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Congresswoman Katherine Clark proudly serves the Fifth District of Massachusetts. She is a vocal advocate for ending wage discrimination, protecting women’s health care, access to affordable, high-quality child care, paid family leave, safer schools, and other reforms to address the challenges women and families face. In fall 2018, she was elected by her colleagues to serve as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, making her the sixth highest ranking Democrat and the second highest ranking woman in the 116th Congress. Katherine, her husband Rodney and their three boys Addison, Jared and Nathaniel live in Melrose.
Congresswoman Katherine Clark will speak during the opening session of the 2019 Fall Festival, happening October 1–3 in Boston’s Seaport. Learn more and register here.
Lindsay Gearheart: What is your background and what inspired you to pursue a seat in Congress?
Katherine Clark: For me, public service has always been about supporting the success of women and families. Early in my career, I was working as the general counsel for the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services, and we were discussing the appropriate length of day for children in care. There was a consensus from the others that children shouldn’t be in child care for more than eight hours a day, but as the only working mom at the table, I said, “If moms and dads are working eight hours a day, how are they supposed to pick up their children in that timeframe?” It’s moments like this that highlight the need for women, and people of all lived experiences, to be at the policymaking table. That’s why I first ran for School Committee, why I ran for Congress in 2013, and why we need to continue working to ensure our government includes the entire mosaic of experiences in America.
LG:What has been the most challenging pursuit of your career in the House of Representatives?
KC: Tackling the gun violence epidemic. Almost 40,000 Americans die a year to gun violence, whether that’s from mass shootings, community based violence, or suicide. Unfortunately, we have a political system that is responding more to special interests than to concerned parents. In 2016, following the tragic Pulse Night Club shooting in Orlando, I led a sit-in on the House floor with my colleague and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis because we were so disgusted by the lack of action by the Republican-led House. That moment solidified for me that when the system isn’t working, you need to fix the system, and that’s exactly what happened in 2018. Voters organized and supported Congressional candidates in favor of common sense gun reform. As a result, House Democrats secured the majority in Congress and in less than two months of being in power, we passed two common sense background check bills. While we are still waiting for Mitch McConnell’s Senate to take up the bills, the American people can clearly see who is working for them.
LG: The media has said you’re “the most powerful woman in the Capitol you’ve probably never heard of.” What are your thoughts as a woman in Congress on working quietly to gain power versus using the louder style of leadership we typically see?
KC: During the 2018 midterms, I crisscrossed the country to help elect Democratic candidates and win back the House Democratic Majority. I was inspired by the energy and passion of candidates and voters who wanted a government that was helping to solve their everyday challenges, from the cost of prescription drugs to the opioid crisis to gun violence. Now, as a member of leadership, I have the privilege of continuing this work by ensuring the diverse voices of my colleagues and of voters are shaping the work of the House Democrats. That’s enabled us to pass bills that will guarantee women equal pay for equal work and give American workers the first minimum wage increase in a decade. That’s what this job is all about.
LG: How do you balance representing all the distinct communities in District 5 while being a member of House leadership?
KC: It’s an honor to represent the Fifth District of Massachusetts and I ran for leadership to bring my values and the values of Massachusetts voters to the leadership table. The Commonwealth has always been at the vanguard of progress. We were the first state to legalize marriage for all, we led the nation in health care reform, and we’ve been sounding the alarm on climate change for decades. As the Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, I’m able to advocate for bold solutions not just to Massachusetts, but for our nation.
LG: Do you have advice for those in Massachusetts, particularly women, who aspire to work in public service?
KC: Sign up. Get involved. Run. The right time is right now. We need your voice and there are women ready to help you and support you.
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