Behold: This is the last member of the Congressional Spina Bifida Caucus that I will be profiling– for now, at least. If you’re as politically illiterate as I once was, say, before the last presidential election, then you will probably join me in breathing a sigh of relief.
That being said, I am not close to being through with Washington. I have a lot to say to these politicians– a lot to ask of them, and also a lot to thank them for. But I do feel that it’s time to devote a little attention to other equally worthy heroes who are not in the political circuit. (Did I hear someone say “circus?”)
Yes, often, it is a circus. But everyone is passionate about something, and an individual’s passion is undoubtedly what triggers the idea of running for office in the first place.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is exactly the kind of person who ran for office to fight for what she believes in. She is a passionate advocate for civil rights for people with disabilities, and fully supports the Americans with Disabilities Act.
She’s also contributed, and in no small part, to advancing research into paralysis and its potential treatments. On March 30, 2009, President Obama signed a piece of legislation Congresswoman Baldwin sponsored into law– the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act.
Rep. Baldwin has been a leader in getting Congress to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, as she recognizes the potential benefits it may have for people living and struggling with many disease and conditions, including paralysis.
She is a vocal activist for women’s rights and has spoken out against domestic violence through her backing of the Violence Against Women Act.
Congresswoman Baldwin is a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, the Human Rights Caucus, and is on the Women’s Caucus, for which she serves as Vice Chair of the Health Care Task Force. She’s also a member of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
With all her astounding accomplishments thus far, it would be very easy to overlook the fact that she is “the first woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Wisconsin”– and “the first, non-incumbent, openly gay person to serve in Congress.” Both are equally impressive achievements. Taken together in context, they make for a powerhouse woman! And boy, do I love profiling these powerhouses. I can’t wait to send her a letter! (I will be sending out the last batch of letters to Congress soon.)
Thank you all so much for putting up with my self-doubts about whether or not I could be a political reporter of sorts! Everyone has been truly supportive, and so far, no one has called me out saying that I should keep my day job– whatever that is. I really have enjoyed learning more about the political system, and delving deeply into what constitutes a typical workload for a member of Congress. It seems like a daunting job, to say the least, and I am very proud of all of the people who are smart enough and thick-skinned enough to take on the challenge in our name.
I realize now that the mild heat I have taken for my efforts with “Holdin’ Out for a Hero” is nothing compared to being constantly under fire while serving in public office. I have a new-found appreciation and respect for the men and women who are doing all the really hard work for us, and making a big difference in many areas.
There is one more lesson I have learned on this “sub-journey,” if you will (because it is only part of this bigger journey!). I used to see politics as very straightforward, and black-and-white. There was good or bad, there was no “average” politician. There was right or wrong. I now see that, on the vast spectrum from Conservatism to Liberalism, there are issues that many members of the same party will disagree on, and others that perhaps we could all agree on.
I hope you will notice that I have objectively criticized members of both parties for accepting such a cumbersome workload, instead of really focusing their efforts on two or three issues of great importance. My concern has always been, and will always be, that spina bifida is on the back-burner of the policy-making stove, when it is such a pressing issue in society that demands the attention and support of everyone.
Yes, I firmly believe that Congress members will initially choose two or three caucuses to be a part of because they are passionate about the issues that lie at the core of those committees. I’d say more than ten is far too much! And not having found a significant piece of the puzzle from any of our Congress members, it is my opinion that there is still very much to be desired in the area of making legislators care about the issues that genuinely affect all of us with spina bifida, and our families.
That, in and of itself, is the bottom line. We have to make them care.
Good Night, & Good Luck,
P.S. Please don’t take this to mean this is the end of “Holdin’ Out!” We’ve only just begun. Tune back in tomorrow– it seems I have some research to do.