Remarks for Bishop John Carroll Weekend on 'The Difference Women Make: the Growing Role of Women in American Politics'
*** As Prepared for Delivery ***
Thank you, President DeGioia, for inviting me to participate in this wonderful event in celebration of Georgetown University. All of us are so proud to be alumni of this excellent university that helped to educate us and mold our personalities. I'm very proud to be a Georgetown University graduate, and to have been invited to participate in today's discussion.
Professor Swers, thank you for agreeing to moderate our discussion today. Your research to discover what makes Congress work the way it does, and what role women play in the advancement of legislation is valuable and thought provoking.
It has been fascinating, as I prepared for this discussion, to reflect on the question of whether my conduct as a Senator is influenced by my gender. Has my gender influenced what issues I choose to bring forward, and how I work to achieve my priorities? Are the skills necessary to succeed as a woman in Congress essentially different from those of our male colleagues? Are there issues, such as gender equity, education, health care, and social welfare that are more predominantly championed by women? Or, do we as elected representatives, choose and fight for our issues based on the needs of our electorate? Do women bring a different perspective to any issue under Congressional consideration?
In the fast-paced world of the United States Senate, there is precious little time for reflection, so this process has been intriguing.
If you just reviewed the committees I've chosen, or the bills I've introduced, the answer appears to be that the needs of my state have dictated my actions in the United States Senate. Energy, climate change, fishing, timber, the need for infrastructure, land claims issues, struggling rural schools, the lack of health care-these are vital issues for a state as young as Alaska that is dependent upon just a few resource-intensive industries.
The way that I think about how these issues impact the day to day lives of Alaskans is, however, rooted in my perspective as a woman, as well as my experiences as a wife and mother. I don't know if it is uniquely "female" to examine the issues in terms of how each family copes with the day to day exercise of living their lives. From my perspective, the cost of energy and the revenue derived from its extraction impacts moms and dads raising their kids. Whether or not the federal government helps build a gasline in Alaska will eventually have something to do with addressing the lack of teacher housing that impacts student achievement. Whether or not there is a vibrant timber or fishing or tourism industry in Southeast Alaska will determine whether or not that community can attract and retain doctors and dentists.
The question of whether the skills necessary to succeed as a woman in Congress are essentially different from those of our male colleagues is, I think, more difficult to answer. Do we, as women, bring something different to the table from the group of men with whom we serve? Are we hardwired for collaboration and compromise more than men? Which stereotype is more accurate-that women are more catty, or less confrontational than men? I think like most generalizations, both viewpoints are false. Each senator comes to the job with certain personality traits and certain skills.
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