Cecile Richards

HRC's 2018 Equality Convention - March 23, 2018

Cecile Richards
March 23, 2018— Washington, D.C.
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It's so good to see all of you.

Chad's right – he was one of the first calls I got after the election and it was in the middle of the night, actually, it wasn't that next morning, and the first thing he said was, "What can I do to stand with you?" Because we knew that Planned Parenthood was going to be first up and he's been standing with me and with us and all of you have ever since.

And the exciting thing, as he just said in his remarks, is together we have built a progressive firewall in this country and we are winning all across America, and it is really exciting to see. So thank you, thank you, Chad, for your partnership.

And I also want to thank the two forces of nature that make this work possible – Mary Beth Maxwell and JoDee Winterhof – who are just phenomenal, so yay for you.

And I know my friend Joe Solmonese is here somewhere. I know he was introduced. I just have to say, you know, I met Joe a long, long time ago when there was a woman who wanted to run for governor of Texas and she was a liberal and she was…pretty much had no chance of winning, and there was one organization that had just started up that decided that they would bet on her and they swooped in to support her and that's how I met Joe. And that up-and-coming organization – I think it was only five years old – was called EMILY's List and now they've really kind of made it big.

But that was where I first met Joe Solmonese, and of course since then he has done everything, including serve on the National Board of Planned Parenthood. And one of the things that's making it easier for me to step aside is that he is actually chairing, leading the transition team at Planned Parenthood as we search for a new president.

So I don't know where you are, Joe, but I sure want to say thank you for being a fearless leader – there you are. Can you give it up for Joe Solmonese. I'm so grateful to him, so fantastic.

And thank you to all the volunteers from around the country. I know I saw some Texans back in the back, so go Texas! Yes! We were into HRC and gay rights in Texas long before it was cool and so it is really exciting to see how this movement has grown out of that.

I do think, though – I mean one of the reasons I really wanted to be here and I was so honored that Chad invited me to see all of you today is that the work of Planned Parenthood is literally like lockstep with the work of the Human Rights Campaign. Your leaders are our leaders, and I just want to call out one of them, the phenomenal Jamaul Webster, who I think is here today. I don't know where you are Jamaul, but….

You know you know Jamaul as the chair of the HRC Board of Governors and a member of the Board of Directors, but I know him as my coworker at Planned Parenthood, one of the most amazing staff leaders we have in the organization. So go, Jamaul – you're great! Thank you and thanks for being here today.

You know, it's funny because I logged like a lot of you a lot of miles – volunteer miles – during Hillary's campaign, and it didn't matter where I went. The one consistent thing is that there were Planned Parenthood volunteers and there were HRC volunteers, right?

I mean, I know a lot of us, we saw each other a bunch and whether it was phone banking together in the state of Maine or knocking doors together in Florida or rallying in an impossibly freezing gymnasium in Iowa in the middle of January, I was so incredibly proud to work alongside all of you during that presidential campaign.

But more importantly, I cannot wait to work with all of you to restore sanity to the White House and win the next presidential election and bring justice back to the United States of America. So, let's do that.

But I do think the most important bond that unites us is the communities and the people that we serve. You know, at Planned Parenthood our motto is care, no matter what, and that means no matter who you are or who you love; no matter where you live or how much money you make; no matter your race, your gender, your gender identity, your immigration status – we believe at Planned Parenthood that health care is a fundamental human right. It's not a privilege and never can be and never should be.

And you know for that nearly two and a half million folks who count on us every single year for health care, they deserve nothing less.

So if you're a young person in Ohio who's concerned about a possible HIV infection, you have a couple options. You can go – and I've been there and talked to folks there – you can go and sit in the waiting room at the county board of health care during the designated hours when everybody in town knows that's when it's HIV testing time, or you can come to Planned Parenthood where you can get the testing and treatment and support that you need in the privacy of our health centers – or even at your favorite local gay bar, where our staff is doing testing on Saturday nights at 1:00 a.m. That to me is what health care is all about and should be in this country.

And not only that, in 44 states Planned Parenthood is offering prep to help prevent the spread of HIV, and yes, and we got to be doing more of that in the United States of America as well.

And if you happen to be living in rural Pennsylvania and don't have anyone to talk to about sex or relationships or abortion, you can text Planned Parenthood and ask the questions that sometimes you just actually cannot get out aloud. And thousands of young people do that with us through our text chat program every single month all across the United States of America. And they even actually send our staff photos that they have taken, saying, "Do you think I have an STD?" which we're definitely discouraging because it is very hard to diagnose over text chat or even Tumblr – although I actually do believe that soon we can do that – but at the very least we were able to answer their questions and get them the health care that they need reduce their anxiety and find them a health care provider.

Or if you are a transgender twenty-something like our patient Jonas in Richmond, Virginia, you can get health care without having to educate your doctor. What a novel concept, right, what a novel concept.

During the Virginia governor's election I was honored to be on a panel with Jonas during a press conference with the first lady of Virginia, and he said, "Planned Parenthood was the first place I went where the health care provider knew more about my health care needs than I did. Up until then it had been up to me to advocate for myself." That should not be how it is in this country for transgender care.

So we are proud to be there for Jonas and we're proud to provide hormone replacement therapy in 20 states and counting and inclusive, non-judgmental care at every single Planned Parenthood health center in America. So that's our pledge to you. That's our pledge.

And I do think that we also share this same core mission, which is building a future where everyone has the freedom and the opportunity to live their best life. And that mission, as Chad said, has never been more important than it is today. We are living through an unprecedented moment in this country, a time when so many just fundamental assumptions about America are in freefall and the progress that we've made every day is hanging in the balance.

And yet… I mean, the amazing thing, because we have to remember this as organizers and as progressives – look, we're gonna lose more than we're gonna win, but then we're gonna win and it's gonna feel so damn good.

So this is what I had…it's really important to remember. So we beat the odds consistently over the last year. Remember – the Republicans, they've got the White House, they've got the House of Representatives and they've got the Senate. And I remember the morning…. Okay, November 9, 2016, when a lot of folks were struggling to even get out of bed, right? A lot of folks just said they couldn't face it.

But HRC and Planned Parenthood got up and started organizing right away. We started planning, we started organizing, we were hoping for the best and we were planning for the worst from an administration and a Congress we knew was out to get us all. And it would be hostile not only to the LGBTQ community, to the women's community, but to immigrants, to Muslims, to anyone who needed their government to be there for them.

And when so much of what we had feared began to come to pass, we came together across oppressive movement and I cannot say there has never been a better partner for me in my 12 years a Planned Parenthood than having Chad Griffin at HRC and all of you. I just have to say that – how important that has incredibly been.

And we have stood up together – yes – and we have stood up together, not only for women in the LGBT community but for Muslims and for immigrants and for communities colors and for workers who were struggling to earn a living wage in America. All of these issues are our issues.

And every step of the way you've been with us and we've known that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. I think that solidarity was and is a source of light in a very, very dark time and we have done some things that we thought were impossible.

So I just have to give you this one story. So, I don't know if you remember but right after the election – right after the election – Speaker Paul Ryan declared that almost immediately there was going to be a bill on the president's desk that was going to overturn the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood, right. It was like right out of the barrel.

And no sooner had he finished making that press statement that you could not log a call into Paul Ryan's office because the entire switchboard was shut down with angry folks calling in and saying no way. Literally the lines were flooded with pissed-off women in pink pussy hats. I mean, right, exactly, right? That's what's happened, okay? I mean it wasn't just that, but, I mean, you saw the pictures of these town hall meetings. I mean, members of Congress were canceling them left and right. They were literally, like, running out the back stairs trying to avoid their constituents because people were so angry about health care.

And with your help, we defeated Paul Ryan, we defeated Mitch McConnell, we defeated this White House, and the doors of Planned Parenthood are still open all across the United States of America. That's a victory, my friends. That's a victory. That's what it means to win. That's what it means to win. And – thank you.

But we weren't just fighting for Planned Parenthood, right? We weren't just fighting for Planned Parenthood, although because we were able to win that victory, more than 8,000 patients come to our health centers now every single day and for many of them we're the only healthcare provider they may have.

But the other important thing is we saved, together, we saved Obamacare, which is the single biggest leap forward in a generation for women and LGBTQ people in this country. And I'm just here to say today, Obamacare – it's here to stay, all right? We're not going back. We're not giving up.

And as Chad said, marriage equality is still the law of the land, and you better believe it's going to stay that way. And transgender troops are still, as of this moment, are still serving proudly in our military, and we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. So will you give it up for them, please? They serve us every single day. That's right.

And we didn't just keep bad things from happening. Amazing things happened and I'm so glad you're gonna hear from Danica Roem later today, who made history in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

And we got a governor, a lieutenant governor and attorney general who not only stands proudly with women but with the LGBTQ community just like their predecessors did – amazing victories, as Chad said.

Things that no one imagined were possible in Alabama, in New Jersey, in Wisconsin, in Pennsylvania, and in the process we woke up a sleeping giant in America – am i right? I mean, I'm meeting people in their 80s who have never done anything before who are now volunteering at Planned Parenthood.

It's really amazing, right? It's a wave of grassroots activism, leaders and candidates that are sweeping this country. People are showing up by the thousands at townhall meetings, are organizing their own groups, starting their own organizations. Protestors are risking arrest to stand with Dreamers and immigrants who deserve a place in this country. They are Americans, too, all right?

And I know you're all here, thank goodness you're all, here because students are taking to the streets to demand an end to gun violence, and they are fearless, they are determined, and I look forward to marching with them tomorrow here in Washington, D.C., alongside all of you.

So I'd like to tell you the good news, but I think the important thing, you know our work is far from over. We can't get complacent and we can't let the energy fade. And I think our job is to fight like we have never fought in our lifetime for all the people who are counting on us. Because at the end of the day, this is about a lot more than winning elections or not.

Although buckle up, because you know what – change is coming in November 2018 and we're gonna be part of it and we're gonna be leading it. It's really exciting.

But it is about…it's more than elections. It's actually about transforming our culture, because when our culture changes, our politics change – not just today but for generations to come. And that is why we have to link arms and do this work together.

And so as an organizer I can't leave here without giving you your marching orders. Number one, we got to be bolder and do more than we ever thought we could. It's time to get outside of our comfort zone. And I guess my mantra to myself is, if you're not scaring yourself you're actually not doing enough. All right? Do you agree?

So I'm gonna tell you, it's on a very personal level. As a white woman, I gotta do more, because women of color have been carrying on their backs, electing progressives in this country for too long and now it's up to us as well. It's up to us to do our part as well. And we can't forget it. We got to show – they show up at election time and now we got to get our other sisters to show up as well.

And we can't just wait for people to come to us – we got to be out there on the doors, on the phones, and growing the universe of people in this country that we talk to about the issues that affect us. Yesterday when I was up on Capitol Hill, I saw a bunch of you from HRC and you were out in force and that's what we have to do more of.

And I think that at a time when this administration and this Congress are doing everything they can to take us backward, from rolling back – this is incredible – rolling back protections for transgender students is unbelievable to me. Betsy DeVos should be ashamed of herself. It's incredible.

To giving businesses and health care providers a license to discriminate, to quietly stripping – this just came out, too – stripping away information and resources for the LGBTQ community from federal websites. This is outrageous and it's got to change.

So your voices are more important than they ever have been before. So I hope that you'll leave this conference feeling more inspired to fight for all people, because nobody's free until everybody's free. Right? Am I right?

Don't worry – I'm only gonna tell you three things you have to do.

The second thing is – I think this is just an organizing lesson – which is to be a good organizer you actually have to be a good listener, and I'm not sure we're doing enough of that in this country.

I think that it's actually frustrating for me – and look, I come from Texas so from this I know – a lot of folks are written off and we say, well, they've been voting against their own self-interest. I actually think it's worth taking a moment and talking to them and finding out what is their interest, right, what are they expecting from government? What do they need for their families and for their future? What are their aspirations and how can we relate to each other as human beings?

I think it has never been more important to break out of our bubble, to quit just talking to the folks who agree with us and talk to people who live differently than we do and recognize with them our shared humanity and our commitment to doing this work not for but with them. Okay, that's lesson number two, all right?

And the third is – and you know this but I just feel like particularly cuz we're in Washington, D.C., it's really important to remember – the change we need: it is not coming from Washington, D.C. It is coming from Tucson, Arizona, and Dallas, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri, and Omaha, Nebraska, and everywhere out in the countryside where we are going to make the change that you're leading, and even from my home state of Texas.

You know one of my favorite stories was during – I don't know if y'all remember, some of you may have been there – but in Texas we had a big fight over abortion laws that were being passed to shut down all the abortion health centers and the right, frankly, in the state of Texas, by the governor and by the state legislature, and that's how I got to meet a nine-year-old named Bo Guidry from Kyle, Texas. That's how Bo and I crossed paths in 2013.

And the incredible thing is I think the governor thought that he was going to do this and we'd been beat down so bad in Texas that folks were just gonna like stay home, but he was like dropping a match on dry kindling. Folks exploded in the state of Texas and they came roaring back, kept coming to the Capitol, day-in day-out, staying til 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning to testify against the bill. And in the midst of it all, you may remember that my friend, state senator Wendy Davis, laced up her pink running shoes and she headed out and she filibustered that bill for 13 hours and we beat it that night and it was incredible. It was amazing.

But there were a lot of people – I mean Wendy's the famous one – but there were a lot of people part of that process like Bo. Bo at nine years old not only watched from the Senate gallery the entire filibuster, he live-tweeted the entire thing. And my favorite tweet from Bo was, "I thought I my summer would be spent at the pool and Six Flags. Who knew I would be changing the world?" Right? That's Bo.

Now the story didn't end there, because Bo was so inspired when he went back to school in the fall he ran for third grade class president – and he won. And he won, my friends, okay? That's what organizing is all about.

So if Bo can be the change he wants to see, so can we all. We've got our work cut out for us. It isn't gonna be easy. But if we stand together there's nothing we can't do. We are unstoppable.

One of the last speeches my mother, the late governor Ann Richards, ever gave was at a Human Rights Campaign dinner. In fact, she was already losing her voice, but it was so important to her to go because she believes so fiercely in your mission of equality. She also believed fiercely in public service and this is what she said: "You know, you may go somewhere else and you may make a lot of money, but you're never going to have the kind of satisfaction that you receive from looking someone in the eye who says, 'Thank you for helping make my life better.'"

And that's what you do every day. You make people's lives better all across this country – people you work with, people you live with, people you love and countless more of people whose names you will never know but who you inspire nonetheless.

So at Planned Parenthood, we've never been prouder to stand with you. So thank you for what you're doing and what you will do. Let's get to it.

Human Rights Campaign (2018, March 23). Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards Speaks at HRC's Equality Convention [Video]. Retrieved on April 23, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-v7AtclDh4.