This week, we are humbled to celebrate Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) as our Fairygodboss of the Week. Tammy is a model of courage and perseverance. After losing her legs and partial use of her right arm in Iraq, she pursued public service to support Veterans’ rights. Tammy is running for Senate this fall (and also running the Chicago Marathon!!!), but her #1 challenge is still a familiar one: how to excel professionally and still make time for her baby girl, Abigail.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Tammy Duckworth
Hoffman Estates, IL
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
TD: My family has a long history of public service dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War. I was excited to enroll in ROTC in college, but I was also eager to explore other realms of public service, which is why I pursued a Ph.D. in Political Science at Northern Illinois University, and also managed Rotary clubs abroad within the Asia Pacific Region.
In 2004, my unit was deployed to Iraq, and on a November day almost 12 years ago, my Black Hawk helicopter was struck by a rocket propelled grenade and I lost both legs and partial use of my right arm in the explosion. After I sustained my injuries, I made a commitment that every day moving forward, I would honor my buddies who saved me.
In 2006, I was appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and then went on to work as Assistant Secretary for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in 2009. I wanted to advocate for the Servicemen and Women who have dedicated so much to our country both on and off the battlefield. We often forget that our responsibility to this nation’s Service Members does not end when they come home -- which is exactly why I decided to run for public office.
I was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, and am now running for the U.S. Senate. I’m excited about the opportunity to serve the state of Illinois in a new capacity, and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work in the U.S. Senate in January 2017.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
TD: I’m very proud to have I completed my Ph.D. in Human Services last year. It took six years, many late nights and a tremendous amount of support from my friends and family, but I’m very proud to have attained the degree.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
TD: A challenge many can relate to is being a working parent. There are so many days when all I want to do is be home with my baby girl, Abigail, but with a hectic work schedule, that often just isn’t possible. I’ve had to find ways to work around my job as a Congresswoman and candidate to be there for my daughter as much as possible, although it’s never enough. A big part of the reason I’m running for Senate is to support those working parents who want to be able to to provide for their families, while also finding quality time to spend with their kids.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
TD: Every free moment I have is spent with Abigail. She’s 20 months old now and I cherish every moment with her. I’m also currently training for this year’s Chicago Marathon.
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
TD: I would like to sit down with President John F. Kennedy, a truly transformative icon in our nation’s history.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
TD: Anything I can just scream out loud because I can’t carry a tune. “I Love Rock n Roll” is a personal favorite of mine.
FGB: What is your favorite movie
TD: I haven’t seen the movie, but my favorite book is We Were Soldiers Once and Young by Joseph L. Galloway. When I was serving as a major in the Army, I encouraged all of my junior officers to read this book. It’s the best illustration of the service of true military leadership I’ve read in a long time. Galloway is able to capture the effectiveness of soldiering fundamentals, while also demonstrating the disastrous consequences of ignoring these key principles. I liked this book so much that I avoided seeing the movie.
FGB: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
TD: Anything by Jane Austen.
FGB: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
TD: My shopping vice is shoes, but if I won the lottery I’d buy a UH-1 Huey helicopter, or start a food blog on food trucks.
FGB: Who is your Fairygodboss?
TD: I would have loved the opportunity to meet Abigail Adams. My baby girl Abigail is named after her. I have always admired how tirelessly she worked to improve the rights of women, and the active role she took in advising her husband during their time in the White House.