September 02, 2015

Senator Gillibrand Delivers Keynote Address At State Fair Women’s Day Luncheon

Syracuse, NY –U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today spoke at the Great New York State Fair Annual Women’s Day Luncheon. The full text of Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery are copied below:

“Thank you, Liz, for that warm introduction and thank you all for joining me at our amazing state fair!  

“I especially want to thank Cheryl Levin for organizing today’s event, as well as Troy Waffner for all the work on this year’s Fair.

“I also want to acknowledge Congressman John Katko and our State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

“It’s funny, but a lot of people outside of New York don’t realize we’re an agricultural state – the third largest dairy producer in the country.

“We’re among the top producers of many fruit and vegetable crops. 

“We pride ourselves in the food we produce, and so many of our communities are leading the way toward healthier families with farm-to-school and farm-to-fork initiatives. 

“It’s one of the reasons I love serving on the Agriculture Committee in the Senate - the first New Yorker in 40 years to do so - and one of the reasons I host a farm day in Washington every year to show off what we produce! 

“Along with our agricultural heritage, New York has another powerful legacy – one that fits today’s theme.

“This Women’s Day comes just one week after the 95th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.

“The women’s suffrage movement took root here, in New York’s own Seneca Falls, when Johnstown native Elizabeth Cady Stanton decided it was time to raise her voice for change.

“In the years since, women have increased their participation at voting booths, on corporate boards and in local, state and federal government offices.

“It hasn’t been easy and it certainly hasn’t been at the pace many of us would like – but we are building on the legacy of Elizabeth and so many others who came before us to demand that they be treated equally.

“Still, our work isn’t done. If we went around this room, I bet each of you could name a few things you’d want to change.

“Maybe you’re wondering – where do I start?

“Maybe you’re already leading the fight to change a policy at your workplace or child’s school.

“Maybe you’ve thought, what’s the point? Nothing I do will make any difference.

“Well, I have good news: your voice does matter and you can achieve change.

“If you want to make our country better, then you have to speak out and be an advocate. So let me give you my best advice on how to be an effective one:

“First, speak from the heart. Fight for things you fundamentally and passionately care about. You never know who your arguments will inspire to become another champion for your cause…

“Let me tell you about a fight I’m waging in Washington.

“Right now, there is no law in this country that requires paid family and medical leave.

“87 percent of our workforce does not have access to any form of paid leave.

These women and men are at severe disadvantage when life events – a new baby, a sick child or spouse, an aging parent, a personal illness – take place.

“There is simply no guarantee that while you’re taking care of yourself or a loved one, that you’ll still get your paycheck.

“We are the only industrialized nation in the world that lacks this basic benefit – and it hurts our economy.

“It makes our workforce less competitive because talented employees have to off-road to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

“The lack of a paid leave policy has a distinct impact on women:

Women will lose $324,000 dollars over their lifetimes – compared to $284,000 dollars lost for men.

“So I’ve introduced a bill called the FAMILY Act, and it would give every American worker access to paid family and medical leave. Both employees and employers would contribute to this benefit just like social security.

“And, just like social security, it will follow you from one job to another.

“This is the issue our 2016 candidates should care about…and we must demand that every candidate in every party answer where they stand on paid leave.

“My second piece of advice: do not back down. Your point of view matters, and you have every right to be heard.

“A year ago, two young women walked into my office. They didn’t have an appointment. And they certainly didn’t have an expensive lobbyist to lead them in.

“Annie and Andrea had heard about my work to prevent sexual assault in the military, and they wanted help: the same crisis was unfolding on college campuses across the country. It had happened to them.

“And when they tried to report their rapes, they were not believed. They were retaliated against. Justice was not possible.

“Instead of doing nothing, they took their stories to college campus after college campus to be heard, to help other survivors like themselves, to make a difference, to get justice, to hold these schools accountable.

“Together, Annie and Andrea have helped other sexual assault survivors file dozens of federal Title IX complaints for how their schools mishandled their sexual assault claims.

“These young women are changing lives. They are helping their peers find justice.

“They took a risk to raise their voices, and now we are closer than ever to passing comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to make sure campus sexual assault cases are handled with the professionalism and fairness that students deserve.

“I look at Annie and Andrea as a case-study for how to make change. We have so much work left to do in this country so many problems left to solve. We need to follow the example of Annie and Andrea, and speak out for what we believe in.

“Maya Angelou had it right when she said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“So stay off the sidelines, raise your voice, and inspire the change we deserve.

“Thank you.”

*Speech text updated with corrected information.