Annual luncheon celebrates Md.’s women leaders
Baltimore mayor was keynote speaker
Heavy rains did not prevent a full house at the Colony South Hotel in Clinton on Aug. 15 for U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md., 5th) annual Fifth District Women’s Equality Day luncheon. More than 300 guests and elected officials attended this 15th occasion of the event.
Hoyer noted that this year marked the 97th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, as well as the 45th anniversary of Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in public education and programs that receive federal funding.
Reading the text of the amendment, Hoyer described them as “28 words that have made a difference in our country.”
“The 19th Amendment and Title IX, from equal access to the classrooms of our schools and universities to equality and access in athletics ... make it clear that women must never again be shut out and denied the opportunities that every- one deserves,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer credited Title IX for helping to make possible for the color guard that opened the event to be made up entirely of female cadets from Thomas Stone High School’s JROTC program.
“Title IX made a difference,” he said. “That constitutional amendment made a difference. But as I say about the Decla- ration of Independence, it may be self-evident that we are equal, but it’s not self-executing that we are equal.
“These young women are pursuing their education as well as their involvement in the marching band and other extracurricular activities thanks to the doors that were opened to them and their predecessors by Title IX.”
Hoyer noted that for the first time since he began serving in Congress in 1981, the Maryland delegation does not include women. “That’s not a good thing, obviously,” he said. “We need that perspective, we need that representation.”
Hyattsville Mayor Candace B. Hollingsworth expanded on Hoyer’s admonition to avoid focusing on losses or dreams denied in the wake of the 2016 elections.
She cited the example of Heather Heyer, the woman who was recently killed during the protests in Charlottesville, Va.
“She was an everyday woman, not elected, not chosen,” Hollingsworth said. “She was someone who decided that she wanted to champion what was important to her.”
Hollingsworth said that dismantling racism and xenophobia is everyday work. “We show our faces everywhere, so we have to feel free to occupy that space whenever we have it, and do so unapologetically,” she said.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) recalled how people came together to address racism following the June 2015 shooting at the Emanuael African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. “We are here at another important moment for our country,” he said. “A moment that does involve moral clarity from all of us. It is a moment not to be silent, but for everybody to be speaking out loudly.”
Van Hollen cited the example of the Women’s March that took place in Washington, D.C., and around the world on January 21 as an example of effective leadership by women. “Women were leading the effort then and they have been leading the movement ever since to make sure that we as a country do stand up for what’s right,” he said.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks (D) said, “The right to vote has not lost its power.” She recalled how her great-grandmother had fled South Carolina after the murder of her husband by a sheriff’s deputy and settled in Prince George’s County, “a place where we could live in dignity and peace, and where she thought we might have future opportunities.”
“Truly, I believe the best is yet to come,” she said. “We should never lose sight of the power of the female. We have the power every day to make decisions about who educates our children, who will keep our elders safe, who will care for the sick and dying. These are decisions that we still have the power every day to decide.”
In her keynote speech, Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) offered examples from her own career that demonstrated women’s power to decide.
When she joined the board of the University of Maryland Medical Systems, for example, she helped increase the percentage of its budget dedicated to treating minority and women patients and refocus more than a quarter of its investment portfolio on African-American and minority owned businesses. She explained that she is striving for similar accomplishments with the City of Baltimore’s investments as well.
“I came here this afternoon to deliver a message of why we should support each other and why we need to mentor others,” Pugh said.
Pugh recalled how she met the president of the student body at Coppin State University and invited her to become an intern. She quickly progressed to become a staff member of the city housing department and then a lobbyist for the disabled. “She is now the deputy director of government relations for the city of Baltimore,” Pugh said. “I have a responsibility to not only mentor, but to support and encourage because I expect great things from her.”
“We won’t be in these particular positions forever, and we should not be,” Pugh told the audience. “We should be encouraging others to take our places at some point.”
“Not too soon, though,” she added, “because I’ve got a lot to do.”
The 15th annual Women’s Equality Day luncheon, hosted by U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, was a sell-out event.