You are here

Pelosi Remarks on ‘When Women Succeed, America Succeeds’ Agenda at Center for American Progress

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on House Democrats’ economic agenda for women and families; “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds,” as part of the Center for American Progress’ launch of their major new initiative – “Fair Shot: A Plan for Women and Families to Get Ahead” – focused on strengthening women in leadership, protecting women’s health, and ensuring women’s economic security.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you very much, Neera [Tanden], for your very, very generous words of introduction, for your tremendous leadership of the [Center for American Progress].  You make us all very, very proud – thrilling, I get goose bumps just coming here and seeing the charge of all of this majestic power of the mind.  Thank you for being a tremendous resource, a tremendous intellectual resource to those of us who, and I hope that includes everyone in our country, who care about making progress for America.

“It’s an honor to be here with Stephanie [Schriock] and with Ellen.  Ellen Malcolm it’s wonderful to be here with you because when I’m introduced as the first Speaker of the House [of Representatives] and everybody gets up – oh, oh, oh – and the fact is we would never have had a woman Speaker of the House without the efforts of EMILY’s List and Ellen Malcolm and others who have advanced women in elected office.

[Applause]

“She’s a modern day suffragette, and Stephanie carries on that tradition so magnificently.  Tom Perriello, a man in the house.  Is there a man in the house?  I heard he was going to be here, our former colleague.  Ok, maybe – oh, there he is! 

[Laughter]

“Thank you, Tom, for being here today.

“I’ve been trying to listen as we – this has been a morning that you can’t even believe.  On the floor of the House the Republicans are trying to cut $40 billion, that’s 50 percent of the nutrition program – largely children, seniors, returning veterans, [and] women.  It’s a most incredible thing.  I said yesterday at a press conference on this subject, I said: unless we – it was in Houston, I go to mass wherever I go, and at the pulpit, the priest said, in Houston, Texas – not one of your liberal bastions – he said: ‘I think it’s important for people, not just to come to mass on Sunday and pray, but when they leave here not to prey on people.’  And it isn’t exactly what they are doing: preying on people. 

“So, we have immigration going over here, the budget and all the lack of values that their budget presents.  One manifestation of it is cutting food stamps.  It’s an incredible time, very important that we come together and stay focused.  Oh, did I mention immigration?  I’m doing that as soon as I leave.

[Laughter]

“No, I leave here and I go to the nine [month] anniversary of Newtown.  So, basically what we’re about, in the context of when this is taking place, is restoring confidence to the American people, restoring confidence in who we are as a people, by and large, with respect for Native American brothers and sisters, a nation of immigrants.  And we must pass comprehensive immigration reform and we will.  

“We take an oath to protect and defend the American people, to restore confidence and safety by passing the background check, and we’re not giving up until we do that.  We have to restore confidence in our democracy by passing campaign finance reform for government of the many, not the government of the money.  And we will do that.  And that has a direct impact on the subject that we are talking about today in terms of the environment in which women can succeed and restore confidence in our economy by creating jobs, and we are here to talk about that: women in the economy, how women’s success – our slogan, the House Democrats; invented by [Congresswoman] Rosa DeLauro, I don’t know if she’s here, but I know she’s coming: ‘When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.’     

“And so, it was 165 years ago, 165 years ago.  Imagine the courage it took for those women to go to Seneca Falls and do what they did there, to even leave home without their husband’s permission, or father’s, or whoever  it was.  To go to Seneca Falls, and to paraphrase what our founders said in the [Declaration of Independence] of the United States: they said the truths that are self-evident, that every man and woman, that men and women were created equal and that we must go forward in recognition of that.

“I’m very honored – I mean, self-promotion is a terrible thing, but somebody has to do it right?  I’m very honored – I want you to go into this mode yourselves, know your power, do your thing – I’m going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at Seneca Falls on October 12th.

[Laughter and Cheering]

“I’m very excited about that.  Because of it, when they said that every man and woman – ‘such it is now the necessity for women to demand equal station to which,’ they, it said, ‘we are entitled.’  And that’s what this is about.

“How could it be 165 years later we are still fighting this fight?  Well, in that tradition we’ve come together to prioritize a women’s economic agenda, an agenda – ‘When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and their Families.’  I think it fits comfortably with what CAP is doing, with what our sisters in the Senate are doing, what labor unions and others around the country are doing, in keeping with what Planned Parenthood is doing in terms of health – with Stephanie and them always listening, full agenda there.  With our friends in labor, SEIU, Mary Kay Henry, I don’t know if she’s here but I know she – Mary Kay, thank you, thank you for your tremendous leadership.  Thank you, Stephanie.  Thank you all.

“When we brought together lots of groups, a large number of women, leaders of women’s groups and said: ‘if we were to prioritize and just narrow in on just a few things that make a difference, what would they be?’  And it came down to – and again, we did this under the leadership of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who’s been a relentless champion on this subject, relentless is sort of a mild word for it.  Is that not right in my sisters around the room?

[Laughter]

“About Rosa?  And then – you all, many of you were in the room when we were making this determination.  And Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Chair of the Women’s Caucus who’s been very much a part, and Doris Matsui, and the rest.  We really had diversity in our decision-making and unanimity – almost unanimously concluded that we had to have three components, just talking this, we’re not talking about every issue, we’re just talking about workplace and home.  Paycheck fairness, and that involves raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and we must get that done.  It affects our whole country, it affects our families, and it affects our women.  And we passed Lilly Ledbetter – the first bill the President signed.  And let’s thank our President, I know Valerie Jarrett was here this morning giving a call to arms and we’re so fortunate to have her there and the President in the White House because the agenda of CAP about making progress for our country, is the President’s agenda.  So we’re fortunate he’s there to pass that, sign that bill, but we didn’t get paycheck fairness and we cannot rest until we do.  Lilly Ledbetter is important in terms of recourse that women have when discriminated against, but paycheck fairness sets a place where it is the law of the land.

“So, paycheck fairness, of course we have our bills, our bill to do just that.  Paycheck fairness and raising the minimum wage.  So, thank you, SEIU, for your leadership on the minimum wage issue. 

“Second point is paid leave.  Now many of us, well you’re all too young, but some of us were there for the – I’m not doing this by age, I just meant by involvement at the time when we passed the Family and Medical Leave Act.  It was the first bill that President, it was an early bill that President Clinton signed and [Former Congresswoman] Pat Schroeder, [Former Senator] Chris Dodd deserves a tremendous of credit.  But anyway, and many of you in this room, but we had that on the desk, the President signed it.  One hundred million families have taken advantage of the Family and Medical Leave [Act]; it’s a great thing – it ain’t paid, by and large.

“So we must have paid leave and we have legislation to do it – the Healthy Families Act – to do that.  That I think fits comfortably in what you are talking about here.  Paid leave – I’m telling you that we’ve, we’ve had for this, I’ll go to the third point.  The third point is comprehensive, not comprehensive, quality, affordable child care to unleash the power of women and families in our workforce.  When we forge to get these three things done, the third one is more like a crusade, a cultural crusade – we have to change people’s minds.  This was on President Nixon’s desk in the ‘70s and the Pat Buchanan’s of the world and others culturally talked him into not signing the bill.  And here we are 40 years later.  And we must get this done.  It’s absolutely essential that women can have peace – and fathers, moms and dads can have peace of mind in the workplace, security that their children are taken care of.

“Now, we started in Seneca Falls.  Those women came out, they fought forever to get the power, the right to vote.  When the bill finally, when the Amendment was finally approved, the newspapers said: ‘women given the right to vote.’  I don’t think so.  Women fought for, women worked for, women insisted, women would not take no for an answer, women worked for and achieved the right to vote.

“Now, fast forward a couple – decades, almost a hundred years from Seneca, not a hundred but decades, a long time from Seneca Falls to – but that’s not where it all began.  That’s where it was all declared.  Ok.  Fast forward to World War II, women in the workplace, Rosie the Riveter, all of that, women out of the house.  This is revolutionary.  So there’s the idea that women are going to be in the work place.  Higher education of women, women in the professions, all of that.  But what’s the missing link?  No child care.  No child care.  So whether it’s women in executive positions, or women in entry level, whatever it is, across the board economically, culturally, in every way there is a very big missing link about how we train people, how we pay them, how we enable them to organize.  Right, Mary Kay?  How we just value work.  Whether it’s minimum wage and paycheck fairness.  Whether it’s paid leave, or whether it’s valuing work that these people do so that other women, as we say in San Francisco: ‘children learning, parents earning.’  And we thank the President for having universal child care, which is a step, not everything, but is an important step to help with that sense of security.

“Ok.  So that’s what our agenda is, those three things.  Of course, the liberation of health, the health care bill – no longer will being a woman be a preexisting medical condition.  No longer will women be discriminated against in premiums because, you know, they’ve had babies and all of the rest.  By the way, when I came to Congress and I ran when I was 46, elected when I was 47, they said: ‘I came to Congress late in life.’  And I thought: ‘late in who’s life?’ 

[Laughter]

“‘I just got out of the House.’  My kids are 47 right now, I think of them as babies.  But in any event, whenever it’s your turn to go out there, it’s the right time.  So don’t let anybody characterize that as late in life and by the way, that takes me to the next point, women in leadership, which is a part of this.  If we want to have women coming into politics and government earlier, we have to make our own environment.  Whether it’s in the economy we have to make our own environment with what we talked about and what you have on your agenda today, to make our economy.  Children are cared for, workers rewarded, time is there if people are sick but in politics I promise you this: if you reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility in the political debate, you will elect many more women to public office, and minorities, and young people, but many more women. 

“So if we – we’re very proud, when I came to Congress there were 20, equally, practically divided between Democrats and Republicans.  We’ve increased our number up to 60, it’s 100 all-together – isn’t that Senate beautiful with their numbers and thanks to EMILY’s List and all of the groups that helped with that.  But that isn’t enough, this is incremental, we’re tired of it.  Kick open the door, change the environment in which all of these decisions are made in how women can succeed and thrive and do the job.  Because nothing is more wholesome to the politics and the government of our country than the increased participation of women.

“So, that just touches on some, you think I’ve, I could talk all day about this, and you think I probably will.  We look forward to working with you to continuing this.  I’ve been all over the country since we announced, I think we’ve had 13 events.  From – I’d say Boston, but it was Beverly, Massachusetts – down south, across the east coast, west coast, Albuquerque, Chicago, everything in between.  Members have had hundreds of events on different pieces of this.  Again, it reconciles very beautifully with leadership and the affordable health care because that is about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  A healthier life, the liberty to pursue your happiness.  The freedom not to be job locked.  You could choose – you can be self-employed as an artist, as a photographer, and whatever.  You could start your own business, you could change jobs and follow your passion, not your [health insurance] policy.  And that’s very important for women as well.  It’s important for women entrepreneurs and part of our program is to great this to women not just having jobs, but creating jobs and to being entrepreneurs.  And so many women have come to me before the Affordable Care Act and said: ‘I have a business, I have a coffee shop, I make brownies, I am inventing the newest widget, but I have to have another job to have, to get health care benefits because my small company can’t afford to give them to me.  Imagine.

“So, we have to, this is a great thing.  It’s transformative for our country.  Transformative for women.  Just close with this one little story: in New Haven we had one of our breakout events with Rosa DeLauro, of course in the lead, most enthusiastically in front, one of the witnesses, one of the persons who bore testimony to what we were doing was a woman who drove the bus, a school bus.  And she said that, that’s it, it’s so sad, she told us her troubles of getting a job and minimum wage and you know, all that stuff.  But, she said, I want to tell you about my job.  I drive a bus, I pick up kids to take them to school.  I see moms practically in tears, putting their children on a bus, knowing that their children are not well, but they can’t keep them home because they can’t stay home with them because they don’t have paid sick leave.  And so they have to send their child to school sick because they can’t afford to be docked a day of pay.  Now, it relates to pay, it relates to paid leave.  And so these not so well kids are getting on the bus, some of them throwing up, others of them just not feeling well.  That’s just not right, this is the United States of America, the greatest country that ever existed in the history of the world and we can’t have a mom stay home to take care of a sick child because somebody’s going to have a bigger bottom line because they don’t have paid leave?

“Well, you got to, you got to make sure that, that happens so I thank you all for the role that you are playing in all of that.  Our House Democratic women will – I think it’s tomorrow that we’re meeting with them again to put out, we want the men to be doing it to and when they see how women turnout for women, women helping women, they’re shocked.  It’s absolutely essential.  It can happen.  We’re not going to rest until it does.  And it wouldn’t happen without all of you.  So thank you for your leadership.  Thank you CAP.”