Woman of the Week: Tulsi Gabbard

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Women make up 51% of the population, 17% of Congress, and 0% of past presidents.

 

Name: Tulsi Gabbard

Born: April 12, 1981 (age 31) in Leloaloa, American Samoa

Current Office: Member-elect, U.S. House of Representatives, Hawaii’s 2nd district; Company Commander, Hawaii National Guard

Political Party: Democratic Party

Residence: Honolulu, Hawaii

Education: Bachelor of Arts (International Business), Hawaii Pacific University

 

Why she is the Woman of the Week: Tulsi Gabbard will be making a lot of firsts upon her inauguration to the United States House of Representatives January 3rd. Not only is she the first Hindu-American ever elected to Congress—she is, along with her new colleague Tammy Duckworth, one of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress. She plans on taking her oath of office over a Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text for followers of Hinduism, or Sanatana Dharma. She also showed her passion for public service at a very early age, becoming the youngest legislator in Hawaii’s history at the age of 21 when she was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives. This election also made her the youngest woman ever elected to state office in the country. Her position, though, did not stop her from serving her country in other ways. She enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard while still in office, and did not run for reelection because she had asked to deploy to Iraq with her unit in 2006. She again voluntarily deployed to the Middle East in 2009.

Background: Gabbard grew up in a multicultural, multiracial household. Her father is Samoan and white, and a deacon in the Catholic church. Her mother is white and a practicing Hindu. She says she fully embraced Hinduism as a teen after “serious contemplation and deliberation”—not because her mother was Hindu. At the age of 19, Gabbard co-founded, with her father, the Healthy Hawaii Coalition (HHC), “a non-profit a non-profit grassroots organization whose mission is to protect the environment and improve individual and community health.” In 2002, at the age 21, she was elected to the state legislature. The same year, her father was elected to Honolulu City Council (he is now a State Senator). Her first voluntary deployment began in 2004. When she returned in 2006, she worked as a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka. While working for the Senator, she became the first woman to finish as the distinguished honor graduate from the Alabama Military Academy. She asked to be deployed again in 2009 to Kuwait, where she was the first woman to be honored by the Kuwait Army National Guard. After returning from her deployment she ran for and was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010. During her 2012 campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives, she spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. She defeated her opponent Kawika Crowley—who said her religion was not “compatible with the Constitution”—81% to 19%.

Key Issues: Gabbard hopes her faith will help the United States foster a better relationship with India, a majority Hindu nation. She is pro-choice, and was endorsed by Emily’s List during her campaign this year. As evident from her non-profit leadership, the environment is also a top priority. She was endorsed by the Sierra Club, and favors tax incentives for renewable energy startups. Her most controversial stance has been on gay marriage. Her father is very socially conservative, and even founded a non-profit Stop Promoting Homosexuality America. For years Gabbard supported her father’s views, but credits her time serving overseas for changing her views. She now supports equal rights for LGBT individuals, and has promised to help repeal DOMA and co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act.

Her Latest Headline: “Holy Cow, there’s a Hindu in Congress!” – The Huffington Post

“When I volunteered to put my life on the line in defense of our country, no one asked me what my religion was.” – Tulsi Gabbard

 

[Image Credit: http://cdn.s3.webcontentor.com/OFFICE/SHEHJAR001/files/extracted/2012september/tulsi22.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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