While searching for quotes about determination to use in a speech, I came across an excellent one by a woman named Senator Margaret Chase Smith. In 1949, Senator Smith became the first female to be elected to Senate in Maine; she was also the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress. When people questioned whether a woman could be a good Senator, Smith replied, in part,
It's a real challenge, and that's one of the paramount things. When people keep telling you that you can't do a thing, you kind of like to try it.
That kind of determination and courageous feminist spirit was rare for a woman to display so openly in the late 1940s. In fact, her bravery led her later to oppose Senator Joe McCarthy's communist witch hunts. After viewing McCarthy's documents, Smith felt very strongly that his allegations were baseless character assassinations and that he and his allies were creating an atmosphere of hatred and fear in politics that stifled free speech. She gave a 15-minute long speech on the senate floor, entitled, "Declaration of Conscience", in the presence of McCarthy and his allies. The speech was a phenomenal one, made more noteworthy by the fact that it took a woman to finally take a stand against McCarthyism. Her speech can be viewed in its entirety at the following link:
Here is an excerpt from her speech:
"Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:
- The right to criticize;
- The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
- The right to protest;
- The right of independent thought.
The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn't? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.
The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as "Communists" or "Fascists" by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others."
I can't help seeing a parallel to today's politics in which the word "socialist" is thrown around baselessly in an attempt to whip up fear and assassinate reputations.
While Sen. Smith naturally wanted to see her party defeat the democratic adminstration, she didn't want that victory to come at any price, stating that, "...to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear."
Sen. smith certainly would not approve of the tactics of today's GOP, which wrongly uses smears such as "socialist", "Marxist", "Kenyan", "Muslim" in an attempt to incite the masses and ensure victory at any price. I would have no problem voting for a woman like Senator Margaret Chase Smith. Unfortunately, she is dead.