This series ‘Powerful women across the globe’ will be published biweekly for the next two months. The aim is to include powerful women all across the globe. This week we will look at Senator Tammy Duckworth from the United States.
The United States’ political landscape is filled with inspiring women, each having a different path which led them to where they are now. However, Tammy Duckworth certainly deserves a spot in the list of strong, powerful women in US politics. Her strength not only derived from her political actions but also reflected in the way she managed to use her turbulent past in order to make the world a better place.
Duckworth is a former helicopter pilot in the United States’ army. In 2004, her helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. This incident had severe consequences where she lost both her legs and part of her right arm due to the explosion. Despite this life-changing event, Duckworth did not resign from the military and continued as Lieutenant Colonel. She started to passionately advocate for Veterans and in 2012 President Obama nominated her to be US Assistant Secretary of Veteran Affairs. She specifically paid attention to female veterans since it is cause very close to her heart. Her election to the US Senate in 2016 and her place in the Senate is unique in so many ways. She is the first Senator to give birth during her time in office and the first member born in Thailand.
Her Asian background has not made life easy for Duckworth and her family who moved to Hawaii. She even came to the point where she was selling flower bouquets on the side of the road.
Even though Duckworth does not want to be defined by her injury or prosthesis, one cannot deny that this miserable event opened doors for Duckworth. For example, She was invited to the State of the Union by Illinois senator Dick Durban.
It was Durban who eventually proposed the idea of Duckworth running for Congress. Her path to Congress was not an easy one and she lost the first time. Her strong ethic towards donors was admirable and the second time she actually beat her competitor. Four years later she would represent Illinois in the Senate.
Duckworth’s struggles as a woman have also opened her issues to the many issues and controversies facing families and women on the job. She has become a mother at a relatively old age. It opened her eyes to the issues surrounding both motherhood and being a working mother. However, it was not only a case of ‘one has too live through it in order to understand it’ case. Duckworth also proceeded to actively help (working) mothers; which she did for female veterans already. One of the examples is the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act. This includes easy access to both fresh water and breastfeeding areas. A Senate Resolution allowing children from the age of 1 in the Senate is also a huge symbolic move too showcase that womanhood and career should not be irreconcilable.
In conclusion, Duckworth’s achievements are beyond impressive. A difficult road and a terrible war incident had to happen before reaching the Senate but Duckworth is the example of how we should all strive to do our best and stand up for what we believe in. We cannot all become senator but the vigour of people like Duckworth show that effort can be rewarded. Duckworth did not let her race, wheelchair or motherhood decide what she can or cannot do. Her daily efforts to improve the lives of each and every US citizen where the most need it: infrastructure, safe water, jobs and affordable college are practical and her approach is pragmatic but this does not leave room for weak addressal of the issues facing US citizens, just because one is supposedly unable to change the current situation. Duckworth’s own life and struggle is testimony of this.