What a Heroine

April 16, 2009

Tammy Duckworth is an incredibly brave woman who will be receiving a Women of Distinction award at this year’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). Like Gen. Evelyn “Pat” Foote, a 2008 Woman of Distinction awardee who broke many barriers for women in the military, Duckworth has done much work in support of veterans’ rights.

In 2004, while on duty in Iraq, Duckworth was piloting a helicopter that was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Unfortunately, she lost both her legs and partial use of one of her arms, but her injuries did not stop her from using her voice to help others. She returned home to Illinois and in 2006 ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. During the campaign, Duckworth was admired not only as an Iraqi war veteran but also as an advocate for affordable education and healthcare — issues she knew well from her own $70,000 student loan debt and her long-term medical care. Despite losing the race by a slim margin, Duckworth remained an active public servant.

In 2006 Duckworth was appointed director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, where she developed a program to provide tax cuts to employers who hired veterans from the Persian Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is now tapped to join the Obama administration as the assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs under Secretary Eric Shinseki. As assistant secretary, Duckworth will direct the VA’s public affairs, internal communications, and intergovernmental relations. She will also oversee programs for homeless veterans, consumer affairs, and special rehabilitative events.

Tammy Duckworth is truly an amazing leader. Instead of letting a catastrophic injury interfere in her life, she has used that experience to fight as an advocate for fellow veterans. Learn more about her inspiring story and about the 2009 NCCWSL at http://www.nccwsl.org/.

This post was written by Jennifer McGuire, AAUW-Leadership and Training Institute Fellow.

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