Presentation of the Gentleman of Distinction
Award to Ed Gillespie
as delivered by
as accepted by
Independent Women's Forum 2016 Annual Awards Dinner
November 30, 2016
It is an honor for me to be able to introduce and present the IWF Gentleman of Distinction Award to my husband, Ed Gillespie.
You know IWF is an organization that Ed and I have long admired and supported. I've used information from IWF all throughout my career, as I'm sure many of you here in this room have. And IWF has changed the conversation on issues of importance, not just in Washington, but around the country. And I just can't say enough great things about it.
And Heather and Sabrina – I'm not quite sure where Heather is but Sabrina is there at my table – and to the rest of the IWF board and staff, you all just do an amazing job, so thank you for tonight. It's just a wonderful event.
Now, in the Spring of 1985 I was playing softball. And if y'all stay with me this will make sense in just a minute. It was my one and only softball season and I met a guy and my life was forever changed. Now, I'll never forget that day, when I was out on that softball field. It was a cold Spring day and this guy ran out on the field and everybody was saying hey Eddie, hey Eddie, we're so glad you made it. Well I didn't know who this was and I looked to a friend of mine who was on Congressman Dick Armey's staff and I said well who is that? And my friend said well that's Ed Gillespie, our new press secretary. And I thought to myself well, I need to get to know him a little better, I think. Thanks to an enterprising friend of mine, Ed and I ended up riding home from softball practice in the same car. We began dating a few weeks later. About a year later we were engaged and a year after that we were married.
Now, I mention that softball meeting because as I look back, everything I know and love about Ed I could see on that softball team. Ed is a leader and a team player. He's a hard worker, he's not afraid to get his hands dirty, he's scrappy, he has good judgment, he's fun, he has a great sense of humor. As a matter of fact, whenever I lose Ed in a big crowd like this I just stand for a moment and listen because when I find that infectious laugh of his that always leads me straight to him. You know Ed doesn't sit on the bench. He gets in the game. He plays extra innings if necessary. He'll play any position where he's needed. He's always willing to serve, and when given his turn at bat he hits homeruns.
Ed served as Elizabeth Dole's campaign chairman in her successful 2002 Senate campaign, and Senator Dole was the first women ever elected to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina. In 2004 Ed became the first RNC chairman in 80 years to preside over Republicans winning the White House, House, and Senate, just like this year. But also, as RNC chairman, Ed insisted that we continue the very successful W Stands for Women outreach program that was started in 2000, and Ed was a big supporter of that program and even volunteered me to head it up. Ed was also a key advisor in the successful nomination processes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. He served as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia and served as counselor to the president in President Bush's, in the last eighteen months of President's Bush's term, and served as chairman of Bob McDonnell's 2009 campaign for the governor of Virginia.
When Ed was chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee, more Republicans were elected to state office than any time since 1928. And Ed also initiated, as chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee, a very successful initiative called Right Women Right Now, which recruited women to run for office all over the country and then help get them elected. Ed surprised the country in 2014 when he came within .8 of 1% of unseating Senator Mark Warner.
I was not surprised how close that race was because I knew that Ed had run a strong, inclusive campaign based on conservative principles, offering conservative solutions and policies. As a matter of fact, Ed was the only Senate candidate in 2014 to actually offer a replacement to Obamacare. As we all know, Ed is running for governor in 2017 and I know he'll wage a winning campaign based on conservative principles and policies that will help get Virginia's economy moving again. This May, right in the middle of the 2017 campaign, Ed and I will celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary. And Ed, you are the light and love of my life, and I know that if our son and two daughters were here with us tonight that they would want me to tell you how much they love you too. So I am so glad that I decided to play softball in 1985 and I am very proud to be able to present the award, the IWF Gentleman of Distinction Award, to you tonight.
Thank you, hun. That was a lovely introduction and I have to say I love conservative women who cherish free markets and personal liberty, but there is one I love more than all of the rest, and that is Cathy Gillespie.
Cathy mentioned that we met playing softball and I have to say when I was a younger man I was pretty fast, I had some pretty decent speed, and I could catch anything in the outfield, but obviously the best thing, the best catch I made on that softball team was one Cathy Gillespie.
I want to thank Heather Higgins and Sabrina Schaeffer and Carrie Lukas for having me here this evening. I am extremely honored to accept the IWF's Gentleman of Distinction Award. IWF is an effective and strong voice in making clear that in contrast to the liberal view, all issues are women's issues. And the policies IWF promotes, based on the principles of free markets and personal liberty, are good for our country. I have to say I feel a little bit like I'm on the Fox News show Outnumbered here, tonight. I'm #oneluckyguy to be honored along with Cheryl Bachelder and my longtime friend, Carly Fiorina, two women with incredible records of accomplishment in corporate America.
Because of our friendship, I know Carly's story pretty well and I know that when she was CEO of HP, her experience as an office assistant in a real estate firm was a formative one that in addition to her being a genuinely good person to begin with, contributed to her treating all HP employees with respect. Cheryl Bachelder is famous for caring not just about Popeye's franchisees, but for the fry cooks and counter servers at her restaurants. Concern for the wellbeing of the lowest-paid workers, rewarding hard work, providing skills training and opportunity for upward mobility are hallmarks of successful businesses. And they are also hallmarks of successful policies. Policies that are desperately needed right now, and very important for women who are more likely than men to work in hourly wage jobs and are hit hardest by wage stagnation.
In Virginia for every one woman who owns a small business, four women work in an hourly wage job. In fact two-thirds of working women in Virginia are paid by the hour: Women who work standing behind a counter in a uniform with their name stitched or pinned on their shirt. They work in assembly lines or in poultry plants or at hotel chains. They are salaried women who work in elementary schools and hospital wings and office parks. You know there are a lot more women working in Kmarts than in C-suites, and our policies best address their needs and concerns, the policies promoted by IWF best meet their needs and concerns.
So of course wages and jobs are a women's issue.
And in Virginia I have to tell you I'm very focused on that because our wage rates are low, our wage growth is lower, and has been since 2011, lower than the national average. Our economic growth rate last year in the commonwealth was an anemic 1.4% and that was the first time in five years that it got above 1%. The year before last, Virginia was 48th out of 50 states in the nation when it comes to economic growth. Virginia, bottom five. I know that's infuriating to all of the Virginians here tonight, like it is to me. Because when it comes to economic growth given our vast natural resources, our fertile lands, our port, our people, our colleges and universities, our natural beauty, our historic landmarks, our location, Virginia should be in the top five of states when it comes to economic growth – and we can be with the right policies. And those are policies based on the constitutional principles of limited effective government. Those policy's rates, take-home pay, help lift people out of poverty, create jobs. Policies like reforming and reducing taxes, repealing antiquated regulations, adapting our schools and colleges to the workforce needs of today and the future. We need to make it easier to open and grow a small business in Virginia, as we need to do all across the country.
And with the election results from a couple weeks ago, we'll start to see that more all across the country and we'll have a little tailwind behind us instead of a headwind in our face to start small businesses.
I grew up in a small business, the J&C Market. J&C were Jack and Connie, or as I knew them, mom and dad. In my family when you turned 12 years old you got a birthday cake, a present, and a four-hour shift at the J&C Market. And stocking the shelves and sweeping the floors, ringing up customers there, I learned a valuable work ethic that's served me well all my life.
We all know the worst thing about liberal policies is not just that they kill jobs: They risk destroying the American work ethic. And we know that there's not just economic value in labor. There is human dignity in work and we need more of our fellow Americans and our fellow Virginians to have that dignity.
A second women's issue I'd like to talk about briefly is education. I suspect everyone here believes as I do that the proper role of government is not to guarantee outcomes, but to guarantee a quality of opportunity. And if you believe that as I do then I'm sure you also agree that means we have to ensure that every child has access to a safe, quality public school. You know the first campaign I worked in was for a trailblazing candidate running to be the first woman ever elected to the school board in my hometown. She was a reformer whose surprise victory on election night shattered a glass ceiling. I was nine years old. The candidate was my mother, Connie Gillespie. So I was especially excited last week when President-elect Donald Trump named a real reformer to be Secretary of Education in Betsy DeVos. She knows that having these reforms are critically important for early childhood and from schools, high school to college. We need to shake things up and make sure that children have that opportunity. Sadly in Virginia, as in other states, thousands of students are trapped in failing schools. And I intend to tackle that by giving parents greater control over our children's education, including expanding access to charter schools and passing education savings accounts for parents. Because we know competition is good for everybody. Dell makes HP better. Chick-fil-A makes Popeye's stronger. And a little competition will make our public schools better and stronger for our children. And make them more likely to produce students who have the skills necessary to succeed in today's workforce and get good-paying jobs as high school graduates. That would party solve a skill shortage that so many employers face today, but it won't solve another major workforce problem.
The fact is that today too many job applicants cannot pass a drug screen. We have an addiction crisis in America today, and it is a significant women's issue. In Virginia we've seen a 30% increase since 2007 in female deaths due to opioid and heroin overdoses. In the ten years from 2004 to 2014, the last year we've got numbers for, the number of women in state and federal prisons increased nearly 8%, almost double the rate for men in that same time period. I recently spent a couple hours in the Chesterfield County Jail right outside of Richmond with a couple of dozen women inmates there who are dealing with their heroin addiction in a heroin addiction recovery program, a very innovative one. And I was so moved by my experience with them and inspired by them. One of the things we have to do, and Virginia and I will do, is to enact policies that address addiction recovery and mental health and make it easier for those women to reintegrate in society as productive members of it and live the IWF ideal of personal liberty. So jobs and wages, education reforms and the crisis of addiction – these are women's issues. And they are issues that are best addressed by the principles, and the problems solved by the principles of the IWF, principles of personal liberty and free markets that have made America a beacon of hope and opportunity that has drawn freedom-loving people to our shores for centuries.
My father was one of them. He came to this country as a boy from Ireland because his father, my grandfather, found work in America as a janitor at a big bank building in Philadelphia. He was a night janitor and when that bank closed he would go in after it closed, around 6:00 at night, and he'd start on the ground floor emptying the wastebaskets and mopping the floors, and over the course of an eight-hour shift, floor by floor by floor, he would work his way to the top story. And the last thing he would do would be to polish the big wooden conference table in the board room, get home around 2:45 in the morning on public transportation. My parents are two of the smartest people I've ever known. They did not go to college but they insisted that my brothers and sisters and I do, and we were first generation on either side of our family to get college degrees. I worked my way through school here at the Catholic University of America. One of my jobs in the morning was as a Senate parking lot attendant not far from here, parking the cars for the staff that worked in the big congressional office buildings a few blocks away. That led to an internship, which led to another job, which ultimately led to my becoming counselor to the President of the United States of America. From immigrant janitor to the West Wing of the White House in two generations’ time. What a country. What a country. My father left a country where if you were born poor, you died poor. Simple as that: For something completely different. America. America, where you start out in life does not determine where you end up in life….because of free markets and free people and the principles that IWF stands for every single day.
Thank you all for doing that, thank you for waging that fight, thank all of you here for supporting IWF in that effort. Because of these efforts we will continue to be a beacon of liberty in a land of opportunity. God bless you, God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia, God bless the United States of America. Thank you for this distinction and this honor this evening.