ANSWERING THE CALL FOR FREEDOM -- (House of Representatives - July 11, 2005)
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite) for her leadership on this issue and all the work that she is doing to assist women in the House in a bipartisan effort as she chairs the Women's Caucus, and working to serve as a role model for our colleagues and our friends in Afghanistan and Iraq, showing them how to take that leadership role, how to lead by doing and role modeling.
And I thank the gentlewoman for her work in that effort. And I also thank you for organizing this tonight and taking the leadership role in drawing our attention to Afghanistan and Iraq and the importance of women in those issues.
I had the opportunity to be a part of the CODEL in October of 2003 that was led by the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Pryce). It was an all-female CODEL. It was a bipartisan CODEL. And how exited we were to go and be a apart of what was going on there, to see firsthand what was taking place.
We were so touched with some of the women that we met in a women's center in Mosul, as they poured into a little house, hot tiny little house, cramped rooms, and talked with us through an interpreter about their hopes and their dreams. One of the things that struck us was that there was not a word that they used that translated into mentor.
And a word that is so important to us. So our delegation sat about explaining to these women that a mentor is different from a sister or a parent, it is more than a teacher, and how a mentor is someone that will walk with you and stand with you and go through all of the trials and the bumps and the starts of creating a place, a life, a spot for yourself. And what a wonderful lesson that was for us to realize how important it is to mentor and how important it is for us to realize how uniquely American it is for us to put our arms around mentoring and pulling up along with us those that we would seek to help and work with.
We have, as the gentlewoman from Illinois (Mrs. Biggert) was mentioning, brought some of the women with us here to be a part of what was going on in our Nation's great capital so that they could experience and live and have an idea of how we work in freedom and how democracy works and how we apply it each and every day in our lives. I have also had the opportunity to have some of them in Tennessee with me. We had them in Nashville at Vanderbilt University at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. And there they had the opportunity to meet with and talk with some of the members of our military, female officers and members who had been in Iraq, who had fought for their freedom. How wonderful to watch them say thank you.
This past March, I returned to Iraq, and I would like to share with you just a little bit of an update on a couple of women that we have mentored and have worked with over there. One has three children who are currently in school in the northern part of Iraq. They are in a village school there that actually has been put in place by a school in my district. It is a private endeavor. They are working with the local officials. The children are happy. They are excited, and they are learning. Each and every day, they learn a little bit more, not only about reading, writing and arithmetic as we like to say, but also about freedom, about democracy, and how to live and prosper and work in a free society. The elections were great for them. It was a lesson, a living lesson in democracy.
Another, in Tikrit, I had the opportunity to visit with when I returned there and visited with the troops, she came on post. What a wonderful reunion we had, and we celebrated the success that she and her colleagues had enjoyed during the election.
Mr. Speaker, it was wonderful to watch her reach out to the troops to say thank you; thank you for opening new doors, thank you for helping give a new life to me and my people.
Mr. Speaker, I had an e-mail from this young lady the other day. She said, I request your help, I am applying for a Fullbright scholarship. And she wanted a letter of recommendation. How exciting for me to take out a pen and paper and sit down and draft a letter talking about the tenacious spirit, the love of freedom that this young woman has displayed. How wonderful to know that once she, who could not even walk outside her door without fear of what may lie beyond that door with Saddam Hussein and his henchmen, she who helped carry out the elections in her province, that she now says, You know what, freedom brings the opportunity for education and I can apply for this scholarship. That is progress. It is progress of providing hope and opportunity and encouraging the human soul. How wonderful that that exists for these folks.
Just a couple of thoughts on the elections, Mr. Speaker, that I do want to touch on. I mentioned my friend there in Tikrit, and not only did I hear from her stories about the elections and some of the things that they did there, it was the women, as my colleague from Illinois was saying and also my colleague from Florida was saying, it was the women in Iraq who led the way to the voting booth, and how exciting that was for us. There were stories of how they hid people in ambulances and police cars, and they made their way along with first 10, then 20, and then 100. And then as the posters have shown, lines and lines of women who were coming to exercise that freedom.
Some of the emails from some of our Iraqi friends were so inspiring. A few little tidbits of those: We are voting with courage. We showed bravery and great strength. We showed brave hearts and blue fingers. We achieved our identity in front of a watching world, and then, to sum it up, saying thank you. Thank you to the best friend Iraq has ever had, the United States of America.
Mr. Speaker, they mean every word of that. They mean every single word. And I was thrilled on July 3rd and 4th as I opened my e-mails, as I went about my district celebrating this Nation's independence and freedom, that I had notes from these individuals, so many of these, congratulating me on living in America and congratulating America on having another independence day.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the opportunity to speak and to share, and I thank the gentlewoman from Florida for her time and effort in this.
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