Woman of the Week: Janet Napolitano


Women make up 51% of the population, 19% of Congress, and 0% of past presidents.

Name: Janet Napolitano

Born: November 29, 1957 in New York City, New York

Current Office: United States Secretary of Homeland Security

Political Party: Democratic Party

Residence: Washington, D.C.

Education: Santa Clara University, University of Virginia School of Law

Why she is the Woman of the Week: As Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Napolitano heads the third largest department in the United States Government, overseeing over 200,000 employees and a budget of more than 60 billion dollars. It’s no wonder, then, with all this clout, that Forbes listed her as the ninth most powerful woman in the world. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also constantly in the headlines, as it oversees the frequently controversial topic of immigration policy—Napolitano came under heat for releasing thousands of immigration detainees awaiting deportation due to recent budget cuts. Napolitano is the first woman to serve in this office, and is one of the handful of women in the president’s Cabinet. Her time as Secretary of Homeland Security has no doubt been rockier than her time as governor of Arizona. Though first elected in an incredibly close election, she won reelection in a landslide with 63 percent of the vote and was named one of the country’s five best governors by TIME. Rising to national prominence, Napolitano couldn’t help but collect some “firsts:” not just the first female DHS Secretary, she was also the first woman to chair the National Governors Association, the first female attorney general of Arizona, and the first female valedictorian in Santa Clara University’s history. These are not her only feats by any means. She has climbed the Himalayas and summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, and beat breast cancer after undergoing a mastectomy in 2000. It’s no wonder she’s been suggested by many as a possible presidential candidate in 2016 should Hillary Clinton not run.

Background: Though a New Yorker by birth, Napolitano was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her younger brother and sister. She graduated from Sandia High School there in 1975 and was voted Most Likely to Succeed—a good solid prediction, since she went on to be the first female valedictorian ever at Santa Clara University, as well as winning a Truman Scholarship. She also studied for a term at the London school of Economics. After getting her law degree from the University of Virginia, she went on to clerk for Judge Mary Schroeder of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Arizona, after which she joined Schroeder’s former law firm Lewis and Roca, where Napolitano eventually became a partner. In 1991, Napolitano served as one of Anita Hill’s lawyers in her testimony against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, in which Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. She then ran a successful campaign for Arizona Attorney General and as such spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, just three weeks after undergoing a mastectomy. In 2002 she narrowly won the governorship of Arizona, though she want reelected in a landslide for her second term.

Key Issues: As Arizona’s attorney general, Napolitano focused on consumer protection and strengthening law enforcement, and also defended Arizona’s death penalty law all the way to the Supreme Court. As Governor of Arizona, Napolitano focused on education and border security, pushing for harsher treatment of employers who hired illegal immigrants and backing pay raises and increased training for teachers. She also pushed to build more 21st century schools, while still managing to convert a one billion dollar deficit into a 300 million dollar surplus without raising taxes. She also set a record for total number of vetoes in a single session. Now, as Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano focuses on cooperating with the Mexican government to crack down on border crime and “aggressively pursuing employers who knowingly take advantage of illegal labor.” In 2012 she also called on Congress to pass the stalling DREAM Act, and continues to assert that immigration is the country’s “number one” legislative priority.

Her Latest Headline: “Napolitano: Obama ‘urgently awaiting’ bipartisan immigration draft” – NBC News

“I don’t think ambition is a bad thing.”

[Image Credit: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/moiraforbes/files/2012/09/00Wu5ZCcw98L3_1557.jpg]

About author

Natalie Pate

Natalie is a junior from Charlotte, North Carolina majoring in History and Public Policy (with a concentration on Social Justice). She comes from a very politically engaged family, but truly discovered her passion for politics in her tenth grade Civics class. Since then, Natalie has volunteered and registered voters for presidential campaigns as well as worked in the office of U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC). In March of 2012, Natalie represented Vanderbilt at the National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement Annual Conference at Harvard University Institute of Politics. She now serves as a Senior Editor on Vanderbilt Political Review and writes the column "Real Women, Real Politics." Natalie is also Secretary of Vanderbilt College Democrats.

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