Independent Women’s Forum

March 13, 2018

Women's History Month Celebration
The Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC


Carrie Lukas • President, Independent Women's Forum
Heather R. Higgins • Chairman, Independent Women's Forum
Senator Joni Ernst • Iowa
Vice President Mike Pence


Carrie Lukas:

Welcome.  Thank you so much for being here tonight.  My name is Carrie Lukas and I’m president of Independent Women’s Forum.  And we are here tonight to celebrate Women’s History Month.  

It is a tremendous feeling to look out at this crowd knowing I am in the room with so many talented and impressive women.  And we are thrilled to have the vice president of the United States joining us tonight.  And we thank this administration for making all women a priority. 

At IWF we focus on advancing policies that truly encourage women’s progress and create a stronger country with better opportunities for all.  We aren’t a group that hijacks women’s interests in service of a Leftist agenda.  IWF works to elevate all women and celebrate how far women have come in all aspects of life.  And one of the ways we do this is through our Modern Feminist series. 

Back in 2012 we recognized that there were so many amazing women on the political Right who were often overlooked by the media.  We wanted to make sure their stories were told.  And that’s exactly what IWF has been doing.  IWF’s cultural director, Charlotte Hayes, has profiled 46 women for this series and many of them are in the room today.  Charlotte simply has the perfect voice for this.  She not only describes these women’s successes and impact on their communities and country, but she reminds us that each one is a unique individual who has overcome obstacles to get to where she is today.  And these stories of women achieving to the many different forms that success takes today as community leaders, thinkers, businesswomen, political activists, entrepreneurs and mothers.  Together they tell an important story about women and our country and all that is possible today. 

Now I am proud to introduce Heather Higgins, chairman of IWF and CEO of our sister organization, Independent Women’s Voice.  Heather is going to welcome Senator Joni Ernst and we are also excited to say that Senator Ernst will be profiled as our next modern feminist.  So thank you.  Heather.


Heather Higgins:

Thank you so much.  In addition to being so pleased to have the vice president here today, we are thrilled that Senator Joni Ernst is able to be with us.  Joni Ernst is a leader in the Senate on agricultural policies but also on workplace issues, and as many of you are familiar, paid leave is one of those – something that is of particular interest to IWF that has a very innovative approach for taking Social Security and applying those funds to allowing women to have real freedom in their paid leave options.  So, we are thrilled that she is able to join us here and that she is also a leader in the Armed Services arena, having 23 years of experience herself in that field.  So, we welcome to the stage Joni Ernst, mother, grandmother by acquisition, and leader of the Senate, Joni Ernst.


Joni Ernst:

Oh my gosh, what a crowd!  I love it!  Thank you for coming out tonight.  It is great to be with all of you this evening and Heather and Carrie of course.  Thank you for that warm welcome. 

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I would be remiss not to recognize IWF’s outstanding contributions to our society.  So, thanks to all of you for what you do.  This group of diverse women has been doing important work for quite some time now, and I am so grateful for IWF’s efforts. 

For those of you who I haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet, my name is Joni Ernst and I have the great honor and pleasure of serving as Iowa’s Junior Senator.  I grew up.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  I grew up on a farm in rural southwest Iowa, very sparsely populated.  In college I joined the Army ROTC program.  Thank you my Marine friends.  I appreciate it.  And eventually I joined the Army National Guard back in my home state of Iowa.  And while serving overseas in Iraq, I often spoke with my young soldiers about the four pillars that really helped me excel through my years, whether it was civilian career or in the military. 

And those four pillars or guiding principles that I always strive for, they include one, assuming risk, getting outside of that bubble of comfort.  We all know if we don’t assume risk we will never move forward. 

The second thing is leadership and understanding what a true leader is.  It’s not someone that wears a title or a rank, it is someone who inspires others to follow them.  That’s what a leader is. 

The third thing is service.  Service to your community, service to your country, which can be done in so many different ways from something so simple as donating blood to raising your right hand to swear and uphold the Constitution. 

Now the final thing, one of the most important things to me, is to always have an attitude of gratefulness.  And for all of you I am extremely grateful. 

So these pillars ultimately helped guide me to my decision to become involved in another form of public service.  And through that I have gained the opportunity to serve the great state of Iowa in the United States Senate and it is such a pleasure for me.  And in those wonderful opportunities through serving in the Senate, I have a chance to work with wonderful organizations like yours and get to know so many women and men on both sides of the aisle, including my friends and our Vice President Mike Pence and our Second Lady, Karen Pence, who unfortunately can’t be with us this evening. 

But one of the things that I appreciate the most about our vice president is his support and belief in strong families.  And as we all know here, strong women like Karen Pence make those strong families.  So let’s give her a round of applause.  Now I have always had the utmost respect for our vice president and we do actually have a few things in common.  So, you know, we were both taught that ordinary folks like us can have some truly extraordinary opportunities and that’s how I ended up here tonight.  Our families showed us that you don’t need to come from wealth or privilege to make a difference.  You just need the freedom to dream big, and I mean big, folks.  You have to dream big where I’m from.  And, of course, a whole lot of hard work.  Very important. 

And of course, just on a side note, you heard the motorcycles as the escort was coming up, so another thing we have in common is that the vice president and I both ride Harley-Davidsons.  So, I’m thinking – I’m thinking if we get out of here on time and beat the Secret Service out, we might actually grab a couple of those motorcycles and go for a spin.  Yeah, I don’t think they’ll let me do that. 

I have also been so fortunate, really, to see firsthand what a phenomenal leader and trusted friend our vice president is.  And folks, this is something pretty extraordinary, but every week that the vice president is in town here in Washington, D.C., he comes to the capital and he has lunch with the Republican senators.  Folks, every week.  Every single week.  And I hope you understand the kind of effort it takes for the vice president to come have a simple meal with us.  It is an extraordinary effort, but he does it because he truly does care about the people that he serves.  And that means a lot to me, again, an attitude of gratefulness.  And that is Mike Pence.  He cares.  He listens to what we have to say and we work through the ideas together.  We talk about them.  He keeps the lines of communication open, which is really important, and it’s not entirely surprising because many of you may not have known, but he did have his own syndicated radio show and talk radio show nonetheless, in Indiana for several years before he started serving in Congress.  He is incredibly well-rounded, having served in Congress and as a governor and he is a great Conservative.  And he brings that experience with him as he travels around the country and provides support, counsel and advice, not only to me, but other elected officials at every level of government across the country.  And I tell you what, he is very effective on the campaign trail as well.  And we thank him for that.  He understands that whether it is at the local, state, or national level, we must encourage and support future generations, women and men, to be a part of the process. 

So remember, assume risk, demonstrate leadership, provide service, and always have an attitude of gratefulness.  Our vice president is someone who embodies all four of these pillars.  He is a fine example for all of us through and through.  He is a strong Conservative, an outstanding leader, a wonderful family man, and a Christian.  And it is my great honor to introduce our vice president, Vice President Mike Pence.


Vice President Mike Pence:

Thank you Senator Joni Ernst, everybody.  So honored by her friendship, so grateful for her leadership.  She has served our nation in uniform and now she serves as one of the most influential leaders in the United States Senate.  Join me in giving her another round of applause, will you? 

It is a delight to be with all of you today at the Independent Women’s Forum in the midst of Women’s History Month.  I want to thank Carrie Lukas and Heather Higgins, all our distinguished guests, friends and leaders.  It is an honor to be with you today as we celebrate Women’s History Month because women have been making history since before this nation was founded, and they’re making it more today.  And all of you gathered here today, all the women leaders today, and all of those that are gathered in support of this great organization, I bring greetings.  I bring greetings from another leader who is fighting tirelessly to expand opportunities and improve the lives of the American people, especially America’s women, I bring you greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  It is great to be here in the midst of this historic month. 

You know the roots of Women’s History Month stretch back more than 100 years when the world celebrated the first International Women’s Day in 1911.  In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8th National Women’s History Week.  Seven years later, National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned the Congress to mark the entire month of March as a month that we would remember the extraordinary contributions that women have made to the life of this nation.  And while the roots of this month stretch back more than a century, they are bearing fruit all the way through today, inspiring leaders in our time. 

And I am especially proud to remember the distinguished and accomplished women who serve in the midst of our administration, like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.  For someone who built a small business of her own and now is helping small businesses all across America grow, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon.  And as we prepare to work with the Congress to rebuild America’s roads and bridges and ports and infrastructure, I couldn’t be more proud to be serving alongside the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao.  And as we see the great progress that we are making securing the homeland, I have to tell you having served with her in a different capacity in the West Wing, the president and I couldn’t be more proud to have Kirstjen Nielsen as the Secretary of Homeland Security.  There is the Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, the Head of the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Seema Verma, from Indiana, our U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza, and do I even need to mention the Ambassador to the United Nations for the United States of America, Nikki Haley.  That is an incredible group of accomplished women leaders and they are making a difference in the life of this administration and the life of this nation every day. 

Which is not to mention the great team that we have working in the West Wing, like Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Mercedes Schlapp, Kellyanne Conway, and how about a great champion of a cause the Independent Women’s Forum has taken to the national level, Ivanka Trump, a woman inspiring the country and making a difference in this administration and for women and families all across America. 

And before I leave references to our administration, I hope you all notice just this morning President Trump announced his plans to nominate the first woman to serve as director – let me try that again.  I am very excited about it, because I know Gina real well, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.  President Trump announced that he will nominate the first woman to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Gina Haspel is stepping up to lead our nation in this time of war. 

And our administration is proud of all of the women leaders who serve in our midst and the difference that they make in the life of this nation.  And we are proud to continue the tradition in celebrating Women’s History Month with all of you, paying tribute to all the women who have shaped our culture, our economy, our national life from the earliest days of this nation, and, as I said at the outset, well before this nation was founded. 

You know, I was just walking through the rotunda and I had a chance to visit with a few American families that were here on spring break.  And I looked at the portraits that surround the rotunda and I pointed out to them that four of those portraits mark the four most important moments during the Revolutionary period.  Senator Ernst knows whereof I speak.  I used to, when I was a member of Congress, I used to love to give tours of the capital.  There’s the signing of the Declaration of Independence, there is the Battle of Yorktown, and the like.  But on the other side of the rotunda, there was four moments that recount what our Founders thought were the most important moments in the nearly 200 years of history on this continent where Americans created history, men and women in America created extraordinary history long before our nation’s founding.  And today in Women’s History Month we really do remember the long-term contributions of people who have come here who have held up freedom’s beacon high. 

A few weeks ago, President Trump was proud to sign a proclamation commemorating this month, saying in his words, “Since America’s founding women have played an integral part in America’s innovation and productivity.”  And the president said in well-chosen words, “Our history is rich with amazing stories of strong, courageous and brilliant women.”  And we are writing that story every day. 

This may be a month when we will remember women’s history in America, but the truth is that women in America are making history every single day. 

Today, as ever before, it is women who make America work.  Women are graduating from college and getting advanced degrees in record numbers today.  They’re driving our economy through entrepreneurship and innovation as never before.  Women are passing on to the next generation the values that make America great every day in countless ways.  American women are forging a brighter future for all who are blessed to call this nation home. 

So let me take an opportunity to thank all of you for being here, to thank the organizations represented here, for your tireless efforts to support and advance the cause of American women at every level.  In particular, I want to thank our host, an organization I have been familiar with for a long time.  For the past 26 years, the Independent Women’s Forum has been speaking out on behalf of women all across the nation, promoting the truth that free markets and individual freedom are the foundation of success for women and for every American.  Join me in thanking the Independent Women’s Forum for great leadership and a job well done.  And let me say to Carrie and Heather and all of you great enthusiastic supporters of the Independent Women’s Forum that you have a friend.  You have a friend in the White House. 

The truth of the matter is this is an administration that is fighting for American women and for Americans of every background and experience every single day.  As the Independent Women’s Forum likes to say, President Trump and I believe, that at its core all issues are women’s issues.  Strong families, good schools, a growing and dynamic economy are keys to empowering American women to live up to their God-given potential and we are going to continue to fight for those opportunities each and every day.  Since day one of this administration we have been fighting to support America’s families, strengthen our schools and unleash the boundless potential of the American economy.  I am proud to report working with great leaders in the Congress like Senator Joni Ernst, this president has actually signed legislation to repeal 22 federal regulations for every new federal rule put in the code of the Federal Register. 

President Trump has actually signed more bills repealing federal red tape than any president in American history.  Working with the Congress we have released American energy, we took America out of the disastrous Paris climate accord, we opened up opportunities to develop American energy that powers the American economy and working with these great Republican majorities in the House and Senate, right before Christmas President Trump signed the largest tax cuts and tax reform in American history.  And it has powered an American comeback.  It is amazing to think about.  Three million new jobs created since inauguration day.  The American economy is roaring back.  I don’t know if the rest of you noticed it, but just last month alone, the new jobs report came out Friday, 313,000 new jobs created.  That’s a record for nearly decades of job creation in America, and we are just getting started. 

A growing economy is great news for every American but it is especially great news for women in the workforce in this country.  Nearly 40% of entrepreneurs in America today are women and for them and for all job creators, the actions that President Trump has been taking with strong partners in Congress are making growing a business easier than ever before. 

For all we have accomplished, President Trump, he looks at what we did all last year, and judicial appointments, and men and women appointed in record numbers to the Court of Appeals.  This president and this Senate confirmed more Court of Appeals judges in a single year than any president in American history.  Conservatives all, and we couldn’t be more proud of the men and women that we are appointing to our courts in a very real sense, restoring constitutional fealty back to the courts of the land.  But for all that we have done for the economy and for the courts, for all that we have done to rebuild our military and have America standing tall in the world again, that is just what President Trump calls a good start. 

And let me assure you we will continue to work with members of Congress to keep this economy moving again and keep expanding opportunities for the women and men of this country.  First and foremost, we are going to stand with our heroes and in just a few short weeks I am proud to report that President Trump, with the strong support of Senator Ernst and our majorities in the Congress of the United States, President Trump is going to sign the largest increase in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan.  We are incredibly proud of our Armed Forces. 

I have to tell you, as the proud father of a United States Marine – settle – I couldn’t be more proud of the men and women that have stepped forward to serve.  It’s important to note today, just like the extraordinary woman who introduced me and wore the uniform of the United States, today more than 212,000 women are active duty members of the Armed Forces of the United States.  And we are going to continue to expand opportunities here at home. 

I mentioned that infrastructure bill, we are going to work with the Congress to expand opportunities for infrastructure.  You know, roads mean jobs.  When the president and I talk about that we don’t just mean road jobs, we mean that it is going to create arteries of commerce.  It will create opportunities for business leaders, women and men all across this country. 

And we are going to continue to fight for real education reform.  As you hear our Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, we are going to continue to fight for the principle that every parent in America should be able to choose where their children go to school. 

Let me take this opportunity also to thank the Independent Women’s Forum for your leadership on an issue affecting women in the workforce and affecting families.  Your scholars have played a vital role in raising awareness about the challenges facing working parents.  Your research and proposals have brought forward a Republican proposal, a Conservative proposal, and we are going to deliver paid family leave to working families and working women in America.  I’m grateful to this organization for your efforts in that regard and we will be working with you to make that.  It is a part of our budget, Ivanka Trump has been a champion of this and we are grateful for the thought leaders here at the Independent Women’s Forum as you work toward that end. 

In the days ahead our administration can continue.  We are going to continue to work to expand opportunities for every American and for women across this country.  We will continue also paying tribute to the extraordinary women who have helped define America’s history.  We think of patriots like Mary Katherine Goddard who actually printed the second copy of the Declaration of Independence in the midst of our Revolutionary War.  We think of heroes like Harriet Tubman who risked her life to escape the bondage of slavery and then helped hundreds of other fellow Americans do the same through the Underground Railroad.  We think of pioneers like Susan B. Anthony who fought tirelessly not only to secure the women’s right to vote, but to stand up, stand up for the unalienable right to life in the course of her life and career. 

But it is not just women in history that we celebrate.  We celebrate women who are leading in America today, like Senator Joni Ernst, like Senator Deb Fisher, like Senator Shelley Moore Capito and in the House of Representatives there is Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the Republican leadership.  And Congresswoman Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, Kristi Noem, Jennifer Gonzalez, Martha McSally, Mia Love and Liz Cheney, just to name a few, a rising generation of women leaders in America.  We’re proud of all of them. 

And it is not just in Washington, D.C., as a former governor, I couldn’t be more proud to call friends and colleagues Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Kim Reynolds, Governor Kay Ivey and Governor Susana Martinez.  Heroes in public life are one thing, but we have to commend all the women who are heroes each and every day, in businesses, in our communities, in our homes across this nation.  It’s the women of America who in a real sense throughout our history have lifted our communities, have lifted our families, have lifted our nation.  And they have built businesses, they have built communities, they have helped build families into this extraordinary fabric that we call American life. 

So in this month we want to celebrate.  We want to celebrate all that women have accomplished in the life of this nation.  But we also want to rededicate ourselves to continue to expand opportunities for women in this country. 

You know, I speak to you now not as your vice president but as, and not just the proud father of a United States Marine but the especially proud dad of two extraordinarily strong and independent young women, my daughters.  My daughter, Charlotte, is a writer.  She lives on the West Coast and you will probably be hearing more about her writing in the days ahead.  And my daughter, Audrey, is up at a law school up in Connecticut and doing real well in her first year and I couldn’t be more proud.  I couldn’t be more proud of them and I also couldn’t be more proud of the extraordinary woman that helped to raise them, the Second Lady of the United States.  And that is the reason why we have raised two girls who are career-minded and grounded in their lives and accomplished things that we’d only dream of at that age in our lives because they were raised by a professional woman themselves.  My wife, Karen, paid her way through college.  She rolled her sleeves up.  After finishing with high marks in high school she went off, got some scholarships, worked some part-time jobs and worked her way through school, and just wanted to be a school teacher.  She got her master’s degree under her belt real quick, and then she taught second grade, and then she was an art teacher.  Spent more than 20 years on and off in the classroom, and I think it’s still where she is happiest today.  The truth is that other than the time that she took to be at home to raise our kids, and I just think her time as a professional helped shape our kids because they saw who she was.  They saw her commitment to the children in her classrooms and the impact that she made in those children’s lives.  And that really is the inspiration.  That is the inspiration that shaped the lives of my daughters and that shaped the lives of America’s daughters throughout our history, and it will continue to shape them.  And that influence, I truly believe it is reflective of all that is best about this country and all that is best about American women. 

So, let me just say on behalf of the president of the United States, and on behalf of your vice president, on behalf of our families and our administration, thank you to all of you for celebrating Women’s History Month.  Thank you to the Independent Women’s Forum for working every single day to continue to expand opportunities for America’s women.  Continue to do more, to accomplish more.  I truly do believe, I truly do believe that for all the contributions that America’s women have made, through the long and storied history of this country, the women of this country have only just begun to make a difference in the greatest nation on Earth.  So, thank you, God bless you in this Women’s History Month, and God bless the United States of America.