Nearly 1,000 activists and supporters from the women’s, congressional, legal, health, labor, civil rights and other communities turned out at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., last night to see the National Partnership for Women & Families honor Maryland’s own Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, as part of the organization’s 45th anniversary celebration. Other honorees included U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and PwC LLP U.S. Chairman and Senior Partner Robert E. Moritz.
The National Partnership paid special tribute to retiring Senator Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in congressional history, by giving her a never-before-bestowed Lifetime Achievement Award for being “nothing less than a legend” in advancing the issues that matter most to women and families. “For 45 years, she has been blazing a trail for women in Congress,” said National Partnership President Debra L. Ness. “From health care to reproductive rights to fair pay to child care, she has always found ways to win for women… When she retires, Barbara Mikulski will leave a void that may never truly be filled.”
“I never in my wildest imagination thought that I would stay this long,” Senator Mikulski said of her time in the Senate. “I’m grateful to the people of Maryland for their continual reelection of me, and I’m grateful for all of the people who help me serve. And I’m grateful for all of the kind words that were said about me tonight.” She thanked the National Partnership for its “enormous impact” on her and the lives of women and families. “From the very first day that I walked into the United States Senate,” she said, “the [National] Partnership was my think tank. It helped me come up with the right ideas, to do the right action, to put the right coalitions together, to advance that agenda… I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“Working on the women’s health agenda, the way we worked together, was one of my proudest accomplishments,” Senator Mikulski added. “I know that we saved lives. I know that we made such a tremendous difference… No matter who we are, no matter what role we play, let’s all be social instigators. Let’s instigate every single day that we can. Let’s make a change. Let’s make a difference.”
The event featured remarks from all of the night’s honorees, as well as Ellen Malcolm, chair of the boards of the National Partnership and EMILY’s List, who emceed the event.
Ness reflected on the organization’s 45 years of work to make the country more healthy, fair and family friendly. She highlighted the progress that has been made in the last year alone, including new paid family leave, fair pay, paid sick days and antidiscrimination laws at the state level; greatly improved overtime pay protections for millions of low-wage workers; a historically low rate of people without health insurance; and the ongoing revolution in how health care is delivered that is making it better coordinated and more patient- and family-friendly.
“We would not have come nearly so far without champions like the incomparable Senator Barbara Mikulski, whose advocacy for women and families has changed this nation forever,” Ness said. “We are thrilled to honor her tonight and will do our best to build on her achievements in the years ahead.”
Ness also emphasized the need for sustained momentum and vigilance to advance the policies America’s women and families need. “Americans are tuned into economic inequality,” she noted, “but solutions must come from an economy that enables us all to prosper… Our public discourse should never devolve into name-calling or disparaging remarks that pit us against one another. Our national policies should never be fear based. It should be about how best and how quickly we can all become secure. The chance to achieve real economic security is the foundation of the American dream.”
Photos, videos and more from the event will be available at NationalPartnership.org/Event.