Nevertheless, She Persisted Series by George Hamp
“You know what a great pilot would have done?,” Matt Damon’s airline pilot character rhetorically asks Alec Baldwin’s TV executive character about pilot-hero Sully Sullenberger. “Not hit the birds. That’s what I do every day. Not hit birds. Where’s my ticket to the Grammys?”
Hilarious. But more importantly, it’s comedy as commentary. It reminds us that showing up to do your best at your job will rarely get you a medal. You’re doing what’s expected of you and what you get paid to do. And by all accounts, that’s what Senator Elizabeth Warren does every day. (AKA - not hit the birds.)
As a senator, she has one of the lowest missed vote rates. She ranks near the top in terms of session attendance. She sits on 12 committees (and subcommittees). She is an effective senator doing what she was elected to do. The job of being a United States Senator.
Which brings us to the evening of February 7 and what should have been just another day at the office for Senator Warren. But things suddenly took a turn towards unprecedented territory.
Warren used her time to read a letter Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986 about Jeff Sessions’ racial bias. Those concerns eventually derailed Jeff Sessions’ nomination for a Federal Judge position. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell felt a line had been crossed. If he had just let it go, the letter would have reverted back to its status of forgotten history and Senator Warren’s opposition to the nomination would likely have been forgotten as well. It’s important to note that Sessions would have been confirmed no matter what was said that night.
Elizabeth Warren was not creating political theater. This was not an attempt to earn media time or to push a personal agenda. In fact, very few people were even paying attention. However, the senate is constitutionally obligated to give “advice and consent” on high-level nominees. She was doing exactly that.
But when censored, Senator Warren used the power of social media to inform (not antagonize), and finished reading the letter just outside the senate chamber.
Mitch McConnell also spoke.“She was warned,” he said. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Within 24 hours, a reported three million people were actively following the story with thousands more starting to follow by the minute. “Nevertheless, She Persisted” became a rallying cry. The Internet was flooded with comparisons to Rosa Parks, Ruby Neil Bridges and even Darth Vader vs. Princess Leah (comedy as commentary again). A night that never should have happened became a story that is not going away.
In conversations since then, women explained to me that they have heard McConnell's language in some form or other throughout their lives. It translates to sit down. Be quiet. Know your place. And I believe that’s just plain wrong.
When Power In Place sent out a call for entries of art, thoughts, etc. about this moment in history, I sent in a couple of pieces of art. When the follow-up question was asked about what inspired me, the answer is simple.
I admire Senator Warren's persistence on all of our behalves and I’m following her example. I’m doing my job. And trying not to hit those pesky birds.
George Hamp is a painter, historian and graphic designer. He currently works as creative director for a top political persuasion mail firm. A native Floridian and life-long sailor, he channels his non-work pursuits towards advocating legislation that protects our oceans and coastlines.