'Unbought, unbossed' -- Underwood echoes legendary Chisholm, advocates bipartisanship
Bold. Unbought. Unbossed.
Lauren Underwood, the newly sworn U.S. representative for Illinois' 14th district and the youngest black woman elected to Congress, echoed the words of the first black woman elected to Congress -- Shirley Chisholm, the celebrated, seven-term U.S. representative from New York -- during a ceremonial swearing in Saturday at Underwood's alma mater, Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville.
"I wake up every day eager to advocate on your behalf … and prove worthy of your faith," the 32-year-old Democrat told the near capacity crowd gathered at the school. She said the school nurtured her development, shaped her passion for service and prepared her for the journey she began a little more than a week ago as a member of the 116th Congress.
"I'm committed to moving forward together," she said. "It's your voice I bring with me as I vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives," said Underwood who was sworn in by Ruben Castillo, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Reiterating her commitment to affordable health care, including coverage for pre-existing conditions, the congresswoman shared the story of an Oswego woman who had to choose between heat for her home or health care for her and her son. She chose health care, said Underwood. As a result, their home will be colder this winter.
"No family should have to grapple with such a decision," Underwood said to the crowd, which regularly punctuated her speech with applause.
When she vowed to fight to reopen the federal government and "end this senseless shutdown," the response was especially effusive from more than two dozen members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
More air traffic controllers live in the 14th district than in any other district in the state, said Toby Hauck, an air traffic controller and union leader.
"This is an opportunity for us to support her and welcome her as our congresswoman," said Hauck, who says he shared with Underwood the effect of the shutdown on workers and on the safety of the system overall.
"We want to continue to remind our elected officials that it is unacceptable to use our careers and livelihood as a political football," Hauck said.
During a brief interview following the event, Underwood expressed concern for air traffic controllers, farmers, small business owners and others hurt by the shutdown and referenced the votes house members have taken to partially reopen government.
"We cannot allow the American people to be held hostage," she said. At the same time, "we have to make sure we fund border security measures that will keep America safe."
Her legislative priorities include bipartisan efforts to pass a law requiring universal background checks for firearm purchases, comprehensive immigration reform and election security.
"I remain as hopeful as ever that we can tackle these challenges together," she told the crowd. "You voted for change and change has come."