Obama, Clinton fire-up women activists: ‘We cannot rest on our laurels’
Women of diverse races and backgrounds showed up for the event where President Obama and former Secretary Clinton encouraged them to not be satisfied with past gains. (PHOTO: DNC/Flickr)
By James Wright, Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Afro American Newspaper
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, front-runner for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination, were among the speakers at a recent conference of Democratic female activists, encouraging them, “We cannot rest on our laurels.”
The President and Clinton, former secretary of state, joined other presidential candidates and members of Congress at the Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. Oct. 22-23. President Obama has noted that he has been the beneficiary of strong female support during his political career.
“I like being in a room with Democratic women,” the President said to an audience including one of his chief aides, Valerie Jarrett. “All of you are working hard to make sure that our country is moving forward.”
The Democratic Women’s Alliance was created in October 2013 by Democratic National Committee Chair U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). The purpose was to grow and engage the number of wo-men in the party at all levels.
There are 84 women serving in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives and 20 women in the 100-member U.S. Senate, despite women comprising 50.8 percent of the U.S. population, according to a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau estimate.
There are numerous women serving on the state and local levels and the majority of female office holders in the both houses of Congress and state legislatures are Democrats while Republicans hold the edge in statewide elected offices, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
In 2012, more women voted in the presidential election than men, and 55 percent of all women voted for President Obama’s re-election.
The President understood that he was speaking to a key constituency group in the next election when he addressed the gathering.
“When I came into office in 2009, America was losing 800,000 jobs per month,” he said. “Now our unemployment rate is down to 5.1 percent but we still have work to do.”
President Obama said that he is proud 90 percent of all Americans have health insurance, and that his administration is working to combat climate change, is reaching out to the Cuban people, and is taking on new threats to national security. “We cannot rest on our laurels,” the president said. “America’s greatness lies not in building walls but opportunity.”
Opportunity is what Clinton says she wants to provide women and that was her message that day. “The notion that women are equal partners in the life of this nation is still pretty new,” she said.
Clinton told a story about how in 1993 she and Tipper Gore, the wife of then Vice President Albert Gore, took action to see that women’s issues were being addressed on a national level.
“Washington wasn’t interested in the real lives of women when Tipper Gore and I went on a national tour,” she said. “We talked to women about their lives and we thought something should be done.”
Clinton worked with Democratic women to form organizations that have addressed their concerns since that tour. “We need to get more women involved in politics more than ever,” she said. “We are the decisive vote in national elections.”
Taking a partisan turn in her speech, she said that the country is better because of Obama’s presidency but his agenda needs to progress in the coming years. “The economy does better when a Democrat is in the White House,” Clinton said.
Clinton said that critics who think that she emphasizes her gender too much may be right. “If they say that I’m playing the gender card when it comes to reproductive rights, equal pay, and paid leave, then deal me in,” she said.
Other speakers at the conference included presidential hopefuls former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who dropped out of the race that day. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) also delivered remarks at a symposium on Oct. 22 and various women in the U.S. House and Senate spoke to the gathering or at hosted events.
“We need you to go out and organize and mobilize, knock on doors and if we have people in office who are not doing the right thing, we need to vote them out,” President Obama said. “When I campaigned in 2008, I didn’t say ‘Yes, I can,’ I said ‘Yes We can.’”