Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers: A Republican Woman Who Believes in Real Change

Congresswoman McMorris RodgersRepublican women in Congress have become a bonded group in the past 18 months – thanks in part to the leadership of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who serves Washington’s Fifth Congressional district. McMorris Rodgers is the Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference and has championed Republican efforts in the health care debate recently by recognizing that women make the majority of family health decisions and noting the particular health concerns of women. She’s also led by example with the message of necessary health care reform for those with special needs because her young son, Cole, was born with Down syndrome.

But there’s more to being a Member of Congress than legislation and policy talk. McMorris Rodgers has lived in the Pacific Northwest her whole life, having grown up on her family farm and fulfilling her parents’ dream of being the first in her family to graduate from college. Though she eventually went on to earn an Executive MBA, serve in the statehouse and get elected to Congress, McMorris Rodgers’ humble roots keep her grounded. She remembers the family orchard and fruit stand filled with homegrown cherries, apricots, peaches, pears and apples.

Folks in her district find her background and life experience relatable. As a former member of the 4-H, Rodgers was fond of showing her lamb Freckles and participating in speeches.

“I gave my first speech in 4-H, the topic was salmon,” said McMorris Rodgers. “Decades later, I’m still giving speeches on salmon!”

As a child, McMorris Rodgers also played the piano, something her parents sacrificed to provide for her year after year. Another passion for McMorris Rodgers is traveling the world – including backpacking through Europe. She counts visiting Israel with her husband as the highlight of these travel experiences.

“When Brian and I walked next to the Sea of Galilee – next to it, not on it – and we saw the taxi cabs in Jerusalem, and the Jordan River – Israel changed for us from the place of Bible stories into some place very special and personal in our memories,” said McMorris Rodgers.

Like most public leaders, McMorris Rodgers’ initial ambition for joining politics stemmed from her love of community service. When Cole was born, she had another reason for public service – special needs education.

“While we have come a long way as a country in terms of education, employment and opening doors of opportunity to those with special needs, we still have a lot of work ahead of us in terms of maximizing their potential and recognizing their tremendous value in our lives,” she said.

McMorris Rodgers chose to enter politics as a Republican because she values freedom above all. She gave a well-known quote from Ronald Reagan to emulate that belief:

“Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority or government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put in this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer. It´s so hard for government planners, no matter how sophisticated, to ever substitute for millions of individuals working night and day to make their dreams come true.”

With heroes like Margaret Thatcher and Elisabeth Elliot, it’s no wonder McMorris Rodgers has charged ahead as a leader in Congress. Many have said 2010 is the “Year of the Republican Woman.” So what does McMorris Rodgers think about it?

“I’m very excited,” she said. “The record number of Republican women participating in government this year is a direct result of the failed policies coming from Washington, DC.”

McMorris Rodgers said women have been disproportionately affected by the bad economy and the government takeover of health care. She noted that 2 out of 3 new businesses are started by women and women spend 2 out of 3 health care dollars.

“Republican women represent ‘change’ better than anyone else,” she said.

*Ericka Andersen is employed by the House Republican Conference.

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