Former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin’s new book Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties is a reflection on the emotional and physical manifestations of aging. Kunin served as governor of Vermont from 1985 to 1991 and later served as U.S. deputy secretary of education and U.S. ambassador to Switzerland. Few women are as uniquely qualified to observe the political effects of the #MeToo movement and the rise of feminism in public office. Here is an excerpt from her new book.
Excerpt from Coming of Age – by Madeleine Kunin
On January 21, 2017, I spoke at the Women’s March in Montpelier on the steps in front of the Vermont State House. There were ten- to twenty-thousand people assembled below. The State Police had to close the interstate exit to prevent more people from coming because traffic had clogged the streets.
One day after President Trump was sworn into office, women marched who never had marched before. They became instant activists because of Trump’s frightening campaign promises, including the repeal of Roe vs. Wade and the destruction of the Affordable Care Act. Vermont held one of 633 women’s marches that took place around the world. The march in Washington was the largest protest in a single day in history.
Some observers questioned the march’s impact—that it would be destined to be a one-time event, that women would pack up their signs and go home.
They were wrong.
The surge of activism that burst out of the marches has not died. One indicator is the record number of women who are running for office. And several have upset long-time incumbents. Change is happening where it never surfaced before. For example, the teachers’ strikes last spring in several conservative states resulted in teachers winning higher wages and increased funding for school supplies. And the MeToo movement has toppled sexual abusers off their pedestals at a dizzying rate.
But the rate of devastating decisions made by the president—from his Supreme Court nomination to his separation of immigrant children from their parents—has left many women and men outraged, but fatigued. I am often asked: “Tell me, what can we do?”
I give a short-term and a long-term answer. One, continue to protest, because sometimes it works. The Trump family separation policy was stopped (but not fixed) after members of both parties expressed outrage. The answer is that we must continue to take to the streets the old-fashioned way. Be vocal and visible. The long-term answer is at the ballot box. Organize, vote, register voters, and get out the vote. It sounds simple, but it’s hard work.
The following is the speech I gave at the march in Montpelier. The spirit of the Women’s March cannot flag. Women are beginning to turn their outrage against injustice into action in the workplace, the home, and the community. We cannot stop now.
Hello Everybody, Sisters, and Brothers,
What a beautiful sight you are. It’s like spring has arrived in Vermont and thousands of flowers are blooming in front of the State House. I feel a “crowd hug.”
We are not alone in our fear; we are not alone in our despair; we are not alone in our grief for what might have been. We are together in our strength, together in our power, and together we march.
Why do we march?
We march for respect.
We march for equal pay.
We march for the right to control our bodies.
We march for a livable planet.
We march for the end of violence against women.
We march for health care for all.
We march for public education.
We march for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
And who are we? We are brown, black, yellow, and white. We are gay, straight, transgender, and queer. We are wives, mothers, grandmothers, singles, sisters, daughters, and lovers. We are teachers, students, professors, waitresses, sales clerks, bartenders, nurses, doctors, artists, lawyers, farmers, factory workers, cooks, and caregivers. And we are immigrants.
We are here to pledge to be our sister’s and brother’s keepers. And we are here because women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights, all over the world. Can we do this?
Will we make a difference? Have we got the power?
The pendulum has swung so fast from Obama to Trump that we are experiencing whiplash. I assure it will swing back again—when we push hard. We have a rock to stand on. It is called Democracy. It is called the Constitution. The center will hold.
But, only if we are vigilant. Only if we use our voices and our feet. We must demonstrate that there is another America. An America that looks like us, that thinks like us, that believes in the America that we believe in.
It is we who make America.
It is we who make America great.
We are the makers, the doers, the dreamers.
We are the citizens who have the power of the vote.
In the next four years, we will be heard, not only in this place, at this time, but throughout the land, in towns and cities and in our nation’s capital, and all over the world where people are marching with us.
We pledge not to be silent.
We pledge not to be interrupted.
We pledge not to be sidelined.
We pledge not to be stopped.
We pledge not to be afraid,
and we pledge not to lose hope.
We must keep hope alive. I will read the first stanza of a poem called “Hope” by Emily Dickinson.
Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
This excerpt was provided by Green Writers Press