National Press Club

Texas' Sen. Davis willing to filibuster, take on critics to stand up for families, education

August 6, 2013 | By Monica Coleman | mcoleman@insidecapitolhill.net

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis displays the new NPC coffee mug presented to her following her August 5, 2013, luncheon address to the National Press Club by President Angela Greiling Keane

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis displays the new NPC coffee mug presented to her following her August 5, 2013, luncheon address to the National Press Club by President Angela Greiling Keane

Photo/Image: Al Teich

"Texas isn’t listening to families,” Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis told a National Press Club audience Monday.

Davis, who filibustered in the Texas Senate for more than 10 hours to block Senate Bill 5, legislation that would have created more restrictions on abortion regulations in Texas, said her actions were meant to draw attention to the disconnect between state leaders and Texas families who struggle with lack of health insurance and poorly funded public education.

Davis said the filibuster enabled her to “be a voice for people who could not speak for themselves,” and fueled discussions about issues that Texas must address.

Davis said her own family struggled with poverty and poor access to adequate health care. Her grandfather, who was partially paralyzed, in a wheelchair and barely able to form words, labored to speak to her so she could write letters for him. Davis said when he got frustrated and cried, she cried too.

“The experience drove home a powerful lesson for me about the importance of having a voice,” Davis said.

Davis was one of six children raised by her mother, who struggled financially. By 19, Davis was divorced with a child, and facing the same hardships as her mother. Determined to provide a better world for her child, she worked two jobs, later attended community college and ultimately earned a law degree from Harvard University.

“I have seen firsthand that education is a pathway out of poverty,” she said.

She brought that lesson to bear with her first filibuster in 2011, where she fought for financial support for underfunded public schools.

Davis expressed concern that opportunities she had are no longer available.

“One out of every 10 public school student in the U.S. goes to school in Texas, but we produce the lowest percentage of high school graduates,” she said. “A quarter of our children live in poverty, and we have the highest percentage of uninsured children in America.”

Davis said she is willing to take guff from detractors outside and within the Senate to stand up for her values. And she intends to remain in politics.

"The challenges I’ve taken on as a legislator are really about two things: a path and a voice,” she said.