As the media turned its focus to President Obama’s audience during the State of the Union—namely Congress—the Aspen Institute was keeping an eye on one particular member of the freshman Congressional class, Kyrsten Sinema—a graduate of the 2008 Rodel fellowship class.
Many people seek to define Congresswoman Sinema in simple terms; after all she is the first ever openly bisexual member of Congress. But, indeed, she has had a varied career as a lawyer, an author, former state senator, a professor, and a social worker. She’s an American success story, and now a freshman member of the Arizona delegation in the United States House of Representatives.
Though Rep. Sinema is not afraid to fight for what she believes in, she is hardly just another partisan politician. Her desire for coalition building and breaking through aisle-drawn battle lines is important to her leadership style. It’s also a key reason why she was drawn to the Rodel Fellowship program, as it promotes problem solving in public leadership. “The Aspen Institute’s work to advance a non-partisan approach to problem solving is a vital asset to environments like our nation’s legislature,” said Sinema. “I’m proud of my experience in the Aspen Rodel fellowship program and the lasting connections I made with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”
The paramount motivation behind the dynamic new Congresswoman may be her experiences growing up poor and all the obstacles she overcame to become the success she is today. At one point in her young life, after becoming homeless, her family was squatting at a gas station with no running water or electricity. Having overcome so much adversity in her own life, Rep. Sinema naturally wants to use her time in Congress to provide her constituents—and all Americans—with the opportunities to break the bonds of poverty. “My focus will be to help restore the middle class and help Arizona families facing the worst foreclosure crisis in the nation,” she said.
The Aspen Institute will look to Rep. Sinema, as it does all of its fellows, to put her beliefs and values into action. We look forward to watching this Rodel fellow move our nation forward.