About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks National Conversations on Rights and Justice: "Women's Rights and Gender Equality"

National Archives at New York–New York, NY
October 21, 2016

Good morning!

Welcome to our third National Conversation on Rights and Justice.

In 2014, I attended a Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The summit brought four U.S. presidents, civil rights leaders, scholars, and activists together to discuss the future of civil rights advocacy in America. One of the biggest things to come out of the conference for me was the realization that there is so much more to say about rights and justice 52 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act. And the idea for the National Conversations was born out of this need to continue these crucial discussions. 

As a Federal agency, the National Archives is responsible for the Charters of Freedom––the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights––and for the collection and protection of 13 billion other records that tell the American story and its continued challenges and successes towards creating a more perfect union.

We have chosen the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights to open a new exhibit “Amending America,” in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. As the permanent home of the Bill of Rights, no institution is better poised than the National Archives to not only celebrate the anniversary of this extraordinary document but also explore its meaning for civil rights today. We want to use this moment to engage Americans in conversations about complicated issues such as class, gender, politics, race, religion, and sexual orientation through the National Conversations. The content of the discussions will build on the National Archives’ holdings, connecting key foundational documents to the challenges before us. But our larger goal is more ambitious—to advance discussion of these critical issues in communities across the nation and to bring to the forefront challenges to rights and justice that persist 225 years after the ratification of the Bill of Rights.

Much has been achieved in the last few years in terms of women’s equality.  We now have the first female candidate to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party! That is definitely a step in the right direction, but there are more challenges to face. For example:

  • Women still make just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. Black women earn only 64 cents and Latinas only 54 cents for each dollar earned by white men.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice reports that approximately one in four homeless women is homeless because of violence committed against her.
  • Over 1,000 public K–12 schools in the United States have single-sex education programs. Many rely on discredited science and gender stereotypes.
  • Discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace has been illegal since 1978, but employers still do it.
  • Of all the 27.6 million businesses in the United States only 9.9 million are women owned.

From these statistics alone, it is obvious that there is work to be done to make this a more equal nation.

Several National Archives locations across the country as well as other cultural institutions will host the National Conversations over this next year. Our first one concerning Civil Rights and Individual Freedom was held at the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta in May. Our second one concerning LGBTQ Human and Civil Rights was in Chicago in July. Upcoming National Conversations will discuss Immigration: Barriers and Access in Los Angeles; Educational Access and Equity in Dallas; and a culminating event, Building a More Perfect Union, in Washington, DC, in early 2017. I hope you will join us for future discussions either in person or online.

In Washington, DC, we currently feature the “Amending America” exhibit. Here in New York, we have a gallery related to that exhibit called “New York on the Record: Amending America.” It highlights a few of the more than 11,000 attempts to amend the Constitution. Many of these attempts are related to the quest for women’s rights and gender equality. For example, there is a petition for naturalization of suffragist Harriet Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Harriet lost her American citizenship when she married a British citizen as a consequence of the Expatriation Act of 1907. She had to reapply to become an American again! The act was repealed in 1922.

I want to express our gratitude to our partner, the National Archives Foundation, for supporting this series. And a big thanks goes out to our lead sponsor for the Amending America initiative AT&T, as well as the Ford Foundation, Seedlings Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York for their belief in and support of the National Conversations. And special thanks to Perkins Coie for their support of this event in New York City.

And now we are going to view the introductory film featuring Congressman John Lewis, narrated by Cokie Roberts, entitled “Amending America.”


Now I would like to introduce our key note speaker Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

Anne is the President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, an influential non-profit social enterprise that creates jobs, delivers needed services for people with diverse challenges, uses environmentally friendly products and processes–– all while earning revenue to fund innovative workforce programs that empower individuals and families to find stability through work. Anne joined Goodwill Industries in 2011 from The Boeing Company in Chicago, where she had held the position of Vice President, Global Corporate Citizenship. Anne’s career has encompassed leadership positions in philanthropy, public policy, politics, the arts and higher education. She chairs The Roosevelt Institute in New York. And she serves on the Boards of the Maine Community Foundation and the Jim Browne Foundation; she is a Fellow at the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College. Anne holds a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University, and a Master of Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Anne is the granddaughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was a great women’s advocate. Her grandmother held 348 press conferences while in the White House and only allowed female reporters, forcing newspapers to keep females on staff! 


Interviewing her on stage today is Soledad O’Brien. Soledad is an award-winning journalist, documentarian, speaker, author, and philanthropist. She is CEO of the Starfish Media Group, a multi-platform media production company dedicated to telling empowering and authentic stories on range of social issues. She anchors and produces the Heart Television political magazine program “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien.” She also reports regularly for HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and PBS NewsHour.

O’Brien was the originator of the highly successful "In America" documentary series for CNN, which included “Black in America” and “Latino in America.” She also hosts several specials for the National Geographic Channel.

Soledad’s coverage of race issues has won her two Emmy awards and she earned a third for her reporting on the 2012 presidential election. Her coverage of Hurricane Katrina for CNN earned her and the network a George Foster Peabody Award. She also won the Peabody for her coverage of the BP Gulf Coast Oil Spill, and her reporting on the Southeast Asia tsunami helped CNN win an Alfred I. DuPont Award.

O’Brien was named journalist of the year in 2010 by the National Association of Black Journalists and one of Newsweek magazine’s “10 People who Make America Great” in 2006.

In 2013, Harvard University, her alma mater, named O’Brien a Distinguished Fellow. In that same year, she was also appointed to the board of directors of the Foundation for the National Archives.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, O’Brien and her husband, Brad, created the Soledad O’Brien & Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation to help disadvantaged young women get to and through college. This year, they will provide funding to 25 deserving young women.

Please welcome Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and Soledad O’Brien.