ERNST: We are a better nation because of the contributions of women in all walks of life, fields of service, and in both chambers of Congress

“It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to come to the floor today to recognize the courageous and determined women behind the women’s suffrage movement.

“These trailblazing women, and countless more like them, paved the way for women in my home state of Iowa and across the nation to have the right to vote.

“They forged a path for women like me, and all of my absolutely remarkable female colleagues joining me here on the Senate floor today.

“On this 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, it is easy to think of these courageous women as institutions and visions of strength and perseverance. And that is absolutely what those women are.

“But they were also once young girls and young women, seeking to understand the answer to simple questions like ‘Why can’t my mother vote in an election? Why can’t I pursue my dreams?’

“All too often, the response back then to these question was to simply tell women that politics and government were too complicated or important for our gender to have a role in it. ‘Best leave it to the men to figure out these tough matters.’ That’s what they would say.

“I think the 127 women in Congress this year would have something very different to say about that.

“To be honest, I don’t know if the suffragettes completely understood the tremendous impact their efforts would have, now a century later.

“They secured more than just the right to vote. The passage of the 19th Amendment has led to immeasurable progress in the fight for women’s equality on all fronts.

“I see their spirit in the girls and women, young and old, I meet each and every day in my job as a United States Senator.

“I was recently at a women’s networking event where General Jennifer Walter, the first female Iowa Air Guard general in the Iowa National Guard, talked about her career options when she graduated high school over four decades ago.

“They were very limited to say the least. She could be a typist or work in a clerking job in the Air Force, or she could be a nurse. Those were the options that were open to her. But General Walter is not one to be boxed in. She decided to forge her own path forward.

“That led her to the Air National Guard – first in Kansas, and then in my home state of Iowa.

“There were still plenty of obstacles. But she was unwavering. Walter was going to prove that she belonged and  that she could reach her full potential.

“Even in my own life I have benefited from the hard work and the commitment of these women trailblazers.

“That’s especially clear when I look back on my 23 years of service in the Army Reserve and the Iowa Army National Guard.

“When I joined the service after college, there were no opportunities for women in combat. By 2003, I was a company commander leading supply convoys in combat zones in Iraq. Like me, hundreds of women were serving the cause of freedom, and some even paying the ultimate price for our nation. Yet women could not even formally serve in combat fields or occupations until 2013.

“Now, I look at my daughter, Libby, as she prepares to enter her second year at West Point, and she also considers entering combat arms.

“She has so many opportunities ahead of her because of the strong women that came before her.

“It’s truly an honor to be in the company of so many remarkable women on the Senate floor today to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

“And it’s all the more fitting that we do so during a time when there are more women serving in the United States Senate than any other time in history.

“We come from every imaginable background, and from every corner of our great and beautiful country.

“I will continue to challenge every young one of our young women today who is contemplating serving our country in government, in armed services, to say yes and jump into that arena.

“We are a better nation because of the contributions of women in all walks of life, fields of service, and in both chambers of Congress.

“Thank you Mr. President. Again, my great thanks to Senator Susan Collins and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California for the opportunity to speak today. And thank you, Mr. President, I will now yield the floor.”