Leaders are Made
State Senator Diane Allen talks to Scholastic News Online
By Diane Chavous
Scholastic Kids Press Corps
Scholastic Kids Press Corps
I asked the Senator which people in her life she viewed as role models. She didn't hesitate as she began to go down the listher mother, her aunt, and her teachers. She stressed the importance of teachers in the lives of their students. Kids, she said, should have at least one teacher as a role model.
We moved on to the subject of challenges, as I asked Allen what she thought was the biggest obstacle she has had to face as a female politician. When speaking publicly, Allen explained, she found that men didn't pay attention to women as closely as they would to male speakers. While it was difficult earlier in her career, she says, it is no longer a problem she faces.
Leadership was the next topic on the list, as I asked Allen how people become leaders. Did she think they were born or made? "Leaders," she said confidently, "are made."
"In order to become a good and successful leader," Allen said, "you have to stay in school and take studying seriously."
As a young woman, I believe that Senator Allen makes an excellent role model for girls. She is an effective leader, she works well with her staff, and she is a strong public speaker. She is involved with many boardsnot just as a member and director, but also as a chairperson. Allen's career is a reminder to young girls that women can accomplish just as much as men.
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March marks the 26th annual National Women's History Month. This year's theme, Women: Builders of Communities and Dreams, honors the work that women have done to strengthen our communities on local and national levels. I recently talked with a very special community builderIllinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
As a young girl, Madigan knew that she wanted to do something with her life to help improve people's lives. As Attorney General, that is exactly what she does each day. Madigan's job is to help protect the people of Illinois by prosecuting offenders of the law. Her work involves fighting the spread of drug use, protecting senior citizens, and working to prevent violence against children. Madigan feels confident that these things help to strengthen and build communities.
Here's what Madigan had to say to Scholastic News Online:
Scholastic News: As an advocate for the people of Illinois, what have you done to help build community?
Lisa Madigan: My office has worked hard to strengthen communities throughout Illinois by fighting the spread of a very dangerous drug known as [crystal] meth, protecting senior citizens, and working to prevent violence to children.
SN: Why is it important to build community?
Madigan: Today's children are tomorrow's leaders, and it is critical that we have strong communities to nurture their development through after-school programs or public service activities. Before I became an attorney, I worked as a teacher and as a community advocate. I worked to develop after-school programs to help kids stay away from drugs and gangs and help give them a chance at a better life.
SN: What do you like about your job?
Madigan: Every day I work in an office that has a real, meaningful, and positive impact on people's lives. Each day I can help people by using the law as a tool to improve their lives.
SN: What do you dislike about your job?
Madigan: There is nothing I dislike about my jobI just wish there were more than 24 hours in a day.
SN: What is the most important thing you've done while in office?
Madigan: I think the measures we have taken to improve the safety and security of people's lives have been important. Using the law to improve people's lives is what I set out to do. Each time we write new laws that make it more difficult for people to make and sell drugs or help police officers to prevent violence, I think we do just that.
SN: Does the fact that you are a woman affect the way you approach your job?
Madigan: Even though I am the first female Attorney General in Illinois history, I focus on the work that needs to be done for the people of Illinois and so my gender is not the issuethe people of Illinois are. One of my top priorities while in office has been protecting familiesespecially childrenfrom violence. I am also concentrating on enacting tougher laws to prevent the spread of meth and to protect consumers from fraud.
SN: When you were young, did you think you would be in such a powerful and important position?
Madigan: No. Growing up, I just knew I wanted to do something where I could help people improve their lives.
SN: What other careers were you interested in when you were young?
Madigan: I worked as a teacher and as a community advocate before becoming an attorney and practicing law. I have always been active in my community so, in a way, this was a natural progression.
SN: How do you balance your career with your family?
Madigan: Being a working mom is not easyjust ask the millions of women who are balancing career and family all over the world. But I do my best. I make sacrifices where needed, and I'm very lucky to have a supportive family.
SN: What dreams do you have for the people of Illinois?
Madigan: I dream that the people of Illinois are safe and secure.
SN: What changes would you like to see in America?
Madigan: Communities throughout America are facing some of the same issues we face in Illinoisthe spread of meth, the dangers of domestic violence, and the demands of protecting our communities from crime. Just as I am working to improve the safety and security of the people of Illinois, I hope to see greater safety for families across the country.
SN: What women in history do you look up to? Why?
Madigan: Jane Addams who founded the Hull-House. When it opened in the late 1800s, the Hull House provided services for the neighborhood, such as kindergarten and day care facilities for children of working mothers, an employment bureau, an art gallery, libraries, and music and art classes. Jane Addams also started a strong reform movement that pushed the Illinois Legislature to enact protective legislation for women and children, resulting in the 1903 passage of a strong child labor law and an accompanying compulsory education law. She didn't just talk about change. She helped bring it about.
SN: What is the significance of Women's History Month to you?
Madigan: Women's History Month is a time to pause and acknowledge the accomplishments of the women who came before us. Their courage and hard work paved the way for me so that I could be the first female Attorney General of Illinois. The significance of the impact these women had on our society cannot be overstated.
SN: What advice do you have for young women as they prepare for college and their careers?
Madigan: Work hard in school to get the best education possible because knowledge is power. Also, I would highly recommend getting involved in your communitiesit is the most rewarding work I have ever done.
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I recently had the opportunity to interview the newly appointed Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, Sarah Parker. Justice Parker brings a lifetime of experience to her new positionshe worked as a lawyer for 15 years and a judge for 21 years. As Chief Justice, Parker is the head of the judicial branch of the government of North Carolina.
According to the North Carolina Constitution, a person must be a licensed attorney to sit on the Supreme Court. Justices write opinions to help clarify and maintain the laws of North Carolina. In that way, when similar cases are tried in any of North Carolina's 100 counties, they will be tried in a similar manner. For Parker, reviewing cases decided in trial courts (often death penalty cases) is one of the most important responsibilities of the Supreme Court.
Parker sometimes spends as many as 50 to 60 hours a week on the job. Her administrative duties include overseeing the operation of the courts, which has 6,000 employees. One of her primary responsibilities involves working with the budget. Parker thinks the most important issue facing the courts is funding, especially in the area of technology.
Parker describes her appointment to the Chief Justice position as "a combination of good luck and hard work." While she doesn't see herself as a role model, Parker observes, "It's inevitable that I will be to some young people by virtue of the position."
When asked what advice she would give a young person considering a career in law, Parker responded, "Aim high, work hard, follow your dreams, and make good grades."
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Mayor Laura Iddings talks with Scholastic News Online
Laura Iddings has been the mayor of Maple Valley, Washington, for nine years. In addition to her political responsibilities, she owns a construction company with her husband, and helps care for their three children. According to Mayor Iddings, Women's History Month is a chance to teach people the importance of jobs women have held throughout history.
As mayor of Maple Valley, Iddings has seen many changes in the town she calls home. When Iddings first came to Maple Valley 28 years ago, there were few people living in the city. The town has grown since then, and is now home to more than 14,000 people.
One of the women Iddings looks up to is Margaret Thatcher, England's first female Prime Minister. So what advice does Iddings have for those kids who would like to become a mayor? She offers encouragement, reminding young people that if you always try as hard as you can and never give up, no one can beat you.
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