On Tuesday night, members from both houses of Congress will file into the House of Representatives for the first official State of the Union address of President Donald Trump's tenure in the White House. As often happens, many of the senators and representatives will also have guests joining them, and one of the expected attendees is about as relevant to the current national climate as it gets. In short, you're going to want to get to know Rep. Jackie Speier's guest, Fatima Goss Graves.
Speier, who represents California's 14th congressional district, has emerged over the past several months as a vocal and impassioned voice against sexual harassment and assault, both in the broader culture, and on Capitol Hill. Back in Nov. 2017, she joined with New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand to introduce the ME TOO Congress Act, aimed at overhauling how the House and Senate handle allegations of sexual misconduct against members, aides, and staffers alike.
Graves, on the other hand, is the president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), as well as a prominent anti-discrimination and women's rights advocate. As the head of the organization, she's integrally involved in the current cultural movement against sexual harassment and assault ― in fact, it's the NWLC that administers the Time's Up legal defense fund.
Back on Jan. 1, the day the Time's Up initiative was first announced, Graves commented on the necessity of extending legal resources to the most vulnerable victims of sexual harassment.
"I am excited to pair the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund with the Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity to help the most vulnerable women in the workplace fight back against sexual harassment," she said, in a press release on the NWLC's website.
"Sexual harassment is everywhere, but for millions of these workers—disproportionately women of color and low-income women—the level of abuse they confront every day is sky-high, and they have few options to challenge it. If we fail to combat the harassment faced by the most vulnerable, from restaurant servers to hotel workers, this scourge will never end."
In short, Graves is about as relevant and vital a State of the Union guest as you could imagine, especially in the current political environment. In addition to the various elected officials who've been accused of sexual misconduct in recent months, some of whom have resigned and some of whom continue to serve, this year's address will be delivered by a president who's himself been multiply accused of engaging in sexually predatory behavior.
In the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election, and following the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, more than a dozen women accused Trump of various forms of sexual misconduct, including groping and unwanted kissing. Trump has repeatedly and flatly denied all the allegations against him, calling his accusers "horrible liars" and saying "the events never happened."
Notwithstanding, Trump's election has brought with it a groundswell of activism and political engagement from women all across the country, as demonstrated by the massive Women's March on Washington that occurred one day after his inauguration, and the second annual Women's March that took place just last week. That energy has been compounded by the Me Too movement, and now the Time's Up movement. This is likely why no less than ten Democratic lawmakers, according to ABC News, are planning to bring women or survivors of sexual assault to the president's address.
If you're curious to see the State of the Union, as well as all the distinguished guests like Graves that are in attendance ― if the cameras ever show them, that is ― you won't have to wait much longer. The speech is scheduled to start at 9:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.