I was honored to receive the Woman of Vision award from the National Organization for Women (NOW) at their annual conference at the end of June. I heard from many of you on that occasion, and I thank all of you for your good wishes and NOW for the award. Here is a condensed version of my remarks on that occasion:
The vision I have for our nation is of a kinder and gentler and more generous future:
A future where a mother would not be afraid to take her daughter to the dentist for fear of what the bill will be.
A future where a single mother of two, the sole support of her family, would not be laid off on a Christmas Eve because as a retail worker she had no labor union to protect her from layoff or to at least schedule a layoff for a more humane time.
A future where a single mother with the motivation and intellectual ability to go to college to better herself and provide for her family’s future would be able to do so, because our welfare system will support her and her children at a decent standard of living without stigma and will provide the tuition money and child care she would need to do so.
These are all examples from my childhood and this mom was my mom. My mother worked very hard for long hours to make sure my brother and I got the opportunities that she never had. And I know many of us in this room share the experience of being supported and encouraged by a mother who herself faced many barriers and had limited opportunities. I was lucky enough to have such a mother and also to have come of age with the second wave of the women’s movement, when it was able to achieve much, if not all, of the unfinished business of the first wave of the women’s movement.
My vision is for a society where people like my mom, every woman, every child, every man has basic economic security and the opportunity to go as far economically and politically as their talent can take them—as I was able to do because of a very dedicated mom.
Here’s one thing we can to do to help achieve that vision.
Work to strengthen our public sector at all levels—local, state, and national government. Women are the majority of government workers, especially at the state and local levels where services are delivered to our citizens and residents. When you see or hear attacks on public unions, those are attacks on our teachers, nurses, social workers, and home health aides. When you hear that government is too big and that the size of government needs to be limited, that is really an attack on food stamps, welfare, unemployment insurance, Pell grants and federal student loans, Social Security benefits, Medicaid and Medicare. That is an attack on the services and income supports that women and children need, that women and children rely on. When you hear taxes are too high, respond by saying the rich can afford to pay the same rate as the rest of us do.
Women depend on government services everyday: our schools, our public transportation, our community colleges and state universities, our hospitals and healthcare, and our Social Security system. When you cast your vote in November, consider carefully which candidates will support the public services women need. Consider that your vote is an opportunity to stand with our teachers, nurses, social workers, and home health aides, and with their unions.
And Happy Birthday, Mom. My mother turns 95 on October 9.