Who she is: Congresswoman from the 20th Congressional District who represents Miami-Dade / Broward County, Florida
What she does: Works to pass legislation that favors children, education, health care, Social Security, Medicare and homeland security.
Why she does it: “It is said that I arrived in Washington with the reputation as a force to be reckoned with,” says Debbie, 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 for her constituents.”
A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH
By Hope Katz Gibbs
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 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, health care, Social Security, Medicare and the security of every American,” says Debbie, 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 trying to juggle 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 Debbie —the youngest elected to the Florida legislature in 1992 at age 26 (she won her seat with 53% of the vote in a six-way race), and the first Jewish Congresswoman ever elected from Florida. “I never expected to get into politics so young,” admits Debbie, 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, 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 for 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, Debbie announced her own battle with breast cancer. She then introduced the Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act, or EARLY Act (H.R. 1740), a piece of 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 young 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.