Tammy Duckworth. Official Portrait. 113th Congress.

What does she do? Tammy Duckworth is an American politician and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel. She was elected the junior United States Senator for Illinois in 2016. Before seeking elective office, she served as the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. In the 2016 election, she defeated incumbent Republican Senator Mark Kirk. Duckworth is the first Asian American woman elected to Congress in Illinois, and she is the first disabled woman to be elected to Congress.


Who is she? Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Duckworth spent her childhood moving around Southeast Asia. Her father, a U.S. Marine, had worked with the United Nations and international companies in refugee, housing, and development programs, necessitating nearly have a dozen moves in Duckworth’s early life. This experience, however, resulted in her becoming fluent in Thai and Indonesian, in addition to English. When she was 16, Duckworth’s family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii; she graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, later receiving a Master of Arts in international affairs from George Washington University.


After receiving her master’s degree, Duckworth joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. She became a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve and chose to fly helicopters—it was one of the few combat jobs available to women. In 2004, she was deployed to Iraq. Later that year, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents, leading to the loss of her right leg near the hip. She received a Purple Heart, retuning to the United States to run for elective office.


Why watch? Duckworth is sure to be a loud voice in bipartisan politics. Though a elected as a member of the Democratic party, Duckworth’s military experience and understanding give her a voice in Republican politics. We believe Duckworth’s name will appear as a co-author on several bipartisan-sponsored bills in the coming years.