Each of our hosts watched the broadcast of President Biden’s speech in Philadelphia on 9/1/2022. Read the President’s full remarks per the White House website here.
Dr. Betty Spence has been an advocate for women’s advancement in the private and public sectors for 30 years. An expert on women in leadership, she wrote the top-selling book Be Your Own Mentor. From 2001-2021, Betty served as President of the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) where she started the annual list of the “Top Companies for Executive Women;” and she founded and chairs the “Women’s Advancement Roundtable” of senior corporate women working to advance other women.
President Biden finally has used his bully pulpit to confront the long-simmering crisis that our country faces: the cult of Trump and his MAGA devotees.
Until last night’s speech in Philadelphia, the President had not called out the former president by name for his continued inciting of violence, his ceaseless lying about the 2020 election, or his bludgeoning of democracy. I hope President Biden will continue to speak out, as the time for a president’s silence about a predecessor has long passed.
Now, like President Biden, we cannot and must not stand by as our democracy faces mortal peril. We must get to work to hold onto the Democratic majority in the House and increase our Senate majority. Our podcast Lady Liberty is V.E.R.Y. Pissed shares many actions you can take, so we hope to see you on the streets registering voters — especially young women! — and then working to get out the vote.
A bully pulpit is a conspicuous position that provides an opportunity to speak out and be listened to. This term was coined by United States President Theodore Roosevelt, who referred to his office as a “bully pulpit”, by which he meant a terrific platform from which to advocate an agenda. Roosevelt used the word bully as an adjective meaning “superb” or “wonderful”, a more common usage at that time.
Sherrye Henry was the first woman in America to broadcast television editorials and became the host of “Woman!” for WCBS-TV. For 16 years, she hosted the “Sherrye Henry Program” on WOR Radio, a daily talk show that tackled the major political issues of the day. After running for the NY State Senate (and losing) in 1992, she conducted research on why women are reluctant to vote for women candidates and published the book “The Deep Divide: Why American Women Resist Equality” (MacMillan, 1994).
Everything about President Biden’s speech last night was right on target:
- The venue: in front of Independence Hall where our democracy was born.
- The language: “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
- His opinion of the roaring protesters: “Good manners is nothing they ever suffered from.”
- The connection with voters’ concerns: A new Quinnipiac Poll shows a rare bipartisan consensus: Both parties think “the nation’s democracy is in danger of collapse.” 67% of Democrats agree … and 69% of Republicans agree.
- The direction Ultra-MAGA Republicans will take this country: “Backwards where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”
And Biden’s simple solution: “Vote. Vote. Vote.”
For Americans who love their country, the way forward is clear. Now we must act on it.
Carol Jenkins is an advocate for human, civil and women’s rights, an award-winning author and Emmy-winning former television journalist. As President and CEO of the ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality, sister organizations dedicated to the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment she steered the organizations through their legislative, judicial and educational work to advance the constitutional amendment.
The speech itself was welcome: to hear the President of the United States clearly state that these are not normal times; that our Constitution is under direct threat—and the MAGA Republicans are the ones threatening it—served to reaffirm what we already know. At least we are living in the same reality of the duly elected leader of our country.
And, yes, the solution to this is to vote. The converted could be comforted by this speech, but I doubt it was persuasive to any election deniers. And I’m not sure any speech would be. But the speech is the collective prayer that all democracy lovers recite daily:
Please, let there be enough of the Constitution-loving, silent Americans left who will vote for it and will insist on counting the votes.
The fact that the three major television networks chose to skip the speech and carry on with entertainment programming pointed to a key element of our endangered country: a failing media.
The speech arrived on the same day that a January 6th insurrectionist, a former NYPD officer, was sentenced to ten years in prison for his wanton violence at the Capitol. It was the longest sentence delivered so far—but this observer doubts even that as a deterrent to the rage fomented by the MAGA world.
In the end, I think President Biden’s most powerful words were his off-the-cuff remarks the other day that MAGA Republicans have no idea how powerful women can be—and that they are about to find out. Another piece of the democracy lovers’ prayer: let it be so.
Gloria Feldt is an acclaimed expert on women, power, and leadership with frontline leadership experience, a bestselling author, and in-demand keynote speaker. She is cofounder and president of Take The Lead, whose mission reflects her life’s passion: to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025 by providing breakthrough training, mentoring and coaching role modeling, and thought leadership.
I listened to President Joe Biden’s speech while driving to a fundraiser for Arizona attorney general candidate Kris Mayes.
Biden’s key message, that we are in a battle for the soul of a nation, put me in mind of Abraham Lincoln’s famous “House Divided” speech to the Illinois Republican state convention.
Citing the Bible verse Matthew 12:22-28, which reads “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln said:
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.
President Biden explicitly called out the contrast between a country where we have the right to abortion, birth control, and marriage equality and a country where we do not.
For once, it seems Democrats have the same message and are staying on it. Kris Mayes asserted, “American democracy runs through Arizona.” She went on to say, “As attorney general, I will never prosecute a woman, doctor, etc. for abortion because I have read the Arizona Constitution, which has an express right to privacy in personal matters.”
Mayes was a Republican when she worked for Governor Janet Napolitano almost two decades ago. Napolitano, who served as attorney general prior to becoming governor, spoke in support of Mayes.
Talking media heads repeatedly observed that Biden’s speech was unusual because it wasn’t announcing a new initiative but rather framed a message speech. Mayes noted that nothing has been “usual” for the last six years.
The time is right for a speech by the commander in chief setting out a moral as well as political framework. I think the nation is hungry for that.
Like Lincoln throwing down the moral gauntlet about slavery, Biden’s message that our democracy is on the line in the midterm elections has defined precisely the choice we face. This might not be the role he expected to play when he ran for President, but he rose to the need of this moment.