I’m having a very hard time processing the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. On election night I was locked in at the Denver Elections Division working as a stringer for the Associated Press. This basically means that me and my partner were the first ones to get the votes from Denver County to the Associated Press so that they can put them into the official count for various news media to keep track of as the night progressed. So we were in the midst of it all, constantly checking and watching as the nation turned red.
And, because we didn’t end up leaving the Elections Division until 2 a.m., the reality of what had just happened didn’t sink in until the next morning. And over the past few days it has been a whirlwind of anger, fear and sadness. And it’s getting worse. I feel as anxious as I ever have, simply waiting to see what will happen as the media continues to report on what will likely be Trump’s first actions and how they will affect the nation. So, I’ve been desperately trying to distract myself by cleaning, cooking, watching animal videos and reading uplifting stories about women. Despite Hillary’s loss and what that would have meant for women, many states ended up making history of their own by electing both women and minorities to major political positions. Here are just a few of those women, and to all that they will accomplish, despite the beliefs and actions of our soon-to-be president.
1. Ilhan Omar
This election was a season of firsts on a smaller scale beneath the presidential race. One of these was the election Ilhan Omar to the House of Representatives. Omar, born in Somalia, emigrated with her family to the United States after spending four years in a refugee camp in Kenya when the civil war erupted in their home country. Her family settled in Virginia before moving to Minneapolis. Omar was taught of the importance of democracy at a very early age, which led to her studies in political science and international studies at North Dakota State University.
Omar has a background in education policy, as she worked as the Child Nutrition Outreach Coordinator for several years. She also serves as the director of policy and initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network, which works as an advocate for women in third-world countries to take on leadership roles within their community. She is the first Somali-American to be elected to the House of Representatives, and supports progressive legislation on a variety of issues including civil rights, education, poverty alleviation and environmental issues.
2. Catherine Cortez Masto
Catherine Cortez Masto’s election also represents another step forward in diversifying government. Masto is an attorney and politician from Nevada who became the first Latina to be elected to the United States Senate this past Wednesday. She has a background in finance and both civil and criminal prosecution, serving two terms as Nevada’s Attorney General. She has brought several big names to court including Republican Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki and Bank of America.
Her platform includes protecting consumer and senior rights, while also advocating to raise the minimum wage and protect immigrant families. She has also been a strong advocate for women and children by helping to pass legislation to combat sex trafficking and offer help for victims and survivors.
4. Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth is yet another woman who is breaking the glass ceiling and she is so, so inspiring. Duckworth was born in Thailand to an American father and a Thai-Chinese mother. Her family eventually settled in Hawaii where she graduated from both high school and the University of Hawaii with a degree in political science. Duckworth, whose family has a long military history, served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve where she flew helicopters during the Iraq War. While serving in Iraq, the helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. She became the first female double amputee from the Iraq War, losing both her legs and injuring her right arm. She later received a Purple Heart.
She was later appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs where she started a program to help veterans deal with PTSD and brain injury. She worked her way through several government positions and served on many committees pertaining to the armed services, energy policy, health care and economic growth. This year she was elected for the Illinois Senate seat and is the first female to have served in combat and the first disabled woman to be elected to senate.
4. Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris is a bi-racial lawyer and politician from California, and whom many are saying may become the United States’ first woman president. Harris is the daughter of an Indian-American mother and a Jamaican-American father. Harris climbed her way up the federal-enforcement ladder because she wanted to be a crucial part of the decisions being made. She became the Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County, CA, and then District Attorney in San Francisco. She later became the California Attorney General and will continue to serve in this capacity, with many speculating that she could become a presidential candidate in 2020.
Harris is a member of the Democratic Party and her platform adheres to many of the party’s values including: gun control, environmental protection and opposing the death penalty. Harris has created several specialized units including the Hate Crimes Unit, which focuses on hate crimes against LGBT children in schools. The felony conviction rate rose 15 percent during her time as District Attorney and she continues to work on tightening loopholes in bail and drug programs.
5. Pramila Jayapal
Pramila Jayapal emigrated to the United States from India when she was 16 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and an MBA from Northwestern University. She is a hard-working advocate for diversity and inclusion. She founded the Hate Free Zone after the 9/11 attacks, which serves as an advocacy group for Arab, Muslim and South Asian Americans who became targets after the terror attack.
Jayapal won the seat in Washington’s 7th congressional district after the current Congressman Jim McDermott announced his retirement. Jayapal has worked tirelessly to stop violence against communities of color by serving on police accountability panels and working in schools to prevent bullying and harassment. She also worked to protect social security and advocated for LGBTQ rights, among many other things.
I have no doubt these women will be around and doing wonderful, groundbreaking things for a very long time.
Who are the female politicians that inspire you most? Why do you think it is important to increase diversity in both race and gender in government? How do you think these women’s viewpoints will change the face of government? Let’s talk.