I grew up in a small town, just like many of the small towns in the 5th District of Indiana. In South Fulton, Tennessee, I was the youngest of four children. I was part of the early wave of elementary school children who desegregated schools in Tennessee and was the only African American child in my class enrolled in the Head Start Program.
My dad was a veteran, union worker and small business entrepreneur who built a construction business from nothing while becoming an accomplished tradesman-plumber and electrician. My mom stayed at home to raise their children and then became a teacher’s aide, saleswoman and entrepreneur.
Both of my parents emphasized the importance of hard work and education as primary tools for success and an essential antidote against the unjust, discriminatory climate we were raised in. Our town was an agricultural and railroad union town, making it possible for most of its residents to climb into the middle class. My parents were civic minded and politically active.
Their activism was fueled by the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states and was signed by President Lyndon Johnson. I remember sitting in the car while they worked to empower people to exercise their hard-won right to vote on Election Day.
While not perfect, my hometown was a great place to grow up. At an early age, sports showed me the importance of acquiring skills and working collaboratively. As the tallest girl in the class, I was automatically singled out for basketball. Fortunately for me, I love the game.
At the time, I didn’t recognize how the sport could propel my career and impact every aspect of my life. I earned a scholarship to play at the University of Louisville and was the beneficiary of Title IX. The 1972 landmark legislation written by Indiana Senator Birch Bayh prohibits discrimination based on gender, and in my situation, ensured I could attain a college degree.
When people’s abilities are valued, and they are given an opportunity to contribute, they thrive. Upon graduation, I took my knowledge and leadership skills to my first job at Xerox. During my 30 years with the company, I rapidly earned increasing levels of responsibility and retired early as a Xerox executive and consultant.
I was fortunate to have worked for a company that not only spoke about diversity but also embraced having a workforce that mirrored the communities served as good for business. It was through my work at Xerox that I came to the great state of Indiana. While working full time and raising my family, I earned my MBA at Indiana Wesleyan University.
As a mother of three successful adults and a corporate executive, I learned to be a high achiever, and my husband and I reared a family in Carmel, Indiana where we have lived for 26 years. We learned to see difficulties as challenges and opportunities not as excuses for inaction.
This is who I am and what I will bring to Congress—my resilience, grit and ability to solve what others may perceive as problems to be opportunities. My experiences have prepared me well. I am ready for what lies ahead and ask for your support and your vote to be the representative for the 5th District.
Your issues are my issues and are the focus of my campaign, and I will work collaboratively to address them.