Changes worth celebrating

When I was growing up, early spring used to mean hot cross buns and popovers filling the house on Sunday morning with a warm, rich odor of “comfort food.” Like early buds on trees, the odors heralded spring had reached the front of the yard, if not quite the doorstep.

And I was ready for it. Never a Mainer to rush out into the yard or edge my skis up a snowy slope in the early morning, I found the joy of welcoming a new day in a hot cup of coffee and a hot cross bun.

I still do. One thing I’ve held precious for decades is the freedom to do with a weekend morning – whether it be a chilly one in February or a humid one in August — exactly what I want to do. And to do it in solid comfort, even if that means keeping one or both eyes on the kids or the clock.

Increasingly, young women are discovering the joy of that kind of morning, too, of a spiritual awakening, if you will, coming in quiet and comfort and relative peace.

More and more, those in academia are discovering that women have changed their thinking on what “having it all” really means. And when I see the youngest of my three daughters, who is a lawyer, a wife and a mother of three, keeping to a schedule that runs from early in the morning to midnight and after at the office, I can see why it is happening.

Women have been boosted immeasurably by higher expectations in society for their achievements. They have been helped even more by higher expectations within themselves. Buttressing new opportunities have come supportive laws and innovative workplaces, most especially home offices, and work cycles integrated into their schedules. American household incomes reflect these changes. And so does American spending.

They are changes worth celebrating.

But it can be foolhardy to celebrate them without awareness of conflicting pressures. That’s why it’s both important and laudable that, after a lapse of a few years, the Violence Against Women Act was again signed into law by President Obama on March 7.

While many of us are fortunate never to require protection from exploitation and abuse, the law is a vital statute for those who do. Proposed and sponsored by then-Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., in 1994, it has been credited with helping to reduce sexual violence against females 12 years old and older by 64 percent and doing much to keep that downturn stable.

That’s no statistic to tuck away in a closed cupboard. It’s a record to work with and define in broader terms over years to come. Most of all, it is a record to improve.

“This is your day. This is the day of the advocates, the day of the survivors. This is your victory,” Obama declared as he signed the law’s renewal. “This victory shows that when the American people make their voices heard, Washington listens.”

Among those attending the president’s signing ceremony was Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who had supported the renewal.

“One of the great legacies of this law is it didn’t just change the rules, it changed our culture,” Obama declared. “It empowered people to start speaking out.”

And, we might add today, it empowered Congress to renew not only an effective law but an effective skill — listening to the people when they speak and acting upon what they say.

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