Tulsi Gabbard: A Leader in the Making

Guest Blog by Madhu Nair

History has it that women have been leaders with unbelievable authority and their leadership has been able to create an impact far better than their male counterparts. If Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto were amongst the strongest in the Asian continent, it was Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton who were the women in control from the west. To say that women lack leadership would be too timid and stupid, for today they have been up to the challenge and in many ways much ahead of men.

Modern day politics has bought some of the best women to the fore and the 31 year old Tulsi Gabbard is one among them. In the present race for the U.S. House of Representatives, Tulsi, who was trailing behind her rival by over 40 points a few months ago in the race for the Congressional seat from Honolulu has now taken a narrow lead brightening prospects for the first Hindu to be elected to the US House of Representatives. She now holds a five-point lead over Hannemann, former Honolulu mayor — 37% for Tulsi and 32% from Hannemann. This represents a huge change in the race since April where Hannemann led Tulsi by 26 points.

Although she would go on to become the first Hindu in the House, there have been some members of Indian origin with Hindu religion backgrounds in the Congress. Dalip Singh Saund became the first Indian-American and Sikh to serve in the House in the year 1957. Some other noted Hindu politicians who have made their way into U.S. politics amongst many others are Kumar Barve and Swati Dandekar. While Barve is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates and is touted as the Most Influential Maryland Legislators; Dandekar is a Member of the Iowa Senate from the 18th district and also a very prominent face in U.S. politics.

Born in Leloaloa, American Samoa to Mike Gabbard and Carol Porter Gabbard, Tulsi is the fourth of five the children. Tulsi’s father Mike Gabbard is an educator, tennis professional, business owner and the current Hawaii State Senator of 19th District while her mother Carol is also an educator and business owner. Her family moved to Hawaii in the year 1983 where Tulsi grew up and was homeschooled through high school. She graduated from the Hawaii Pacific University with a Degree in International Business.

Tulsi is currently a member of the Honolulu City Council and served as Hawaii’s youngest state representative in 2002 and is also the youngest woman in the history of USA to be elected into such a prestigious position. A Company Commander with the Hawaii Army National Guard, she has volunteered to serve on two deployments to the Middle East. Tulsi also serves as the co-founder and vice-president of the environmental non-profit organization Healthy Hawaii Coalition.

Previously elected to the Hawaii State House of Representatives at the age of 21, Tulsi earned the distinction of being the youngest legislator ever elected in Hawaii, and the youngest woman ever elected in the United States. While in office, she served on the Education, Higher Education, Tourism, and Economic Development committees. She withdrew from an easy re-election campaign when she volunteered for an 18-monthlong deployment to Iraq with the Hawaii Army National Guard in 2004; its’ first major deployment since the Vietnam War. Upon returning home, she attended the Alabama Military Academy’s Officer Candidate School, and became the first female Distinguished Honor Graduate in the academy’s 50-year history.

With the current momentum with her, let’s hope she does well, as for a leader of her stature is very rarely seen.

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