Aloha! Last week, I wrote a short little post about a Ms. Tulsi Gabbard, the new Congresswoman-elect from Hawaii. And while I was not explicit in saying so, you might have noticed that I was quite in awe of Ms. Gabbard, a woman who from my limited exposure seemed so poised and articulate, so ready for duty.
Well yesterday I had the honor of sitting in the room as Ms. Gabbard, who arrived not to long ago for her freshmen orientation, talked to a group of undergraduate students about her experiences, her journey, and more than anything what she is ready to do in Washington.
Gabbard was refreshingly real and down-to-earth, characteristics that one could cynically attribute to the fact that she has only just arrived in the messy bureaucratic town that is Washington, DC. But to do so would be to miss how this woman carries herself, how she didn’t frame her talk with lofty notes about where she’d come from but about the little struggles she’d encountered along the way, little struggles that she’d encountered as recently as yesterday when she’d had to fly in from Hawaii to New York, catch a train because her flight was delayed, and catch a cab in a city that was not her own, luggage in tow.
But it was not these casual remarks alone that later helped me piece together my understanding of Ms. Gabbard. It was the stories she told, the way in which she spoke. Gabbard remarked that running for office—in any capacity—was a “huge step outside [her] comfort zone,” claiming that she was so introverted that had you asked any of her friends growing up whether she would have run for office, they would have said “there’s no way in hell—that would involve talking to strangers, and Tulsi doesn’t do that.”
It would be hard to believe that now of a congresswoman who at the end of the day just passed the hardest job interview process out there—receiving a stamp of approval from hundreds of thousands of constituents and proving to people that even though she is young, and even though her critics claim she has little experience, she is ready.
A few notes I just have to share:
- My favorite story. Tulsi talked about how the day after she won her first election she stood on the sidelines of the highway with a sign that read THANK YOU, watching as her fellow citizens—people who had voted for her and those who had not—drove by. On that day, one woman pulled over and in the dashboard of her front window she had written in capital block letters on a little piece of paper a note to Tulsi: DON’T LET US DOWN. “I carried that with me,” Tulsi told us. “That’s when it got real.”
- From Military Service to Congressional Service. Tulsi remarked to us that the decision to go to war “is personal for me—and it should be personal for the country.” And with those words she underscored a fundamental problem in our society. The fact is the realities of those who serve in our military—and their families—are increasingly growing distant for the average American civilian. These brave men and women are a part of the 1% of our population that we oft forget about. That’s not acceptable. When we go to war they should be the first and the last thing we thing about.
- On being a woman in Congress. Tulsi made no qualms about it: “Perception is everything—especially for a female leader.” Her advice? Be aware of how you carry yourself and always remember who you work for.
- For women, it’s a community. I automatically appreciated that when Congresswoman-elect talked about being a female in the military, she said “We can handle it.” It wasn’t just “I” can handle it but ‘I’ve got your back—female or male. And we’re in this together.’ And you could tell right then and right there that Gabbard didn’t just say it to say it. She meant it.
“It comes down to who you are touching.”
– Congresswoman-elect Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
on Leadership and Service (and why it matters)