SPEECH AT THE 2019 WOMEN'S MARCH
My name is Lucero Wiley, and I am a first generation immigrant. One of the reasons why I am here today is because of the 2017 Women’s March and the #metoo movement, which inspired hundreds of women to run, millions more to vote, and dozens to win elected office. This march marks two years of resistance to the Trump presidency, two years of training new activists, and two years of building power. And this is why I, an immigrant from Mexico, am standing here today, running for State Senate District 13.
However, I can also tell you that me being able to be here today did not come without its share of heartbreak, glass ceilings, and systematic bias on the basis on race and gender. Just to set the stage lets go back in time and take a look at how the world was for women only 70 years ago. I am sure most of you have seen the facebook posts and memes about the actual excerpts of the 1950’s high school economics textbook or the good house manual. Our responsibility was to have dinner waiting for our husband when he arrived from work. To prepare the children. Make him comfortable. Minimize all noise. Listen to him, since even if you have a dozen things to say, the moment of his arrival is not the time to talk. Try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his need to unwind and relax. Never complain… now lets allow that last one to sink in: never complain.
What does this mean? To be quiet. To always resist. To always condone. This means that in the not so distant past we didn’t have a voice, let alone the right to vote!
The role of women was clearly defined, we were meant to be home makers and make our husbands happy. But lucky for us 1970 hit and the women's movement officially began. That decade was a game changer as we were challenging these traditional roles and rules, and entered the workforce. Do you know that it wasn’t until 1974 that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed to allow women to apply for individual credit cards without needing a man to cosign? Could you imagine not being able to have a credit card unless your husband or your father approved?
The world looks much different today for women… and men. We are at a point in time when women are more financially formidable than ever before since today:
• 44% of women are their family's primary breadwinner.
• 50% are employed in management or professional occupations.
• We currently control $14 trillion of wealth - greater than the GDPs of China and India combined
• Women exercise primary or joint decision making control over a purse worth $11.2T
• And by 2020, women will control $22 trillion of wealth in the United States
But even though we are still seeing momentum in the rising power of women and journey to equality, As women, we face tough choices every day. You know the rules are basically as follows:
• If you don’t get married and have children, you’re abnormal.
• If you get married and have children, but work outside the home, you’re selfish and a bad mother.
• Now If you get married and have children, but stay home, you’ve wasted your education.
• And god forbids you have been married and get divorced then something must be wrong with you.
So you see, if you listen to all the people who make these rules, you might just conclude that the safest thing to do when something does not go as planned is to take your degree and crawl under your bed. But let me share something about my personal story with you.
The story of my life is the story of things not always going as planned. Of pain and heartbreak, but also of growth and transformation. I was raised by a single mother, lost my father early in life, have seen how addiction can destroy a family, and have faced discrimination and racial profiling in my own skin. I am a divorced woman in my 30s who is also a survivor of abuse and domestic violence… I know what it is like to be afraid of your own spouse, to be told that you are not enough, and to have to leave your house in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes that you have on… I know what loss feels like, and can understand every person that has been bullied, that has been discriminated, that has been abused, that has been humilioated, that has been divorced, that has been judged… I know how you feel like because “I am you”..
I’ve found that none of us lives a facebook life, and that at the end of the day tragedies do not define us but rather help us find our own strength and who we truly are. Pain can be seen as an opportunity to grow. To become a better person. We can take our pain and choose to do something beautiful with it: to let go, to start over, to fight to build a better world, and to let it become a symbol of hope. I believe that we are not what happened to us, but rather what we choose to become. So I decided to learn from my past experiences and help others, because I choose to be a fighter, not a victim: and I proudly stand here today, because this is what an immigrant, a Mexican, a domestic violence victim looks like.
As a first generation immigrant I had to fight for rights that other people were born with like the right to work in this country and the right to vote… as a woman in the financial industry, I have fought every day to prove my value and that I am deserving of the opportunities that I’ve been given and that they were not just the result of affirmative action, as some of my male counterparts are quick to assume. As a victim of abuse and domestic violence I have struggled with my own worth because I know what it’s like to be told that you are not enough… I know what its like to not have a seat on the table, and this is why I am fighting for one.
So I am here, running for the Virginia State Senate because I want to fight for the people of Virginia as hard as I have fought for myself. Because I believe that people are more important than colors and hats and when we are talking about families and their quality of life there is no time for parties and politics. We need representation that mirrors Virginia’s demographics and that cares about the things that matter the most like workplace, marriage and social equality; compassionate immigration policies; environmental protection and renewable energies; new collar jobs and workforce development; strong education funding and small class sizes; violence prevention at home and in our communities; economic opportunities for everyone regardless of who you are, where you come from or who you love….
This is why I am here. I’m running not just so there is another immigrant’s voice at the table in the State Senate. I’m running because we need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. When we have more female representation in Richmond and disrupt business as usual we do things like expand Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians. In 2017 we elected 11 amazing women to the House of Delegates and brought healthcare to those who needed it the most, now imagine what we could do if we elected 11 women to the senate in 2019!
I will fight to make Virginia a place for all of us. And I ask that you join me and help give a voice to those who need it most. We need a candidate that represents our broad diversity, our belief in this state’s and this nation’s possibility, and who has an understanding of the obstacles that so many of us face. So join us. Volunteer, donate, but more importantly, go out and vote this June and let your voices be heard.
It's time to march again!
The #WomensWave is coming, and we’re sweeping the world forward with us.