But when House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi spoke, she had nothing to say about the plight of women in the developing world except that their example could inspire American women in our struggle against oppression. “This is our moment,” said an impassioned Pelosi. The “moment” in question was created by congressional Republicans who are opposed to the federal government’s requiring religious organizations to fund birth control, and by Rush Limbaugh’s vulgar tirade against Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University reproductive-rights activist. Pelosi urged her American sisters to “have the courage of the suffragists and all that they did . . . and of the women who took part in the Arab Spring.” Expect the worst, she warned. “Whatever the arena is, it is stacked against us.” Her interviewer, journalist Pat Mitchell, concurred and described the current environment in the United States as a “nightmare.”
Over and over again, the conference morphed into a super-charged political rally for the reelection of Barack Obama. Prominent American Democrats stole the show from the valiant unknowns battling violent oppression of women in far-off lands. Beside Pelosi, speakers included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, U.S. ambassador on global women’s issues Melanne Verveer, State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills, and former Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman, now president of the Woodrow Wilson Center. Harman quipped that that there is no glass ceiling — “just a thick layer of men.” The image so delighted the audience that she said it again the next day.