The Network of enlightened Women is proud of our work to empower women and encourage them to become strong leaders. By looking to principled conservative leaders we hope to provide valuable lessons on our political system and how to develop professional skills. NeW hosted Congresswoman Julia Letlow (R- LA) as part of our Meet the Members series. During the conversation, she encouraged women to become leaders in their local communities and beyond.
You can find a transcript highlighting the event below:
Karin Lips: I’m Karin Lips, President of the Network of enlightened Women. NeW works to educate, equip, and empower young women to be principled leaders for a free society. We’re excited today to be joined by Congresswoman Letlow from Louisiana. She took office in April 2021 after receiving 65% of the vote in a special election to win the seat previously won by her husband Luke, who passed away from complications of COVID just days before taking office. She’s the first woman elected to represent Louisiana in Congress. And I am especially excited to mention that you are a graduate of the University of South Florida, right?
Congresswoman Julia Letlow: That’s right.
Lips: Well, we’ve got a very strong chapter down at the University of South Florida, so I know they will be excited to tune in and watch. So, thank you so much, Congresswoman, for being with us today.
Congresswoman Letlow: Thank you. Go Bulls!
Lips: Can you share with us what your policy priorities are moving forward?
Congresswoman Letlow: Sure. I am so excited about the 118th Congress. I’ve been here a brief year and a half so far. Been able to learn quite a bit. But now, I finally feel like I have my legs underneath me and we are ready to hit the ground running in the 118th.
So, this past Congress, I was able to author the Parents’ Bill of Rights, between my background and my passion and my love for education, and so, that was a really wonderful opportunity. It’s common-sense legislation. We actually have something already in place and similar in Louisiana. But it basically just says parents should always have a seat at the table when it comes to their child’s education. And that it should be a true partnership between parents and the schools. So, I’m excited that we are, hopefully, going to pass that in one of the top ten bills out of the 118th Congress. And I will definitely be working on anything that has to do with education. I believe in education at every level. I believe if you educate a child, you give them a future. It’s a way to elevate a region out of poverty, out of some of the highest poverty rates in my district alone. And so, I believe education’s the answer from early childhood, our K-12 programs, our trade schools, community colleges, all the way to our four-year institutions. So that’s where you will see me being a champion.
Lips: You mentioned being a mom of young children and there’s lots of efforts to get more moms in Congress. Yet as a mom of young children myself, it’s a tough season to be away in the evenings and I imagine you take on some of the demands of being a Member of Congress. Could you talk about what’s worked for you, how you address that, and what you’re doing to support other moms out there?
Congresswoman Letlow: Sure. Well, I think about the incredible women for centuries before me who have blazed the trail and done an amazing job showing me that it can be done and has been done. Women, we just get it done. And so, I think that that’s why it’s so important for women to serve in government and serve in roles just like this because we offer a different perspective. And we encounter things day in and day out that maybe some of our male counterparts don’t necessarily have to deal with. And so, I think it takes an incredible support system. But, as a mom, you know that you have to have that, you surround yourself with that. Choose that partner wisely. Who you choose in your life to be that partner with you that will really help pitch in. And so, that you can both pursue your dreams and your careers.
And I think it’s important for our children to see us in our careers and working and serving other people. So, I think it’s just finding a routine that works for you. It helped me to be up here for a little while and see what worked. And then what didn’t, and I was able to pull back. But just finding that rhythm, finding a support team that will help you. It takes more than just one person to raise a child. So, it’s just all of those things coming together. But just because you are going to have a family, I would not let that deter you from seeking public office and serving in those roles.
Lips: Can you talk about how your background as a conservative woman brings on different challenges? What specific challenges do you face as a conservative woman in Congress?
Congresswoman Letlow: I just don’t think there’s enough of us. And that’s why I would encourage all the more for women to run for public office.
I tell this story wherever I go, when Luke, my husband who passed away, when he was running for the seat, we visited all 24 parishes. We have parishes in Louisiana instead of counties. And I represent 24 of them. Well, we were running, I say we because it’s a partnership, and I was supporting his dreams. But everywhere I went… We went to all 24 parishes. I came back and I said, “Honey, this was amazing. The people stole my heart, but where are all the women in local office, and state office, and federal office?” Because I just did not see them on the trail. “Where are they?” So, I was in his ear nonstop about it. And he finally just said, “Honey, you are 100% right. But why don’t you do something about it? Quit complaining about it. Be part of the solution and maybe run for something one day where you feel called to run.”
Now, I thought I would probably run for school board. But God had other plans.
But I would just encourage conservative women to step up and run. I think I was the 31st woman on the Republican side for the 117th Congress. And when you think about there were 208 of us total I believe, Republicans, that’s not enough. And I go back to saying that our voices need to be around the table. And so, those conservative voices. And I go back to saying, there are more Democratic women who are serving. And so, we need to at least match those numbers, if not surpass them because our voices are important.
Lips: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to mentor some of our students today, and share your experiences and your advice. I know it’ll resonate with so many of them. So, thank you so much, Congresswoman, for being with us.
Congresswoman Letlow: Thank you so much, Karin, for having me.