Tammy Duckworth: Breaking Barriers As a Mom, Senator & Veteran Fighting for Gender Equality by Jessica Acree
"I think we are stronger in the broken places if we can recover from the challenges we face." – Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth may not be a household name, but in this season of female empowerment being celebrated, she absolutely should be. At 50 years old, the Illinois Senator is shattering barriers left and right and is doing so without wanting bonus credit or extra accolades.
Lifestyle magazine ELLE recently featured Duckworth in their "Why I Ran" series with the goal of encouraging women to not shy away from politics. Writer Mattie Kahn sums it up right out of the gates. "(Duckworth) is the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress in Illinois, the first disabled woman to be elected to Congress ever, and the first member of Congress born in Thailand. On (April 9), she became the first woman ever to give birth while in the Senate."
Let that sink in for just a minute. This woman is unstoppable. She's approached life with confidence, courage and a fierce desire to serve without holding back or letting anything (or anyone) else stop her.
"I often felt underestimated, not so much by the people I served with – those who underestimated me very quickly figured out their mistake – but by people from other nations. It was a double whammy with both my ethnicity and my gender," explains Duckworth.
In her own words, she describes drawing powerful inspiration from then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the first woman appointed to the position by President Bill Clinton: "She was going toe to toe with men all around the world; she was tough and smart and everything that I hoped to be."
Duckworth was in graduate school at the time studying international affairs and chose to enlist in the U.S. military as a way to give back to a country that had given her so much opportunity. In 2004, during a deployment to Iraq, she suffered devastating injuries that cost her both legs. Rather than let that stop her cold, it only further fueled her fight for veteran benefits and gender equality.
She did so by winning her first attempt at running for office and she's still making history today. When asked about her accomplishments Duckworth says, "I never set out to be the first in anything, and with a lot of these 'firsts', it really makes me wonder how it's taken so long. It also underscores how much farther we have to go to have representation in our government."
After recently giving birth to her second child, little Maile Pearl, she’s welcoming a maternal distraction from tackling the next big piece of legislation in the halls of Congress, but she is far from done.
"As tough as juggling the demands of motherhood and being a senator can be, I'm hardly alone or unique as a working parent, and my children only make me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere,” she says.
Tammy, you're an inspiration. Thank you for your service and commitment to make big, lasting changes that will benefit your daughters and other women for generations to come.
Read more of the ELLE article at Elle.com.
Photo: Elle.com and Tammy Duckworth's Twitter