This week on Women’s Equality Day, we commemorate the passage of women’s right to vote - celebrating how far we have come, but also recognizing the work that remains.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was among those who paved the way for women in government as our nation’s first female Secretary of State, and I am proud to accept her endorsement for my U.S. Senate candidacy on this important day.
Secretary Albright broke glass ceilings, both as Secretary of State and as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the Clinton administration. Secretary Albright’s got grit. In a career field dominated by men, she overcame many hurdles to succeed — not just professionally, but also as a mother to two girls. I’m elated and humbled to have her in my corner.
Madeleine Albright often credits her success to the support of her family. Growing up, I was blessed to have two strong-willed, determined grandmothers as my mentors. They always told my four sisters and me that we could achieve anything we set our minds to. No one ever said that our gender would prevent us from accomplishing our dreams. I took their words to heart as I finished law school, worked as an attorney protecting victims of domestic violence, then ran and was elected Kentucky’s Secretary of State. My grandmothers truly taught me what it means to be a Kentucky woman — how to work hard and never give up (all the while making sure you know how to shoot straight).
On Women’s Equality Day, it is important to remember the many barriers women still face. In today’s world, it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine a past in which women could not vote. It is tougher still to imagine a United States in which women had never held the role of Secretary of State. Since Secretary Albright was appointed, our country has had more female secretaries than male.
However, it is also tough to imagine a society in which women are not paid the same as men for the same work, and are prevented from seeking justice against sexual assault and domestic abuse. But not only do these issues still exist; they affect women across America, and thousands in our state.
Kentucky women only get paid 76 cents for every dollar a man makes. The thousands of single mothers trying to hold down a job and raise a child cannot afford that kind of pay cut. Pay equity does not just affect women, but also husbands, brothers, uncles and sons. It is a families’ issue, and one that significantly impacts all of us.
Mitch McConnell and his allies in Washington have disappointed us time and time again, saying no to the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Violence Against Women Act.
What’s worse, women are not adequately represented in our own United States Senate. Only 20 percent of our Senators are female, though our nationwide population has more women than men. It’s the women who are getting things done in the U.S. Senate — even coming together to end the government shutdown.
In fact, sometimes it seems like women are the only people coming together across party lines to get things done. And my hope is that Kentucky will break that glass ceiling and elect our first female U.S. senator to add to that bipartisan coalition of women. And by doing that, I hope we inspire other young women and let them know that their voices matter in their community, state, and nation. If I can do this, so can they.
Secretary Albright once said, “What people have the capacity to choose, they have the ability to change.” As a nation that embodies democracy and freedom, we have the ability to choose. And we happily exercise that right in a Commonwealth has always been fiercely independent.
We have the power to say no to someone who has been in Washington far too long, and has never fought for the women of our state. We have the power to choose someone who will go to Washington and give Kentucky a voice. Then, and only then, we will have the capacity to truly bring change.
Alison Lundergan Grimes is the Kentucky Secretary of State and is running for U.S. Senate.