Rep. Nydia Velazquez Kicks Off Reflections on a Life of Public Service Discussion Series
Crediting education as providing the launching pad for her long, accomplished political career, United States Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY 7th District) spoke to a nearly 400-person audience at St. Francis College on September 16th, as the first guest in Reflections on a Life of Public Service, a new discussion series between SFC President Miguel Martinez-Saenz and leaders in politics, business and the community.
"My father used to get up so early every morning, but when he came home, always the first question that he asked us was, 'did you make your homework?' He helped me to connect the dots. That education was the way out," said Congresswoman Velázquez, when discussing her upbringing as one of nine children raised in Puerto Rico by her mother and father, who organized fellow laborers while working in sugar cane fields.
"I would not be standing here before you if it wasn't for the education that I was able to get."
The discussion between the United States Representative, currently serving her fourteenth term, and Dr. Martinez-Saenz focused largely on the centrality of education to the Congresswoman's success. She described studying during her summers as a teenager, allowing her to graduate high school at age 16 and earn her college degree from the University of Puerto Rico at 19.
An undergraduate professor she admired helped persuade her father to let her accept a scholarship to enroll in graduate school at New York University.
"If you work hard, if you play by the rules, and you have government supporting you, investing in education, you can achieve whatever dreams you have," explained Congresswoman Velázquez to an audience that included students from Sunset Park High School, High School for International Studies, and those enrolled at St. Francis College. "No matter the obstacles that you face, there is, along the way, someone who will be able to give you a helping hand...so you can pursue your dreams."
The Congresswoman also stressed the unique responsibility those in public service take on.
"If you want to serve the public, you need to know that you have an incredible responsibility on your shoulders....it's a calling, it's a commitment, you've got to have the passion to serve," said Rep.Velázquez, when questioned about the intense energy she brings to her job.
"It is important that you understand that if public service is where you choose to be, that it's going to require not only the commitment and the passion, but it's an incredible responsibility. But always, it fulfills you...my community gives meaning to the work I do in Washington."
Although she admitted that political life in Washington, D.C. can be frustrating and emotionally draining, Rep. Velázquez pointed out that her life in the nation's Capital provides a benefit to the St. Francis community.
"You have a friend in Washington that is able and willing to bat for this College."
The next guest in Reflections on a Life in Public Service is U.S. Representative Peter King (R-NY 2nd District) on November 18th.
Watch the video of Rep. Velázquez in Reflections of a Life in Public Service.
About Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez is currently serving her fourteenth term as Representative for New York's 7th Congressional District. In the 116th Congress, she is the Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, a senior member of the Financial Services Committee and a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Velázquez was born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. At the age of 16, she entered the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras and graduated magna cum laude in 1974 with a degree in political science. After earning a master's degree on scholarship from N.Y.U., Velázquez taught Puerto Rican studies at CUNY's Hunter College in 1981.
In 1983, Velázquez was appointed Special Assistant to Congressman Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn). One year later, she became the first Latina appointed to serve on the New York City Council.
By 1986, Velázquez served as the Director of the Department of Puerto Rican Community Affairs in the United States. In 1992, after months of running a grassroots political campaign, Velázquez was elected to the House of Representatives to represent New York's 12th District.
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