BOWIE, Md. – On August 26, Congressman Steny H. Hoyer hosted the virtual 19th Annual Women’s Equality Day Luncheon, featuring keynote speaker Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. He was joined by over 600 members of the 5th District community and leaders. Below are his remarks:

“Thank you so, so much [Delegate] Joseline [Peña-Melnyk], not just for that extraordinary introduction; not [just] for what you do and the passion that you do it with, [but] for the memories of your experiences and the actions you are taking to make sure that those who follow get a better shake. Thank you for your service in the House of Delegates, you’re a real leader in our county, in our state, and in our nation. Thank you so much. What a wonderful, wonderful introduction that was.

“And to the Speaker of the House, Adrienne Jones, my dear, dear friend, the former Speaker Pro Temps of the House, [a] representative for Baltimore County, a person whose integrity and courage join to envision for Maryland – one of the most progressive states in the nation. Led by a Speaker who is going to make a real difference in the years ahead. Just as [President] Joe Biden is making a real difference in the nation. Joseline, let me say again, that I appreciate not only the introduction but the articulation of the Build Back Better Act. You know, it’s a reconciliation bill technically because that allows it to get through with 51 votes, but what it is, is the Build Back Better agenda of [President] Joe Biden and [Vice President] Kamala Harris. I’m so honored to welcome all of you.

“Let me say to Noreen Badwi: you know, I was a young president of the Young Democrats but not nearly as young as you are, Noreen. I was so impressed with you when you were an intern in my office and so impressed with what you just said, talking for a generation who will make an extraordinary difference and faces extraordinary challenges which we are trying to deal [with] in the Build Better Act sponsored by the President of the United States and supported by so many of us.

“Also let me say to those three extraordinary women who have been with us, I also want to say – and I know she’s not speaking as she has at so many of these luncheons, honoring the passage of the amendment that gave women the right to vote, sadly 150 years after we said essentially said ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident,’ but they were not all inclusive, unfortunately, and that’s Yvette Lewis, the Chair of the Democratic Party in our state. Thank you for your leadership, your commitment, your courage, and your extraordinary inspiration to all of us.

“To all of you who are on this Zoom, I’m honored to welcome you to the 19th Annual Fifth District Women’s Day Luncheon.  This is also our second virtual luncheon – and hopefully the last. I am so looking forward to gathering once more in person with all of you next year. Of course, that means that everyone is going to have to continue following the guidance from public health experts so we can defeat this virus.

“I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made here in Maryland getting our families, friends, and neighbors vaccinated against covid-19. Many are still not yet vaccinated, so we must continue to encourage our friends and family to get the shot. Mothers, grandmothers, and women across the state are going to continue to play a critical role in convincing Marylanders of the benefits of getting vaccinated and keeping the most vulnerable safe from infection.

“This event is one of my favorites of the year. It brings together talented and accomplished women from across our District and provides us all an opportunity to hear from some of the most outstanding women in American leadership each year. This year, we are very fortunate to welcome a keynote speaker who is leading one of the largest cities in the country through a time of challenge and opportunity. Before I introduce her, though, I want to speak briefly about the work that my colleagues and I in Congress have been doing to address issues critical to women here in Maryland and across the country.

“Alongside Speaker Pelosi, the first woman to serve in that role and a native daughter of Maryland, I’m proud to lead a House Democratic Caucus that is more diverse and more female than at any time in history. Accomplished legislators, medical practitioners, teachers, community activists, business owners, and military veterans – talented women are at the heart of our Caucus and its work for the people. In these first 8 months of the 117th Congress, our Majority has already passed a long list of very important and consequential legislation that promotes equality and improves women’s lives, safety, and economic empowerment.

“Among them are: The American Rescue Plan, with its Child Tax Credit for working families; the Paycheck Fairness Act; the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization; and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. These are just some of the bills the House has prioritized this year. This pandemic has highlighted the inequalities that women still face in our economy. Millions of women had to leave their jobs during the pandemic, and while many of those jobs are now roaring back, the impact of those job losses is still being felt among women and their families. This job loss is especially pronounced for women of color, who continue to face longstanding economic disparities.

“That’s why House Democrats continue to be laser-focused on passing additional legislation to help women get back to work, create more equitable opportunities for women to get ahead, and to make it easier for families to afford high-quality child care. Far too much of the burden of child care and elder care is still placed on women’s shoulders, making it harder for them to get ahead economically. The funding bills we passed last month invest billions of dollars in programs in child care programs and making it more accessible for low-income parents.

“And right now, House and Senate Democrats are working on legislation to make generational investments that would help Americans better afford child care, health care, elder care, pre-school, higher education, and so many other opportunities that help people make it in America. Our keynote speaker today understands how all of these challenges and the need for greater economic opportunity impacts communities, neighborhoods, and our cities. As the mayor of Atlanta, whose metropolitan area is the 9th largest in the country, Keisha Lance Bottoms is deeply engaged in addressing our most pressing public health and economic crises. She was on the short-list to be President Biden’s running mate because of her experience handling the Covid-19 crisis in her city, her championing of voting rights, and the thoughtful way she approached the Black Lives Matter protests in her city last year. When a deadly shooting in March took the lives of 7 women – in an attack that appears to have been motivated by misogyny and anti-Asian hatred – Mayor Bottoms comforted the grieving families and brought the community together to help heal from that terrible tragedy.

“She was chosen as a Co-Chair of the Democratic National Convention last year, held mostly virtually for the first time in its history, and now serves as Vice Chair Of Civic Engagement And Voter Protection For The Democratic National Committee, helping to protect voting rights for Americans and to get more people registered to vote. Just days ago, the House passed H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This major piece of legislation draws on the legacy of my dear friend John Lewis, who passed away last year, and who represented Atlanta in Congress for more than three decades. It pays tribute to him and the other civil rights heroes who marched in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 to draw the nation’s attention to disenfranchisement of African American women and men.

“It does so by restoring the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 and that unleashed a wave of voter-suppression laws across the country. One of the worst examples we have seen was in Georgia, where the Republican-controlled state government enacted a new law that would, among other things, make it harder to register, make it harder to get a mail-in ballot, and make it a crime to offer water to voters standing in line at a polling place. All of these are of serious concern to Mayor Bottoms, in her role with the DNC – but also because it affects her constituents in Atlanta directly. Mayor Bottoms was born and raised in Atlanta, where she graduated from a high school named in honor of a great son of Maryland – Frederick Douglass. After earning her undergraduate degree in communications at Florida A&M University, she received her law degree from Georgia State University.

“Before her election as Mayor in 2017, she worked as a prosecutor, represented kids in juvenile court, and served on the Atlanta City Council. It is my distinct honor to welcome this year’s keynote speaker – joining the ranks of past speakers like Chairwoman Maxine Waters, Mayor Muriel Bowser, and County Executive Angela Alsobrooks – the honorable Mayor Keisha Bottoms of Atlanta.

“Thank you so much, Mayor Bottoms. I am always so inspired at the end of the Annual Women’s Luncheon, and this year is no different. I want to thank everyone who participated today and who served on the luncheon committee. I want to take a moment to remember committee members Karen Fennell and Maggie Reynolds, who passed away since last year’s event. Today, we remember them and their wonderful contributions to our annual luncheon and to the celebration of women’s history here in the Fifth District. I am so grateful for all of the outstanding women leaders in Maryland’s Fifth District who attend each year and make this event even more special. And I want to thank our trailblazing Maryland women, like Speaker Adrienne Jones, who make time to be here with us.

“As we move forward from this day, I hope we will all take the inspiration from these wonderful leaders and go forth in strength and determination to continue making our district, our state, and our country a place where all women can reach for and achieve their dreams – where every individual can get ahead and have an equal shot at success. We are now in the second century of women’s suffrage in America. In that first century, we saw a struggle to ensure that all women – including African American women – could participate equally in our democracy. And we saw women and men use their votes to elect talented women to public office who broke barriers and showed others what was possible and what women’s leadership looks like. Now, as we enter this next century of women’s votes, America will continue looking to talented women to lead us forward.

“And, judging by the women here today and with whom I am honored to serve in Congress, that future will be very bright indeed. I’m proud and honored to be your Representative in Congress, and I look forward to continuing working with all of you to advance the cause of women’s equality and justice, and I thank you for being a part of this luncheon today. Thank you.”