Senator Tammy Baldwin was just in middle school when she discovered she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives as a public servant. The seed of service was sowed at Van Hise Middle School (now Hamilton Middle School), when young Sen. Baldwin decided to run for student council.
“It was the first time that I had ever worked on some projects that I knew improved people’s lives and helped other people,” she said in a recent interview. “It felt so rewarding to help others.”
In 1998, as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly and candidate for United States Congress in a race she would ultimately win, she was given the distinguished honor of being named one of Madison YWCA’s Women of Distinction. Now on the 45th Anniversary of the annual awards ceremony, Sen. Baldwin will return to Madison to deliver the keynote address for the eight women being honored with the same award this year on Thursday, May 30.
“It was really humbling when I was told that I had been named one of the women of distinction in 1998 because I have so admired both the work of the Madison YWCA,” she said “I don’t think I considered myself at the time among the people I knew who had been honored and recognized before.”
Sen. Baldwin said she is especially impressed with YWCA’s newest Women of Promise award, which recognizes women under 30 who have made considerable impacts on their respective communities. “It tells people you’re never too young to make a difference, nor are you too old to start making a difference,” she said.
Sen. Baldwin’s own political commitment to local communities and beyond began in 1986 when she was elected to the County Board of Supervisors as a first year law student at UW-Madison. By age 24, Baldwin was serving as both a member of the county board and the Madison Common Council, all while getting her law degree.
Raised by her grandparents, Baldwin said her life’s purpose has been heavily influenced the obstacles her grandparents endured to keep her healthy through a childhood health scare and battling insurance companies for better coverage. Elected to the United States Congress in 1998 and the U.S. Senate in 2012, Baldwin continues to fight for issues such as accessible health care.
“If I think about the issue of health care which in many ways brought me to public service, there’s more work to be done,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be satisfied until we have universal access to quality health care that’s affordable and we’re not there yet.”
On Thursday, Baldwin will bring her spirit of advocacy and determination to the Women of Distinction Luncheon to celebrate the eight honorees: Jacquelyn Boggess, Marisela Gomez Castellanos, Silvia Gomez de Soriano, Lynn Green, Carolyn Morgan, Nichelle Nichols, State Rep. Shelia Stubbs and Annie Weatherby-Flowers.
“I feel blessed and honored to be a role model for others when there were relatively few for me,” Baldwin said about navigating her career as a woman and an open member of the LGBTQ+ community. “I know that so many others have broken glass ceilings in otherways.”
Baldwin said these women being recognized and all of the past honorees have showed her and their communities that “it’s okay, you can reach for the stars and don’t listen to the cynics and the naysayers [or] the keepers of the status quo.”
The 45th Annual Women of Distinction Leadership Awards will take place Thursday, May 30 at 11:30 am at Monona Terrace. Tickets are still available. Click here to register. Madison365 is the exclusive media sponsor of the Women of Distinction Leadership Awards.