On May 21, 1919, following years of efforts by thousands of suffragettes, the House of Representatives passed the 19th amendment. Two weeks later, the Senate passed the amendment. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, allowing the amendment to pass its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification on August 26, 1920. A mere 27 years later a young girl was born in Chicago. She went on to become Secretary of State herself. And last night, Hillary Clinton accepted the nomination of her party for the office of President of the United States in Philadelphia.
Two hundred seventy-five miles away in Providence, a 19-year-old was speaking before 6,000 people on the importance of education for young women across the globe. This young woman had been speaking out for the rights of girls to be educated since she was 11 years old. Her father owned a school in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, and while living under the control of the Taliban, this girl began a blog for the BBC’s Urdu service. On October 9, 2012, while riding home from school, two masked men boarded her bus, asked specifically for Malala Yousafzai by name and proceeded to shoot her in the head at point-blank range. The bullet traveled through her head to her neck and then her shoulder. Remarkably, she did not die. In critical condition, she was transferred for treatment to a hospital which specialized in military injuries in Birmingham, UK. In 2013, after being released from the hospital, she began the Malala Fund “to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential and to demand change.” On December 10, 2014, Malala accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the youngest recipient of the prize.
Two women on two different stages on the same night. As I sat between my daughter and son, listening to Malala speak, I couldn’t help but be moved by the significance of the evening. Eleven months ago, my children lost their mother, my wife, to cancer and I could only think of how proud she would have been of them for being there in the audience listening to Malala. How they would have gone on and on with her about sexism in America and around the world; how each of them, strong in their own right, would have enjoyed talking with their mother about the importance of an education and the weight of the evening. We went out to dinner after the speech. We talked for over an about the value of believing in yourself and the significance of education. The conversation was witty, intelligent, and sophisticated. I can’t help but think that both Malala and my wife would have been pleased. I am so proud.
As Hillary Clinton said last night, “When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.” No woman should be forced to think less of themselves than any man and no society should consider women an inferior subgroup. And no woman should ever be quieted for speaking out against what they believe are wrongs in the world that need to be corrected. Regardless of your political position, last night was a night for the ages as two women took two stages and promised to bring change to the country and the world. As Malala said last night, “The terrorists wanted to silence me forever. They made a really big mistake.”