Good evening everybody! What a thrill to walk into this room and see so many people who have made a huge difference in these ten years—I can’t believe it’s been ten years. One evening, or one afternoon, I decided to call a few people and broach the idea of starting Emerge Vermont. Actually, Jill Krowinski, the Speaker of the House, was one of those people. Thank you Jill, and thank you to all those who gave us a wonderful start.
I gather that some news is out that I may be having a big birthday—I’m in denial. But you know, it’s interesting: when you’re young, you can’t wait to grow up and birthdays are real achievements. When you’re a little older, you sort of enjoy each year and don’t think about it so much, but when you reach—I have to say it—when you reach 90, suddenly it’s an achievement. 90 is not yet—I’m still 89 until September 28th. And, I accept all compliments.
I am so glad that I have grown up with Emerge, in a way. We’ve been through these ten years together and Emerge is more important than ever. I mean, you’ve had great advantages. 81% of the women who went through Emerge got elected. That’s stupendous. It’s really a great achievement and people like Elaine Haney, who is a great leader of Emerge, deserve a lot of credit. And, we’ve been very fortunate with having great CEO’s for Emerge. They’ve all been outstanding. The trouble is, they don’t stay for very long because they run for office. They practice very well what they have taught and they also teach very well.
As A’shanti [Gholar, president of Emerge America] just mentioned, what happens in the states in this country is more important than ever. When I was running for governor, I had to go to raise money from different organizations and they weren’t interested in governors. They were just interested in Congress because they thought that’s where the action was. Well, while we were asleep about state legislatures and governors, Republicans zeroed in on exactly those races and we were buried with the consequence of state legislatures being predominantly Republican. And that is why issues like abortion are so powerful at the state level. And that’s why it is so important for Vermont to be one of those states that gets it right. We have to remain strong and, I guess in this group I can say, Democratic.
But it’s so important, not only on the question of abortion, which it’s almost unbelievable what’s happening nationally. I mean, I never dreamt when I was elected that we would walk backwards. But we are, we are backwards right now. And we must do everything in our power to make sure Vermont stays strong on not only the issue of abortion. Democracy itself is being challenged and it’s not in obvious ways sometimes. It’s just little by little there are nicks in the structure of democracy. And Vermont, again, is a good example of sticking to our American patriotism and really interpreting it that votes count. People should be allowed to vote without restrictions or jumping over hoops. Without the other side trying to suppress the vote.
So there are lots of issues and I know these are tough times. And sometimes it’s hard to turn on the TV without getting a headache. But, we’ve got to be vigilant. We’ve got to keep the faith. Your presence here shows that you care. And not only care but take action. Your contributions to Emerge are hugely important. It’s a small donation, but it goes a long way.
Sometimes I’m asked “why do you need Emerge?” We still need it because it takes guts to run for office. We need it because we need the encouragement. We need to practice what we preach. Not only in terms of message, but in terms of actually knowing how to preach without going to church. We preach the good gospel of freedom and democracy and opportunity and fairness and really acting on our beliefs. And the Legislature in Vermont—45% female—that’s beautiful. And, we can even increase it after that.
Thank you for asking me to speak, thank you for inviting me here. I feel like a mother who has had many children. And I’m very grateful for what you have done and what you continue to do. And you’ve elected people like [Congresswoman] Becca Balint, who is in Washington now and can’t be here tonight. Like [Secretary of State] Sarah Copeland Hanzas, like [Attorney General] Charity Clark. Those are all firsts. It makes a difference. It makes a difference. And, every person who you give courage to, every person who learns how to speak in front of a mic, every person who knows how to raise money for a campaign, you are giving birth to a new force for good in Vermont. Thank you.