Debbie Stabenow visits GVSU, urges women to vote, participate in politics

Courtesy Photo /

Courtesy Photo / Stabenow

Samantha Butcher

Despite feeling ill, Sen. Debbie Stabenow visited Grand Valley State University Thursday to share her experiences as one of only 17 women in the US Senate.

The Women and Politics event, Just Seventeen Percent: Reflections From US Senator Debbie Stabenow, was hosted by the Women’s Center.

The senator encouraged women in attendance to get involved in politics and, most importantly, to vote in November.

“We have elections coming up and I’m not going to get into how people should vote, but I will tell you this – please vote,” she said. “Please participate. Please don’t take it for granted. We send people to war to fight for our democracy and our right to vote. Women before us, women in Michigan, all across Michigan, all across the country, went through very tough struggles to get us to the point where we could have something as simple as the right to walk into a polling place and vote. Please don’t take that for granted.”

Stabenow focused her discussion on prominent Michigan women who affected change in politics and examples of the impact that an increasing female voice in Washington, D.C., has had on important legislation, including the health care bill that passed earlier this year.

“(Women) tend to be the ones who work across the aisle, because we tend come in more about the issues than the title and we tend to reach out to each other, so we always say we work hard and we get things done, but when we work across the aisle we make change happen,” she said.

When Stabenow began serving in 2001, it was the first year a woman sat on every committee in the Senate. Ten years later, four women chair committees.

“Until then, there wasn’t a woman’s voice, a woman’s perspective, on these committees” Stabenow said. “Every issue is a women’s issue.”

Currently, 25 percent of Michigan’s legislature and about 16 percent of Michigan’s House of Representatives are women. Of the 38 women who have served in the U.S. Senate, 17 are serving now.

Stabenow’s perspective of one of 17 female senators engaged an audience of about 50 students, faculty and community members in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. After her speech, she spoke with attendees individually and posed for photos.

Stabenow’s visit was one of three Women and Politics events planned for the fall semester. Others include a panel on politics and the environment with Grand Rapids City Commissioner Roaslynn Bliss and other community leaders on Oct. 27 and a viewing of the documentary “Chisholm ’72” on Nov. 2.

“Our Women and Politics series started in the fall of 2008 during the historic presidential race, and since then we’ve provided students with a breadth of educational events and seminars on how women influence politics and politics influences women’s lives,” said Marlene Kowalski-Braun,director of the Women’s Center.

For more information on the Women’s Center’s programs, visit

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