Women Shaping History 2013
Jeanne Shaheen: U.S. Senator, NH
What has inspired your current career path?
I was inspired to pursue a career in public service because I had a desire to make a difference. Growing up in the 1960’s, during the heart of the civil rights movement, I saw firsthand the opportunity to effect meaningful change. One of my first jobs was as a teacher at a newly integrated school in Mississippi, and I saw how difficult and transformational change could be. I wanted to be engaged in the fight for equality and opportunity for all Americans.
What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced?
One of the greatest challenges I have faced is balancing my work as a Governor and Senator with the work of being a mother. Raising three daughters and serving as an elected official are both full-time jobs. Balancing work and family was not always easy, but I think the challenge gave me an invaluable perspective on a number of critical issues, like childcare and early childhood education, that are so important to families in our state.
What are some of the accomplishments you are most proud of?
Helping to make public kindergarten a reality for over 31,500 additional children in New Hampshire is something that I will always be proud of. When I became Governor, New Hampshire was one of the only states in the country that did not offer universal kindergarten. Early education is critical to our long-term economic growth. That is why I was so pleased to hear President Obama include a call for universal pre-K in his State of the Union address this year and I look forward to fighting for that in the Senate.
Who have been the most influential mentors in your life?
My mother was an enormous influence in my life. Like me, she was a working mother who also raised three daughters. She taught me the lessons of hard-work, respect for others and the importance of family values. Throughout my time in politics, I have worked to incorporate these values into my work to maintain positive, respectful relationships. Even when we as elected officials don’t see eye to eye, it is critical that we do not allow political divisiveness to obstruct our job of representing the American people.
What would you describe as a turning point in your life?
When I was a graduate student in Mississippi, I was moved by Jimmy Carter, then the Governor of Georgia, and his first inaugural address calling for the end of segregation in the South. I was teaching in a newly integrated school at the time, and Carter’s vision was very different from what I was hearing from elected officials in Mississippi. I admired his courage and his leadership and eventually, I ended up working on his Presidential campaign after I moved to New Hampshire. That was my first experience working on a campaign, and it inspired me to remain involved in the political process.
What are your goals for the future?
It is my goal to work together with people in New Hampshire and Washington to find bipartisan, common-sense solutions to address the challenges facing our country. We have an opportunity to put aside partisan differences and find common ground to strengthen our economy and make life better for middle-class American families. I am hopeful that we can come together to stand up for the ideals that make our country great - opportunity, equality and freedom - because that is what the public sent us here to do. #