Congresswoman Barbara Lee- The System Didn't Work For Me
Barbara Lee was a young mother of two children on public assistance attending Mills College back in the 1960’s. She recalls that she deliberately did not register to vote because she felt that the system “didn’t work for me”. She remembers taking a Political Science class one semester and was prepared to fail the class. The professor had required that everyone in the class go out and work on a political campaign. She refused to do it and had resigned herself to deliberately fail. However, she ended up going to an event and heard Shirley Chisholm speak about running for President of the United States.
Barbara said she was really surprised. First off, she didn’t know that there were Black women in Congress and secondly she didn’t know that she was actually running for President. That changed her life profoundly and she ended up volunteering and running Shirley Chisholm’s Northern California field campaign. It was crucial in getting her interested in politics.
Barbara went on to become a Congresswoman herself and has actively campaigned on behalf of her constituents. She personally champions many of the issues that represent the interests of women and communities of color. She holds town hall hearings and panels to discuss important issues like the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our communities of color where there it is disproportionately higher rates than in the general population. She talks about the crisis of the subprime mortgage industry and how that affects the lower socio economic groups of our society even more dramatically than in other communities.
Issues like obesity and diabetes are impacting our communities and we’re seeing a looming crisis of young children becoming diabetics at younger ages. The serious life threatening affects of this combination of obesity and diabetes have critical impacts on their future longevity and health. Incarceration rates and percentage of our national jail rate populations are disproportionately higher with African American and Latino populations causing major problems for our communities. Violent crimes against women on the rise, homelessness increasing, and poverty levels expanding are all major issues that impact our minority communities in disproportionate levels.
Barbara Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against the US Congress resolution authorizing President Bush to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against anyone associated with the terrorist attacks of September 11. She stood alone when she said that military action against Iraq at that time was a mistake. She received a lot of disapproval from her colleagues and even death threats for her brave action. However, history has proven her right and prescient about that vote. Barbara says emphatically that the Iraq War is the #1 problem facing our nation. It has cost our country at least $500 Billion and potentially up to $3 trillion over time to pay off our debts and eventually disengage from that war.
That is money that our country needs to pay for programs we desperately need within our country. The government is borrowing money to pay for this war and expecting our children and grandchildren to pay off this debt over the next generation.
In Congress, Barbara sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee where the major decisions regarding budgets for national programs are voted. She said as one of the few women who sits on the committee, it is important that she represent and fights for the issues that minorities and women care about. If she and the other women were not there, our issues and concerns would be ignored. She encouraged all of us to lobby our elected officials, call them, support them and let them know about the issues we care about. Barbara said that is the most effective way to get our legislators’ attention and ensure that they accurately represent the wishes of their constituents.
If we don’t get involved, then the legislators will vote and support those issues they feel are most important which may not be our highest priorities.
Barbara Lee is the type of elected official who truly listens to her constituents, fights the issues that represent our best interest and is a great leader. We should all be proud of her accomplishments and fortunate to have such a great person representing us in Washington, D.C. Thank you Barbara for all that you do for us.