Wednesday, October 11, 2017

On the International Day of the Girl

On this International Day of the Girl, some words of wisdom from retiring congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

When Ileana Ros-Lehtinen first arrived in the U.S. as an 8-year-old refugee, she wasn’t thinking of a career in politics. She and her family had fled Cuba, their home, after Fidel Castro took power. Though she didn’t speak any English when she arrived in Miami, she eventually became a teacher, and then started a private elementary school. Hearing the problems of the parents and students — the need for better education, burdensome taxes — inspired her to run for office. She and her parents had no idea how to run a campaign, but at just 30 years old, she won election to the Florida House of Representatives — beating out male opponents with much more experience. 

In 1989, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Hispanic woman and first Cuban American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She’s continued doing things her way ever since: In 2012, she became the first Republican in Congress to endorse gay marriage and has been a vocal advocate of LGBT rights. She’s also been an outspoken critic of President Trump since his campaign. 

Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement from Congress in April. By the time she leaves office, in 2019, she will have been in Congress for 30 years. Here, she reflects on what she’s learned in her long career in politics – and what young women should know as they consider running for office.

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