tv New Member Interviews - Progressive Activists CSPAN February 16, 2021 8:00pm-9:06pm EST
>> coming up tonight on c-span, a look at the new members of the 117th congress. the commission chair testifies on election security. the naacp holds a news conference on a lawsuit filed against former president donald trump and his attorney, rudy giuliani, for inciting the attack on the u.s. capital. a subcommittee examines employment arbitration clauses. >> you are watching c-span, your unfiltered view of government. c-span was created by tell
vision companies in 1979. today, we are brought to you by these companies that provide c-span as a public service. on january 3, more than 60 new members of congress were brought into serve. in the weeks since taking their own, they have been a part of history. debating challenges to the electoral college votes, surviving an attack on the u.s. capital and whether to impeach the president of the u.s. we spoke to several new members about what brought them to congress and what life experiences have shaped them. here are five of those new members with backgrounds in social activism. cori bush was born to a local politician father and a computer analyst mother. his mother worked as a nurse,
pastor and community activist before seeking election to the u.s. house. >> part of your history includes being homeless. can you talk about that experience and how you think it shapes what you bring to congress? >> i had no create -- no clue i would be here when i was sleeping in the park with my children. i was a low-wage worker. it got to the point where i could not afford to keep up. i had a child very early and my life changed in an instant. being in a position where i did not know when i would had housing, being a low-wage worker , where i could not go just anywhere to fill out a application and have a home.
all those barriers. i could not -- there was no place. i was mixing formula for my children in bathrooms. at restaurants, just trying not to be seen, so now, understanding and looking at how i got out of that situation, i will be able to take that policy differently. some said to me, if you do legislation, you can do it this way and i said, what happens if someone gave me money while i was living on the street, would i be able to get up and go by close -- clothing? where would i put those clothing
if i were on the street? do you have debit cards? do you have mail? we have to pay attention to that. even going through all those pieces. >> the a political career -- how did that shape your pursuing a career in congress? >> i would say i would never run. my dad has been in politics most of my life.
i was the director of a mental health clinic and i was pastoring at the time. i can take my skills to the streets. i went to the street as a medic. i sell regular people giving of themselves, putting their livelihood on the line. what i did not see enough of were those representing us. so, i realized someone asked me to run for office and i said no, at first. this is the only way that we see a change for people on the ground and risking themselves. after all of these things, but how do we get that to settle? we have to run. i thought about my son and my
daughter. i could not bear it. >> he would go on to challenge clay. did you have reservations? >> absolutely. i had reservations for several reasons. my dad was in politics. he and my dad know each other. we have a family history of helping his family. i am a black woman running against a black man. already thinking about that. all of those things were going through my head. when i thought about how he
could have stopped the teargas and the rubber bullets, he could have stopped all of that. and the ideas, where she could have voted against police militarization. i, personally was utilized by those forces. i had to do it. >> when you say personally, what is that experience? can you tell it? >> yes. we were waiting to find out whether they would be indicted for killing mike brown. we knew that a lot of people would be coming to ferguson. it was a lot of teargas. a lot was happening.
i went to help her, as a nurse. i went to help her. her family said she was having a heart attack. when i got her to the police lineup, the paramedic was behind the lineup. the police did not like the fact that i was helping her. i was stopped by the police that night. >> when it comes to the message you were delivering during your campaign, what was that message and why do you think it resonated with voters? >> i have been saying the same thing since 2015, when i announced my first run, talking about medicare for all, talking about coronal justice reform. closing the wage gap.
a $15 minimum wage. even though they did not understand it at the time, they did not understand why it was out -- i was out protesting. people did not understand it. they did not understand. as a nurse, i was watching my patients die because they did not have access to care. in 2020, people saw, this is what we are talking about. we are losing our jobs and losing our homes. covid-19 was rough on me. three days after i finally started feeling better, i was out protesting for george floyd. people saw me go from not being
able to breathe to being on the street. now we are making the connection. running for office as a congressional candidate. we see that she is a champion. >> i expect we all had the experience of being a freshman at one point or another. what is a lesson you have learned from different members of congress? who is the most influential? >> they have been helping me all along the way. all in different ways. ayanna pressley will talk to me about how i am promoting myself. how i take care of myself.
setting your schedule up so that you stay human. alex and i talk about drifting. talking about making sure that i have what i need. i am hearing from so many different people. stay a fighter, all of us bringing something different. i am talking to williams and jamaal bowman. some of the best advice is definitely reminding myself that i am human. look at who you hire. just make sure that i have what i need to be ready, to be able to do what i told the community i would do. >> i wanted to focus on that.
there was a story online about you buying clothing for the new job. >> it was kind of thrust upon me . i was thinking about building a wardrobe for the swearing in and beyond. it came so fast, not only that, i had been working as a nurse for some time. after covid-19, i gained so much weight. i did not have anything to wear. we had two weeks. i said, well, do what you know how to do, go drifting -- thrifting. it is ok to be a regular person.
there is no shame in it. i made sure that people knew that. i wanted to make sure that other people knew that if you are in this position, it is ok. >> he talked about being true to yourself. how do you do that as you go through your time in congress? how do you stay true to yourself? >> i stay close to the pain, all the adversity and struggle. representative ayanna pressley always talks about those closest to the pain should be closest to the power. i am using that. every night that i slept in that car and how cold it was. trying to stay warm. i using that and taking it with me.
how i felt like the police butyl -- brutalizing you. i am taking that with me. i am taking every moment that i felt so hungry. knowing that my kids -- i am taking that process that i went through, taking all of that, the time that i spent most dead, on the floor by in -- an abusive partner. it is thinking about what our district has gone through. it is what i can do to change that. >> the first district of missouri. the 117th congress, thank you for talking to us on c-span. >> re-newman is also a northwestern or. she represents parts of chicago
and its suburbs, where she was born and raised. she worked as a business consultant and owner before establishing a nonprofit. >> where did you grow up? >> i grew up in the chicago neighborhood. the park is a southwest suburb of chicago. was there until i graduated from college, actually. now i live in the grange, with my family. >> what was it like in chicago in the 1960's? >> it was great. we were not a small family by any means, but we were really hard-working. a strong family with hard work. that is how i grew up.
there are some things that we share. it is a strong union area. we really revere the dignity. that is what my campaign was missed on. -- was on. >> both of your grandfathers, what did they do? >> my grandfather on my paternal side was a carpenter. my grandfather on my maternal side was a machinist and kenneth. steve remember what they told you about the unions? what was instilled in you about the role that unions play? >> a sense of family and i always have your back was prominent. i also believe that just like a family lifting you up when you are down, that family is all
that you have. you have your family that is your one family and then you have your extended family. i remember that they would bring that up. those are our brothers and sisters. >> what does your carpenter grandfather build for you? >> a desk. this is a great family story. when my sister and i were very young, we shared a very small room in our house. my mom and dad were trying to raise four kids on a small salary. one day, we went to visit my grandfather and i was six or seven. he built a double desk for us.
my sister and i were over the moon. we could not imagine how it was going to fit in our room, but somehow, it did. it is in my daughter's bedroom today. my dad was the first person on his side of the family, who went to college. i remember my grandfather saying, i want that legacy to continue, and this will ensure that. >> where did you go to college? >> i went to marquette and the university of wisconsin. i studied business and journalism. >> what did you do after college? >> i worked my way up to partner
and addressed operational problems, communication problems across the fortune 500 spectrum, as well as major amounts of profit. i started my own nonprofit. i vote a book and volunteered while i continued to run my company, including gun safety, education, as well as income inequity, health care inequity, and continued to fight with my brothers and sisters. >> from those experiences, what skill set do you bring to this job? >> while there are a norm -- there is an enormous amount of talent, we underestimate the incredible diversity. one of the things that i think i
bring forward is that i am a bridge builder and coalition builder. process and communication are incredibly important. doing it efficiently are incredibly important. i think i bring those values to complement many others. >> what perspective do you think that you bring to the table, as a woman? >> one of the reasons that many people have asked me to run is that i bring a unique combination of compassion and empathy, along with some of my business skills, that people really value because i can understand all sides of it. i can see a solution. >> what are those experiences that you have had? you touched on this, and
anti-bullying campaign that you brought national. why is that even part of your background? what happened? >> my son, when he was nine or 10 -- he was being bullied severely. it came to the point where we had hospitalization therapy. this is one of those issues that nobody likes to talk about. so, with that, i decided to bring the community together to get this out in the open. it kind of shocked people. everybody makes their town is mayberry. everybody thinks that their town is mayberry. actually, it is not. there are strings of competitiveness or bullying
activities that nobody understands is bullying. i put together a group of 100 parents, staff, administrators, teachers, experts in psychology and human development. we put together a strong task force to address it head on, working on a task force and it manifested in this program that i developed. >> du remember the moment that you decided to take this on? what were you thinking? the anti-bullying campaign. >> i do. my son came home from being bullied severely. we had been talking openly with him about solutions and how we had been working with the school
and parents. he said, mom, i have the solution. he said, how about i get into a horrible car accident and i come back as a different person? not only was that incredibly frightening to hear as a parent, but there were other kids in the community and nation thinking the same way, if only i could be somebody else. we should never want to be 70 else because we are all special. right there, i decided ok. game on. we will take this on a very revealing way. -- real way. >> what sort of pushback challenges do you have during this right -- during this? >> a lot. there were many parents who did not want mayberry to be
tarnished. i thought that there were many parents -- i will tell you another story. weeks after i started talking openly about bullying, i was very clear that i had been at a parent-teacher meeting. several people heard me talking to others. that night, i got 60 phone calls of parents sobbing and crying. one saying that, my daughter wants to commit suicide. it was another moment that, we could not have kids terrorized like this. i had done so much research on it. i realized that this was a significant problem and it needed to be addressed. those are pivotal moments, i knew that i would get pushback.
we ended up passing laws, so i do not think i was crazy. >> what will you deal with that experience in congress? >> i think the term bullying is used very widely. there is intentional bullying, unintentional, psychological manipulation, but by and large, what i am finding is that people want solution. everybody i have met today is very, clearly, incredibly concerned about their constituents. when they get passionate about these things, that is what i know that we have something good to deal with. when we see their passion and
intention to fight hard, that is when we can come together. that is one of the assets that i bring to congress. i am ok with someone being super passionate and helping someone being heard. that is one of the things that we can all work on in congress. >> and q. >> and q and have a great day. >> one of two progressive democrats taking over a seat. representing the 17th district. he studied at stanford, universe -- stanford university. >> what prompted you to work for congress in the first place?
>> for most of my life, i never imagined that someone like me could run for congress, let alone get elected. to grow up poor, black and gay is tc yourself not represented anywhere. eventually, i worked up the courage and was inspired by what i was seeing around me, to do something that i think that we need more of in congress, which is to run as someone coming from a working-class background. those values and experiences are underrepresented. i am so thrilled that the people of new york's 17th congressional district were so receptive to that idea and rewarded me by investing their hope and aspirations in me. >> to be in openly gay black
man, what do you think that signifies? >> it signifies tremendous progress. the messages i get from people throughout my district telling me that my candidacy and my election is giving them hope and courage to accept who they are -- that is exactly what i wish i had had, growing up. >> yuki -- you came out at the age of 24. what prompted that? >> i grew up in a baptist church, where it was taboo to be gay. a lot has changed in our society since then, that we still have some work to do. it was seeing myself or people rep -- people like me represented on the screen. being encouraged by people like
frank ocean, 70 of the songs written on his album are addressed to another man. it gave me the courage i needed to come out to friends and family. thankfully, it was well received. >> i was going to ask you about that reaction, especially from family members. >> my family loves me. i am fortunate that my experience was better than others that i have heard of from friends. they just want me to do well, to be happy. when you love somebody, you want that person to be happy. that is something that i would say to parents and grandparents, being told the truth about who they are. we will all be better off as a society, when the response of coming out is uniformly well
received. >> in your writing and what i've read about you, one of the big influences in your life with your grandmother. talk about that. >> my grandmother is one of my role models. she helped raise me. i grew up in section eight housing in the village of rock and county. my grandfather was a janitor, and my grandmother cleaned homes. when daycare was too expensive, she took me to work with her. now i get to represent the same people's homes who i watched my grandmother cleaned. i saw how hard my grandmother worked to support me. she fled the jim crow south, southern virginia, to come to rockland county where thankfully the community embraced of them, and she sacrificed so much after raising her own children to help
raise me. she has instilled in me so many values that i hold dear, like kindness and civic mindedness. >> to that idea of civic mindedness, a law career is your background. talk about that. >> i am really fortunate to have transcended those humble beginnings that i describe to you through a quality public education to make it to stanford university and harvard law school. i had the great fortune of working in the obama justice department and working on criminal justice reform for an attorney general who actually cared about the rule of law and social justice. i worked in private practice for a number of years where in my spare time i spent hundreds of hours pro bono investigating claims of employment discrimination and working to help families get money that
they were defrauded of during the financial crisis, and more recently, i've been a lawyer for westchester county, and now i get to bring those skill sets to congress. >> not only are you going to represent your constituents. a member of the house steering and policy committee. also the deputy whip of the congressional progressive caucus. what does all of that entail? >> you have it exactly right, and i am so thrilled to have hit the ground running. it was a few months ago that some of my detractors and that crowded primary were saying i wasn't going to be able to do just that. it's great to show folks in my district that you don't have to have held elected office experience to be able to succeed and recognized by your peers as
having talent. i am a member of house democratic leadership. i meet on a weekly basis with speaker pelosi. i also represent my class, my very diverse class of highly accomplished history making folks from all across the country, and we are united in our desire to deliver results for the american people, regardless of policy differences we may have. as a member of the steering committee, i get to make recommendations to speaker pelosi regarding committee assignments, and to the entire democratic caucus in respect to who should share committees.
finally, as deputy whip of the congressional progressive caucus, which is ascendant. our ranks have been bolstered, and i think americans need and i understand the need for big structural changes. i'm going to be helping to whip votes on key pieces of legislation. >> is there an overarching idea that the freshman class would like to send to house leadership? >> we are unified. we are unified in our resolve to work in close relationship with the biden-harris administration. we do more than just reset what the status quo was before donald trump got elected.
president biden says he wants to build back better. that recognizes we need a transformational change, and i'm excited to work with everyone to deliver that. >> i'm interested in your first name mondaire. what is its history? >> my aunt and uncle were helping to come up with names and saw the name on television. loosely translated, it means "my heir" in french. i'm excited to have a unique name. it is recognizable, and people have remarked about it. >> you just met representative mondaire jones. he will represent the 17th district of new york and a host of positions. congratulations. thanks for joining us. >> jamaal bowman is the other democratic newcomer from districts north of new york city. he is representing the state's 16th congressional district.
he grew up in public housing and went on to teach and found a public middle school in the bronx. as a principal, he was known for opposing standardized testing in schools. >> where did you grow up? >> i grew up on the upper eastside, east harlem side of manhattan. i lived in public housing for the first 7-8 years of my life. >> who were among the biggest influencers in your life growing up in new york? >> my mother. first and foremost, my mother is everything to me. she gave me love, stability, confidence, and she was my first teacher and educator. my mom is obviously at the top
of that list. you will find this interesting, but i had many male role models in hip-hop culture. i grew up during the golden age of hip-hop. people like chuck d and charis swan or big influences growing up. >> how were they influences? >> my father wasn't around much as a kid, so they were like the male role models that i looked up to. they were incredible artists, poets, emcees, and they gave me a sense of self, a knowledge of myself and my history and my culture. as an african-american, you don't always learn about your history in our public schools, but through hip-hop i was able to plug in and get a sense of my identity. >> where did you go to school in
new york growing up? >> i went to public schools my whole life. i went to ps 50 and 198 elementary schools. i went to wagoner junior high. i transferred to new jersey and graduated there. >> talk about your college life. >> i started college at west virginia, potomac state college in west virginia. that was culture shock. west virginia is much different from new york. i came back to new york for about six months before going back to college in connecticut at the university of new haven. i had a chance to play football there for three years as a backup outside linebacker, studied sports management while
i was there. a pretty cool major. yeah, connecticut is different from manhattan as well, not as busy, not as active, but i stuck it out and graduated in 1999. >> what led you to a career in education? >> it wasn't a plan. it definitely wasn't a plan. i pursued a career in corporate america with my business degree, didn't feel comfortable in that space, and i had a friend who was an educator at the time. her and her mom were both teachers, and they said to take a look at the department of education. i did that and fell in love with it right away. i felt like it was the right place for me to be. i think a lot of my personal experiences up until that point helped me to be a really well-rounded educator.
>> what was that career in corporate america you weren't satisfied with? >> i just didn't feel comfortable. i didn't grow up with a corporate background. both of my parents worked for the post office. they were both part of organized labor unions, and the first corporate job i looked at was with the nfl events office. i just didn't feel comfortable. >> how was your first day on the job in the classroom when you decided to make that change to work with children? >> great question. my first year teaching, i was hired as a math teacher, and i taught five different grades. i taught kindergarten through fourth grade.
my first day, i was probably in three different classes, second grade class, third grade class. it was interesting. it was very exciting. one thing you notice right away is kids are full of life and energy and enthusiasm, and you have to be prepared to keep up with them. despite this being a title i school, located in an underserved community, the kids came with balls of energy ready to work and learn. it was a high energy first day. >> do think the kids view to you as a role model as you viewed rap artists growing up as a role model? >> i felt like that. i felt like i was more than a teacher, not just to me, but many of the friends i grew up with grew up without fathers, so
when i took the job to be a teacher, i knew it was more than just sharing curriculum with students. i knew it was about being a role model, father figure, being attentive to the social and emotional needs of the kids, especially in that community because many of the kids unfortunately came from trauma. yes, i always saw myself as more than a teacher, and i took that seriously. >> can you share some of your views on education? i know you have been outspoken on the way children are taught with testing. >> sure. since no child left behind, we have been administering standardized tests in grades three through eight across the country and once in high school.
my critique has been, our mission administering these tests was to get to a 100% literacy rate and to close the achievement gap, and we have done neither of these things. the achievement gap has grown over the last 20 years. we need to focus a lot less on annual standardized state tests and more on learning and teaching that happens in the classroom. we need to focus more on curriculum, and we need to focus on the holistic development of our kids. much more investment in counselors, social workers, and psychologists, and a less focus on police in our schools and over testing. >> you have children and a wife of your own. can you tell us about your
children? >> i have a wife and three kids. my oldest is 19, and my youngest is six. yeah, i am fortunate i am able to provide a lot of the extra curricular support to my kids when they are not in school, whether that is making sure my son participates in soccer or karate, or making sure my daughter participates in dance. these are things that are important to the overall development of our kids, so our schools need to be implementing programs where children are not just provided with academic opportunities, but they are provided with opportunities in music, the arts, and sports, opportunities to learn not just in books but with their hands and building and designing and creating things. those are the things we need to
fight for all kids in our country. >> in thinking about your family and your career, when did the decision come to make the shift to congress? >> it may have happened a year prior to me deciding to run. it was the year prior to that that i had the most difficult year in public education. 34 children died in the k-12 school system in the bronx, and 17 died via suicide. one of those occurred right in my district where a ninth grader who was bullied in school went to the top of the building and jumped off the building after school. not too far from that incident
in new rochelle, two girls, two high school girls got into an argument during lunch. one pulled out a knife, stabbed the other, and killed her. it was at this point in my career when i started to feel pretty numb and powerless in terms of my mission as an educator, which is to help children under any circumstances to become them -- their best selves. it was the following year after finishing my doctorate that i wanted to have a bigger impact, and i thought i had something more to offer, which is why i decided to pursue a run for congress. >> you had a successful primary run running against 16 term congressman eliot engel. tell me about that. >> from the beginning, there was
a lot of excitement around our race. we were endorsed by the justice democrats right from the beginning. we were there first endorsement in new york state since alexandria ocasio-cortez. we had hundreds of volunteers sign up from the beginning, and our goal was to grow the electorate. it was to knock on the doors and connect with the people who have been most ignored by our political system and center their stories and voices and needs and bring them into the conversation in a real way. we didn't just target the all the time voters. we targeted people who maybe didn't vote consistently, and we were able to grow a diverse coalition of supporters both very young, much older, black, white, rich, poor, jewish,
christian, muslim. we had a diverse coalition of support, which led to us winning the primary by 16 points. >> once you get to capitol hill, what are you looking forward to doing? what are some of the priorities you are looking to hit the ground running with? >> first, we have to respond to covid. we have to make sure to get stimulus money. [phone ringing] sorry about that. the first thing we need to do is respond to covid. we need to get stimulus money into the hands of people who are struggling. we need to make sure our testing and contact tracing program is robust. we have to make sure we have enough vaccinations that are safe and secure for everyone in our country.
number two, we have to rebuild our economy, and what we are fighting for is to make sure we create a federal jobs guarantee in alignment with our green, clean, renewable energy goals that we have over the next decade. we have to rebuild our economy. that's millions of labor jobs, and that is growing the care economy, which is more teachers, early childhood providers, and more nurses. those are things we are focused on right out of the gate. continuing the fight for racial justice and wealth equality in our nation, these issues continue to persist, and we have to deal with the issue of police brutality directly, mass incarceration directly, and provide access to higher
education and jobs in an equitable way, not in a way that concentrates wealth in the hands of the few while the majority continues to struggle. >> congressman jamaal bowman, thank you so much for joining us today. >> net kema williams is the democrat representing georgia's fifth and esther -- fifth congressional district, the seat once held by john lewis. her husband once worked for the congressman, and she comes to the seat three years after chairing the state' democratic party. s>> we want to remind our viewers of the significance of the fifth the district. >> the fifth the district is steeped in history, and most people recognize it from being so ably served by civil rights icon congressman john lewis. it is the honor of my life to succeed him. >> you were chosen by the democratic party to be put on
the general election ballot after he passed away. how was it that you were chosen? >> out of 132 applicants and in accordance with the state law, we had exactly one business day as the democratic party of georgia to determine if they would replace congressman lewis's name on the ballot, and when all of the applications were reviewed, i was one of the top five finalists. the executive committee overwhelmingly chose me by looking at my background and history, the 18 years of work and service i did, and just the work i've been doing in the community, i was the choice to be on the ballot in november to replace the name of congressman john lewis, but as we know, no one can replace him in congress. >> when you were chosen, what was your reaction? >> it was virtual on a zoom, and
i was sitting in the same office. i don't know if you can see above me, but there's a mug shot of congressman john lewis that fits every day when i do interviews. i sat at my desk and cried. i probably should have thought more about it. it was being streamed all over the country. i was in tears. i could not believe a little girl who grew up in rural alabama was able to move to a city where i didn't know a soul and find my way in the political process and be able to succeed my hero in the united states congress. >> after the emotional reaction, what did you think about next of how you were going to be able to fill this seat and his legacy? >> the very first thing was how i did not want to let the people down who believed in me, and how i wanted to make sure i could continue congressman lewis's
legacy. civil rights is who i am and the legacy of this movement, and what it means to this district is at the core of who i am. i wanted to make sure i was listening to people on the ground. i ran a full camping, and people kept telling me, nikema, you are going to win. why are you canvassing? why are you texting people? why are you phone banking? it's because i don't take anything for granted, and i want people to know that i'm going to show up for them and fight for them and make sure our voices are represented. that's exactly what i did. i hit the campaign trail, and i talked with voters one on one to make sure their voices were being heard. >> did you know the late congressman john lewis? >> i did. i was fortunate to be able to know him on a personal level.
congressman lewis was not just a mentor and hero, but he was a friend to me. my husband worked for him for eight years in his d.c. office and atlanta office. i got a chance to know him more than most. he became my shopping buddy. >> your shopping buddy? explain that. >> my shopping buddy. congressman lewis loved to shop. he was a jokester, and he was the person everybody thought was a bigger than life icon, but for me, he was like the uncle down the street who knew the one thing that could make you smile. for me, that has always been shopping. the dillards department store that is based in the south, they have an annual sale after christmas every year, and all of the clearance things are an additional 50% off.
he would always call in and say, did you see anything good? did they have any sales? that was our time to make sure we would catch the good sales. >> he was ill and was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. do you know if he expressed his viewpoint of who should replace him on the ballot? >> that i don't know. congressman lewis was a fighter until the very end, and the last time that i saw him was when he came down to the capitol in march to qualify for election. at the time, none of us knew that he would not see the november election and serve out the remainder of his term. that is not something that we talked about. we talked about the future because we all thought we had more time. >> when you won the general election on election day, what was your reaction then?
>> it was very affirming to win in a landslide. 85% of the voters wanted me to be there member of congress, so i was again overwhelmed with emotion. i was concerned that may be the votes that were turning out were because of john lewis, and i wanted to make sure i was earning the support of the voters, and i did exactly that. it was affirming to know that over 85% of the voters in this district wanted me to be their voice. i'm looking forward to getting to work. >> how many times have you been told you have big shoes to fill? >> more than i can count at this point. i fully understand that. no one will ever replace him in the united states congress, and i am going to congress to live up to his legacy and chart my
own path. congressman lewis taught us each generation will take a step forward towards full equality. >> where it is your conviction come from? >> i was raised by my grandparents, and my grandfather was always involved in elections, never missed a vote. we would've pass out things to our neighbors to make sure they know who to vote for. i didn't realize it was political. i didn't realize the impact it would have on my life and encouraging me to be more civic lien involved. my great aunt went to the university of alabama. it didn't stand out to me until i was in ninth grade, and i remember coming home and being
like, i read about it in my history book. that was a powerful moment. i come from very humble beginnings. i grew up in a home with no indoor plumbing and running water. i know what it is like to need extra support from our government to make sure i can move forward in this country so a little girl from my background , being able to move to one of the highest offices in the land, it's not lost upon me, so that is why i will always center the most marginalized and make sure i am uplifting others. >> you were raised by your grandparents. what influence did they have on you? >> everything. my grandparents were my everything.
my grandfather was add. people wanted it to stand for something, and he always said, no, that is my name. i often think back to all of the sacrifices they made for me. they raised nine children, and i was the 10th child. after all they had been through in raising nine children and then raising me, i'm grateful for everything they instilled in me. never allowing anyone to tell you you can't accomplish something. my grandparents were my first cheerleaders and always told me i could do anything i wanted to accomplish. one story i remember, i always made good grades in school, and i remember a spelling test in second grade, i made a 100 on the spelling test.
my grandmother was like, if you can make 100, you can make 110. i've always been taught from the beginning to give everything my very best, and i can get whatever i want. >> what advice did they give you that sticks with you today? >> never settle. my grandmother always said, if you stay ready, you will be ready, and that is what happened in july. sometimes, you don't choose the moments, the moments choose you, and that is what happened to me. >> what are your concerns, fears, worries about serving in the u.s. house? >> i think my concern is not having more people who are willing to look at those people living on the margins.
i know i'm going to do everything possible, but i can't control what other people will do and how they will center their decision-making. that is my concern. as a mom, i have a five-year-old son who is in virtual kindergarten. my concern is we don't get this right for our children. i'm going to do everything in my power because our children deserve people who are willing to fight for them. just looking at this covid-19 pandemic and what we are up against, we have a lot of work to do to get a national response to this pandemic so we can get our economy on track. we can address the health inequities that covid-19 has shined a bright spotlight on. >> what are you most excited about?
>> i'm excited about coming into congress with a democratic majority in the house. people keep asking like, it's only this much of a margin. it does not matter. a majority is a majority. the three years i served in the state senate, we were in the minority, and not even a close minority. there were lots of fights we didn't even have a chance for. looking at the prospects, we have a democratic president coming in and the possibilities of having a democratically controlled senate, so there is a lot of work we need to get done. >> is there anybody you are excited or looking forward to meeting? >> when i went for new member orientation, i was fan girling
because i couldn't believe i was seeing people like congresswoman waters, congresswoman barbara lee, people i've read their books and have lived up to them -- looked up to them, and now i get to call them a colleague. i had to temper my excitement when i get the chance to interact with them, and they are looking to me to ask me questions about things i want to do in congress. >> what have they said to you about the seat you are filling? >> it is not lost upon me that this is a special seat. speaker pelosi asked me to second her nomination when she was running for speaker in front of the entire democratic caucus. the spotlight was on me to speak on behalf of speaker pelosi. she told me congressman lewis nominated her for speaker, and
she would be honored if i would be a part of her nominating team . that meant a lot to me. it's not lost upon me. >> thank you for your time. >> thank you so much. >> for comprehensive source of video and information on the u.s. house, go to c-span.org/congress. c-span -- your unfiltered view of congress. >> the 117th congress includes over 60 new members, and this group includes first-generation immigrants, state representatives, television reporters, and former college and professional athletes. watch our conversations at 8:00 p.m. eastern.
watch interviews with new members of congress tuesday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span, online at c-span.org, or listen on the c-span radio app. >> c-span's "washington journal." every day, we take your calls live on the air of the news of the day, and we discussed policy issues that impact you. coming up wednesday, we talk about the possible return of earmarks with taxpayers for common sense president and congressional institute president mark strand. we interview an author about his book on u.s.-china trade and economic relations. watch "washington journal" live at 7:00 a.m. eastern wednesday morning, and join the discussion with your phone calls, facebook comments, text messages, and tweets. >>