Governor Kathy Hochul delivers remarks honoring Women’s History Month (Darren McGee- Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

Governor Hochul: “I want to thank all of you for being part of history, and I’m so proud to be your governor, but more importantly, proud to be a New Yorker in a state that understands if women don’t succeed and thrive in every area, than we will never reach our full potential as a state. So let’s unleash the power of women and it starts in rooms like this. Happy International Women’s Day.”

Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul hosted an International Women’s Day Breakfast Reception in the State Capitol. 

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:

Good morning and welcome on this International Women’s Day, an opportunity for us to gather, to share stories, to be surrounded by the incredible stories that you see emblazoned on these panels that tell the struggles of women through the history of New York State and will always be a huge point of pride for all of us, that the true fight for women’s equality began nowhere else, but in the great state of New York in Seneca Falls in 1848. I know you’ve all been there and we need to take our daughters there. And my future granddaughter, who’s due in six weeks, she’s going to be going there. Just had to slide that in, obviously I’m very proud.

This is a day to celebrate. It’s a day to look back in history and talk about, yes, the people who struggled, the women who had to face such adversity, who stood up against the tides of their time, regardless of what was going on, they marched forward. There were women who are sick and tired of being the property of men who said, yes, I have a voice that needs to be heard. That was literally century and a half ago, but they’re joined by other people, like-minded men who supported them. Let’s not forget that as well. 

People of color came together. People like Frederick Douglass, who appeared at the very first gathering in Seneca Falls in 1848 at a time, there were 300 people deciding whether or not they should push forward with the audacious idea that women should have the right to vote. It was actually Frederick Douglass who gave an impassioned speech calling for that right, as well.

So, let’s talk about and celebrate the journey we’ve been on. The journey to the right to vote. Yes, it happened in our state three years before most of the nation in 1917. Many of you gathered with us as we celebrated that spectacular day, the Centennial a few years ago, but then we marched forward and know that many women could not vote until the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s as well. Let’s put an exclamation point on that accomplishment.

And then we marched forward again. People like Shirley Chisholm, who – you don’t know this, you all think she’s from Brooklyn – she’s buried in Buffalo. I just wanted to get that out there. I used to see her when I was a young staffer on Capitol Hill and talk to her as she made her plane trips back and forth before she retired, but she married a gentleman from Buffalo and her final resting place is there.

As a young person, I was inspired by the stories through history, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony Lucretia Mott and countless others, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But I also think about that great history, where we are today, in the context of what we’re seeing, literally in this room. My friends, you are living history because we have made tremendous strides in the advancement of women, but also the number of women in significant positions. Women in my administration, for example, and I have over 25 top level women commissioners, and I said, I’m going to go out and pick out the best and the brightest.   

Raise your hand if you’re a commissioner, raise your hand women. There you are. There you are.   

I said, give me the best and the brightest, and that is what you see here. And I’m so proud of each and every one of you. And I also remember when I first took office and I moved into the Executive Mansion. I hadn’t realized there was a giant portrait of FDR over the mantle staring down at me with these very intense eyes – talk about the weight of history on me.   

And I came back to my team, I said, I want my own Frances Perkins. I want a woman in the administration who’s going to change the course of history by her brilliance and her compassion for lifting others up. So what you’re seeing in my administration are the modern day Frances Perkins, who are charting a different path for women as we go forward, so I’m so proud of them.  

But look at the progress we’ve made in the number of elected women, I love this, I love this. You know, I’ve been on this journey a long time. 27 years ago, I was the only woman on my town board. I got elected, I was the only woman in county office. There’s still no woman in county office where I come from. I went to Congress, only 20% of Congress at the time were women. And then I was the only statewide woman elected official as Lieutenant Governor. 

And then I would look at the legislature. I was like, where are all the women in the legislature? My friends, look at the difference between what we had just a couple of short years ago and the number of women who stepped up and said, I care about my community, I have passion in my heart, I want to run for office, despite all the slings and arrows that are out there.

And yes, they are sharp arrows, my friends, and this is not for the faint of heart, but shame on anyone who stands down because they don’t think they have the courage or the toughness, because I’m telling you, you do, you have that deep within you. And when you care about something so passionately and so deeply, you will step out and run, and deal with whatever comes your way because we are women and we are tough. 

And I know that for a fact, and I want to recognize, just look at our accomplishments. I mean, let’s start at the federal level. Did anybody notice it? Half of our senators are women. That would be Kirsten Gillibrand, okay. Half of our U.S. senators are women. And the fact that she’s not the first, I like that even better. I don’t want to be first anymore. I think we should just normalize the fact that women are in these top positions and Kirsten Gillibrand is a strong ally. What about the fact that half of our statewide elected officials are women? AndI was with our great Attorney General, Tish James, just yesterday talking about this great accomplish.

And yes, I’m very, very proud to be the first woman Governor in the State of New York, without a doubt, very proud. But our Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, what a trailblazer she was, what a trailblazer. And we said, sit down in a matter of days to work out a $216 billion budget, and she’s not the only woman in the room anymore. 

We’re going to outnumber the man. So let’s do that. We’re making some progress. She’s my hero. And how about our Majority Leader in the New York State Assembly? Crystal People-Stokes, Buffalo zone. Our state legislature, 40%, up from 31%, two years ago. I mean, that’s an extraordinary accomplishment and we got some more to go. We’re going to get some more up there. We’re coming at you. 

Even our City Council, those of you from New York City. When I was first elected, I said, how many women are on the city council out of 51, like nine or 12? Are you kidding me? It’s now 60% of the New York City Council. 

And my first and only appointment to the court of appeals, judge Shirley Troutman. A woman of great integrity. And I don’t know if she’s here today, we invited her, I’ll be at her swearing in very soon, but we’re so proud of her.

So I will say that this happens with intentionality, but also with great rationality. Because I want the most hardest working dedicated public servants around me, here. And I’m going to continue to lift up women who want to run for office. I will continue to sit down in faraway places across the state when a young woman who I think has incredible potential says, I’m not sure I want to run, what about my kids? What about this? 

And I say, no, no, no. I’m living proof. I ran when my kids were preschoolers. They still talk to me. You’re going to be okay. It’s going to all work out. And I also say, and I know there’s nothing more powerful than mom guilt, I mean, it’s strong. I still have it for missing Katie’s seventh birthday. I mean, she’s in her thirties now. We’ll get over that someday. 

But also I tell these women and I remind all of you, your job is not to raise children. It’s to raise adults. Adults with a sense that their mom can do anything, let them see you. So they know there’s no barriers for them. So that’s what we are all living. We are part of that living history of breaking down the barriers once and for all. So no one will ever question the ability of a woman to be the Attorney General of the State of New York or the Governor of the state of New York or any other position, because we have what it takes and we break the mold of how people have governed in the past.

Because, as I said before, we are tough, we are tenacious and don’t mess with us. We also have heart and you get that combination out there fighting for affordable childcare and education and taking care of our healthcare workers who’ve been through hell and back during this crisis. I’ve seen it in the eyes of nurses who are just so exhausted.

We connect with that. We have that sense of empathy. It’s in our DNA. And we’re going to continue fighting for gender equity throughout the state and in every environment we can and protecting women from harassment in the workplace. We’re going to make sure that every workplace is a place that people feel welcome, that they can be lifted up and live up to their full potential.

So I want to thank all of you for being part of history, and I’m so proud to be your governor, but more importantly, proud to be a New Yorker in a state that understands if women don’t succeed and thrive in every area, than we will never reach our full potential as a state. So let’s unleash the power of women and it starts in rooms like this. Happy International Women’s Day. Thank you!

I also want to acknowledge the host of all great events in Albany. And that is our Mayor, Kathy Sheehan. I want to thank her for everything she does. She’s wonderful. And I have to always just say, when people are saying, oh they’re mad at Albany for doing something. It’s not Kathy. It’s not the city. So don’t take it out on her.

And now I have the chance and the great honor of introducing our next speaker, and that is our Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is as tough as nails. And she has become a dear friend of mine because I admire strength in other women and she inspires me, and we work so closely together. 

And that is part of a whole new era for New York. Ladies and gentlemen, Majority Leader of the New York State Senate. Andrea Stuart-Cousins.

Governor Kathy Hochul delivers remarks honoring Women’s History Month (Darren McGee- Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)