As a woman in Congress, Representative Jan Schakowsky fixates on the idea of encouraging women to step up to vote or even run for Congress. To all the women out there, she advises, “I think we just have to be pushy bitches!”
Congresswoman Schakowsky joined a crowd of 20 to address voter turnout rates and the empowerment of African-Americans, women and the youth within the political process in an event hosted by the Theta Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Representing Illinois 9th district since 1999, Schakowsky detailed the history of Southern violence during the passage of the Voting Rights Act amendment as well as the progress the U. S. has made since then.
“This is not ancient history – people dying, people bleeding,” Schakowsky said. “This was America 50 years ago, not that long ago.”
With the upcoming midterm elections, Schakowsky was also concerned about mobilizing citizens to find their voice and, essentially, vote. She described how young people came out in large numbers during presidential elections but failed to return for midterm elections.
According to Schakowsky, the problem was worse for single women when in 2010, there were about 50 million unmarried women and 40 percent of them were not registered to vote. To address this problem, Schakowsky mentioned the revitalization of the “Freedom Summer” this summer and fall to recruit voters and “physically help people” get over the barriers to voting.
“This is about getting people who need to be registered and who are less likely to be registered to go out and vote,” Schakowsky said.
Schakowsky also touched upon the negativity surrounding President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. She didn’t hold back on criticizing Republicans for their constant barrage against programs such as Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid.
“How come those people are in charge?” Schakowsky said. “It’s because our people didn’t get to go out and vote.”
Schakowsky was confident that rallying voters “can be done.” In the later Q-and-A session, she stressed that women and young people just need to see that they have the power.
“There is just no evidence at all that my vote doesn’t matter,” Schakowsky said.
Some audience members resonated with Schakowsky’s passion in the conversation. One in particular, the chapter president Leah Jones, a Weinberg senior, thought it was a very open and honest discussion. Medill sophomore Michael Odom agreed.
“She was very personable,” Odom said. “A lot of times you think politicians are above us, but I didn’t feel that way at all.”
Incoming secretary of the chapter Ashley Mills, a School of Communication junior, valued her concentration on voter turnout.
“The Congresswoman did a great job of setting the context of the current loading landscape, talking about the issues we are facing as a country,” Mills said. “I appreciated her focus on minority rights just because it relates to me directly.”
As a democratic representative, Schakowsky will continue to engage with minority voters and hopes the country can move forward in the 21st century.
“I hope the country is waking up to, ‘What the hell is going on here?’” Schakowsky said. “If we don’t together lift our children here, then we are in trouble.”