Ileana Ros Lehtinen

As someone who views American politics from afar, I have some major preconceived notions about Democrats and Republicans. To me, these two parties are the complete opposite of each other, and for the most part I thought all Democrats and all Republicans had the same beliefs and rarely stepped far from their party’s line. That‚Äôs why reading about Ileana Ros-Lehtinen such a pleasure.

She was born in Cuba but fled to Florida to escape the Castro regime when she was a child. She began her career as an educator before entering politics. In 1989 she made history when she became the first Cuban-American to be elected to the United States Congress. She was also the first Latina to be elected to Congress. Since then she has served 14 terms; however earlier this year she announced that she would not be seeking re-election next year.

The Republican Party is traditionally more conservative, and this is where Ileana stands out. She has been a very vocal supporter of LGBT rights; she herself is the mother of a transgender child. She was one of the first Republican members of Congress to speak out in favour of gay marriage: “I knew it was the right thing to do. It’s good for society to accept kids who are out of the mainstream. It behooves the social fabric of our country”. Her own experience as an immigrant meant that she was also one of the first, and few, Republicans to speak out against the recent immigration policy banning immigrants from several Muslim countries from entering the United States.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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