Kay Bailey Hutchison

Remembering Geraldine Ferraro - March 29, 2011

Kay Bailey Hutchison
March 29, 2011— U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
Congressional floor speech
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U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, paid tribute to the life of Geraldine Ferraro in a speech on the Senate floor.

I thank Senator Mikulski and Senator Boxer.

Mr. President, I do want to talk about this remarkable woman because I think, as has been mentioned before, her loss is being felt throughout America for many different reasons. She was a trailblazer, and she was one of the great female role models of her generation.

I wrote a book in 2004 called ``American Heroines: The Spirited Women

Who Shaped Our Country.'' It was to profile the women who were the earliest trailblazers in different fields--education, sports, politics, journalism. Then I interviewed contemporary women who were still breaking barriers in those fields.

In the public service chapter, I profiled Margaret Chase Smith because she was the longest serving woman elected to the Senate in her own right at the time and she was a true trailblazer. I then interviewed Sandra Day O'Connor, our first woman Supreme Court Justice, and Geraldine Ferraro, our first woman nominee for Vice President of a major party.

I asked Gerry Ferraro in my interview with her: What was your most important trait for success?

And she said:

I think the ability to work hard and, if something doesn't work, to learn from the mistake and move on. That's what's happened with my own life. It goes to the personal side from watching my mother, who moved on after becoming a widow with two kids to support. She was thirty-nine years old. ..... Then I watched her move on and do whatever was necessary to get the job of educating her children done. I'm exactly the same way. I'll do whatever is necessary to get the job done, whatever it is. And then if I do something that doesn't work, then I go to the next goal.

I asked her what was her biggest obstacle. She almost laughed. She said:

I'm sixty-eight. The obstacles in my life have changed with time. An obstacle when I was a kid was being in a boarding school away from my mother because my father had died. I had no choice. It wasn't like the boarding schools or the prep schools of today. I was in a semicloistered convent. It was lonely, and I had to work hard. I wanted to go to college, but we didn't have the money for college, so I knew I had to get top marks in order to get scholarships. That was my obstacle then.

Money was always an obstacle when I was a kid. I taught when I went to law school at night, because I couldn't afford to go during the day. When I applied [for law school], they would say things like, ``Gerry, are you serious, because you're taking a man's place,'' you know. .....

And then [after getting out of law school]--

As was mentioned earlier, she was one of only two women in her class--

I was faced with the challenge of trying to find a job. I interviewed at five law firms. I was in the top ten percent of my class.

But she did not get a job offer. Well, I related to that because I graduated from law school, after her, in 1967, and law firms in Texas did not hire women then either. So I know how she felt as she went through obstacles and obstacles and obstacles. But she said: In the end, ``each thing was an obstacle that I had to get by'' at the time. But she didn't have too many obstacles because she just picked herself up and kept right on going. She truly was an inspiration and a trailblazer for women of our time.

Throughout her life as a public school teacher, as an assistant district attorney, as a Congresswoman, and as a candidate for Vice President, Gerry Ferraro fought for the causes that were important to her. When she learned she had multiple myeloma, a somewhat rare blood disease that is incurable, she drew upon that same fighting spirit. As she waged the battle with her own disease, Gerry stepped into the spotlight because she knew if she talked about it, with her high profile, she could bring help to others.

Her testimony before Congress was instrumental in the passage of a bill that Senator Mikulski, who is on the floor leading this effort today, and I cosponsored together in 2001 and 2002. Our legislation gave the research community the tools they need to discover what triggers these deadly blood diseases, to devise better treatments, and to work toward a cure. In our bill, Barbara and I decided to name the Geraldine Ferraro Blood Cancer Education Program for Gerry Ferraro to raise awareness and spread the lifesaving information about myeloma, leukemia, and other forms of blood cancer. Gerry Ferraro was on the floor of the House when her bill--our bill--passed the House of Representatives on April 30, 2002. Her daughter was in the gallery with my staffer, and there was so much joy in her eyes and her demeanor.

But then Gerry Ferraro went about the business of fashioning the education program. She consulted with the doctors at Harvard, at Dana-Farber, with Dr. Ken Anderson, her doctor. She consulted with him because she wanted an interactive Web site because she knew that doctors all over the country were searching for information on the treatment of this disease because they were so unaware at the time of what you could do to help patients.

Well, this is personal to me because my brother Allan also has multiple myeloma, and I got involved in this because I watched him bravely fight like Gerry Ferraro was doing. And my brother is a great patient. He is tough like Gerry. He is fighting like Gerry. And he is doing really well. But we knew how hard it was because we watched Allan fight this disease and take many of the same drugs and have the same doctor consultations as Gerry.

So Gerry and Allan knew each other and traded information, and the patients with these diseases do that. They reach out, they help each other because they know it is the person with the experience who knows how you feel when you just don't feel as though you can get up in the morning. People such as Kathy Giusti, who was also a good friend of Gerry Ferraro's, and Ken Anderson, they traded information, and it helped all of them to know they had that kind of support.

So she was an inspiration. Her dignity and grace in fighting multiple myeloma will be one of the trademarks in her life, along with the other great trailblazing she has done.

Just last month, the women of the Senate pulled together to return the encouragement. We knew Gerry was having a hard time, and we took a picture of the women of the Senate, we all signed it around the edges and we sent it to her, saying: Thanks for being our champion. Thanks for all you do for the women of our country.

Gerry was not just a champion for women running for public office, she was a champion for women to succeed in every field, in every sector. She took the first powerful swing at the glass ceiling. She will not be here to see the woman President who is sworn into office, who will finish the breaking of that glass ceiling. But we will all be standing on the shoulders of Gerry Ferraro, and certainly that first woman President will as well, because she took those first steps, such as so many of the early trailblazers in all the different sectors. The first ones don't see their success, but what they do by showing the dignity and the courage and the tenacity and the grace does prepare the way for the next generation or the next woman to move to the next level, and that is what Gerry Ferraro has done for all the women of our country.

I will always remember her friendship. I appreciate her leadership. We will all miss her on a personal level, but we will always remember in the bigger picture what she did for this country.

Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZxxeo0YyP8.