"The Politics of Courage" – Senator Loretta Weinberg

"The Politics of Courage" – Senator Loretta Weinberg



how people always ask me how have you done this for so long and I might answer is always vitamin C and a little hostility because I still have a passion for what I'm doing and what I'd like to see get done Loretta got a bill passed in New Jersey she literally hand-delivered the bill to my husband and then I went to bat for it we all went to bat for him we got it passed in the Congress New Jersey women make 79 cents for every dollar made by men African American women make just 58 cents for every dollar made by their white male counterparts just because I'm a member of a certain group doesn't mean that I could be denigrated over and over again it's got to stop at some point I'm sorry if you find this uncomfortable but I'm not certainly not singling you out as a person or as a human being I have no intention of denigrating white men I was actually married to a white man and I have a grandson who's a white man and hopefully that grandson will grow up in a society that will recognize when other people are treated unequally joining us now is New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg she represents a district that includes Fort Lee New Jersey is a focus on the traffic study as essentially the cover up it was a cover up the lane closures we've done improperly they didn't follow any of our policies and procedures we haven't found any reason to have them done eventually hopefully sooner rather than later we will hear the whole story of who knew what when shortly after it was introduced New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed senator Weinberg's new smart gun bill they seem to oppose almost everything anytime we suggest anything after the New Jersey Legislature just voted to legalize gay marriage Governor Chris Christie has single-handedly blocked it people should be judged by the love in their heart and not the gender of their love I might be 76 and yes I'm a grandmother but I have enough energy and enough spirit to tell Chris Christie he's not going to bully me and he's not gonna bully the people that I represent in the New Jersey State Legislature I keep on coming back to the confidence and the passion to do what I do if I didn't have that the game wouldn't be worth it and it's not something that you can learn in school it takes experience and experiences add up to what some people call courage to me it's just who I am what I bring to my legislative career I think is my own personal experiences it isn't necessarily the education I've received it isn't that somebody taught this to me it is how I learned it sometimes not so happily I lost my husband to cancer some 17 years ago and that's where I learned how important health care is in our country and in our state and how important good health care insurance is and it's where I learned a little bit about marriage equality we were married for 38 years we have two children I have two grandchildren nobody questioned my right to walk into his hospital room nobody questioned my right to make medical decisions on his behalf and that stuck with me when I heard from gay couples that their loved one was in the hospital and they could not gain entrance to a hospital room or make a decision and I'll go into the history a little bit of the marriage equality issue because it started out as a domestic partnership that bill and my granddaughter who is almost 14 years old at the moment of her birth I was in New Jersey in my office with the entire lesbian gay bisexual transgendered and I called and whatever coalition working on domestic partnership the first very very small step forward for marriage equality was the beginning but of Shana's almost 14 years old so that's how I can date it and we got the call from the delivery room that the baby had been born we put her put the call on speakerphone and I did what any self-respecting grandmother would do burst into tears and the entire Coalition was cheering in the background and there was a woman in the group who's transgendered I knew she was transgendered but I only knew her as a woman and she came up and she put her arm around me and she said I'm a grandfather you know well that's where I learned to say whatever I mean I knew Babs as a woman but actually in her prior life she'd had grandchildren who knew her as a grandfather and that moment stays in my mind and of course it was intertwined with one of the happiest moments in my life the birth of my first grandchild and then the beginning of the domestic partnership bill it took close to 10 years to evolve into marriage equality we went from domestic partnership to civil unions because there was this somehow there was a reluctance mostly on the part of the men in the legislature more than anybody else to call it marriage so they made themselves comfortable with the term civil union that went to the Supreme Court of New Jersey and the first female Supreme Court justice chief justice in New Jersey was a woman by the name of Deborah porous she was a former English teacher and so she said when the issue of changing the words or using marriage equality versus civil unions she said words do count and by the way she didn't win that one the Supreme Court kept the Supreme Court of New Jersey kept it as civil unions and then a couple of years later we actually passed marriage equality it was a long road and it also taught me that discipline and focus sometimes patients and sometimes impatience are the ingredients to get a bill passed into law how much more privilege can you get than to be a participant in endeavors like that that you know have life-altering results for the people around you so if for those of you who are planning to go into elected office I hope you're going to remember to always make friends and reach out on a bipartisan level I've worked very very hard with somebody across the aisle Senator Dianne Allen who is across the aisle again from the other party but a terrific legislate or she is retiring this year and I am going to miss her as a friend and I'm going to miss her as a sister legislator and it is so important to have that kind of bipartisanship because not only passing bills together but it's having voices in each of our caucuses so when we caucus as the Democratic majority and the Republican minority or vice versa to have a voice that I know that Diane will carry forward in her caucus and that I can carry forward in my caucus that is another reason why the bipartisanship is so important and it kind of goes under the radar screen I don't think people realize that enough that that's really important and then when we're trying to count votes for something out and get the real story from her and she can get the real story for me and nobody can pull the wool over our collective eyes so lastly there's one more bill I'm going to talk about a little bit and that's the 48 hours for new moms and their babies that was done again with somebody from the other side of the aisle OS and the assembly assembly woman rose heck and it was the time the drive-through deliveries when women were ushered in given maybe eight or ten hours in the hospital to give birth and sent home so we had to get into a big fight with getting the insurance companies to pay for at least 48 hours of aftercare for new moms and their babies and rose heck and I went around to all the committees that we had to testify before and we had a little a little routine that we did and we would say things like breast feeding or bleeding and the men on the committee and they were mostly men well I don't care what whatever you want just get out of here and stop talking to us that is the truth and that's what I mean about taking some of your real life experiences understanding what is you want to do and having a little sense of humor about yourselves but we actually did that we used to laugh afterwards but it was a yeah it was great endeavor the bill was signed by Governor Christie Todd Whitman at Holy Name hospital and right up till the last minute right on the floor of the legislature they tried to get an amendment through 48 hours comma if medically necessary well you can all tell what that would do to a 48-hour bill but it also taught me how we had to watch every single thing that was going on in front of us so the 48-hour bill was great for New Jersey but we could not regulate larger insurance plans we needed a federal loss of that so I was invited to the White House along with lots of other people Bill Clinton was the president and I brought this along with me and we got our two minutes in the room with the president and I had the folder with me and I said listen we passed a bill in New Jersey we need a federal law to really back it up it's good politics and good law well tell my assistant I gave the folder whoever was standing next to him and a few months later we're driving in the car and the president was giving a Mother's Day speech on the radio and he talked about this he said we're going to undertake this issue in the federal government and I kind of punch my husband in the arm and said I did that and I know we laugh and smile but you know there's a phrase actually in Yiddish that's says cockle effort it means mixing spoon so that's what I would like to impart that we want leaders coming behind us who in whatever endeavor they're in that they're the mixing spoons of those endeavours mixing up the waters or the soup with the champagne punch whatever it might be that you're doing that you're undertaking so remember that and then obviously at the tail end of my career not at the beginning that all of you are and I'm not finished yet so don't you know I had I have to finish up pay equity earn sick leave there are a few things still out there undone that we are going to get done but I honestly believe if there aren't places like the Center for American women in politics and the women sitting in this room if you aren't willing to put your toe in the water and to become that mixing spoon and to be a little bit of a troublemaker go against the grain a little bit but most important to find the passion that make that makes you feel that you know what you want to do then you know what then everything I've done is for naught so though we say this kind of tongue-in-cheek about leaving a generation of troublemakers behind me I'm quite serious about it so it all comes back to courage the courage to find what it is that each of you truly believe in what is your passion going to be what is it you want to do as a leader in whatever endeavor you choose because if you truly believe and what it is you want to do what is the goal here why am I doing this then you're going to find the courage to do it now checking [Applause]

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