By Len Lazarick
It wasn’t the first tribute to Sen. Barbara Mikulski. And it won’t be the last
as she retires from public office next years after 40 years in Congress, the longest service of any woman in history.
But Maryland Democratic Party’s tribute Monday night might be among the loudest as the most popular politician in recent Maryland history was led in with the drums of a marching band.
While Mikulski may be popular even among voters who disagree with her because she’s a fighter for constituents, she is also a highly feisty Democrat.
Pledges no more statewide losses
Stung by the loss of the governorship to Republican Larry Hogan, she told a crowd of 500 cheering Democrats, “We take a pledge that we will never again lose a statewide election.”
Beyond that, she said it is not enough that nine out of 10 members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are Democrats. She wanted a “100% Maryland delegation” of Democrats.
As she has since she announced her retirement in March, she promised to continue fight for those progressive values she’s championed for decades.
Rather than run for a sixth term, “I’m not going to worry about my job, I’m going to worry about your job,” Mikulski said. “I’m not going to worry about the next election, but the next generation,” by continuing to fight to raise the minimum wage and for income equality;
“I want to stand up for a better tomorrow,” she said. “I ain’t shy even though I may be retiring.”
The evening was ostensibly about showcasing the Democrats’ “rising stars” who crowded the stage at the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, but the only rising star who actually got to speak was New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark.
Already tall at 6 foot 3, Booker gained another few inches using the padded stool Mikulski’s staff carries everywhere she goes so that the 4 foot 11 senator is not dwarfed by podiums designed for men.
“Remember this room when you look at the Republican national convention,” Booker told the crowd which was both younger and more racially mixed than most political fundraisers. “This represents the full rainbow of our country.”
The Democratic Party is “the party of we, not the party me”
“This woman has stood the test and time; she has lasted and lasted and lasted.”
Mikulski is known as a fiery speaker, lacing her speeches with humorous quips, but Booker matched her with story-telling and preaching the Democratic gospel.
“I was glad to find a woman, who would fight for urban spaces, urban places and urban people,”
Booker closed his speech by reading an entire poem by the late Maya Angelou titled “Phenomenal Woman.”
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please, [“You should see her in the Senate,” Booker interjected.]
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees. [“Republicans,” Booker added.]
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
[“I apologize for this line,”]
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman