It’s 9 a.m. on a sunny Thursday morning and the doors to a large room in the Charlotte Convention Center are opening. Dozens of excited women, a diverse crowd of many ages and colors, pour through the double doors, carrying signs that say “We make it possible” and sporting patriotic apparel of all kinds.
“Four more years!”
Chants like these are wafting into the convention room from the stairway outside the entrance. “Four more years! Four more years!”
Shania Twain’s “I Feel Like a Woman” is playing loudly on the speakers, blasting the music around the room and adding even more hype to the crowd.
“Feel free to dance if you want, ladies!” shouts a convention employee, and many ladies do.
This is the scene of the Women’s Caucus meeting on the last day of the 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte. This two-hour long meeting will feature a variety of speakers to inform about the role of the female in office and in America, and to inspire women to work hard and dream big.
As another hour goes by, more and more women scurry inside the room to find available seats. Many of them in large groups and some there alone. The time before the meeting officially starts is spent with excited women taking pictures of each other, more chanting and more dancing to songs like Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money” and Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.”
“Fired up…ready to go! Fired up…ready to go!” This is the chant now.
When a woman walks onto the stage to introduce the first speaker of the day, the room goes quiet. As a spectator studying the room I saw women holding hands, mothers and daughters smiling lovingly and even the female DNC volunteers captivated by the atmosphere.
If the purpose of this meeting is women empowerment, the electricity in the crowd proves that these women already know a thing or two about that.
The audience goes crazy when the first speaker walks on stage. Fran Drescher, an actress and activist, is best known for her role in the television series “The Nanny.”
Drescher speaks for 10 minutes about her experience battling uterine cancer and encouraging the crowd to start questioning their health, asking women to question what they are putting on their skin every day and what they are using to garden with, because the most toxic area around each woman is their home.
She then starts speaking about the changes that have been made in America to ensure that women and men have equal rights and compensation.
“No longer is it permitted for women to get 75 cents on the dollar. What was that all about?” says Drescher, causing a string of applause to erupt in the crowd.
The audience reacts even more when the next speaker begins, a crowd favorite of the whole meeting. Hilda Solis, the twenty-fifth United States Secretary of Labor and server in the Obama administration, introduces herself as the first Latina to hold this position.
Latinas all around the room shout their praise for Solis in Spanish. In her speech Solis thanks President Obama for giving her an opportunity like this, saying, “He gives me goosebumps.”
Solis makes sure to highlight powerful women who are devoted to their work as well as hardworking women devoted to providing for their families.
“We…honor women who work not only in the CEO offices at the top…but we also have to honor those women who tuck their kids in in the morning or late at night and then come here to clean the offices. You are our future. We don’t discriminate, we care about every one of you.”
After Solis exits the stage and a video is shown about a mother and her two daughters, a familiar face walk on stage, Lilly Ledbetter.
Ledbetter is known for her case against her employers for paying her male co-workers significantly less than what they paid Ledbetterr. Congress has since passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill signed into law by President Obama, which decreases the timely requirements for filing a discriminatory suit.
Ledbetter recalls the 4-and-a-half minute speech she gave to Congress in 2008 talking about her struggles with her employers.
“They was thinking about their mothers, they was thinking about their sisters,” says Ledbetter, describing how her speech brought tears to the eyes of many Congressmen.
“Forward, not back! Forward, not back!” These chants accompany Ledbetter as she exits the stage.
Another speaker slowly walks on stage, this time of the opposite gender.
Many people know the history of John Lewis. He was a Civil Rights activist and was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders in 1961. He participated in and helped plan the March on Washington in 1963 during Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. Lewis was even beaten for his beliefs many times, most famously in Birmingham.
Lewis’s purpose at the Women’s Caucus meeting was to discuss all theseevents in his life, and also to discuss the role of women’s equality.
“I remember my mother so well, my grandmother, my three sisters. They all worked very hard, from sunup for sundown, with very little pay. And I’m so glad and so proud that I was there to vote for that legislation, equal pay for women.”
When Lewis exited the stage, everyone knew who the next speakers were. The last two of the day, First Lady Michelle Obama and Joe Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden come in with extraordinary confidence and ease, as if they feel right at home in this room full of adoring women. The crowd goes crazy. The two give each other little introductory speeches, share a hug and then get right down to business.
“Everyone in this country has something successful and valuable to contribute,” says the First Lady. “There are women all over this country that are doing that work. Barack understands the challenges that women face…I think that has been made abundantly clear.”
Mrs. Obama reiterates, “There are no second-class citizens in our workplace.”
She continues to speak and it is apparent that she has the audience’s sole attention.
“Four more years,” says Mrs. Obama, calmly and serenely with a simple grin on her face.
“Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!” The crowd goes wild with chants to signify they want President Obama to spend four more years in office.
“Are you feeling fired up..are you feeling ready to go?,” she asks. “If you haven’t noticed I’m pretty fired up and ready to go myself.”
Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” plays loudly when Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden exit the stage. This is seemingly the perfect song to get the crowd going once again.
Around the room the the audience is applauding the many speakers they have just seen. Women are giving each other hugs. Even the DNC volunteers are dancing in the aisles where they have been assigned to stand.
It seems that all the women in the room have been moved by the many words of female empowerment this sunny Thursday morning.
I asked the woman beside me who she is here with.
“I’m here with my sister,” she answers.