AAUW Policy Director Eager to See Sen. Olympia Snowe at Convention
AAUW’s 2013 convention was always going to be exciting for me — bringing together AAUW members, the Big Easy, Melissa Harris-Perry, and my dear friend Lilly Ledbetter. But now I’ll have the added joy of hearing from one of my all-time favorite members of Congress and watching her receive a well-deserved AAUW Achievement Award on June 11.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) retired in 2013 as the third longest-serving woman in congressional history and only the fourth woman to be elected to both chambers. Her legislative achievements made a big impression on me shortly after I got my start on Capitol Hill in 1997, when I was doing a lot of work with the House Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. Snowe had moved on to the Senate by that time, but, as I became familiar with the history of the caucus, I learned that she had been instrumental in its founding. It was very clear that Snowe, along with founding co-chair Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-CO), made the caucus a bipartisan force to be reckoned with in the House. In fact, much of the progress that women enjoy today can be traced back to legislation passed during Snowe’s decade at the helm of the caucus. These impressive achievements motivated me as a legislative staffer and influence me to this day in my firm belief in the importance of bipartisanship in the policy-making process.
One of the traits I have always admired about Snowe is that she stands by her principles, a task made more difficult in our increasingly poisonous political atmosphere. I strongly believe that moderate voices are essential if we want to return to a place of reasoned debate and intelligent discourse, and if we want to solve the big problems and truly make progress as a nation. Snowe provided one of the most important moderate voices in congressional history — that is not an overstatement. She reminds me of the strong, principled Republican women with whom I grew up, who fought for women’s voices in the party and championed moderate policies. Snowe’s tenure in Congress — as someone trying to do what’s best not only for Maine but also for the country — in some ways parallels the work we do at AAUW. We continue to be a strong nonpartisan voice in the White House and on Capitol Hill. We know that compromise and collaboration are not dirty words but rather admirable efforts that produce the best policies.
One of the best compliments I have given to Snowe may sound a little odd: I’ve never really thought of her as a politician. To me, Olympia Snowe will always be a consummate legislator and advocate in the truest sense of the words. I can’t wait to cheer for her as she speaks at our convention and hear what she has in store for all of us in her next act. You can bet it will be honest, genuine work that will be good for Maine, and good for women and girls too. I hope you’ll join me.