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women at the DNC 2012 holding up signs reading
As I looked at the faces of women, so many women, on the stage and in the hall at the Democratic National Convention this last week, I cheered through my tears—filled with emotions that are hard to put into words.

Change has been a long time coming. Lest we forget, this year we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women in the United States the right to vote.

I came of age during the late 60s and early 70s, fighting for civil rights and women’s rights in two movements.

For some of us, the change started when powerful women like Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, who was “sick and tired of being sick and tired” raised her voice to address the exclusion of black folks from voting due to poll taxes, Jim Crow and Klan terrorism. I have not forgotten when women like Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan were seated in the House.

As a New Yorker I remember feisty feminist Bella Abzug, famous for her hats and this slogan: "This woman’s place is in the House—the House of Representatives."

Yes, we’ve changed and we've made gains. But Republicans would like to turn back the clock on us.

Republican efforts to artificially mimic our diverse reality at their tea party gathering were for naught. Smoke and mirrors. Just look at the statistics on women in the House and Senate. See how many are women of color and their party affiliation.

Congresswomen on stage at the DNC 2012
Democratic Congresswomen take the stage at the DNC 2012
Anyone not wearing blinders could see the truth. I stood up and cheered as our women from Congress took the stage.

Part of the reason for my tears of joy and relief is that I have had a deep-seated fear that what we worked so hard to achieve for women over these last decades is being eroded, and I have been deeply troubled. The faces and speeches at the DNC renewed my hope, and erased my worries. We are forging a new movement.

I take the phrase “Republican war on women” personally. Teaching women’s studies opened my eyes to the reality that many young women (and men) in our country don’t know women’s history, and haven’t understood—until very recently—that rights they take for granted are under attack. Simple things like access to birth control and family planning were not seen as critical. They didn't appreciate the value of winning and holding onto the franchise. Rarely had they considered that the hard won gains fought for by their grandmothers and moms to garner these rights may be erased.

I’m happy to report that they are awake now.  

I have never had a freshman class that is so fired up around the danger we face if the Romney-Ryan agenda becomes the national policy. I just watched them all register to vote when a NYPIRG volunteer came to class.

I suppose I have to tip my hat to the Teapublicans for the wake-up call that has taken place. You guys declared war, and you are going to lose it. Women across the U.S. and men who support us are going to make that happen.  

I can’t wait to head to class and hear the feedback around the DNC. I’ve already heard what young folks had to say about the R's. Unequivocal thumbs down.

I want to encourage those of you who are reading to ensure that we keep up the pressure and get the word out. Not everyone spent their last few days glued to watching the Convention. The networks didn’t air many of the important speeches that were made. Many of the “pun-idjits,” as I call them, have spent their time either ignoring, dismissing or projecting a fictional narrative.

It’s up to each of us to fight back—with the truth. To spread the word using every tool we have. To utilize the wonderful visual textbook on the DNC website and in the C-Span video library as our weapons in this war. To get folks registered to vote and out to the polls.

Today I’m highlighting some of the high points, for me, of the convention that may not have gotten the coverage they deserve. I won’t post the phenomenal speech by our FLOTUS (video here), even though I’m tempted, simply because the TM couldn’t ignore her. She got prime time coverage and rocked the house.

I want to thank, and focus on some of the other amazing women who stood up for all of us.

(Continue reading below the fold)

Some of my students were excited to see Sandra Fluke, who we had discussed in class.

Full transcript here.

During this campaign, we've heard about the two profoundly different futures that could await women—and how one of those futures looks like an offensive, obsolete relic of our past. Warnings of that future are not distractions. They're not imagined. That future could be real.

In that America, your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. Who won't stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party. It would be an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms. An America in which states humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds we don't want and our doctors say we don't need. An America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don't. We know what this America would look like. In a few short months, it's the America we could be. But it's not the America we should be. It's not who we are.

We've also seen another future we could choose. First of all, we'd have the right to choose. It's an America in which no one can charge us more than men for the exact same health insurance; in which no one can deny us affordable access to the cancer screenings that could save our lives; in which we decide when to start our families. An America in which our president, when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters—not his delegates or donors—and stands with all women. And strangers come together, reach out and lift her up. And then, instead of trying to silence her, you invite me here—and give me a microphone—to amplify our voice. That's the difference.

I was not surprised the next day to see her appearance at the DNC vilely trashed by James Taranto in his Wall Street Journal column. His writing sinks to the Limbaugh level, and comments the WSJ allowed are even worse.

I guess she struck some misogynists' nerves.


The biggest surprise for me was Sister Simone Campbell. I knew about Nuns on the Bus, because a devout Catholic cousin of mine in Pennsylvania called me to talk about them after she got to meet them.

She walked onto the stage, after her introduction, smiling at the sound of loud applause and said, "Yes ... we have nuns on the bus and a nun on the podium."

Transcript here.

From her organization's website:

Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK’s Executive Director, stated,  “We agree with Catholic Bishops that Paul Ryan’s budget fails the test of Catholic Social Teaching since it deliberately harms people at the economic margins. It is also unpatriotic because it says that we are an individualistic, selfish nation. This is emphatically not who we are. Both our Constitution and our faith teach us that “We the People” are called to care for one another, to have responsibility for each other. This year’s election will present us with a critical choice. Do we want to favor the rich on the backs of people in need? Is that who we want to be?”
Sister Simone was not the only woman on stage from a religious path. The person honored with giving the opening invocation on Wednesday was Bishop Vashti McKenzie from the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the first woman elected as bishop in A.M.E. history. The A.M.E. church is one of the nation's oldest black denominations, founded in 1794.

She prayed:

Remind us again of the brave dreams that were born in the heart of our ancestors, the dreams they were willing to live and die for. Grant us courage to continue to flesh out their dreams and grant us the wisdom to reshape the strategy for this present age. Empower us to work, to save our children because if we do not, no one else will. Guide us to make the sunset years of our seniors a season of dignity without them having to choose between shelter, sustenance, and prescription drugs. Do not allow again women to be enslaved by prehistoric ideas about biological function. If we fall, help us to rise again and put within us a faith and a hope that cannot be quenched. Inspire all harassed souls of every race, nation, religion, and hue with the assurance that all the forces of good are moving them onto peace, health, and wholeness.
photo of Bishop Vashti McKenzie
Bishop Vashti McKenzie
Bishop McKenzie speaks at DNC, remembers Barbara Jordan
In the summer of 1976, Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan electrified the nation as she stood at the podium in New York City and told delegates to the Democratic National Convention that “my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred.”

One of the people listening to the speech of July 12 was a 29-year-old minister who would go onto to blaze her own historic trail as the first female to be ordained as bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

She forcefully expressed her concerns about voter suppression and voter education.
“Voter suppression laws are now on the books that get in the way for minorities and other people to have an opportunity to make a decision,” she said. “We need to work to make sure that the unfair voter suppression laws are overturned wherever they are and we need to inform people about what they need in order to vote. “

“Go register to vote, find your polling place before election day and vote early,” said the Baltimore native. “ Educate yourself about the issues because there is so much misinformation out there. Just because people keep saying something doesn’t make it true.”

We saw the bravery of Tammy Duckworth, of Gabby Giffords leading the Pledge of Allegiance, and of one young woman who, if she was in Arizona, would be subject to being hauled off, locked up and deported.

Benita Veliz, a wonderful young Dreamer, did the honor of introducing Cristina Saralegui.

Veliz – Benny to friends – openly and unashamedly proclaimed her unauthorized status in front of millions of American TV viewers. She told them she was brought to the US from Mexico as a child and has lived here ever since. She graduated at the top of her class aged 16 and went on to earn a double major four years later. "I know I have something to contribute to the economy and my country, and I feel just as American as any of my friends or neighbors."

In 2009 Veliz came close to being deported back to Mexico after she came into the Texas authorities' purview for a minor traffic violation. "I've had to live almost my entire life knowing I could be deported because of the way I came here," she told the convention. Veliz is one of thousands of Hispanics aged 15 to 30 who will be able to take advantage of the executive order declared by President Obama in June. The deferred action order, dubbed "dream relief", will allow young undocumented immigrants to put off the threat of deportation for two years to allow them to pursue studies and work opportunities. "President Obama fought for the Dream Act to help people like me," said Velix, who is now studying at St Mary's university in San Antonio. "When Congress refused to support it, he didn't give up."

A majority of convention goers and viewers, who are not Latinos, probably did not know just who Cristina Saralegui is. But for years her name was a household word among viewers of Spanish language television. Cristina has often been dubbed the "Latina Oprah."  Her show reached over 100 million vewers throughout the U.S. and Latin America.

Full transcript

Mi gente, for the first time in my life, the promise of America is in danger. Nearly every part of Governor Romney's plan would put the American dream further out of reach. In order to cut taxes for those at the very top, he would raise taxes for middle class families, slash education, and cut student aid. Governor Romney would turn Medicare from a guarantee into una libreta de cupones—a book of coupons. He would repeal health care reform, forcing millions of Hispanics to lose insurance. Governor Romney's plan is really just one word: pa'trás—backward.

We need to move forward—pa'lante! We need to re-elect our President Obama. Our president fights for us every day. He helped prevent a second Great Depression. He cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses. He fought for health care reform, which is already helping millions of Americans afford insurance. His education policies mean Hispanics will receive an estimated 150,000 more college scholarships. He is on our side. And he knows we still have work to do. President Obama has a detailed plan—you can find it right on his website. It's a plan to grow our economy from the middle class out and the bottom up, not from the top down; a plan to invest in education and manufacturing; and a plan to pass comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

On immigration, Governor Romney's views could not be more extreme. He says we should make life so unbearable for eleven million people that they simply "self-deport." He said that Arizona's immigration law should be a "model" for our country. He even made the architect of that terrible law an immigration advisor for his campaign. No protesten—voten! And he has promised to veto the Dream Act.

Many of us have decried the fact that a majority of Cuban-Americans in Florida are Republicans. Cristina's voice, as a Cubana, is important, and she has already done some effective ads for the Obama campaign in Spanish and English.

I could go on posting, but I'll stop my list here.

Suffice it to say—sisters were in the house and they represented us well.

Now it's our job to pass their words on.

Explore the C-Span video archive. Learn how to make clips. Send them to your friends. Post them, tweet them, email them or use them as teaching tools in the classroom.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Sep 09, 2012 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by I Vote for Democrats and Sluts.

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