The White House

Looking around this room, at so many women who have blazed trails and shattered glass ceilings, I’m so grateful that you’ve joined us. 
 
Yet I can’t help but think of a woman whose name isn’t in our history books: my mother.  
 
She was a stay-at-home mom of five girls in a suburb of Philadelphia. She spent her days trying to complete a to-do list that was never quite done.
 
She was a terrible cook—we ate frozen fish sticks and boiled hotdogs—but she dressed the dinner table with fresh flowers and china each night to make it feel special.
 
She was witty, and quick to laugh, and kind and she knew exactly what to say when my world was falling apart.
 
That’s what I miss the most—how I could call her when I was hurt or angry, when I felt like I’d never live up to the person I wanted to be—and just the sound of her voice let me know that everything would be OK.                    
 
She never asked me to follow in her footsteps—only made sure I knew I could find my own way and she’d be there to root for me.
 
And though she left before I was done needing her, I feel her strength inside me. I see her fire in my daughter, Ashley. I know that she never stopped cheering me on.
 
We are all here today because someone believed in us. Our mothers. Our nanas, and teachers, and mentors. Because someone taught us to be brave.
 
And we are here to be those women for someone else. In big, historic ways—becoming, as the Vice President says, those “firsts, but not lasts”—and in small ways, too.
 
Helping our daughters believe in a world we haven’t won yet, showing our sons that it’s their work too.
 
Taking risks—even when we might fail—because we know that there is a young girl who needs to see us try.   
 
Today, we honor the women who made us and the women we make.
 
We know that there is still far to travel, but we keep moving, guided by the strong hands of the women who came before us, continuing the path they forged with sweat and pain and love.
 
So thank you for being here. Thank you for celebrating this moment with us.
 
May you never forget the women who are cheering you on. And may your voice be that ovation for the girls who come next. 
 
Thank you.

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