On April 11, Nicole Lynch, our spring intern, gave a speech to those gathered in the First Floor Rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol Building for a rally in support of ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Below is an edited transcript of Nicole’s remarks.
Thank you. It is an honor to be here today.
My name is Nicole Lynch, and I am an intern at Empower Missouri. I am currently a master of social work student at the University of Missouri- Columbia. For the past four months I have been interning full-time at Empower Missouri to fulfill the final requirements of my MSW degree. My time at Empower Missouri has been truly life-changing, as I’ve found a passion in advocating for vulnerable populations in public policy.
So, if you’re anything like me, then you’re probably wondering, “How did an intern end-up on stage talking about the ERA?”
Well, let me tell you a little story:
This past Monday I planned to spend the morning writing this speech that I’m giving to you now. It was a beautiful day and I wanted to enjoy time outside with my dog. So I took my iced coffee, my dog, and my laptop, and went out to the dog park. Not long after I arrived, a woman in her late 70s entered the park. She walked over to me, sat down at my bench where I was working, and initiated conversation.
She told me a story about how, just yesterday, she found a bird’s nest with five eggs on the ground, and asked if I would like to go see them. As we walked across the park together she asked what I was writing about. I told her about this ERA rally and shared that I had been asked to speak. Immediately, she stopped walking, looked up at me and said, “oooh Babygirl! We’ve come a long ways!”
We got to the area where she remembered finding the birds’ nest. But to neither of our surprise, the eggs were gone (this is a dog park, after all). So she said to me, “You know, back in the day women were often defenseless. Just like those vulnerable eggs, we didn’t have the arms or legs to fight for ourselves. We were expected to sit around waiting for a man to come save us.”
It was in that moment that I realized how I ended up here on this stage today.
I am able to stand here today because of the tireless work of generations of ERA advocates before me. As a young activist, I am able to join this fight with privileges that millions of women before me did not have. And as a young, queer woman who was raised by a strong single mother, I have never had to sit around waiting for a man to come and save me.
So I am here today to say, “Thank you”. Thank you to those who fought for our voice, our vote, and our place in this world. Thank you for the work you have done in the fight for gender equality. Your efforts have empowered millions of young women across the country.
I also think it is important to share with other young people that this fight is not over yet. It is 2019, and women are still not seen as equal in the eyes of the law. Now is the time to get involved; we need your voice! Because in a world of toxic masculinity, violence against women, “locker room talk”, and a gender pay gap, we must continue to fight for the ratification of the ERA.
So, to the woman in the dog park this past Monday- You were right, we have come so far… and we will not lose sight of how far we can go. We will not sit down, we will not be quiet, and we will ratify the ERA.