Presentation of the Barbara K. Olson Woman of Valor
Award to Carly Fiorina
as delivered by
Heather R. Higgins
as accepted by
Independent Women's Forum 2016 Annual Awards Dinner
November 30, 2016
I'm the den mother. Thank you, Carrie, for that. That was really unexpected and very sweet.
I'm Heather Higgins. I am Chairman of the Board of Independent Women's Forum, as well as running Independent Women's Voice, and when I think of Independent Women's Forum, I think scrappy, punches above its weight, carrier of authentic feminism before it went off the rails into this Leftist, Marxist nonsense that has nothing to do with real human being's lives, and most of all, we're the women's group that really likes men. So I want to thank Carrie and Sabrina and the whole team for doing this really lovely dinner. This is about twice the size of last year's dinner. Sabrina has done an outstanding job with this, particularly. This is her baby and we all really appreciate all the work that you've done in it, and it shows.
And I want to thank as well our honorees. Ed, you, like Margaret Thatcher, grew up the child of a shopkeeper and clearly we need more children of shopkeepers in America, because it clearly has a trajectory to it and hopefully your trajectory goes where hers went.
And Cheryl, you are such a role model for so many women just in the way you comport yourselves and what you have done with your life. And I think you'll look around – this is not an old group. There are a lot of young women here who are looking to you and our other honorees for inspiration and thank you, so much, for everything that you have done.
I now get to introduce our Women of Valor awardee. And when I think of her, the first thing that I think of is a fighter against long odds. She's a fighter in her personal life, she is a fighter in her corporate, boardroom life, she's been a fighter in her political life, taking on challenges that no one else thought possible.
She was, as I think we are all very well familiar with, a formidable presidential candidate. This remarkable instantaneous and such a deep command, whether it was economics, national security, foreign policy, education, equal pay, paid leave, healthcare, immigration, even how to use email. She was proof that you could love the idea of a female presidential candidate and a female president and still think that a Hillary presidency was a terrible idea.
To quote a certain someone, I look at that face, that beautiful face, that face that I would have been honored and delighted to have voted for, and what I see if a luminous intelligence, a lapidary wit, and a huge lover of life. Who can forget, if you were blessed to it, and if you don't, go Google it up because it is so worth it – the myriad instances where she just left her hosts and interlocutors absolutely flabbergasted and flatfooted.
And one of my favorites was when you were doing an interview after the first debate with Chris Matthews and in your fantastically un-minced words style, when he asked you: How could you call Hillary Clinton a liar, why would you do that, she responded because it's true. And Chris made the mistake of pursuing the line of discussion. And was absolutely rattled down with machinegun fire like precision-guided missiles of numerous instances where it was clear that she had lied.
And it reminded me so much, dad would say to me whenever I was debating someone and he was watching, he'd say hit them again, they are still wiggling. And this is what it was like. I watch these clips just for the sheer enjoyment of it all.
The Barbara K. Olson Women of Valor Award is given in memory of our beloved, one of our four IWF founders, who, through her courage and commitment, helped advance the principles we all hold dear of economic liberty, personal responsibility, and political freedom.
If there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty about our awardee this evening and her future is that she will determine it, as she always has, and that it will have meaning, purpose, and joy. It is therefore with tremendous enthusiasm that tonight, on behalf of the entire Independent Women's Forum Board of Directors, I am pleased to present the tenth Women of Valor Award to Carly Fiorina.
Thank you so much, thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
I am really honored to be with all of you this evening and humble and grateful to be recognized in this way.
Thank you, Heather, for those most generous comments and for the wonderful work you have done at IWF. I learned a thing or two from Heather during my presidential campaign. She may not remember but I remember traveling to her apartment in New York and meeting like, a lot of dogs. And how are those dogs, by the way? And getting a few tips.
Thank you, Sabrina, as well for all your leadership.
Congratulations to my fellow awardee this evening, Ed Gillespie. About a year from now we're going to be calling him more than a distinguished gentleman, I think we'll be calling him the governor of the great Commonwealth of Virginia, and Cathy will clearly be an outstanding first lady.
Cheryl, I have been saying for many years that the highest calling of leadership is to unlock potential in others. And a leader's job is to serve. And it is so rewarding, and refreshing, and uplifting to see a leader who lives those principals day in and day out.
Congratulations to you, as well, for your award.
And as you enjoy your dessert and coffee I want to say what a pleasure it is to gather together with so many American citizens, men and women, who believe that all of us and each of us must play an active role in order to achieve a more perfect union.
I've traveled the globe for almost 50 years now. I have seen business from the very bottom, the very small and the very local, to the very top, the very big, the very global. I have worked for charitable causes and broken bread with people in the most desperate of circumstances. I have done policy and advisory work and dined with presidents and monarchs at tables, groaning under the weight of excess.
Over the last three years in particular I have spent countless hours in American living rooms, dining rooms, school cafeterias, VFW halls, Kiwanis clubs, even a global pork congress. I have spent time in every state in our nation and discussed our politics and our problems.
First, because I was a leader of a political organization called Unlocking Potential, which reengaged women back into the political process, then of course as a presidential candidate, and for the last nine months in particular campaigning for other candidates up and down the ballot all across the country. In other words, I have been very fortunate to have seen and experienced a great deal.
I have often remarked that I learned the genius of our Constitution and the root of our American exceptionalism not at law school, where I dropped out after less than a semester, nor through the study of political science or government. I was actually a medieval history and philosophy student before I became interested in politics and perhaps that is why I had to start my business career as a secretary.
I figured out why our Constitution is so unique and so important, and why we are such an exceptional country by going to work, living life, and seeing the world. I learned in the course of my life and my work and my travels that everyone has potential, far more than they realize. I learned that people can figure out how to solve the problems that impact them if they are given the opportunity, the tools, the training, the support to do so. I learned that power concentrated for too long, in too few hands, eventually becomes power abused, no matter how wise the people or good the intentions. I have also learned along the way that progress requires pragmatism, not perfectionism. That real problem-solving requires prioritization and perhaps most importantly that positive change demands a belief in possibilities, rather than resentment over limitations.
And so tonight I want to speak to you briefly in praise of pragmatism and problem-solving and possibilities.
This election, up and down the ballot in state after state, this election was a triumph of pragmatism. For all the pollsters and the pundits and the political professionals expressing shock over the outcome of this election from the White House to the sweep of Republicans in state houses across this nation, I remind them of a consistent finding of Gallup: 80% of American's believe the federal government has grown incompetent, corrupt, and allows problems to fester. 80% of us believe that we have grown a professional political class and a business all around politics that has grown to care more about their own power and prestige and privilege than on getting the people's work done. 80% means that virtually all Americans agree, men, women, young, old, rich, poor, from every walk of life and every ethnicity.
Things just weren't working very well anymore. Most people did not see their own lives getting better.
In fact, I know from my travels across the country that most people felt a growing sense of powerlessness over their own lives and little opportunity to solve their own problem. I've met these people. The coalminer, the farm worker, who see their jobs and their livelihoods being taken away by their own government through excessive regulatory overreach. The single mom trying to disentangle herself from a web of dependence woven over generations, who finds for every step forward she wants to take in her life the system forces her to take two steps back. The veteran trying to navigate his way through a Byzantine bureaucracy. The dishwasher who became the restaurant owner and is now just hanging on every day to stay in business. Or the drug addict who I met on the side of a street in New Hampshire, whose found a recovery program that works but knows that the program soon will close its doors for lack of funding and doesn't know where to turn.
This election Americans had a pragmatic response to their realization that they were losing power and not moving forward anymore. They said we need change, not more of the same. They said we need to smash the bureaucracies that have soaked up too much money and concentrated too much power for too long in too few hands. We need to restore power and money where it belongs, in states, in communities, in families, in citizens. We need to vote for people who actually believe in citizen government, not just more big government.
Americans know it will not be perfect. But I don't think they expect perfection. Americans are not perfectionists. Americans are pragmatists.
And they know that we will make progress. We have problems, we always have. We always will. That is life.
But actually solving problems requires setting priorities. And so this election Americans said, for example, educating our children is more important than arguing who gets to use which bathroom. This is not a sign of disrespect of intolerance towards anyone. It is rather a commonsense admission that priorities matter.
We have a healthcare problem in this country. It costs too much and some cannot get what they need. Everyone agrees. But it is simply commonsense to reject Obamacare, a law that punishes most to help far fewer and that doesn't solve the problem. It is simple priority-setting to say we actually should not create yet another government agency such as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau under Dodd-Frank before figuring out what went wrong with the 26 agencies who were supposed to be minding the store and failed to see or prevent the financial crisis. And citizens said creating more jobs is actually a higher priority than a global climate agreement that cannot cool the earth's temperatures, but will destroy more jobs.
I was recently engaged a week or so ago in a mentoring session for midcareer businesswomen. And I was asked what I looked for in someone that I was hiring. I talked about courage. Risk-taking requires courage and without risk there is no progress.
I talked about character. Without character the wrong things happen. It is character that recognizes when principles must be preserved, even in the face of difficulty.
I talked about collaboration. Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished by someone acting alone. Progress is always a team effort.
But mostly I talked about a sense of possibility. There are people, you know them, there are people who look at a job and see its limitations, they see its boundaries. They say they won't let me do this, I shouldn't do that, I'll get criticized for this, that goal can never be achieved. There are people who will look at the exact same job, the precise same set of circumstances, and see instead possibilities. Those who see possibilities always achieve more. A sense of possibility is more powerful than skepticism or cynicism of defeatism. Optimism makes progress possible. Pessimism rewards the status quo. This, this sense of possibility, this optimism, this is the genius of and the exceptionalism of our nation. We have always been optimistic enough to believe that a more perfect union could be conceived. Optimistic enough to trust in people's capacity for self-government. Optimistic enough to know that a system of checks and balances that disperses power into the hands of the money will achieve more liberty, more justice, more opportunity than power concentrated in the hands of the supposedly wiser few even when it is messy and unpredictable and imperfect. This faith in our fellow citizens is the ultimate optimism. It is the belief that we all have the potential to be good and to do good.
America is not exceptional because our citizens are inherently better people than others. Human nature is pretty much the same the world over, although culture and values differ. We are exceptional because at our core we believe in potential. At our core we believe in possibility. And because of this core belief, more things have been more possible for more people, for more places, and in more circumstances than anywhere else on Earth.
This is what the progressive Left gets so profoundly wrong. The philosophy of the progressive left has been about punishing some to ease the resentments and grievances of others, but that is not what our nation is about.
This nation has never been about punishing some to relieve the grievances of others. This nation has always been about creating more possibilities for everyone. And nowhere, nowhere has the Left gotten it more wrong than on feminism.
Feminism started out being about empowerment, allowing women to participate as fully equal citizens and contributors. But somehow along the way the Left hijacked it.
My candidacy for president was called an offense to women, apparently because I don't believe the things the Left says I should believe. Feminism became about strict adherence to a litany of Leftwing causes and resentments. It is why the work of IWF is so important.
Here is my definition of a feminist: A feminist is a woman who uses all of her God-given gifts and lives the life she chooses, on her own terms. She can home-school five kids or she can run for president. She can form her own beliefs and defend her own opinions. She is a fully capable citizen of this great land and it is why I said over and over and over again, as a proud feminist, I will never vote for Hillary Clinton.
As American women, we know we still face some unique challenges that men do not. We also know that we are the most educated, liberated, powerful generation of women in history and throughout the world. Our lives are filled with endless possibilities for impact for positive contribution for leadership, for progress. And the work that IWF does and that all of you support is proof of that.
The progressive Left believes in limitations, resentments, grievances, zero sum, some must lose for others to win, some must be punished so others can make progress, only government or some wise few can adjudicate between competing grievances and decides who wins and who loses.
Americans, pragmatic, problem-solving, believer in possibility Americans are rejecting this philosophy.
This is a nation of possibilities. A citizen government. A government of, by, and for the people, all the people, regardless of who you are or what you look like or where you come from or how you start.
A government like that, by, of, and for people like that, must be fought for.
Let's face it, our political discourse isn't always civil. And so sometimes, especially in this city, consumed by politics, sometimes instead of arguing politics, let us praise. Let us praise the pragmatism, the problem-solving skills and the sense of possibility that we share as Americans. Progress has always required these things. We have achieved so much in our nation's history, but there is always more progress to be made.
Thank you for this great honor, God bless you all, and thank you for the work you do.