Friday, June 27, 2014

The Decade of The Woman

It's finally here. The 2014 Texas Democratic State Convention! 

A little over a year ago, if you had told me that I was going to be a delegate at a political convention I wouldn't have believed it for a minute. I married a political junkie. My husband is a man who chooses political shows over sports and -- I am dead serious -- enjoys watching city council meetings. For years, I struggled to keep up with him when he would start talking about policy and issues. Sure, I had big opinions. I've always had big opinions. Sure, I voted for the big elections, but when it came time for a local election, Tim would print out a list of recommendations and drive me to the polls. Tim was my political coach, and that seemed good enough for me.

A year ago, Tim said, "Something big's happening at the Capitol. We need to get down there."

I wasn't sure. Did I want to get involved? What would people think?

As the mother of a then 10-year old girl, I worried about how to talk to her about women's reproductive rights. I wondered what my coworkers might think if they found out that I was (gasp!) a Democrat. I was afraid. 

From the moment Tim and Emily Rose and I walked into the Capitol, everything changed. Tim was right; something big was happening indeed. I quickly figured out that apathy wasn't an option, and that if I didn't join the fight, radical choices would be made and I would wake up and have to explain those choices to my children. Though I walk past the Capitol almost every day, I didn't truly recognize the power of what happens in that gorgeous building. I hadn't considered that just a few miles from our house, our elected officials were taking part in something that would impact so many people without a voice, and that could impact access to cancer screenings, birth control, and reproductive healthcare. I got angry.

Of course, our story isn't unique. Our story is like so many other stories of women and men who flocked to the Capitol last summer. At times, I was overcome with emotion, because the sea of orange symbolized so much outrage and passion. I met so many women who, like me, decided enough was enough and it was time to do something. I met so many men like my husband who understand the importance of a woman's right to make decisions about her body.

Up until last summer, my knowledge of politics was little more than a School House Rock episode, but before I knew it, we were talking about "points of order" and "parliamentary inquiries" like it was common language. I work in downtown Austin, so every day, I did a little Clark Kent move, donning my work persona in the office, then quick-changing into my dirty orange t-shirt so I could run down to the Capitol for the latest news. 

I was able to spend some time in the chambers watching Senator Davis' historic and remarkable filibuster. I didn't stay long, because I was afraid that I might start yelling and get arrested. I left the Capitol around 7pm, and headed home to log on and watch from my computer. Like so many, I was blown away by what I observed, thousands upon thousands of people watching online, supporting Senator Davis and her colleagues on Facebook and Twitter. Friends from New York and Los Angeles texted me, "What is going on down there? Wendy Davis is a hero!" I have never witnessed anything so powerful.

Though the outcome was not what we wanted, something significant happened during those powerful days. The thousands of women and men yelling at the top of their lungs represents something even more remarkable -- something changed in all of us. So many of us got involved. I believe wholeheartedly that the change that took place in so many of us is big enough for us to make an even bigger difference for the lives of Texans. We just have to stick with it.

Since last summer, we jumped in head first to get involved. I have learned how to talk to my daughter about important issues, and she has grown tremendously through the process. She is teaching us as well. We challenge each other, and we push back when we don't agree. Our dialogue at home has elevated to issues that matter. We are lucky to live in Austin where so many heroic Texas Democrats are fighting for our daughter's future. 

The first time Emily Rose met Senator Davis was at an Equal Pay rally in Austin. We yanked her out of school for a real life civics lesson, and in the car on the way to the rally, Emily Rose said, "I want to write down some comments in case I'm interviewed." We talked with her about equal pay, and in response to some of the Republican women's comments about how women are not good negotiators and that they are "too busy," Emily Rose came up with a response that we loved: "Women are too busy to negotiate." After the rally, a friend of ours was asked to be interviewed, and she offered up Emily Rose. The interview didn't air (it was Fox, after all), but the reporter was lovely and it was a terrific experience to see our daughter talking about equal pay with such confidence.

From that point, Emily Rose has had many opportunities to talk about the views she is forming. As her parents, Tim and I remind her that she is free to form her own ideas about things (not that we worry that she won't!). We laugh and say that when she's a teenager, her rebellious phase will be joining the Young Republicans. But I don't see any signs of her switching ideas because she has been so blessed to meet so many Texas Democrats who are influencing her and inspiring her to stay involved. Whether current elected officials, Battleground Texas volunteers, or hopeful candidates, Emily Rose is at the point where she knows more Texas Democrats than we do. It's been fun to watch her learn and grow, all because of that big thing that happened at the Capitol one year ago this week.

A few weeks ago, Senator Davis came to Austin to speak to a huge group of Travis County volunteers working a phone bank at the Travis County Coordinated Campaign office. I was out of town on a work trip when Tim began sending me texts of Emily Rose and her girlfriends posing with Senator Davis. Later, Battleground Volunteer Madi Duffield helped teach Emily Rose how to make phone bank calls. At one point, Emily Rose and Madi talked about how it's the Year of the Woman, and from there, some of the volunteers said,  

"This is the decade of the woman."

Emily Rose has embraced this slogan. I love it so much, I'm making #decadeofthewoman a hash tag for the convention this year, and I hope it catches on! I love the fact that Emily Rose has the confidence to know that we need more women in leadership, and that we are not backing down. I also love that so many of the people I'm meeting are young, and they are getting involved, and changing the landscape of politics.

To me, this justifies every spare minute we can find to volunteer. It justifies every extra dollar we can spare to donate to campaigns to elect our Democratic sisters and brothers into office. It justifies the day I spent a lunch hour running from my office down to Greg Abbot's office to protest for equal pay. It justifies the hours my husband has spent walking the block, or the time we took to get deputized to register voters, or the time we've spent registering voters together. It justifies our family taking vacation time off not to sit on a beach and read a paperback, but to drive to Dallas for a convention and learn what it means to be a delegate for the first time. This is all worth it. I know that for any of you who are doing the same, it's worth it for you as well. We are in this together, and it's exciting!

The icing on the cake for us was Wednesday, when Senator Davis and Cecile Richards hosted a Google Hangout to mark the anniversary of the filibuster. I had taken the day off to get ready for the Convention and Filibuster Anniversary event, and I asked Emily Rose to come sit with me and watch. We submitted a question for the session, and perked up when we heard the host, Yvonne Gutierrez, asking ours. As we sat with our mouths open, Cecile Richards looked into the camera and spoke directly to Emily Rose, and when she finished, Senator Davis did the same. It was a powerful moment that I'll never forget. I was also blubbering and trying to take a video of my laptop while it was happening, so thanks to modern technology we have the full video for safekeeping thanks to Google. Whew! 

In their answers, Senator Davis and Cecile Richards offered advice that is applicable to young girls everywhere. Get involved. 11 is a great age to get involved. Make calls. Tell your friends.   

I'm excited that we're entering the Decade of the Woman, and I can't wait to embark on the adventure that awaits in just a few hours. Here's to a memorable and successful Texas Democratic State Convention! We hope to see you there.

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