by Christine Stone, NCJW board director and Pennsylvania state policy advocacy chair
I was thrilled to join NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman in representing NCJW at a reception celebrating Women’s History Month, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at the Naval Observatory on Monday, March 26, 2012. The reception, the first one held to commemorate Women’s History Month, recognized the accomplishments and contributions of women across the spectrum of American life, including academia and science, business and labor, philanthropy and advocacy, athletics and the arts, as well as the military and government.
When Nancy and I first arrived at the reception, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett warmly greeted us. We thanked Ms. Jarrett for the Administration’s support of women’s health and expressed our excitement that starting this August women will have free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where she works.
After I was introduced to other advocates and philanthropists, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden joined the attendees and addressed the crowd. I looked across our row and was in awe of the other guests who filled the foyer: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Senator Barbara Mikulski, CNN’s Gloria Borger, National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, as well as a distinguished group of women from the U.S. Marine Corps Female Engagement Team. As Vice President Biden finished his remarks, he made an important point, “I’ve learned it from Jill, I learned it from my sister and I’ve learned from the over thousand hours of hearings we held on the Violence Against Women Act that the single most important thing that empowers young women is women – powerful women.”
And, as I caught a glimpse of some of these powerful women in the room, such as MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and the University of Delaware women’s basketball head coach Tina Martin, I thought of the powerful women of NCJW who have empowered me. We are all powerful women who, through our NCJW sections and in our communities, have played this important role. I thought of the women in the NCJW Pittsburgh Section who gave me opportunities for leadership, of advocates in the NCJW Philadelphia Section who speak out passionately on our issues, of quiet yet powerful grandmothers from the NCJW Los Angeles Section who undertake our Plan A: NCJW’s Campaign for Contraceptive Access, and of the countless NCJW women whose philanthropy ensures our organization’s future.
I left the Vice President’s residence with a feeling of pride that I had the privilege of representing NCJW at this intimate gathering of powerful women. For the past 118 years, generations of NCJW women have followed in the footsteps of our founder, Hannah G. Solomon, by stepping forward and speaking out on crucial issues. Let this, and future Women’s History Months, remind us to embrace our NCJW history with a faith in the future, and a belief in action.