“You have to be passionate. You have to be present. You have to be prepared to jump in the fight.”
These were just some of the words of wisdom congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, seasoned by 18 years of experience in public service, shared with Women Helping Empower Each Other (WHEE), April 3, in W205 during lunch.
Lee, the representative of Texas’ 18th congressional district, left WHEE members impressed and inspired by her stories and opinions.
“She had such a powerful voice and such an empowering message,” sophomore Sarah Dyer said. “She pulled her whole talk together so neatly.”
Topics of discussion ranged from gun control, to negotiations in Washington and to the difficulties of being a woman in American politics.
“My first taste of politics was when I served as secretary my senior year in high school,” Lee said. “I had wanted to run for vice president, but the administration told me only boys could run for that position. I’m still pretty tee’d off.”
Now, Lee is working to improve the situations of not only female politicians and American women, but also women abroad.
“I’ve sat with women in Darfur refugee camps. I’ve met women on the border of Bangladesh who have just escaped the human trafficking industry. I’ve talked to women in Russia who were tricked into slavery just trying to feed their families,” Lee said. “Empowerment is not just about yourself, it’s about realizing your power to help others.”
Junior Alezeh Rauf has interned with the congresswoman since her freshman year and has seen firsthand Lee’s passion for reaching out to others.
“At first, it was terrifying working for such a powerful, and oftentimes blunt, woman, but I grew to love it,” Rauf said. “It’s truly inspiring to work for a woman who singlehandedly helps so many people, who is so passionate about her work and who will do anything for the good of the people.”
Lee concluded her talk by addressing the myth that all women must choose between family and career.
“It’s not a question of either children or a successful professional life,” Lee said. “You have to free yourself from the guilt, take a step back and say, ‘Wow. I have been so blessed. Now, how do I return the favor?'”