LWV MN Gala Features "Firsts"
The League of Women Voters Minnesota had a fantastic gala on October 26 to celebrate the First Night of the next 100 years of LWV! Twelve women were honored this night - twelve "firsts". Their stories were inspirational. Here's a sampling of the stories we heard.
The evening started out with inspiring remarks by LWV Minnesota President Laura Helmer, left. In Laura's remarks, she talked about the ongoing need for LWV and the work we live for:
"Organizations that live to be 100 years old only do so because their purpose remains relevant - and the best way to illustrate the ongoing need for League is through sharing the stories of the women who are with us to speak tonight. Because each of these women, only within the last quarter of our century - and many only within the last 2 years! - have become “the first woman” to have a voice at the tables where decisions are made. Our founding president Clara Ueland emphasized, “The hardest lesson… is that it is not safe to leave government in the hands of one man or a group of men, and that one class cannot judge wisely or decide fairly for the whole.” Indeed, women’s voices are still under-represented today - in all sectors of governance. So, tonight’s speakers provide us with the reality that not only is our work still RELEVANT, it’s ESSENTIAL in order to insure that “We the People” means “ALL the people.” Their presence also provides us with true hope for our 2nd Century - because as you’ll hear, we are indeed making great progress toward a more fully inclusive democracy."
Each speaker talked about how they got to be the first in their field. Jennifer Carnahan shared that she was born in Seoul, South Korea, and abandoned by her unknown mother. She was adopted by wonderfully supportive parents in Minnesota, who raised her to not accept limits, citing times when she was told that she would not succeed. "Our dreams can be as big as we want them to be." Jennifer Carnahan is now the first Asian-American to head the Republican Party in Minnesota.
Toni Carter is the first African American to serve on a county board in Minnesota. She brought in a theme that was echoed across the evening - she said, "The important thing about being first is making sure that others are coming behind you." People who break through barriers to be "firsts" must make sure that the way is paved for others who are like them to follow.
Edwina Garcia is the first Latina elected to the Minnesota. She had a difficult father but her mother was strong, and taught young Edwina to believe in herself and stand up for what she believed. She believed that she could achieve, was encouraged by white mentors and teachers. She said, "To run for elected office, you have to have an ego big and tough enough that you can set it in the middle of the road and every dog and cat comes and [urinates] on it."
Maria Regan Gonzales, first Latina Mayor in Minnesota, echoed the need to make sure that others like you follow and step up.
Koahly Her, one of two Hmong American women elected to the Minnesota House in 2018 talked about the importance of LWV registering voters on campuses and at naturalization ceremonies. She also talked about the noticeable difference at the Capitol when men's rights were discussed versus women's rights.
Patricia Torres Rey, first Latina elected to the Minnesota Senate, said that the role of LWV is to wake up women in MN to vote, to run, to work with LWV. Now there are only two women of color in the MN Senate. We need to get reinvigorated to turn this around!
Anne McKeig is the first Native woman on the Minnesota Supreme Court, and on any Supreme Court in the US. She shared the story of when US Supreme Court Justice Sonja Sotomayor came to Minnesota and asked to visit Judge McKeig. Justice Sotomayor said she feels it is her duty to increase diversity on the Federal Bench.
Kim Norton, first woman mayor of Rochester, talked about how the skills she learned in LWV has helped her in her political life. The work that LWV does, to help women gain skills and confidence to run for office, has helped many to step up to leadership.
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