By Audrey J. Krumbach, GCSRW Director of Gender Justice and Education
It’s pretty hard to process all of the news from the last few days, so I’m only going to focus on one woman and her 13-hour filibuster in the Texas Senate. Regardless of what you think of Wendy Davis’s position on the abortion bill, her amazing perseverance is something to be admired.
Heroes who take bold stands never do so in a vacuum: Davis is the first to acknowledge the people who supported her and encouraged her to succeed. At 19, she was a single mother when a coworker encouraged her to pursue a paralegal degree at a local community college. This small act of encouragement was the catalyst that set her on the path to graduating with honors from Harvard Law School. Davis also cites quality public education, scholarships and college loans and vital supplements to her own hard work on the path to becoming a Texas senator and successful Fort Worth lawyer.
Before beginning her filibuster marathon, designed to delay a vote on some tough abortions restrictions until the legislature’s special session had ended, Davis knew she would need support. Texas’ rules on filibusters, stronger than those of the federal government, required her to stand up (no leaning) and to speak without a break and without straying from the topic. So she wore running shoes and had a colleague prepared to hand her a back brace if she needed it (she did, after eight hours). Political advisors had lined up supporters and spread news of her efforts through an amazing social media network. Twelve minutes before midnight Davis was ruled out of order and had to give up the floor. Without missing a beat, Senator Leticia Van De Putte and gallery observers picked up the baton and completed the last few steps to the finish line (with a question followed by fifteen minutes of chaos and shouting which prevented the continuation of business).
Wendy Davis has an amazing story, and I think it challenges us to notice the mentors, friends, scholarships, schools and community who made it possible for her to become a politician with the courage to stand up and speak against a bill for 13 hours. When we acknowledge the myriad of people, groups, and cultural foundations for Davis’s greatness, we take responsibility for encouraging the next strong woman leader who will stand up for all she believes in. Davis could not have accomplished her feat without the colleague who helped her with the back brace, Van De Putte’s followup question, the shouting crowds, her campaign committee, the quality public education, community college, and scholarships. The list continues on and on.
Where do you fit into that story? Perhaps you know a young woman who seems to be that unmarried teenage mom needing help. Maybe your property taxes have gone up to support the local school system and you need to be involved in the school board or other local politics. It is not that you have to care about everything and fix everything, but where are you doing your part to encourage and support young leaders – men AND women?