Kamala Harris

National Partnership for Women and Families Gala - June 15, 2017

Kamala Harris
June 15, 2017— Washington DC
National Partnership for Women and Families Annual Gala
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What a scene, this is fantastic, oh this is great. I wish everyone at the Capitol could be here. Judy Lightman was reminding me backstage that it must have been 20 years ago, I was writing- I was a young attorney writing these little checks to this organization that has grown to be this and it's an incredible sight to see and an incredible testament to everyone here. So I just want to start my comments by thanking you all for supporting the National Partnership. It is so incredibly important. It is so incredibly important, and there are many other things you could be doing with the- the kind of support and involvement that you have with this organization and it really matters, so thank you, thank you. And Thank You, Debra for your leadership and your kind words and to my friend Alan Malcolm who is there for supporting and empowering so many women and- and women in leadership. And let me start by echoing also what I know other people have mentioned this evening about the horrible, horrible shooting in Alexandria this morning. My thoughts and prayers are with Congressman Steve Scalise and the members and congressional staff and Capitol Police who were all wounded, and our hearts of course are breaking for their families and for those who have endured this tragedy. So I do want to mention them and especially I want to recognize the heroism of the Capitol Police, the Alexandria Police, and the first responders. They took quick action to prevent this incident from becoming even worse and over the course of my career in law enforcement, I have witnessed over and over again the selflessness and the sacrifices of those in law enforcement who literally lay their lives on the line every day to protect the people, many people who they'll never meet and people who will never know their names, so again if we can just honor and thank them for their service. And so as we move forward, we're still learning of course what happened that day, but the motivation whatever it was, one thing we know for sure is that we can never accept this kind of violence in our society and in our country. And in fact, this morning I joined the Senate Prayer Breakfast and after the shooting had happened and my colleague Senator Cassidy spoke very movingly about how we're stronger together than we are when divided, and I couldn't agree more. And as a great leader Gabby Giffords wrote after she was horribly attacked all of us, this view of her words, all of us especially those who want to be leaders have a responsibility to the higher callings of democracy and civility. So let's remember those words as we also think about what happened today. And in answering that higher calling of democracy and civility and inclusion has been the work of the National Partnership for Women and Families for the last 46 years. It is you who spoke out for women's reproductive rights before Roe v Wade was even on the books, you fought tirelessly for Family and Medical Leave and it's no wonder that folks around Capitol Hill call the Family and Medical Leave Act the Judy Lichtman Act. And along with President Obama and Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, you were critical to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The impact of this organization is indeed profound. The lives of millions of people will forever be better because of the work of the National Partnership, so I'm honored to join you here tonight and grateful for your extraordinary work. And I must tell you on a personal level I'm grateful for your work on behalf of my grandmother who would go to villages in India in a little VW bug with a bullhorn telling women how to access birth control. I'm grateful to you, I am grateful to you, as the daughter of the mother who raised my sister and me while working full time as a scientist studying breast cancer in a male-dominated field. And I am grateful as someone who thanks to the strength and the struggle and the sacrifice of so many people was the first woman elected San Francisco district attorney, the first woman elected to be California and Attorney General, and the second black woman elected to the United States Senate. Thank you. And so- and so there is no question that over the last few decades thanks to you and so many others, our society has seen great progress. More and more women sit in Congress on the United States Supreme Court and head fortune 100 companies. Almost 6 in 10 larger American firms now provide some type of paid maternity leave that includes trailblazers like Netflix in my home state who gives salaried employees up to a year of paid parent- parental leave, mothers and fathers, a role model for other corporations. I issue the challenge right here and now. And not many people know this I'm going to share with you a little something that I've never shared with an audience this big, but I happen to love superhero movies and so this past weekend I of course had to go see Wonder Woman. And- and for those of you who haven't seen it or read about it in those who have seen it you know it's a movie that was directed by a woman, starring a woman, who plays an unapologetically, strong, intelligent, and independent lead character. But while we celebrate the progress we have seen, we also of course recognize that this is an incredibly challenging moment in our history and it is an interesting time I must say in particular to be in Washington DC and certainly these Senate committee hearings have stressed to me how important it is that we continue to make our voices heard. And it has stressed how important it is to live those wise words of the great congresswoman Shirley Chisholm who said- who said if they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. And that's the kind of courage we need now more than ever. We face a budget that will dramatically harm services for women, children, and families, so we need to make our voices heard. We have been offered a childcare proposal that gives folks on the Upper East Side an annual tax break of seventy three hundred dollars but gives working families less than six dollars. So we need to make our voices heard, and when people play politics with public health, when they attempt to rollback birth control coverage and shut down clinics and when a bill that would take away coverage for 23 million Americans is crafted in secret with no hearings, no bill text, and no transparency, you better believe we need to make our voices heard. Because as I said at that incredible Women's March in January, when we use our voices, we have got the power. And as Deborah has said, we have to find the heart, the courage, and the solutions in our selves. We must continue, I believe, to have that courage as we speak truth and fight for what we know is right. Because here's the deal if we're not in the room we need to speak louder, shout if we have to, so the people in those rooms will hear our voices because everyone benefits when we are heard. And here's the truth people need to understand: to tackle the challenges of the 21st century, we must empower women and families. If we do not lift up women and families, everyone will fall short and that means rejecting the false choice presented by our politics that would have you choose between caring about economic issues or caring about quote unquote women's issues. Because you cannot separate them they're inextricably linked. We should make college free and I've co-sponsored senator Sanders bill to do that, and- and we've also got to make sure women aren't forced to drop out because they don't have the tools to decide when and whether to have children. We should retrain workers and we have got to understand it won't be worthwhile if those workers don't have access to quality affordable child care. We should fight for a $15 minimum wage and we've got to make sure those employees won't be fired if they take a day off to care for a sick child or a parent. And let's ask well who exactly will be impacted by these policies? Well the high-powered young lawyer who loves her work but also wants to be there as her children grow up. The single mom in East LA or East Lansing who has to choose between paying the babysitter and paying rent. The unemployed factory worker in Scranton whose wife has to pick up an extra shift and deserves to be paid fairly. Because when you lift up women, you lift up families, you lift up communities, you lift up economies, and you lift up America. Last week my stepdaughter, Ella Rose, graduated from high school and it was a very- it was a very exciting time for all of us. And I have to tell you I'm so excited to see what she does next, and the thing about it is when I look at her I think you know she'll only ever know a world where roughly half her college classmates are women and where it's not only possible, but expected, that women can make the next big scientific discovery or start the next billion-dollar company or hold the highest offices in our government. And I know, no matter how tough the moment may seem right now, that she will witness even greater progress in her lifetime because when I look at her and the young women of her generation, it is clear to me that they do have the courage of these convictions. This new latest generation of us is already taking on this fight to build on everything groups like the National Partnership have accomplished, to build a world where all of our daughters and all of our sons have every opportunity to succeed and thrive so that our great country can succeed and thrive. So I say to all of us, let's roll up our sleeves and let's get to work. Thank you, thank you.