Pelosi Delivers Keynote Address to American Association of University Women
Monday, June 27, 2005
Contact: Brendan Daly/Jennifer Crider, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered the keynote address this morning to the American Association of University Women's national convention. Below are her remarks:
"Thank you, Nancy [Rustad], for that introduction and for four years of remarkable leadership of the American Association of University Women. If anyone doubts the impact of a dedicated volunteer, look no further than the example of Nancy Rustad.
"And thank you, AAUW. No organization has done more for a longer period of time than the AAUW to open doors that had been barred shut; to smash through the glass ceilings and marble ceilings that still exist in far too many places; and to heed the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton at Seneca Falls, nearly 160 years ago: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.'
"Today, I am proud to stand with you in fighting for the next generation of progress - making sure that the work we do in the halls of Congress has a positive impact on every aspect, of women's lives. All of the progress we have made, and all of the progress we seek to make, is enhanced by one thing: a seat at the table.
"In the history of our nation, of the 11,752 people who have served in Congress, 228 of them were women, less than 2 percent. Today, there are 83 women serving in the House and the Senate. That there are more women serving than ever before is a sign of how far we have come. That women still represent less than 16 percent of the current membership of Congress is an indicator of how far we have yet to go.
"When my colleagues elected me as Democratic Leader, it wasn't just a glass ceiling we broke through; it was a marble ceiling. I am proud of my colleagues and my party for bringing our country closer to the ideal of equality that is both our heritage and our hope. I said at the time that we have made history - now let us make progress.
"The first visit I made to the White House as a member of the Congressional leadership represented the first time a women would be sitting at the table with the President of the United States as an elected leader of her Party in her own right. So while I had been to the White House for meetings many times before, I had never been to a meeting quite like this. Indeed, no woman ever had.
"As the President started talking, I began to feel squeezed in my chair. It was getting more and more crowded.
"It was as if every woman who had worked to promote women's opportunity was sitting on that chair with me. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and every other pioneer who fought to gain the right to vote for women, the right to be treated as an equal in the workplace, and the ability to make the decisions affecting their own lives and careers.
"Then I heard them say, 'At last, we have a seat at the table.'
"My next thought was: We want more. We want more, because it takes the full spectrum of human talent to administer our complex society. Every worthwhile and flourishing public or private endeavor benefits from the talents of all its people. Being a woman in our society has its special challenges, and women often have different approaches than men to similar situations.
"It is for those reasons that I have used my position to put women into positions of power and influence not only to impact every aspect of women's lives - but to make positive change in every aspect of our national life.
"That is why I was proud to name Rosa DeLauro as a chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, to give her an elevated platform from which to fight for pay equity; Louise Slaughter as the first woman to serve as the ranking member of the Rules Committee, where she can use the power of her position to continue championing Title IX. Jane Harman is now the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee, to bring her strength and sensibility to our national security. Carolyn Maloney is the Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee, to advance her ideas for strengthening our economy...
"It is why Juanita Millender-McDonald is the Ranking Member of the House Administration Committee. Why Stephanie Tubbs Jones is the first African American woman ever to serve on the Ways and Means Committee. Why Hilda Solis is the first Latina ever to serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Why Linda Sanchez is the first Latina ever to serve on the Judiciary Committee. Why Doris Matsui is the first Asian American ever to serve on the Rules Committee.
"I like to think these appointments and more prove a powerful point: There is no question; women know how to run the House. We just have to win. There's something else women add to the mix: an understanding that the policies we pursue have a real and tangible impact on the lives women live.
"For example, to guarantee equality and enhance self-esteem in the life of a young woman, women know that we must keep Title IX strong. Just last week, we celebrated the 33rd anniversary of Title IX with dozens of young girls who play soccer. As I looked at them, I realized, Title IX is what will allow them to participate as equals on the playing field and in the classroom, and then they will lead as equals in the halls of power and America's boardrooms.
"Our fight on this is not over. In March, the Bush Administration issued a 'Clarification' that would lower the standard for schools to prove that they're complying with Title IX. More than 140 Members of Congress have sent a letter to the President, asking him to withdraw this 'Clarification,' because we need to make certain that Title IX is protected, not eroded.
"Once a woman completes her higher education and enters the workforce, we need to ensure that she receives equal pay for her equal work. Right now, women earn 77 cents on every dollar men earn. That means that each day, doing the same job, a man earns by 3 p.m. what it takes an entire day for a woman to earn - and each year, a man earns by October 9th what it takes a woman a full year to earn. That is simply not right.
"This isn't just a women's issue, it's a family issue. Equal pay can mean the difference between a family getting a mortgage, paying a mortgage, affording their expenses and getting by, versus getting stretched to the breaking point.
"In 1955, AAUW was behind the first piece of legislation aimed at promoting equal pay. Today, we're working to pass Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro's Paycheck Fairness Act to finish the unfinished work of the 1963 Equal Pay Act. Last month, we celebrated equal pay day. Together, we're going to keep working until every day is equal pay day for America's families.
"After a woman's working life, we are fighting to make sure that Social Security provides women a retirement of dignity. This is essential, because women are less likely to have private pension plans and thus depend more on Social Security benefits. In fact, women make up 60 percent of Social Security beneficiaries, and more than half of them would be living in poverty today without it.
"I know that you have been briefed by my former colleague Barbara Kennelly on this issue, so let me just say this: Social Security is a lifeline for women, and we will not let its guaranteed benefit become a guaranteed gamble for American women.
"From Title IX to equal pay, to Social Security - we recognize that the policies we pursue must have a positive impact in every aspect of women's lives. And we need to pursue these policies together. This is a bipartisan audience, and these should by no means be considered partisan issues.
"And so call upon those of you who are Republicans: take back your Party. Take back your Party, so that the policies we pursue legislatively are a reflection of the values you hold in your lives.
"Only by asserting yourselves can we ensure that we have judges who will not roll back the generations of progress on civil rights, and worker's rights, and women's rights. Take back your party, because a woman's right to choose should be a matter of privacy, not a matter of partisanship.
"In a real sense, the future of all of these issues, from Title IX to choice, may be ultimately be decided by the judiciary. And that is why we must ensure that the next justice appointed to the Supreme Court is in the mainstream, and respects the privacy that is guaranteed in our Constitution.
"On August 26, when we celebrate the 85th anniversary of the women's vote, we will be celebrating it as a victory for all Americans. And so it should be with the proposals I have talked about today - proposals that improve women's lives and fuel their hopes. When such legislation becomes law, it is a victory for all.
"As you go to lobby on the Hill later this morning, remember: You are the cavalry coming to storm Capitol Hill for the American people. No voice is more powerful to a Member of Congress than the voice of a constituent.
"So let me leave you with one final message: Know thy power.
"Know thy power, and together, we will expand opportunities, strengthen our families, and ensure that our work makes this country work better for women and all Americans. Know thy power, and together we'll build an America that is safe, strong, and respected in the world. Know thy power, and together, we'll bring America closer to the ideal of equality that is both our heritage and our hope.
"Thank you, AAUW."