In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
- Julia Ward Howe, Mother's Day Proclamation, 1870
These words are from Julia Ward Howe, who called for a day in 1870 that carried a meaning different from the cards, flowers and chocolates we've come to associate with Mother's Day today (not that I mind the chocolates). After witnessing the devastating effects of the Civil War, Howe began what she called Mother's Day for Peace-a call to women across the globe to come together and bring an end to war.
This Mother's Day, Julia Ward Howe's call is particularly relevant, not just for mothers, but for all women, all men, all daughters, and all sons. We are in the midst of a war that has taken far too many of our most precious resources - our children. It is a war the American people have lost faith in and are ready to end. It is a failed policy, and we are ready for a new direction.
There are numerous reasons to end this war - the cost of lives and limbs, the cost in dollars, the cost to our reputation in the world, the cost to our military and National Guard - but it is as a mother, that I am most committed to ending this war, because war hits mothers in an especially painful and personal way. We cannot help but think of our fellow mothers as their young sons and daughters are sent off to war in Iraq - praying for their child's safety, anxiously awaiting a call, an e-mail, a letter - anything. The relief as their children return, or the utter devastation when their children never come home. We think too of the Iraqi mothers, who have lost their children, and whose children are growing up surrounded by warfare and destruction.
Women have always been the peacekeepers of our societies. When I became the first woman Speaker of the House this year, I was honored to assume this position and humbled by the responsibility it brought. Nothing in my life will ever compare to being a mother - not being a Member of Congress; not being Speaker of the House. But I am thankful that I have the opportunity to bring my experience as a mother to this position. When I traveled to the Middle East last month in search for diplomacy and peace, I was there as Speaker of the House. But I was also there as a mother, carrying Julia Ward Howe's message. When I cast my vote yesterday for an end to the war in Iraq, I did so as a Member of Congress. But my vote was also taken as a mother of five and grandmother of six. We will bring an end to this war because the world is not ours alone, but our children's as well. As the adage goes, we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. Let us heed the call of Julia Ward Howe and make this Mother's Day a Mother's Day for Peace, and as mothers, as daughters, and as families, bring an end to this war.
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