Political Powerhouses: Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth was born in Thailand, but moved around Asia due to her father’s work with the United Nations. As a result she is fluent in Thai and Indonesian, as well as English. At the age of 16 her family moved to Hawaii. She graduated with a degree in political science from the University of Hawaii in 1988, and went on to get her Master’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University.

Her family has a long history of military service, so when Tammy was a graduate student she joined the Army Reserves Training Corps. At the time–1990–there were limited options for women, so she chose to fly helicopters, later transferring to the Army National Guard. In 2004 she was working on her Ph.D in political economy when she was deployed to Iraq. In November, the helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down. As a result, both of her legs were amputated below the knee, making Tammy the first female amputee of the Iraq War. For her service she was awarded the Purple Heart.

Once Tammy recovered from her injuries, she was named Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. She held this role for three years and during her time she was credited with helping both veterans suffering with PTSD and those who suffered brain injuries. In 2011 she was elected to the United States Congress, becoming both the first disabled woman and the first person born in Thailand elected to Congress. During her time in office she was assigned to work on the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In 2016 she was elected to the United States Senate and in the months since there has been speculation that she could be planning a 2020 presidential run.

Tammy has overcome many obstacles in her life, and knows the importance of having women involved in politics. In an interview with Marie Claire magazine she said the following: “I have to . . . show young girls in this country that they truly can grow up to be whatever they want to be—they need to know that they can grow up to be president”.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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