On January 16, 2016, the CAUSE Veterans Initiative Fellows had an exclusive opportunity to meet with US Congressmember Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) for dinner in El Segundo, CA. Our fellows were astounded to meet a veteran, who rose to the ranks of Congress and did not let her combat injuries stop her from being able to do so. They were eager to hear about her experiences transitioning from the military to politics and public service.
After a brief introduction, the fellows quickly delved into asking the Congressmember about her unique career path. The Congresswoman recalled that the journey started when she was receiving treatment as an injured veteran. She and her husband witnessed firsthand the struggles of the underserved veterans and their families. While waiting outside her surgery room, her husband saw a young woman was weeping in the hospital corridor with an infant in her arms. The young woman was married to a veteran, who had been in coma for six months. Due to a slew of reasons, the family was on the verge of losing their trailer home and their means to raise a newborn. Without any hesitation, Duckworth and her husband extended a helping hand to the military spouse.
This experience empowered Congressmember Duckworth to become a strong advocate for veterans and she was encouraged to represent the voice of the community in Congress. The Congressmember commended her mentors US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and President Barack Obama for supporting her pursuits.
“They recognized all the work I was doing for our troops and told me, ‘Since you care so much for our troops, why don’t you enter Congress?’ The rest was history,” she said. After years of hard work, she was elected to represent the people of the Eighth District of Illinois in 2012.
The Congressmember attributes the training she received in the military as preparation for Congress. Similar to serving in the Army, serving as a politician revolves around “developing a strong sense of teamwork,” “seizing the opportunity,” and “taking calculated risks.” The fellows thanked her for being such a powerful advocate for the veteran community, in every position she has been in. Her parting words of wisdom to our fellows were to participate in work that is meaningful and beneficial to others. She recognized her family’s support as a source of strength while also allowing her to stay grounded and focused.