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Transcript of Women’s History Month Roundtable on Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Esta Soler, President of Futures Without Violence and domestic violence survivors, experts and advocates for a roundtable to celebrate and discuss the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you all. 

 

[Applause]

 

Thank you all very much.  Good morning.  We have a lot to talk about, so we have to get on with it.  My apologies – my day job kept me from getting here on time.  It keeps interfering in some of my other opportunities to hear from all of you, which is the most important part of my day job. 

 

But here we have our President in Europe issuing a magnificent statement in terms of working together with other countries in terms of Ukraine – and by the way, there are issues of violence against women involved in what’s going on with the Russians in terms of the, the evacuations there.  Here we are this day – Ukraine under siege, the first African American woman nominated to the Justice of the Supreme Court.

 

[Applause]

 

Isn’t that just remarkable?  Aren’t we so proud?  And what a difference between demeanor and whatever. 

 

[Laughter]

 

And we’re proud of Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, our two Senators who are both on the Judiciary Committee, representing our values and showcasing how magnificent the – our nominee is for the Supreme Court. 

 

So, just placing that in time – Esta Soler is one of my heroines.  She has – and we go way back – when this was her idea and then she – ever-widening circle of people.  Remember in the beginning, people from the immigrant community were hesitant to speak out about violence in the community?  And it just grew and grew until we came here with – what, Nicole Kidman and Joe Torre –

 

[Laughter]

 

– from years ago.  But it just – it was so universal, a concept so universal – an idea.  It hit home literally and figuratively in so many ways.  She is a pioneer in how she galvanized – bring – brought people together to make a difference.  So I’m going to just talk about a few things.  Esta has been so fabulous.  But in this Violence Against Women Act that you talked about – you know who was the primary author of this in the 1990’s?  Joe Biden as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

 

[Applause]

 

This has been an issue you don’t have to talk to him about – say it’s something we needed to do.  ‘You don’t have to tell me – I wrote it.’

 

[Laughter]

 

It’s my priority and always got better, as you indicated.  I want to reference what Verna said – Verna, thank you.  Where’s Verna now?  Thank you, darling.  Helen – I loved her.  I visited her at Friendship House where we mourned others who had gone on, and now we have one year anniversary since she has left us, but thank you. 

 

And when we talk about the Violence Against Women Act – you have to know this one – when we were reauthorizing it maybe ten, twelve years ago, here’s what the other side of the aisle said.  Now we have – we have a bipartisan bill now – but here’s what they said: ‘We’ll do violence against women – we are against that.  We’ll do that legislation – as long as it does not include immigrant women, Native American women, or LGBTQ women.’  What? 

 

These are some of the most vulnerable people – I mean, even if you could ever even imagine excluding anybody.  These are some of the most vulnerable women.  And we had a fight, finally we had – shall we say, a ‘Queen of the Hill’ bill – where whoever got the most votes, and then we did and we’re able to reauthorize it.  But the Native American piece of that was so important, that the person who introduced – Joe Biden, and therefore the – President Obama to sign the bill – was from the Native American community.

 

And it did start us down that path, which has now been strengthened, that you cannot assault a woman on Native land and then run off and be without the consequence – that was so important.  But let me just say another thing – because you mentioned the Affordable Care Act and yesterday was the anniversary, twelve-year anniversary.  When we put together that bill, one thing that was an unfulfilled promise that I had made to the Native American community was that we would have the Native American Health, the Indian Health Improvement Act passed.

 

But every time we tried to bring it up, the other side would put in anti-choice things – things that just made it really hard.  We didn’t want it to be a problem for the women that – because, because we were expanding health care for the community.  So when we, when we did the – we needed every vote – it was very close.  We needed every vote.  And one of the ways we passed the bill was – I said, ‘You know what?  I see an engine coming down the track, and we’re jumping on there with the Indian Health Improvement Act.’  And it was in the bill, and it got us votes to pass the Affordable Care Act.  So thank you again.

 

[Applause]

 

So again, what are we talking about?  When we’re talking about health care, we’re talking about the infrastructure of a country.  We’re writing those bills – we can’t do that without the involvement of our Native community because, they know so well – as you referenced – the care of the land and the rest.  So thank you, for starting us off in such a principled – principled way.  So here we are, and we’re going to hear from all of you and that’s why I came – believably or not – to listen.  So far, I’ve listened to Esta – now I’ll listen to you.  

 

I want to thank everyone.  Shona and Cassandra and Saundra – Saundra is not here yet – but Naomi and Orchid and Joyce and Brian.  Brian, welcome.  We’ll hear from you, too.

 

[Laughter]

 

Who let a guy in?

 

Esta Soler.  He’s always like that, don’t worry.

 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, this is so important that we hear from how boys are raised and how men view this in a different way.  That’s why Joe Torre – his father was, shall we say –

 

Esta Soler.  Abusive.

 

Speaker Pelosi.  – of his mother.  And he made it so much his mission to make sure and bring visibility to – in the sports world, which was really important to do.

 

So again, we celebrate the Violence Against Women Act and Joe Biden, whether it was in the 90’s or the renewal in 2000, 2005, 2013.  And now he’s so proud of this – that day when you were there, we were there in the morning when he signed the actual bill but – in the evening, we had to do battle on the Floor of the House, so I wasn’t able to see you in the evening.

 

I talked about the LGBTQ and immigration – immigrant women – but in this same time all this is going on, there are other issues that relate to violence like AAPI violence that is so raging now, and you think: how on earth do people think that they can get away with that?  And I’m very pleased that we passed, in a bipartisan way, in a strongly bipartisan way, in the House and Senate, that – the AAPI anti-hate crimes legislation.

 

[Applause]

 

Grace Meng in the House and Mazie Hirono in the Senate making that possible.  And that, again, what are these people thinking?  What are they thinking?  As you said, future without violence in any way, shape, or form – certainly at home, that’s for sure.  

 

So in our Rescue Plan last year, we had a [billion] dollars in there, 800 for – geared toward ending violence – but $800 million of it was for COVID funds to go to organizations that dealt with violence – domestic violence and violence against women.  And then the other $200 million to help with other aspects of it – legal and, and the rest.  So every place – every step of the way.  We are recognizing that this has to be recognized – you cannot solve a problem unless you recognize it.  Recognize, fund it sufficiently. 

 

So in any event, we are excited about the Violence Against Women – I’m excited about the Courage Museum.  I have been to Bryan Stevenson’s museums.  He has more than one and they – that you have the same architect is quite remarkable because there’s nothing that drives it home than the visual – well, you’ll see it at the Courage Museum.  It’s something so remarkable. 

 

So in any event, I’m really eager to hear what you all have to say and how we can exchange ideas.  But I just want you to know how important the role was of our President in this Violence Against – how important it is to him, that it’s strong, that it’s funded and that it is implemented in a way that brings us a future without violence.  Thank you so much.

 

***

 

Q.  I just want to ask you, how can we work together and help you do the extraordinary work you do every day?  And just thank you so much, and the floor is all yours.

 

Speaker Pelosi.  Esta, thank you very much, again, for your tremendous leadership.  I have a few things I want to say.  I was 15 minutes late so I – we have more time.  Thank you.  Thank you to Shona and Cassandra – I mean for sharing your stories.  You brought us to tears and all of you who have brought us further to our senses about that – how much more we need to do.

 

Again, I want to just put this in a little historic perspective.  Thank you for acknowledging the staff.  Adriana is leaving us.  This is one of her last events, and she’s been so wonderful.

 

[Applause]

 

Dan Bernal is still with us, but Dan has very much been a part of all this, and other members of our staff. 

 

As she was speaking, I was thinking of when I first visited Seneca Falls and the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s father was a very progressive person.  He bought her a home, put it in her name.  Imagine, this was 175 years ago or so.

 

But Elizabeth Cady Stanton had a big family – five kids, and she couldn’t really travel but about – Susan B. Anthony could.  So Susan B. Anthony would come to her house, cooking the food for the kids and telling them what the things are that needed to be done for women.  And Susan B. Anthony would hit the road, and she would go out and promulgate it.

 

But why bring it up?  You reminded me of years.  Susan B. Anthony’s father bought this home – it was like on a knoll.  But below the knoll were all the shanties, and they were mostly immigrant families who lived there.  And people worked in the mills in Seneca Falls.  And she could hear domestic violence coming out of those homes because of economic uncertainty, because of whatever – you won’t know, many things go into – mental illness, alcohol, all kinds of reasons why she was hearing this, and that’s what inspired her to say we have to do more for women.

 

So this domestic violence issue really was the start of what happened in Seneca Falls.  Now when we put together the Women’s Caucus – it was before I was in Congress.  But when the Women’s Caucus was brought together, Democratic and Republican women working together, it was around the issue of domestic violence.  So this is a motivator, but again, so much more needs to be done.

 

While you were talking, I was also thinking when we passed this bill, it was an authorization.  And I want to give credit to Nita Lowey, Rosa DeLauro and Nancy Pelosi, the three people on the Appropriations Committee –

 

[Laughter]

 

They called us the ‘DeLoSi’s that were instrumental in getting the money for the bill in the 90’s, following the authorization.  Why I take – I say that is – in the bill that President signed last week that reauthorizes this.  It was part of the omnibus Appropriations bill, which not only authorized the Violence Against Women Act, it funded – so it was all in one.  This was a big step forward.

 

[Applause]

 

And of course, Esta was – and so many of you were a part of that, but you can’t write a bill unless you know what you’re talking about.  So all of the things –

 

Esta Soler.  That helps.

 

Speaker Pelosi.  It really does because you may have the best intentions in the world but they’re not really listening, and so – understand how important all the things that you have brought forward are, whether it’s the impact on children, your own personal experiences, the culturally appropriate approach to it, boys – how they’re raised or how they are taught some of these things, the increased awareness we have of the impact on LGBTQ community and the trans community now.  Thank you so much for your leadership in that regard.

 

And so, all of you – this – the ability to write a law to get the money – you have to demonstrate it as – hits the mark and it is of national significance.  So you all should take credit for what is in that legislation.

 

Let me say a word about Senator Feinstein.  In the first bill, it was the – actually was the crime bill that contained the Brady Bill.  It contained this, it contained many things.  But the violence piece, whether it was guns or any violence against women was a big piece of it – was from Dianne Feinstein who was on the Judiciary Committee, and she continues to be a force for this – the ending violence one way or another.

 

But gun violence.  We didn’t talk about that today.  But it has also been an important part.  We had to make a compromise with the Republicans on this bill on guns in order to get the bill –

 

Esta Soler.  The boyfriend loophole.  The boyfriend loophole

 

Speaker Pelosi.  The boyfriend loophole.  But again, we have more to do, but nonetheless it – there are other aspects of gun violence that are addressed in this but not the boyfriend loophole.

 

But let us salute Dianne Feinstein.  So she can’t be here, because she’s there listening to the testimony for the first woman –

 

[Applause]

 

Really, I hope you all know your power, the power of your words, your experience, a generosity of spirit that you have in sharing it, through professional knowledge of what it means for children.

 

One other issue that – that the President is committed to, that will have, I believe, an impact on all this, is a much stronger commitment to mental health issues in our country.  More funding, more recognition.  

 

Because, why would somebody do this?  I mean, is it drugs?  Is it alcohol?  Is it the way they were brought up?  What it is?  Well whatever it is, thank God you got away.  You got away from it, both of you.  Thank you for making all that possible.  

 

Let me just say about Esta though – you have to understand, when we go way back – now, I’ve been in Congress nearly 35 years.  She was doing this before that.  And it was, again, an ever widening circle of awareness, and people having the ability to come in.  And, as I said, way back when, it was a big thing for the Asian – immigrant communities to even admit.  Just as it was with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, those were mostly all immigrants in those – in those shanties.

 

***

 

Speaker Pelosi.  Let’s thank Shona and Cassandra for their generosity of spirit.

 

[Applause]

 

I think we said to the press that they could have questions if they wish.  I hope we would stay on subject, but beyond that, any questions?

 

Q. (Inaudible)

 

Speaker Pelosi.  A little louder.

 

Q.   I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about your reaction to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings.  And what you make, in particular, of the Republicans’ questions.

 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, if I just may — I’m happy to respond to that.  But if there’s a question of the subject that – that is related to the subject at hand.  But anyone that – I think they anticipated so much – and actually, taught us so much that perhaps your questions were answered.  Anyone have a question about what we’re doing here today?

 

Suffice to say, I was – as you were speaking, I was thinking of something I heard at a service the other day, where they said healing is the path to compassion.  Your own healing makes you understand what others are going through and to try to make sure that it doesn’t happen to them.

 

So again, thank you for your generosity of spirit in sharing your stories and the sacrifices you all make to bring all this to the table.

 

The question is, what do I think of the hearings for the judge?  Well, first of all, isn’t she remarkable? 

 

[Applause]

 

Her demeanor, her knowledge, her confidence, her appropriateness in every way.  Thank you, Joe Biden, for having – all the candidates were great.  That was what was so great.  He had so many excellent African American women to choose from, and I know that must have been a stiff competition.  When I spoke to him about it, I said, ‘Whoever you choose, I know we will be very well’ – not that he was asking me for my suggestion.  But I just volunteered that.  

 

I was very proud of how she handled the questions.  I was very – I wonder about some of the questions that were asked, especially yesterday, by the – some of the senators. What could they have been thinking?  And what do they think other people think of those kinds of questions that they would ask?

 

I thought, they just gave her an opportunity to shine.  They gave her an opportunity to shine.  And really, the response of women and people of color – our Black Caucus was – we couldn’t get a ticket from them.  Here I am, the Speaker of the House and I couldn’t even get a – because they just –

 

[Laughter]  

 

Other, shall we say, LGBT – HBCU leadership on this or that that we – but the Black Caucus had real ownership of this and this morning, I don’t know if you saw Joyce Beatty, but she’s the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.  One superstar talking about another superstar.  It was quite remarkable.

 

I’d really rather not even pay too much attention to that.  Except, wasn’t it something?  Here they’re going on about a book in a school that she’s on the board of.  And what’s his name from Texas?  

 

[Laughter]

 

His kid’s school has the same book.   They’re just so small.  It’s so petty.  And it’s so beneath the dignity of the Court, of the nominee of a Presidential appointment.  And something so historic and someone so capable and so talented.  And so values-based in her presentation.  And respectful even of their stupid questions.  So in any event, that’s what I think of it. 

 

[Applause]

 

We got this statement from the White House, which is the statement of NATO heads of state and government that President Biden participated in.  And it is a very, very strong commitment to helping the people of Ukraine, humanitarian wise, militarily and economically.

 

It’s – it’s quite remarkable.  It’ll be all in the news.  But, it also – it says that we’ve condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms, we call on Putin to immediately stop the war.  I asked – I was in – I was in – and then I’ll let you go – I was in Munich a couple of weeks ago for the – what is called the Munich Security Conference.  The President – the President of Ukraine came and spoke.  We met with the Mayor of Kyiv.  And we’ve had everybody.  Of course, the Chancellor of Germany, the Prime Minister of the U.K., but presidents and prime ministers, all countries.  And we’re also complimentary of President Biden.  President Biden, who just brought people together in a collaborative way, not in a condescending way, but in a collaborative way.  

 

A complete difference from what went before, when the previous Administration was saying, ‘we don’t – who cares about NATO?  We don’t believe in the mutual defense Article Five and the rest of that.’  Here, they saw America was back.  And not only back, respectfully back.  Respectfully back.

 

I want – on Saint Patrick’s Day, I introduced the President a couple of different times.  You know, he’s Irish, and so you know – he so enjoys that day.  But when I when I introduced him, I said, you know, we did have another Irish-American President, Democrat.  That would be President John F. Kennedy.  And when I was a student, I was at his inauguration.  Many of my colleagues were not born then or maybe their parents weren’t even born and that’s for sure with all of you.  But anyway, it was a fabulous speech and everybody in the world knows.  You can know it, if I begin the sentence, you can finish it: ‘To citizens of America, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’

 

Everybody knows it.  But the very next sentence, I said to President Biden, ‘The next sentence, President Kennedy said for you, Joe Biden.’  He said to the countries of the world, ‘ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do working together for the freedom of mankind.’

 

And that’s exactly what Joe Biden was doing.  Working together.  With respect.  Not with lording over – here we are, back in the room.  But working together.  And people really appreciated that.  We shared our intelligence in an open way, so the world could see that we knew – what’s his name – what Putin was up to.  And they appreciated that, even though some people were hoping – we all were hoping it wasn’t true, but we knew that it was.

 

But be very proud of our President, whether it’s making the future better globally, or in our country, or in our homes.  We have a lot to be grateful for.  

 

And we have a lot to grateful for to each and every one of you for what you do.  And let’s salute our Esta Soler.

 

# # #

 

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