“When Elizabeth Cady Stanton became aware of the need for women to be active and make a difference, she knew what the challenge was for many women. She lived--and many of you visited her home--she lived on a knoll. And she could look down and see laborers homes, workers', immigrant workers' homes. And she could sometimes see, but very often hear, examples of spousal abuse. And it was one of her motivators. And then she worked with, as you know, others to have the courage to go out there and make the fight for women's suffrage.
“So here we are tonight, with many of our women, Democrats and Republicans, who are serving in Congress and who have served in Congress. We're a sisterhood of a very special privilege. I guess we're colleagues--is that a male word? I don't know if that's a male word, but we have our own special sisterhood in the Congress. We have the privilege of disagreeing on issues, and we are not all of the same mind or, obviously, of the same party. But we know that every day we serve there, we have a responsibility, because we stand on the shoulders of women who went before. It took an enormous amount of courage 150 years ago, or more, to fight for the empowerment of women. It's always a special pleasure to be in the same room with a great lady, so great that a room in the Capitol of the United States was named for her, Congresswoman Lindy Boggs. Lindy--I can't imagine this could possibly be so--but they tell me, she tells me it must be; it was her 95th birthday last year--that she'll be 96 years old next week. Happy birthday, Lindy.
“I know that Cindy Hall will introduce all of the distinguished women that are here, but I want to acknowledge Gwen Moore and Cynthia Lummis, the Co-Chairs of the Women's Caucus, and thank them for their leadership.
“There are many issues that we could talk about tonight, and you know what they are and what brings us together. But I want to tell you something that I've been saying around the country. I've said it at Texas A&M, and I said it on President's Day. Our [former] President George Herbert Walker Bush invited me to speak on President's Day [at] his library in the School of Public Service. I was very honored by that. We talked about civility, and we talked about another subject in that big audience of not many Democrats, but all very polite, wonderful people, starting with Mrs. Bush.
“What we talked about that day was that, when he was President, we talked about a kinder, gentler America. We talked about a thousand points of light under his leadership. And we had our vast differences of opinion, but we always had a way of acting with civility, and we must return to that. And, on that score, women can lead the way.
“I think it was interesting he invited me, not from his party, to give the President's Day presentation at the school. I was very honored personally, officially and politically. Another thing we talked about that night, and that I talk about every place I go, is that there is nothing more wholesome to the political process, and to the process of government, than the increased participation of women. I firmly believe that.
“That probably applies to everything that all of you do. I'm just speaking about what I know. And what I know is that one of the ways that we can increase the participation of women in the political process is to reduce the role of money in the political process.
“For us to be able to say to young women: ‘don't worry about having to raise money,' I think we have to change the system. We women have to make our own environment. You know, we've been talking about this for years. How many more women can we elect, Democrats and Republicans, talking incrementally, because we've been playing on a different turf? Let's make our own environment. Let's have our playing field be leveled for us in a way that enables women. And I'm so proud of Debbie, and some of the other women who've come to Congress, because they've come as young women, where they can be there, get their standing, make their mark early on, so that anything is possible for them in the Congress.
“Not to put down the role of those who've come from the kitchen after their children are grown--that's important too. But I want us to have a mix of the women who are there. The generational mix, the standing that comes with being there long--why should women come ten years after men, and have to make up for that time?
“So I really, honestly, believe, that if we want to serve the issue of the attitude of civility, if we want to increase the number of women--I awakened one morning and thought: ‘why do we keep hoping and praying for ten or 20 more?' Let's just kick open that door. Let's just make our own environment. Let's just change the scenario. If there's anybody who can win, who can run, that feels as if she can win, has a fair chance at becoming an elected official. So that our country--and it's not just women, it would be women and young people and minorities--that our country has a fuller reflection, at least on the playing field. Whoever wins, that's up to the electorate. But whoever wins should honor the thoughts of our founders, which was that the election is decided by the votes of the many, not the bankroll of the few. And that, I promise you, will elect more women to Congress.
“So, I wish I could name every woman in here, whether they've served in Congress or not. I don't know whether Cokie Roberts is going to do that. Is that your honor, Cokie, this evening? Somebody will do that. But I think that every one of you could stand up in your place, every single woman here, and tell us what you do. And when you do, you will show your power, as Lindy has instructed me. Know your power, she said to me one day.
“I'll close with this: Lindy came to California when she was on the Arrangements Committee, Madam Chair, for the Democratic National Convention. And we were vying for the convention, this was 1984, we would become the convention that would nominate the first woman, Geraldine Ferraro, on the national ticket, and we were very proud of that.
“But, as we were vying for this, I saw Lindy, whom I love, and I wasn't in Congress then; I was the Chair of the California Democratic Party. And I was talking to Lindy, and I said: ‘Lindy.' She said: ‘how are you doing?' I said: ‘well, I'm the Chair of the California Democratic Party, but I'm also Chair of the Host Committee, and I also have this responsibility for delegate selection, and it's all a coincidence.' We didn't know that we'd be vying for the convention. ‘I think I have too much power; I think I should give some of it away to someone.'
“She said: ‘darling, no man would have ever made that comment. Don't you dare give any of it away.' And she said to me: ‘know thy power.' And I remembered that, and it followed me till this day. In fact, I wrote a book to that effect, except I changed it to ‘Know Your Power.' I don't have the lofty voice of Lindy Boggs, but know your power. That's what I say to each and every young woman that I meet when they say: ‘how can I run for office? What can I do?' And what we can do is reduce the role of money. What you can do is be yourself, know your power, take that chance. The country needs you--it's urgent.
“Thank you, Women's Policy Inc., for bringing us all together to know our power tonight. Have a lovely evening. Thank you so much.”