Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood of Naperville was sworn in as a member of the 116th U.S. Congress.
On Saturday morning, the freshman 14th District representative and her supporters enjoyed a victory lap as the youngest black woman ever elected to Congress returned to her alma mater Neuqua Valley High School for another swearing-in ceremony.
Neuqua Valley Principal Bob McBride welcomed guests that included various school board members, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, Underwood’s parents and Ruben Castillo, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, who conducted the ceremony.
“We’re excited that Lauren graduated from this school and chose to have this ceremony here,” McBride said before the event. “There are so many reasons to be apathetic and non-participatory and having Lauren come back here really means becoming a role model for kids. The fact that she’s only 14 years removed from being a student here and is now a member of Congress is absolutely wonderful.”
Underwood spoke for about 15 minutes and devoted a portion of her time to thanking constituents for their support.
“I am awed and honored as I stand before you today and am proud to be representing the 14th District,” Underwood said. “It’s fitting that I be in this place that nurtured my development and prepared me for this journey.”
Underwood referred numerous times to the years she spent in Girl Scouts where she learned “we had to serve and to give back.”
“I’ve been in Girl Scouts my whole life where we pledged to help people at all times,” she said. “Life sends us tests and do you engage or not? Do you heed the call or retreat? The lessons I have learned here gave me the courage to act.”
Underwood spoke about the issues she made central to her campaign including health care and the difficulty individuals with pre-existing conditions can face. She also touched on education, the need for background checks for firearm purchasers and the current government shutdown, which she declared “unacceptable.”
“We have elected the most diverse Congress in our history and we must have higher standards,” she said. “Every day I get up and fight to reopen the government. You want a representative that is accessible and in November – you voted for change. That change has come.”
Saturday’s ceremony drew an estimated crowd of 700 people who braved snowy conditions to share in something many regarded as historic.
“We campaigned for her and when Lauren speaks, she knows what she’s talking about,” said Dave Trost of McHenry. “For me her age of 32 has nothing to do with the knowledge she brings to the issues. She now is the voice of our district and a part of our country which has a participatory government and a voice that needs to be heard.”
Lynn Gray of Woodstock said she also worked to support Underwood in last fall’s election.
“Lauren brings a youthful outlook and has an open mind,” Gray said. “She thinks outside the box and is passionate about changes. One of the big issues for her was health care and a person being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions – to me, being human is a pre-existing condition.”
Chirico said having a product of the local education system elected to Congress “is a testament to the city” and that Underwood is an inspiration to many.
“One of the takeaways for me is that if Lauren can do this, we can do this, and it’s an inspiration about how to make a difference,” Chirico said.
Naperville resident and former Neuqua Valley High School teacher Bill Jastrow was among the many audience members who came to celebrate Underwood’s accomplishment.
“Lauren wasn’t a student of mine as she was on a different side of the music program, but it’s nice to have a student come back like this and celebrate with her community,” Jastrow said. “I’ve worked here for many years and Naperville is a more diverse community than some people think. It’s wonderful having a young lady with her background and education be voted in to office. She is what Naperville looks like and having that representation is wonderful.”
David Sharos is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.
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via Naperville Lifestyles – Naperville Sun https://trib.in/2Cio0Yt
January 12, 2019 at 02:00PM