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U.S. Senator Susan Collins Talks Politics
By Kira Pilger
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Senator Susan Collins sits down with Scholastic Kid Reporter Kira Pilger.
Senator Susan Collins sits down with Scholastic Kid Reporter Kira Pilger.

  • Robotics pioneer Cynthia Breazeal spoke with our kid reporters about women and technology.

  • See what Gloria Steinem had to say about the women's rights movement.

  • Leaders in education spoke with our kid reporters.

  • Our kid reporters interview women working in government at the state and local levels.

    (Photo: Kira Pilger)
  • In honor of Women's History Month, I recently sat down with U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine. In addition to taking time to talk with me, Senator Collins is doing her part to celebrate Women's History Month by giving a speech at the University of Maine in honor of Senator Margaret Chase Smith—a woman who inspired Collins as a young girl. As a woman in politics, Collins believes in highlighting the accomplishments of women, and she is proud of the work that she gets to do today in the Senate.

    "I love having the opportunity to make a difference," said Collins.

    Collins first started thinking about pursuing a career in government during high school. She already had an excellent example of a female leader at home—her mother was Mayor of Caribou, Maine, and the head of the local school board. Just a few years later, Collins began her own political career by working with Senator William Cohen, of Maine.

    During our talk, Collins described how the look of the Senate has changed since she first arrived there in 1996. In her first term as a Senator, there were only nine women—now the number has reached 14. Collins went on to describe feelings she had during those first days in the Senate, including believing that she had to prove that she was good enough to work alongside the male Senators. After a while, she began to feel accepted and treated as an equal among men.

    Collins is encouraged to see more women working in politics, and confident that America is ready for a female President. While the presidency is not a job she has her eye on, Collins said that she wouldn't mind holding a Cabinet position.

    So what exactly makes a good politician? Leadership skills are key, Collins stressed. She offered these tips for young people that wanted to improve their leadership skills:

  • Be involved in school groups, like student council.
  • Participate in groups like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America.
  • Volunteer at school and in your community.

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    Scholastic Kid Reporter Molly Majewicz and Representative Rosa DeLauro
    Scholastic Kid Reporter Molly Majewicz and Representative Rosa DeLauro
    (Photo: Molly Majewicz)
    By Molly Majewicz
    Scholastic Kids Press Corps

    March 2006—Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, has served in Congress for 15 years. Political involvement, it seems, runs in her family. DeLauro's mother was an elected official on the Board of Alderman in their city of New Haven, Connecticut, during a time when it was unusual for women to work outside the home. Not only that, but she served in her position longer than any other person— 35 years. DeLauro describes her mother as an extraordinary role model for young women.

    "When I was running for office, I found an article that my mother wrote," said DeLauro. "[It was] a piece about how women need to be involved, and the last line of the article said, 'Come on girls, let's make our voices heard.'"

    Women's History Month, said DeLauro, is a time to reflect on how far women have come in securing their rights, and how much work still needs to be done.

    "You look at these role models and at the [women] who succeeded against unbelievable odds," said DeLauro. "It's important to reflect on that and just think about how lucky you are."

    Today, DeLauro is working hard to encourage girls to run for political office, so that women can be better represented in government. For example, out of 435 congressional leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, only 63 are women. That's only 14 percent, DeLauro pointed out, and that doesn't come close to representing the people of the United States, where women comprise 51 percent of the total population. DeLauro expressed hope that the number of women in politics will continue to rise, leading to the day when a woman will be elected President.

    "Around the world there are women who are heads of states, queens of countries, [and] prime ministers," DeLauro said. "It's been more difficult in the United States, but we're getting there. We have several [women] who can do the job."

    DeLauro is counting on young women to get politically involved and take an active role in shaping public policies.

    "We should focus on women's rights, not only during Women's History month, but all year long."

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