Remarks by Congressman Marsha Blackburn



at the

Independent Women’s Forum

2014 Barbara K. Olsen Women of Valor Dinner


November 19, 2014


Thank you for the honor of receiving the Women of Valor Award.

I am honored and humbled to receive an award named for Barbara Olson.  I knew her from afar.  Seeing her on TV, reading comments, seeing her speak at a conference, she was inspiring.  How blessed we are to have such women who are so committed to the cause of freedom and free people. The relentless, passionate demeanor of someone like Barbara Olson is worthy of honor. Thank you for continuing to remember her. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to associate my name and work with hers and with the other outstanding women who have received this honor. 

And to Hirsi Ali, how wonderful to share the time with you this evening.  I’ve read your writings and listened to your lectures.  What a riveting life of endurance and a compelling story.  You are truly an AGAINST ALL ODDS woman and I pray that you will be richly blessed as you continue to stand tall for freedom and as you expose – without fear—the truths of Islamic practices and sharia law.

This past weekend, I participated on a panel at the Reagan National Defense Forum. Our topic of discussion was Heroism and Valor, so I did what any good panelist would do; I first looked up the root of the word, the definition, etc.  Valor is defined in our dictionary as showing great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle.

It occurred to me that battles and warfare are now asymmetric, virtual, and ideological. Does this change the face of danger?  Are we under attack in the virtual space for our thoughts and beliefs just as we have been in the public square in years past?  What will our response be this time?

To understand where we are going, we must look to our past.

Throughout our nation’s history, women have shown incredible and tremendous courage to defend freedom and human dignity.  The Revolutionary War saw women on the front lines of the battle field – some of these were conventional – such as seamstresses and cooks – some were unconventional and scandalous for the time – such as spying. 

Deborah Sampson fought under the alias of Robert Shurtliff, was wounded, and ultimately honorably discharged at West Point.  Ann Bailey enlisted and served under the name of Sam Gay.  She was discovered, arrested, and imprisoned.  After her release from prison, she signed up again and once again served as a secret soldier.

The right for American women to vote came to fruition with the ratification of the 19th amendment.  When TN became the 36th State to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, the battle for American women to vote was won.

Female leaders, both past and present, know they have to be team builders and they do a superb job of this.  Bringing people together around shared goals and a common vision is a priority.  Building a team and sharing success shortens the path to victory and women understand that concept so well.

Today our fight to defend faith, family, freedom, hope and opportunity is a global fight — virtual and real.

We have women around the globe, such as Hirsi, who stand on the front line of that fight every day.   It thrills me when I open my email and one of the women I have mentored in Iraq or Afghanistan are wanting me to accept a linked in invitation or friend or follow them.  Those are clicks of freedom in action and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to help push freedom forward.  

And what we do in America makes a difference to the rest of the world.  If we grow weary of the fight, if we give up, then the world will give up.  We are the superpower in this fight and we can’t afford to take a day off.  Our enemies never do.  We must remember, “Be not weary in well doing.”

In the 21st century, much of this asymmetrical, virtual, get on the front lines battle will be continue to be led by women. 

Look at the tea party movement that has generated much conversation, it is primarily a movement led by women.  The fight over school curriculum, school lunches, government budgets. More often than not, it is a woman who is standing behind the podium at these school board and town council meetings making the case for less government intrusion. 

Look at what is happening in our communities, city councils, county governments and state legislatures.  More women are signing on the line to be a candidate for these offices.  They are choosing to run and they are winning.  And now we have a record number of women in Congress.  For the first time ever, in January, there will be over 100 women in the Congress of the United States of America.

Just as I say our party should choose to be labeled the Great Opportunity Party, I believe we should begin to establish some great new gal networks to replace that tired, worn out moniker of the good ole boys.  Female leaders know that what the American people want is to measure leadership as it performs, not as it appears.

Women have realized that their country, communities and states need them and their expertise.  They are realizing that the skills they have developed in their private and not for profit sector endeavors are transferable to the public sector and they are putting them to work. 

Women are not willing to see opportunity for their children and hope for the future compromised by a bureaucratic government which seems paralyzed by the layers of rules, regulations and mandates that have piled up through decades of go along to get along attitudes.  Women are in this fight for the both long term and with a long term view. 

I believe in one of the strongest and most enduring tenets of leadership- that is – Leaders raise up other leaders.  It is this strong desire of building a legacy or even building for a legacy that will keep us working long into the night or putting that extra bit of adrenaline to work after many people would have accepted defeat. It is what causes us to volunteer and to speak out and to care.  

And, in large part this is what you, the Independent Women’s Forum does every day.  You nurture, prod, stimulate conversation and validate the views that are shared by thousands of women across this country.  You inspire women around the globe. You provide a gathering spot in the battle of ideas for women to seek information, to come together to defend their individual rights and to prepare to take action to defend their beliefs. 

So all of you great new gals, our country needs us, now as much as ever.  They need women who believe fervently in the power of freedom, free people and free markets to provide results to improve the lives of people around the globe. 

Thank you for choosing to share your time and your event with me this evening and for recognizing my work in the fight to be certain we remain, the USA, remains the leader of the free world.