June 15, 2017

VIDEO: Sen. Harris at NPWF: “We need to make our voices heard”

HD Video

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last night, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris delivered remarks at the National Partnership for Women and Families annual gala. Senator Harris reflected on the leadership of the National Partnership for Women and Families, the fight ahead for access to quality health care, fairness in the workplace and leveling the economic playing field, and the next generation of women leaders. At the top of her remarks, Senator Harris addressed the tragic shooting that occurred in Alexandria, VA involving members of Congress, their staff, and Capitol Police officers.

Key Quotes from Senator Harris' remarks:

  • "We face a budget that will dramatically harm services for women, children, and families. So, we need to make our voices heard. We've been offered a childcare proposal that gives folks on the Upper East Side an annual tax break of $7,300, but gives working families less than $6. So, we need to make our voices heard. And when people play politics with public health-when they attempt to roll back 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."
  • "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 you have to choose between caring about economic issues or caring about 'women's issues.' You cannot separate them. They're inextricably linked."
  • "Last week, my stepdaughter graduated from high school. And I have to tell you, I'm so excited to see what she does next. 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'll 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."

Full remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good evening, everyone.

Thank you, Debra, for your leadership and your kind words.

Thank you also to my friend Ellen Malcolm for supporting and empowering so many women to become leaders.

Let me start by echoing what others have said about this horrible shooting in Alexandria this morning. My thoughts and prayers are with Congressman Steve Scalise, Members and Congressional staff, Capitol Police, and all those who were wounded. Our hearts are breaking for the victims and their families who've endured this tragedy.

And I especially want to recognize the heroism of the Capitol Police, the Alexandria police, and the first responders who took quick action to prevent this incident from becoming even worse. Over the course of my career in law enforcement, I have witnessed over and over again the selflessness and sacrifice of law enforcement who lay their lives on the line every day to protect people who they will never meet and people who will never know their names.

Obviously, we are still learning more about what happened and why. But whatever the motivation, one thing we know for sure is that we can never accept this violence in our society.

In fact, I joined the Senate Prayer Breakfast this morning, after the shooting. And my colleague, Senator Cassidy, spoke very movingly about how we're stronger together than we are divided. And I couldn't agree more.

As Gabby Giffords wrote after she herself was so horribly attacked, "All of us, especially those who want to be leaders, have a responsibility to the higher callings of democracy and civility."

And answering that higher calling of democracy, civility, and inclusion has been the work of the National Partnership for Women and Families for the last 46 years.

You 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 folks around the Hill call the Family and Medical Leave Act the "Judy Lichtman Act."

And along with President Obama, 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 tonight and grateful for your extraordinary work.

I'm grateful 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 as the daughter of a mother who raised my sister and me, while working full-time as a scientist in a male-dominated field.

I'm grateful as someone who-thanks to the strength and struggle and sacrifice of so many people-was the first woman elected to be San Francisco District Attorney, the first woman elected to be California Attorney General, and the second Black woman to be elected to the United States Senate.

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 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 parental leave-mothers and fathers.

And not many people know this, but I happen to love superhero movies. So, this past weekend I was particularly excited to see the biggest blockbuster hit right now-Wonder Woman. A movie directed by a woman, starring a woman-who plays an unapologetically strong, intelligent, and independent lead character.

But while we celebrate this progress, we also recognize this is an incredibly challenging moment in our history.

And it is an interesting time, I must say, in particular to be in Washington, D.C.

These Senate committee hearings certainly 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, "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've been offered a childcare proposal that gives folks on the Upper East Side an annual tax break of $7,300, but gives working families less than $6.

So, we need to make our voices heard.

And when people play politics with public health-when they attempt to roll back 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've got the power. As Debra has said, "we have to find the heart, the courage, [and] the solutions in ourselves."

We must continue to have that courage-as we speak truth and fight for what we know is right.

If we're not in the room, we need to speak louder-shout if we have to-to be heard by the people in those rooms. 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 you have to choose between caring about economic issues or caring about "women's issues." You cannot separate them. They're inextricably linked:

We should make college free-and I've cosponsored Senator Sanders' bill to do that-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 re-train workers, and we've got to understand it won't be worthwhile if those workers don't have access to quality, affordable childcare.

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 parent.

And who will be impacted by these policies?

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 graduated from high school. And I have to tell you, I'm so excited to see what she does next.

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'll 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 generation 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, let's get to work. Thank you.

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