Remarks by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
Prepared for Delivery
Independent Women's Forum's
Barbara K. Olsen Woman of Valor Award Dinner
October 3, 2013
Thank you so much for that kind introduction, Heather – and thank you to everyone at the Independent Women’s Forum for presenting me with this very special award. For so many years I’ve admired your leadership – and I am honored and humbled to stand beside you as we continue to speak for women all across this country.
I would be remiss if I didn’t begin by honoring the remarkable Barbara Olson, whose memory lives on within these walls, on this night, and in all of us. I can’t help but recall that unforgettable Tuesday in September. Three-thousand miles from where the terrorists struck, I was back in Colville, Washington when I saw that American Airlines Flight 77 – en route to Los Angeles – had hit the Pentagon. It wasn’t long before we all learned that the great Barbara Olson – a fervent voice for conservatism, and a woman of passion, conviction and purpose – had boarded that flight that morning. While the world is dimmer without her wisdom, I’m reminded tonight that those with legacies as indelible as Barbara’s are never really gone. So thank you to the Independent Women’s Forum for helping us all remember the true woman of valor, Mrs. Barbara Olson.
As some of you may know, my life hasn’t followed the typical trajectory for a Member of Congress. In fact, if you had told me as a little girl that one day I would be sworn in as the 200th woman ever to serve in the United States House of Representatives, I never would’ve believed it. I was born and raised on my family farm, in Kettle Falls, Washington, and I was the first in my family to graduate from college. And, ironically enough, I did everything I could to get out of my debate and public speaking classes! But I guess standing here tonight is proof that I didn’t do a good enough job!
I worked a lot of odd jobs to pay my way through school – I managed the McDonald’s Drive-Thru in Colville; I was a housekeeper at a local hotel; and in the summers I helped my mom, dad and brother sell peaches, apples, and apricots at our orchard and fruit stand. But from an early age, my parents had always instilled in me a love of politics, of individual responsibility, and of the American Dream. After working on a family friend’s campaign, I then served in the Washington State Legislature, and in 2005, I put my hand on the Bible and was sworn in to serve Washington’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
A lot has changed in my life since I made the move from one Washington to the other. For starters, I was single when I was elected to Congress, and at 37, I was pretty sure I’d stay single forever! But it wasn’t long before I met my very own Mr. Wonderful, Brian Rodgers, a retired Navy pilot, a Spokane native, and the kindest and most supportive human being I have ever known.
We have two kids – Cole, who is 6 and was born with Down syndrome, and Grace, who will turn 3 in December. And yes, the rumors are true: we have another one on the way right before Christmas! So as you can imagine, I’m pretty excited that Brian was able to take a break from the kids to be here with me tonight. We usually reserve Thursdays for “date night,” so I told Brian we’d just have a few extra people joining us tonight!
In my last 9 years serving in Congress, I’ve had the opportunity to do some incredible things: A few years ago, I spent Mother’s Day with our troops in Afghanistan; I was welcomed with open arms into the disability community after our son Cole was born – and become an advocate for those with Down syndrome; I had the opportunity to welcome a record number of Republican women to Congress in 2010; I’ve worked with the White House on an initiative to protect military families; and just this past year, I was honored to be elected by my colleagues as the 39th Chair of the House Republican Conference. And throughout it all, I can say with certainty that becoming a wife and a mom has been by far the greatest joy in my life. My children give me a greater passion and purpose for my work in Congress – and they remind me every single day that the most beautiful part of life is love.
It’s been quite the ride, let me tell you, but the Independent Women’s Forum has been instrumental in our efforts to advance the goals of Republican women in Congress – and to help remind us that ALL issues are “women’s” issues! When I was elected as Chair of the Conference, one of my first calls was to Sabrina Schaeffer, Heather Higgins, and Hadley Heath – asking them to come speak to the Republican women about the effects of ObamaCare. We’ve disseminated your research on the so-called “wage gap” the media likes to talk about; you’ve spoken to our Members about the President’s failed economic policies and their effects on American families; and let me just say: we could not have won the “War on Women” without you!
America stands at a pivotal crossroads right now, more so than ever – between a future of big government and overregulation, and one of expanded opportunity and the American Dream. There’s no doubt we have a lot going on in Congress – as we’ve all seen in the last few days and weeks – but one thing I do know is this: when I come home to my kids every night, I want to look at them and say that I’ve done everything I could to leave them with a better life than our parents left for us. And with your help – and the tremendous vision you’ve advanced in Congress and all across this country – I have no doubt that our best days are ahead of us. Thank you, God Bless all of you, and God Bless America!