• March 2011

A Force to Be Reckoned With: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Author
Truly Amazing Women

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was raised to believe you can have it all. The attractive, active U.S. Congresswoman from the 20th Congressional District who represents Miami-Dade / Broward County Florida certainly seems to have hit the mark.

With two kids, a husband who is incredibly supportive — he buys her clothes and is willing to put her career before his — and a plum seat on the House Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on the Judiciary, she is determined to expand on her reputation as a fighter for families.

“It is said that I arrived in Washington with the reputation as a force to be reckoned with, someone who works hard on behalf of children, education, healthcare, Social Security, Medicare, and the security of every American,” says Wasserman Schultz, who was sworn in as a member of the House on January 4, 2005, and became the first Jewish Congresswoman ever elected from Florida. “I hope to continue to be known as a person whose word is her bond and who knows that she was sworn in to work hard in Washington for her constituents.”

Can you have it all?

That said, the Congresswoman opened up about the challenges of juggling her busy life.

“Yes, I do believe you can have it all — but you can’t be afraid to ask for help,” she explained. “And you have to pick and choose your priorities. During the week, Congress is my priority. When I fly back home to Florida on the weekend, my family comes first. My staff knows they have to respect that, and they have to schedule in family time. It’s sacred, and it’s incredibly important to me to be as good a mother and wife as I am a legislator.”

And being a good legislator is very important to Wasserman Schultz — the youngest elected to the Florida legislature in 1992 at age 26 (she won her seat with 53 percent of the vote in a six-way race). “I never expected to get into politics so young,” admits Wasserman Schultz, who served in the Florida House of Representatives until 2000 and in the Florida State Senate from 2000-2004. “I had a mentor who encouraged me, and I gave it everything I could.”

When she was first running for office, she made up in shoe leather what she lacked in resources and knocked on about 25,000 doors in her district and met as many voters as possible. “And I learned early that to be an effective legislator you have to do more than just show up to vote. That is especially true in the U.S. Congress. My motto is: No task is too big. Most of the time it works out.”

Perhaps the hardest pill for her to swallow is learning the hard way that not everyone is happy for her success.

“After 16 years in politics, I have developed a tough skin,” she insists. “But some of those nasty partisan blogs have weakened my defense. They don’t just focus on the issues like seasoned journalists do — they get personal. It’s distasteful, but I try to put it into perspective because it is very important to embrace new media. It’s the best way to engage young activists and voters, so I am simply learning to be more savvy about how to communicate effectively.”

On a personal note

In 2009, Wasserman Schultz announced her own battle with breast cancer. She then introduced the Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act, or EARLY Act (H.R. 1740), legislation that directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and implement a national education campaign about the threat breast cancer poses to all women, and the particular heightened risks of certain ethnic, cultural, and racial groups.

For more information about Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, visit her website wassermanschultz.house.gov.

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