At 21, Tulsi Gabbard was the youngest person ever elected to the Hawaii State Legislature. Two years later, she resigned her seat to deploy to Iraq with her National Guard unit. During her second deployment to Kuwait, Gabbard became the first woman to receive an award from the Kuwaiti guards. Now 31, Gabbard is poised to become the first Hindu-American and the first female war veteran elected to Congress. But it won’t be Gabbard’s first time on Capitol Hill. After returning from her first deployment, Gabbard worked for U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) as a legislative aide. After her second deployment, Gabbard began serving on the Honolulu City Council, where she now chairs the safety, economic development, and government affairs committee.
At the Democratic National Convention, she told the crowd she understands the cost of war. “These days, it’s often women in uniform — moms, wives, even grandmothers — who deploy and leave their families behind,” she said, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Gabbard didn’t have to go to war. Though her brigade was deploying, her unit was not being sent along. She asked to go, because she said she couldn’t stay home while her fellow soldiers went to Iraq. The deployment “brought me to a deeper understanding of the meaning of freedom in our country,” she told the Times, discussing her views on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. “We cannot afford to walk down that dangerous path of government overstepping its boundaries into the most personal parts of our lives.”
On her campaign website, Gabbard stresses her commitment to “living aloha” — living with love and compassion for others. She also is dedicated to environmental and public health. At 19, she cofounded the Healthy Hawaii Coalition, and she continues to work to protect the environment and improve community health. She told CNN that when she started her campaign, people told her “there’s no way you can win,” but she was able to overcome a huge deficit in the primary through a grassroots effort. Getting people of all ages involved and working together is key, she said. “You have a role in the decision making, in the future of our country…Step up to the plate and take charge.”
Photo: Courtesy of Vote Tulsi