Inspiring Women

Last Sunday, was a day full of motivation and inspiration for a lot of us progressive political junkies. The experience started in the afternoon at J.P.’s Pizza and Grill in Wilmette and its momentum didn’t let up until after 10:00 Sunday night way out in Los Angeles.

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At 1pm Sunday, a number of New Trier Dems and friends gathered near 4th and Linden for Committeeman Dean Maragos’ annual “Thank You Pizza Party.” It was, as usual, a lively event. The place was packed with veteran grassroots volunteers as well as enthusiastic newcomers to NTD activism. The conversations began as soon as you entered the door and only ceased, temporarily, when Dean introduced the office holders and candidates who then spoke to the crowd.

First up was our U.S. Congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky, whose comments immediately fired up everyone. Jan has spent years in Washington working with office holders and activists of every sort from every part of our country. She has been involved for decades in the fight for equal treatment for every American citizen. Her participation in history-changing movements dates back to the ’60’s.

So what are her observations on how things stand today? She said she believes the mobilization of women (and many supportive men) that began with the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration is now “bigger than the Tea Party ever was.” And it continues “undiminished.” The Weinstein scandal, the “Me too” movement, the “Time’s up” ultimatum have just added momentum to what began that day. She said the energy and activity she’s seeing now is “bigger than the Tea Party, bigger than the civil rights movement, bigger than the Vietnam protests.” – That’s big! 

She believes there is now a grassroots force with the power to start a wave of victories, winning a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress next November. As she put it, “I don’t see the total wave yet but I’m starting to see the mist.”

Another early speaker was New Trier’s present 17th District State Rep., Laura Fine. Laura is leaving that role and is our Democratic candidate for State Senator to replace Senator Daniel Biss who is running for Governor. I was especially taken by one of her comments summing up the disastrous years we’ve experienced under Rauner. She said “in past years the focus of Springfield legislators was to develop laws aimed at helping Illinois citizens. But all of 2017 was spent just passing laws designed to protect our state from its own governor!”

This is not the way a state is supposed to function.

Following Laura, we heard from an impressive lineup of Democrats, mostly candidates, who gave all of us further reason to be optimistic about this upcoming Mid-term Election Year. You can hear them speak again, this Sunday, January 14 at the Winnetka Community House, NTDO’s Endorsement Session.

At the Session, each candidate will briefly present their reasons for running, their positions on key issues and their goals if elected. They will each have three minutes to speak. (For perspective, the Gettysburg Address was delivered in less time than that). The 1pm start time means you should arrive thirty minutes before that to sign in, get your voting material and find a seat.

But as I said at the start of the commentary, the politically inspirational activity didn’t end Sunday afternoon. If any of you watched the Golden Globe Awards Sunday night, you saw a big display of that energized activism that Representative Schakowsky referred to. Like Jan, over my many years I have seen movements develop, awareness grow, priorities clarify and positive changes established. And I have seen actions take place that, only months earlier, were completely unexpected. – The months of rumblings after the Watergate break-in lead to a really historic surprise. (Like Russia collusion rumblings?)

So now I’m seeing women formidably organizing across our country like never before; thousands of women stepping forward to run for elected office at every government level. Their response over the past year, and particularly in the past six months to the reign of Trump, Pence, McConnell and Ryan fills me with optimism. — The new Republican women candidates defending a 1950’s mentality, not so much.

Sunday night, Oprah Winfrey’s award acceptance speech brought down the house. There was so much in what she said that resonated with, I believe, the majority of Americans whatever their race or gender, and all the other identifiers I could list. Her words were inspiring and motivating. In fact, replaying a video of her speech every few weeks as we ring doorbells or work phone banks in the coming months might be rejuvenating.

Now, as usually happens when a great speech is seen by millions, there is talk of Oprah running for President in 2020. Personally, I’m not ready to support another “civilian” aspiring for high office who’s never been elected to anything before. Witness Trump and Rauner. (Although if President Winfrey could reach out to Kim Jong Un with a free Weight Watchers program and he developed a buff new body, it just might lead to world peace. Who knows?)

See you at the Endorsement Meeting on Sunday.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973