Sunday, January 07, 2007
Madame Speaker -- Huzzah!
I've been happily absorbed in all the media coverage of Nancy Pelosi's ascension ot Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. I caught a smattering of it on the tube as I was leaving for work Wednesday, then read the text of her speech online and found some video on my iBook at work, then spent too much time in my local Peet's Coffee reading the many articles about her, her career and family in the SF Chronicle. I got teary listening to her eloquent acceptance speech. I wave my pointy black hat in celebration.
At the tea given for Nancy the day before her swearing in, she specifically pointed out the influece of one of her mentors, the late Congresswoman Sala Burton of San Francisco (wife of Rep. Phillip Burton, he who brought the splendid GGNRA to the Bay Area) and the late Gov. Ann Richards of Texas. (Ann once said of our current President, "Poor George, he can't help it...He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.") I got misty watching her bring all the House women up on stage with her (including our own Lynn Woolsey), plus Senators Barbara Mikulski and Dianne Feinstein. I've watched all of their careers for so many years, with admiration.
When Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro was chosen at Walter Mondale's Vice Presidential running mate in 1984, I cried. I found Second Wave Feminism in the '60s, and the idea of a woman actually running for a national office of that magnitude struck many of us as a great accomplishment that women of my generation could barely have imagined possible.
But even before that, in 1972, I campaigned for the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, the late Shirley Chisholm of Brooklyn, in her bid for the presidency in the primaries. Congresswoman Chisholm gave this speech in support of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970, and in spite of our now having many, but not enough, women in the Senate, the House, governors' mansions, state legislatures, city halls and school boards, we still have not managed to pass an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing our equal rights as women.
I'm encouraged by Nancy Pelosi's accomplishment, her sense of optimism, and her energetic beginning. Recent conversations with younger women, my daughter and stepdaughter among them, and with friends of my vintage about their daughters' attitudes, lift my spirits and warm my heart. I'm on board with Third Wave Feminism. Let's keep the dialogue going. Let's keep up the pressure for our rights. Let's change culture.
Thank you, Madame Speaker, for your work, and for the role model you offer our daughters and granddaughters.