A few years ago, I heard Gloria Steinem give a talk entitled "Leaps of Consciousness." The point that resonated most with me was the idea that it's time for this country to move from the Declaration of Independence toward a Declaration of Interdependence.
I've thought a lot about interdependence in the last few weeks, and it's clearer than ever that all of us on this planet will either swim, or sink, together. When we pollute the environment, we poison our grandchildren; when we stop working for peace we doom our neighbors to war. Each of us must embrace the responsibility we have to ourselves, and to each other, do what is right. One person really can make a difference, as we saw so clearly today with the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.
Lilly Ledbetter didn't have to take on this fight. She'll never recoup the wages and benefits she lost. Yet she spent ten years of her life to make sure that others will get a fair deal. She did it because it was the right thing to do.
As President Obama said, "Ultimately, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are -- and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals; whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something -- to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time."
Lilly Ledbetter and I have a mutual friend, the indefatigable and aptly named Sunny Goldberg. The proud "mama for Obama" corralled hundreds of Obama volunteers from 22 states onto an e-mail list that she used to keep thousands of people connected and motivated. As reporter Scot Kraus wrote in The Morning Call, "In a campaign that prided itself on using the latest in Internet organizing tools, Goldberg's effort was an old-school e-mail distribution list fueled mostly by her seemingly boundless energy."
I shared a well-earned glass of Champagne with Lilly and Sunny last week, at a reunion of members of the mailing list who had gathered in Washington for the inauguration. The two beaming moms, accompanied by their grown daughters, celebrated the end of a long battle and the beginning of a new day for the country. Neither of them started out to be an activist, but each stepped up and did what needed to be done, so that all of us could move forward.
To borrow from President Obama's words this morning, I know that if we stay focused, as Lilly did -- and keep standing for what's right, as Lilly did -- we can insure a better future for our world.