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Were you surprised when you saw that Georgia has flipped blue? A couple days before the election, I woke up and I just had a feeling, I just felt like things were going to shift.


It's election night in America and a nation in crisis is at a crossroads. We're counting down to the first exit polls and the first results we could have historic turnout numbers we haven't seen before. It's official. Georgia has certified Joe Biden as the state's 20 20 winner after hand counting nearly five million ballots. The Trump campaign has until Tuesday to request a machine recount. This is about coalitions being built in the South to save the Senate. This is a local election that has national implications.


This is a process. This is not an event. Gaining ground, the new Georgia is available now listen for free on the radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. You and me both is a production of I Heart radio. I'm Hillary Clinton and this is you and me both. Today I'm talking about and talking to gutsy women, I have always been interested in the stories of individual women and the impact that their lives have had on not only themselves and their families, but, you know, on professions, on politics, on the economy, on science, you name it.


And Chelsea and I wrote an entire book on this subject actually called The Book of Gutsy Women, because from the very time she was a tiny little girl, I would tell her stories about women I admired. But there was a big difference when she was a little girl. There were women doing things that she could herself see and experience. Like her pediatrician was a woman. The mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, where she was born, was a woman.


That wasn't the case for me when I was a little girl. And my mother encouraged me to go to the library and to check out books about Amelia Earhart or Eleanor Roosevelt or Maria Tallchief, the fabulous Native American ballerina and so many others. Later in the show, we'll be hearing from Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran, a mom and now senator from the great state of Illinois.


But first, I'm talking to the one and only Andra Day. I first encountered Andra Day through her music. Andra is an incredible singer with two Grammy nominations to show for it. And I got to see her talent up close when she joined me on the campaign trail in twenty sixteen. And then in January, she performed her song Rise Up as part of the virtual inauguration parade for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Now she's starring in her first film as the iconic Billie Holiday in the United States versus Billie Holiday.


Directed by Lee Daniels. Andrea is following in the footsteps of two other gutsy women, Diana Ross and Audra McDonald, who have played Billie Holiday on screen and stage. I thought Andrew's performance just blew the top off.


To prepare for the part, Andra immersed herself in the life of a woman who was supremely talented and fearless in shining a light on America's ugly history of lynching, even as she battled her own demons. And of course, Andrea does all her own singing in the film. The night before our conversation, she won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress for her performance. I caught her at a photo shoot the next day where she was borrowing a laptop. It was a really busy day, but I could not be happier to be able to talk to this extraordinary person.


Oh, I am hugging you so much right now. I love you. I feel every ounce of it.


Oh, my God. How are you feeling the day after winning the Golden Globe?


I'm still like, I don't even know the words. I was trying to figure that out. And I was like, what? I feel gratitude for sure. The one thing I say and I will always say is God is great, you know what I mean? And he put such incredible people in my past. I mean, the way these people poured into me, the way my team and people have supported me and people like you have supported that in ways that don't even make sense, you know, but God, so great.


So I just feel just it just makes me think of everybody who has been a part of this whole journey, and it's just like a blessing. I'm so grateful.


When you were chosen by Lee Daniels to do this part, how did you first react? Because you had not been acting.


I mean, you've got the most amazing musical ability and I personally love your singing, but thank you.


This was a real challenge for you. And I know you give a lot of credit to your team, but what did you have to do inside to be able to get there?


I had to do a lot. And it's funny because when I got the role and they told me I got the role, my reaction wasn't necessarily like, oh, I'm so great, I'm ready to do it. It was sort of like you show you looked at every actress I got.


I'm not a good idea. But she's like, wow, you're annoying. Just come to say that once I really prayed about it and, like, dove in, I mean, it was everything, you know, because she's such a dynamic woman. But it was everything. It was studying addiction. It was sitting with heroin addicts and former addicts and learning. How did you do that? Yes. Oh, absolutely. And actually, I'll share a story with you because I met a few, but there is a pair in particular.


I was his sponsor and he owned the sober living home. And then it was a young kid. So he was twenty five to thirty years sober. And the young kid was only like a year into his sobriety. And his young kid is teaching me where the nylon goes above the muscle, you know, and and just how to shoot up with not just they're used to plastic needles. Back then she would be using glass, which was our track marks was so big.


But and at a certain point he zoned like, I see the sweat building on his brow. I see his pupils dilating and he's locked into that moment. And so I asked the guy, is it really OK for him to be here? Like, are we sure this is he said, trust me, he's a big fan of music. This is a part of his recovery. It's, you know, I got it. But that kid, what he gave me in that moment was everything I needed to know about the need, about the mental illness behind it, the trauma, you know.


So on top of that, it was working with my acting coach, Tasha Smith, and working closely with Lee and Tom Jones to get the voice right. And hopefully the singing voice, once I get it rehabilitated, will be the one you recognize.


But my vocal chords, like, what are you doing?


Well, but you I mean, you went all in I mean, you took up smoking, which Billie Holiday did. You lost a lot of weight. You cut your hair then.


Yeah, we cut. Oh, my God. Awful hair that you had in order to prepare. So what I loved is that you inhabited. Billie Holiday without imitating her. Yeah, that's actually a blessing to hear, because that's what Lee would tell me. It's got to be an interpretation, not an impersonation. And I think that's why, like you said, I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't cuss. I'm not. For me, I talk about abstinence almost, but seven years ago.


So I'm not I don't engage in that way either. But for me, that's why I had to be just generally more sexual in my behavior, just cussing a lot because she had like a Ph.D. in putting a sentence together with cuss words and then the smoking cigarettes, the drinking alcohol. I had to really feel it in my body, I think, because these weren't things that she just did socially like. I mean, the woman would wake up and have like a pint of and the way you might have a cup of coffee, know.


So. Right, right. She lived here. She lived hard. So it was just in order to really become her, as you said, in order to I had to feel some of these things and honestly, like, yeah, it took a toll, but I would do it exactly the same way again, because her legacy this is the godmother of civil rights. Her legacy deserves, I believe, that level of dedication because she fought that hard for us.


She did. And obviously, it's a terrible story of her struggles. And it's made all the worse by the US government's campaign to destroy or to imprison her, which is shown in the movie. Yeah. And to stop her from singing a particular song called Strange Fruit, which helped to galvanize an anti lynching movement across America because Billie Holiday understood that she could use her artistry, her talent, her voice to try to sing about something that was so terrible.


Did you know about the song before you played Billie Holiday?


I did know about the song I did because she is my biggest inspiration. That's where the day comes from in my name. So I love the relationship between her and Lester Young and he gave her the name Lady Day. So I've been a huge fan since I was like eleven years old. And the first two songs I heard was one called Sugar. And then I heard Strange Fruit.


And so you can imagine hearing that at 11:00. You're like, what's going on?


Why do I feel different inside? You know? But what I recognized in that was like sacrifice. I just felt bad for this woman. Singing Whatever is happening or whatever she's talking about is real loss. You know, I think what makes me so happy about this movie is most people know her as this great jazz singer, but troubled, troubled, troubled, which was so not the case, you know, I mean, she was fighting for lives, for our actual very lives.


And so it was her singing this song in defiance of the government and and the death of Emmett Till that reinvigorated Thurgood Marshall in the movement. I don't believe we would have civil rights the way we know it today if it were not for her singing this song. When you realize she was doing all of that pre civil rights, you go, wow, you know what I mean? Like, they had to silence her because those are strong shoulders, really powerful, strong shoulders.


I think that's one of the many reasons why the film is so important. I kept thinking how brave she was. You know, she could have made a deal, made it clear, OK, fine, you sent me to prison. You know, you kind of entrapped me with drugs. OK, I'm going to go back to my career. I won't sing that song. I never promised that, would she?


Not that she never would and she never did. I mean, I'm sure she had moments where she's like because there were moments when she would leave certain clubs after singing that song and the police would actually pursue her shooting into her car with the intent to kill her. So she could have easily said, all right, fine, and still made a splash and still had a great career and still and probably would have had a better career, even though she was a superstar, but probably would have had a better career.


But it's just for that woman to be portrayed so frequently. Yes. And still stick to it and to still sing this song and to hold a mirror up to American culture, because I think that was the huge thing at the time, was that I think America wanted to look at lynching as they were comfortable looking at it as this horrific act done by sort of a fringe group of racists. But it's not it was culture. We'll be right back.


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I'm curious to know, when did you first discover singing not only something that you were good at? Because a lot of us like to sing and then we learn we're not good at it.


But it was a really unique expression for you.


Yeah, music was so much a part of my life for my entire life. My mother can sing. My father can sing. They always have music on in the house. So my earliest memories are of my dad washing the car in a scene together, or my mom would kind of be in the kitchen and she has this dance move that she does. It's like burned into my memory. I'm singing all the time, but I believe it was like around six years old and it was singing Whitney Houston honestly, that it was like, wow, we would love just listening to her in the house.


And so I think around six years old, really singing Whitney was the first time I realized and my family realized, like, oh, wow, you could actually sing. You have a nice voice, you know. And where did you grow up? I grew up in Southie, San Diego. So, yeah, my father was in the military, so I spent time in Detroit where my father's from, born in Seattle, you know, so it's like definitely a military touring unit.


And so and then he was stationed at the base in San Diego and that's where I grew up, spent my life.


And where was the first time that you sang publicly outside of washing cars and in your kitchen and so publicly?


Actually, I went to a performing arts school and I started at the school when I was in the sixth grade. So when I was 11, dance was my main thing at the time, actually, and I just did like choral ensemble and all of those those different things. And I just have a love for music and for creating and for, you know, the stage and for the arts.


You know, I love the idea of performing arts schools because I think there's so many kids who could benefit from going to such a school if we had enough of them.


But over the years, you've used your voice to, as one of your songs says, stand up for something. Yes.


And I obviously loved having you with me on the twenty sixteen campaign trail. And then I was thrilled with your performance of Rise Up, one of my all time favorite songs as part of the Biden Harris inauguration. Yes. How did that feel to you being part of that historic moment, especially with Vice President Kamala Harris taking office?


Yes, I mean, I have and I just learned this from my mother and from my grandmother and from Billie Holiday and watching women like you, like VPE, Kamala Harris, like Michelle Obama. I mean, when women are in positions of leadership, it is proven the numbers are their economies do better, you know what I mean? And so for me, it's like it was incredible. It was historic. It was a moment after so much darkness, a moment for hope.


And it's amazing to see her face in there. And, you know, having met her and I mean, one of the first things we did was pray together. And so, as I said, I have such a need and a passion to see more women in positions of leadership.


Well, one of the things we've learned during this year of pandemic is that countries run by women have done better. They have.


There you go.


Which is an important lesson that I would like to see imparted. How have you managed the pandemic? You had finished filming before that?


We did. We got everything in the can. We finished filming December 9th, twenty nineteen, literally right before everything kicked up. So managing during the pandemic, I mean, it's just, you know, just what it is. It's just gratitude because like I sat down and I just remember thinking, like, man, this changes everything. How are we going to do this? How are we going to do A, B and C? And then I stopped and I realized, like, people are choosing between shelter and food right now, you know?


I mean, so I just had to really stop and just be like, you should be super, super grateful. That's not a choice that you have to make. You can take care of your family and you guys can sustain. So actually figure out how you can serve in this time if you really want it. Right. And so, yeah, we actually paired with this charity, give directly incredible and started this. I give directly to charity, which was just getting money into the hands of people who needed it the most.


And I like that a lot because I think it gave people dignity to make choices with their own money. So it was beautiful. That's how we focused.


Well, I'm glad to hear you underscore the importance of gratitude. I believe that with all my heart, in fact, I have a phrase about the discipline of gratitude and how people should practice it, like we practice being healthy or trying to exercise and a lot of others.


I love that because sometimes you don't want to feel gratitude.


No, I mean, you almost you almost reject it. Grateful for what went wrong. I'm too upset to worry about gratitude. But, you know, you've now you've had multiple hit songs, a starring role in a film under your belt. Where do you see your career going? Do you want to do more acting?


So funny?


All my co-stars would laugh at me right now because when I was on the movie set, I was like, yo, I'm out of my vocal chords, hate me, my body hate me right now. But now, like, kind of being on the. Side of things, I think I do not a lot I'm not going to be honest, not a lot as far as acting goes, just maybe a few more, just whatever really speaks to me and grabs me the same way Billy did.


But the thing I really, really have a need to tell is, is our stories. So I would like to I started writing some things and developing a few things. And I'd love to write code, direct and produce pictures because, you know, Billie Holiday story is one in a million stories that have the narrative has been suppressed and the narrative has been changed. Right. That's how sort of systemic inequality work. That's how oppression works, is you have to control the narrative.


So I just feel like there's so many great stories of our contribution. And I think telling the truth of those narratives is going to be integral in really dismantling this system piece by piece by piece so that we can actually have space for equality, space for everybody.


I think that is the most important task facing us as a country.


Yeah, but that does take a lot of bravery because it's got to be willing to stand up and tell stories that are uncomfortable and hear their stories and learn from those stories. And I wanted to ask you about bravery. I mean, when you look back now, what do you think is the bravest thing you've ever done? What do you look at and feel like, wow, that really was hard.


Wow. Well, listen, I got to tell you this movie because I did not. Oh, my God. I was when I tell you I was trying to run from this movie in every single way, you know, first of all, as simply as I can put it, I did not want to suck. I did not want to be terrible. And I was 100 percent certain I would be. I had never this is my first acting role on screen.


And I didn't want to dishonor Billie Holiday's legacy because I love her so, so, so much. And the other thing is, I didn't want to dishonor Diana's legacy. Right. Who played her so beautifully in nineteen seventy two. And it was such a feat to get that film done. You know, it was just so many layers to why I was like, but the main thing was just really interestingly enough, something that I believe God used this role in her her spirit.


She worked out of me, not out of me, but still working on it. But I have just really deep seated feelings of just unworthiness and inadequacy. I never feel like I belong. I have a fraud mentality, like I feel like I'm a fraud every place that I go. And I'm overcoming that is like difficult is impossible. It's why when they told me the first time you wanted to call me, I was like, no. And they're like, why not?


I was like, what do I talk to her about? She's brilliant. She's so smart. I didn't even go to college or graduate. So I'm like, why would I talk to? But it's that constant feeling of just not being good enough. But, you know, it was a prayer actually was a scripture about walking on water, doing an act of great faith that made me do it. Meaningly his fire, his dedication to Billie Holiday, fearless storytelling and his need to honor her legacy and to make her a hero.


He was all those things that made me say, yes, ultimately dying.


And we are so glad you did. Thank you. But I will tell you every day, I'd say he would laugh because every day on set, I. I think today is the day they're going to realize I'm no good and they're going to fire me like six feet up, please.


That's what that is called, is called the imposter syndrome. And it is a particular problem for talented, smart women.




I wonder why we could do a whole show on that, my dear. We'll be back.


You know, I can't tell you how excited I am to talk to you. And I and I know this of all days, the day after your big award has to be jam packed with everybody in the world wanting to talk with you and do an interview with you. But it just means so much to me. If anybody deserved to have their hard work and their talent and their spirit recognized, it's you, my friend, and I only wish you the very best.


Oh, my gosh, I love you. Thank you, my friend. Thank you. Makes me so happy.


The United States versus Billie Holiday is now streaming on Hulu. My next guest is someone whose career I have followed for a long time, Senator Tammy Duckworth. You know, I thought I knew Tammy story, but she has a new memoir out. And in reading it, I learned she's even braver than I realized. It's called Every Day is a Gift. It's just out today. I urge you to track it down. And I'm delighted to be talking with her.


How are you? Oh, my gosh, Tammy, I can't tell you how excited I am to talk with you. And let's get right into it, because I know you're a pretty busy woman and I want to respect that. So it seems like an understatement, Senator, to say there's a lot going on right now. How are you and your family and those two adorable little children of yours getting along? Oh, my gosh. Well, you know, we're muddling through, just like all the other working families in Illinois and across the country are working through it.


My six year old, thank goodness, has gone back to in-person classes because I was a miserable can be a teacher, not trained. You know, I always had respect for teachers, but, boy, I am not trained to do that. And my my that's Abigail. And my Lepper will be three in April. So she's she is rambunctiousness. I get out.


I can't believe she's three. I remember when she was in your lap, you were breastfeeding on the floor of the Senate taking care of a baby. You know, I want to get to your book because I thought it was really great. Oh, thank you. Let me start, though, for listeners who may not know who you are. You're a veteran. You received a Purple Heart in 2004 for your service in Iraq. And while you were there, an attack on the Blackhawk helicopter that you were piloting resulted in a crash and eventually in the amputation of both your legs.


In a C-SPAN interview, Senator, just a few months after the attack, I found you amazingly upbeat and optimistic. Where did you find that strength?


Yeah, well, I had my darkest moment I've ever had, probably within the first two weeks after I woke up. So the attack happened on November 12th. I woke up in the hospital 11 days later at Walter Reed. My memory ends with trying to land the aircraft. And I went through a pretty dark period where I thought, well, no, when we landed there. But I thought that I had crashed the aircraft and it was my fault and I deserved to lose my legs.


I go into this spiral, down into this depth of despair, and then I find out, no, actually we landed it, that I fought until my last breath to actually help land that aircraft. And once I found that out, I've been fine ever since Hillary. I mean, you know, I've been just so grateful that I'm alive. And I feel like the book is called Every Day is a Gift, because every day since that day for me has been a gift.


You really describe a process that is all too common for the men and women who serve our country, and especially over the last 20 plus years who have been in and out of combat. You know, the sense of responsibility and duty, really, above all.


But your journey starts in Thailand and you write about what it was like to be the daughter of a Thai Chinese mother and a white American father living in Thailand. And frankly, the discrimination that you faced as a child of mixed background, what was that like and what do you think that experience so early in your life prepared you for?


Well, Hillary, you know, growing up in Southeast Asia in the 70s, post Vietnam, there weren't a lot of Amerasian children. And the only Amerasian children around were the children of American GI's and largely prostitutes and sex workers. You know, and there is real stigma associated with that because most American GIs left their Thai or Vietnamese girlfriends behind with the children. Not many stayed and married and created a family the way my father did. And so it just brought great shame on my mom because I really had looked at her just assume that she was something that she was not.


I even talked to in the book about how there was this whole dichotomy between being scorned as biracial as a half breed child. But on the other hand, there's these standards of beauty that are embraced where people wanted to buy me for my mom. My mom was accosted by folks wanting to buy me. But it gave me this viewpoint of America that showed for me as an now as a senator, the struggle that immigrants go through and the struggle, especially last year.


You know, I certainly want to compare my experience to what black Americans have gone through in the Black Lives Matter protests. But I will tell you, it gave me an insight into that struggle to be accepted. And my whole life, people have said, well, where are you from? Really? I'm like, I'm American. My my ancestors have been here since. Before the revolution and like, no, no, no, where are you from really?


And then you and your family moved to Hawaii and you had a series of setbacks, you had economic setbacks, you had all kinds of difficulties, kind of just keeping the family together. I would imagine that also gave you a kind of grounding in what it's like to have to really struggle. I have never worked harder.


My family has never worked harder than when we were poor. There was at one point when I was 15, 16 years old and the only person in my family with a job. And I was the one trying to help us pay the rent and put food on the table. And my mom at first, when we moved to Hawaii, couldn't come with us because of immigration laws. Even though she had American children, she was married to an American. We didn't have the money for the visas and the visas would have taken a while also.


So she couldn't even come with us. And I talked about trying to be mom at 15, you know, to my 13 year old brother and trying to buck up my dad to keep looking for jobs. At this point, he's been unemployed for three years and still looking for a job. And finally, you know, taking matters into my own hands after I blew up at my dad and went and found a job.


What happened after Hawaii? Where did you go next? So my parents moved from Hawaii to Virginia because my dad, being a veteran and a prior civil service, was able to get a job at for job Hillary.


Oh, boy. OK, that's a real entry level job. That is like I don't know. Yeah, very, very, very entry level. I think it was maybe ten thousand dollars a year. And they left me behind because I had at this point been accepted to the University of Hawaii. And then after that I went to D.C., moved to Virginia to be with my folks and I decided to go get my master's and I was accepted into George Washington University.


So you see that climb out of poverty and what it took to go step by step by step. You know, just being able to finish high school for me was a miracle because I would have been more used to my family dropping out of high school and working two jobs. So they had to sacrifice to keep me in school.


And so when did you decide to join the military? How did that come about? So you got your masters at GW and then what happened?


So I finished my first year and the Berlin Wall was coming down. So I was watching people from Czechoslovakia as a country was splitting in half, running for the border. Everything that they had trying to get on these trains, it just for me, brought back all those memories of me as an American with all of my privilege, watching Vietnamese boat people put everything that they had and their children into a rickety boat and going out into the ocean, you know.


And so it brought back all these memories. And I won. I knew I wanted to serve. I thought I would serve in the foreign service. I mean, you having been secretary of state was like, you know, my dream job is in being an ambassador, let alone, you know, something that you did. There were guys in my class who, like me, just go take ROTC and learn a little bit about the military. And I went off to basic training and fell in love with the great.


What was it about the military? Was it the structure, the sense of mission and purpose?


Yeah, I describe this in the book because it was pretty miserable. You know, the drill sergeants are yelling at you. I mean, it's a miserable time, but it was a pure meritocracy. It was all about are you willing to step up and help carry the load? And they didn't care that I was a little Asian girl. You know, they didn't care anything about me. They just wanted to know if I could shoot straight. And I was willing to help carry the load, you know, when the extra ammunition got heavy to step up and help carry the ammunition, literally, you know, on a march, my first time in my life where I was judged purely on how much effort I was willing to put into it.


And don't get me wrong, I mean, I you know, I talk about this in the book. I describe locking myself in the latrine and crying and then coming back out. It's like it's hard. But I love what you say about it being a meritocracy. I mean, it's one of the reasons why the military still remains such a ladder of opportunity for, you know, young people, whether it's urban or rural settings, who want to figure out how to get themselves upwardly mobile and find the military as a great way to do that.


And so you you were in Rothesay and then did you join the reserves at that point?


I did. What you do is you make this list. It's a wish list you give to the army and then the army decide. So one of the instructors, I was the only female in my class at the time said, everyone, you got to write down combat arms, jobs, even if you want to become a finance officer. Except for Duckworth, she's female. She doesn't have to write any down. Oh, come on. I know.


And my instructors actually lie to me and said women couldn't serve in combat. But there were two combat jobs, air defense, artillery and aviation. And so I applied for a Reserve Forces Commission in order to get aviation to become a helicopter pilot.


Did you see this as a potentially long term career that you thought maybe this is what I want to do? Or did you still think of it as a reserve officer? Duty?


I only ever wanted to do it part time I. I still was pursuing my dream of the foreign service, like I still to this day, you know, I would love to be, you know, that young junior foreign service officer stamping passports and, you know, in a mission and out in the boonies somewhere. I just it's because I watch Ambassador lived it. I lived it. I watch you know what it is? My dad at one point worked for the United Nations refugee programs, and he would be bringing bags of rice with the American flag on it and delivering that to refugee camps.


I got to see what an American ambassador cut ribbon openings on health clinics and places like that. And I just you know, the book is about it's a memoir, but it's also my sort of a love story to my country, to my nation. And so I still want it to become a foreign service officer. So I finished my master's, I started my PhD, and I was actually working for Rotary International, helping Rotarians do humanitarian missions around the world when I was deployed to Iraq.


You were there during some of the worst fighting and you were in that terrible attack that resulted in the crash and your injury. When you were released from the hospital. What were you thinking about in terms of the future that you and your husband wanted to build together?


Well, during my recovery at the hospital, all I wanted to do is go back to my unit like I put every effort I had in trying to regain my flight status. You know, my whole life, my superpower had always been my willingness to work hard. I mean, I was never the smartest kid in the class. You know, I got mostly A's and some B's that I was never the straight-A student. I was never the one who would win the scholarship.


For me, working hard was my superpower. And I had to come to the realization at Walter Reed that my superpower wasn't going to rescue me and get me back with my unit. And that was hard. And at the time, I had met Dick Durbin and Barack Obama and Dick Durbin actually was the one who gave me his number, his personal telephone number. And he said, Tammy, anybody have any problems? You call me. So I, of course, immediately abuse the privilege.


And I started calling him because we had a lot of problems at Walter Reed. And this is something you also know because you were working this issue in the Senate, too. And I was like, sir, somebody is not getting paid, sir. The families are sleeping on the floor because there's no clean places for them to stay that isn't infested with mold. And after about 10 months of this, I mean, Dick Durbin essentially became the unofficial ombudsman for the patients at Walter Reed.


So I was still a patient at the hospital undergoing surgeries. And Dick Durbin said, Tammy, I think you should think about running for Congress. You know, we need a voice that understands what our troops are going through.


I remember being on the floor of the Senate, as you do, waiting for votes and just chatting. When Dick Durbin told me about you, I can remember it absolutely. Clearly, he said, I've met this amazing veteran, this woman who has had a really serious injury, lost her legs, but she's become the advocate for all the patients at Walter Reed. I can remember saying that and him saying and I'm trying to convince her to run for Congress.


I said, well, yeah, don't you think I'll let her heal first? I mean, come on, give her a little bit of time. But how did that unfold in terms of Dick Durbin spotting your talent, that incredible energy and can do spirit that you do have Tammy and making it his mission to persuade you to run for office?


I think he just had really good timing because at that point I realized I couldn't get back to my unit and I was lost right. My whole adult life. My mission was to serve my country either in a foreign service or in the military and hopefully both. And and I had no mission. And this is why we see so many of our troops fall into self medication and mental health issues and homelessness, that this downward spiral, because they lose that mission, they lose their camaraderie, their buddies.


And Dick Durbin came along and gave me a new mission and challenged me my job. Now, when he talks about seeing me in the hospital and inviting me to run for Congress, it's like he asked me while I was still medicated and that's my excuse.


What did it for me was Dick Durbin saying, we have no one with that, with your voice that can talk about what our troops are going through. And so we said, what the heck?


And did it. Yeah. What year was this, Tammy?


This was at the end of 2005. But I lost and I. But you put up a great fight. I did put up a group and we won the majority that year in the House, but I wasn't part of it. And I was just devastated. I locked myself in my bathroom for three days and cried because I was the only place that I did not get cell service. Yeah. So I sat in my bathtub and cried for three days and then I got the call offering me a position as the state of Illinois director of Veterans Affairs on the governor's cabinet.


So you go to work for the state and then you decide to run again.


Why go to work for the state? And we actually took Illinois from being in 48th in the nation for veterans services to the top two in the nation for veteran. Services with a lot of innovative programs, but then I get asked by Barack Obama once he was elected to serve at a federal VA and after about two years of that, I got really frustrated.


It can happen. It can happen. I got really frustrated with just a bureaucracy and all the things that I realize a lot of what I wanted to fix was legislative. And that's what I decided to run for Congress again. And one in twenty twelve.


Oh, I remember. And once you were in Congress, it became very clear that you wanted to prove that you could be a member of Congress that would actually make life better for people. And you also were a staunch advocate for women's rights and roles, for the rights and roles of minorities, for immigrants. You really carved out a reputation in the house, Tammy, and then you decide to run for the Senate. How did you decide that?


You know, I was pretty happy in the House. I had been re-elected. I had my baby, Abigail, and I was on maternity leave when the talk started about the fact that Mark Kirk was up for re-election, the Republican who had won Barack Obama's old seat and who would run. And my name was in the mix. People kept calling me. I was like, folks, I'm on maternity leave. My God, let me have my time with my newborn.


But Illinois's primary is very early. It's in March. So you would have to declare by March the previous year to really have a good run. So I'm on maternity leave. Finally, we decided that the opportunity to be in the Senate was that opportunity or the train was leaving the station. And if I wanted to not get on that train, that's fine. I could just keep running for re-election. But the idea of being in the Senate and being able to represent my entire state again was really what moved me to run.


So I decided that, OK, this is the time to do it.


And we just took a deep breath and jumped and it was miserable trying to be a mom of a newborn and run for Senate and be a congresswoman. It was horrendous.


I can't even imagine, Tammy. I mean, I've done one at a time, but you were doing all three. But before we move on, I just want to say a word about your journey with infertility and IVF, because you write about that. I do. I really appreciate your speaking out about your own experience. Thank you.


I decided to put that in the book because, I mean, I put my fertility on hold. My gynecologist said to me, my VA gynecologist, when I talked to her, when I was just turning 40 and saying, I think we're going to try to have kids. And she's like, well, you know, you're towards the end of your time. But that's what we professional women do. We give up our fertility for our careers. But thank goodness there are ways that we can help you get pregnant.


But the VA does not have fertility services, at least they did at the time. So she referred me to the companion hospital and I went to that fertility clinic and a very nice female doctor didn't even see me in a clinic. She came out and she sat with me in the waiting room and said, Honey, you're going to be forty three soon. Your chances of getting pregnant, even with fertility services, is less than five percent. You should just go home and enjoy your husband.


And I believed her, though. Yeah, right. And it wasn't until I was giving a speech like professional women conferences and stuff as a congresswoman. And the question got asked about how do you have work life balance? And I said, well, I don't have work life balance. I just work because I'm going to be forty three now and I'm never going to have children as much as I wanted to. And a woman there came up to me and said, here's my doctor, you go see him.


He's knocked up every professional woman in the Chicago area with the age of 40, the sisterhood network. Right. But this is why I put it in the book, Hillary, because she was open with me, a total stranger. And then she called me like every month for six months until I finally went. And when I went to see that doctor, the fertility doctor at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago, he said, Who told you that you couldn't get pregnant?


I said, Who? And he goes, Oh, Catholic institution. I said, What? Because they don't believe in in vitro fertilization. So I for four years was a candidate for in vitro. And I was told that I was not. I talked about this in a book about just how angry and betrayed I felt that a doctor she should have said to me, well, there are these are the procedures. We can't perform them here because we're a Catholic institution.


Go. You should go somewhere else. No, she didn't even tell me about them. She just told me there are no reproductive services that can work for you. At forty two years old, you can be forty three. Just go home and enjoy your husband, by the way. My husband love that.


When I came home, I told him, the doctor told me to just enjoy my husband and an eighteen months from the day that I saw my doctor at Northwestern, I was pregnant.


Thank goodness that that woman came up to you at that event and told you to go get a second opinion. When you got into the Senate, you found that there were problems in the way that people were treated. There weren't changing stations in the. And bathrooms, I remember that very well, and I think you also advocated for changing stations and the men's bathrooms in case that were ever to be useful. We talked briefly about your second daughter and when you gave birth to her in twenty eighteen being coming the first senator to give birth while in office.


That was a huge landmark. And then to bring Miley to the floor of the Senate with you. And I don't know if this is true or not, but I read that, you know, there were some senators focused on the logistics, which is always, you know, the refuge of those who want to say no, even asking about the baby's dress code. I mean, what was the baby going to be wearing on the floor of the Senate?


So here you are. You have to take her with you because you're breastfeeding. Did you feel the sense of historic change that you had little Miley represented?


I did not, to be honest, because I'm pregnant and I know I'm about you know, I'm approaching my due date. I know there are forty eight Democrats. We need it every single vote. And I knew that I couldn't take family leave when I gave birth because the rules of the Senate are if you take leave, you can't introduce legislation and you can't vote. I just was just trying to figure out how am I going to get to work when they won't let babies at my workplace and which is what every other working mom does.


Right. How am I going to go to work if they won't let me have the baby at my workplace and I have to go into work. But she's ten days old. I can't just leave her with someone. By the way, Kirsten Gillibrand went through this as well, but she could enter the Senate through the cloakroom. But I can't because their steps into it. Yes. So I have to change the rules. But you're right. Orrin Hatch is the one who wanted to know if the baby was going to wear a hat or no hat and whether it was going to whether the baby was going to have a blazer or like he was worried about the dress code.


But I remember thinking she's a baby, her head quote, they all were babies. I'm not taking her hat off just to go vote. But I did throw a blazer on her for the vote in her onesie.


We're taking a quick break. Stay with us. How does a Citizen with Baratunde is a podcast where we participate in our democracy, invest in our relationships and harness our people power and all of that sounds great, but it's so hard to do when we're so divided in season two. We're taking on that division and not in the Republicans and Democrats who grab a beer together type of way. No, this season we're going deeper. We're talking about the money because wealth inequality is tearing us apart.


And to be real, it's hard to citizen when you can barely pay the bills. I know there's another way. So who's creating the wealth that isn't powered by racism? Who's making it easier for me not to give all my money to Jeff Bezos and who's making sure people aren't working three jobs just to pay rent? This season, we're going to find out. Listen to how does it fit in with Baratunde on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your iPod.


From Wauconda, all the way to Kommissar is to travelers pockets maybe necessary as we debate everything in Bleckner culture.


We'll be talking anime, comics, gaming and more Mitrovic changes and drainpipes going, Eila, take a backwards BoCom, Tony, a.k.a. Smash and Xabier Kasinitz.


Listen to the Travelers' podcast every week on our radio Apple podcast or wherever you get your parkas. You know, I wanted to include you in this episode about gutsy women because you exemplify it from adapting to your life first in Thailand than in America to your military service, your recovery from a devastating injury, your groundbreaking work as a member of first the House and then the Senate and your experiences as a working mom. I wonder, what do you see as the gutsiest thing you've ever had to do?


I think probably facing myself after failure, I think coming out of that bathroom in 2006, coming out of my tub in 2006 and going, OK, I got to face the world and what else can I do? It's facing the loss of my mission, my identity as a helicopter pilot. I think it's just like picking myself back up each time and putting one foot in front of the other. It's going from being a child of relative privilege. Growing up in Southeast Asia, you know, of an American dad to being in Hawaii in utter poverty and, you know, being willing to go through the garbage to find, you know, a struggling gear so they could go look for money on the beach.


Yeah. For me, the courage comes from getting back up. What's great about America is that we're not a country where we promise you that you'll never fail. We're a country that says if you're on your knees and you're not willing to give up, then we're not going to give up on you either. That's the beauty of America. And I hope people see themselves in my book. I hope they see, like the struggles that maybe their families went through when their dad lost a job at 50.


Like minded. I hope they see the struggle of, like, me trying to do my job and be a mom and feeling miserable at both. When I'm with my job, I feel like I'm being a terrible mother. And when I'm with my daughters, I feel like I'm letting go of people at work down. I hope they see themselves as in the journey and know that it's OK. It's OK to struggle and just get back up.


I think that is great advice. They might not be able quite to imagine doing everything you've done because you set a high bar for getting back up and keep going. But I think they will be inspired. You are an inspiration. I am delighted to have this chance to talk with you.


And I just wish you the very best. Senator Tammy Duckworth and just all the best to you. Keep going. Thank you, Madam Secretary. My hero.


Tammy Duckworth book is called Every Day is a Gift. Not long after I spoke with Tammy, eight people, six of them Asian-American women, were murdered in Atlanta, Georgia. Tammy has been outspoken in the wake of this terrible tragedy. So I asked her to join me again for a quick check in to hear what's on her mind right now.


You know, after the horrific shootings in Atlanta on March 16, you were one of the very first political leaders to say that those shootings seemed racially motivated.


Why was it important for you to speak out about it?


Well, there are only two Asian women senators, for one thing, and they're are not that many Asian-Americans in leadership positions in this country, especially in high ranking government positions. And having held a position like that yourself, being one of the few, if not only women, we've seen all the pictures where you're the only woman at the table. Right. It's so important. And so we've seen a rise in anti Asian violence over this past year because of Donald Trump's rhetoric and those Republicans who chose to follow along with this leadership.


In fact, over three thousand more hate crimes that were actually reported as hate crimes against Asian-Americans. One hundred and fifty percent increase in our major cities just this past year. And we know that hate crimes against Asians are very much underreported, which is why when you know what happened in Atlanta happened, I wanted to make sure that we put the marker down, that this looks like a hate crime to me, and especially since a police sergeant, the first thing he did was said that was defend the shooter and he was having a bad day.


I'm sorry, I get bad news all the time, but I don't go out and kill people. Right.


Well, I found that just unbelievable in every respect. And when we look at how crimes against Asian-Americans have increased, as you say, so dramatically, why do you think that the story of all these attacks, the physical attacks, the pushing, the beatings, the spitting, the coughing, you know, the vandalism on businesses, why do you think it's taken so long for the press to cover this and for, you know, this kind of terrible behavior to get the attention it deserves?


I think the racism against API is a little bit different.


It's got that whole model, minority component to it in that there's a sense that Asians are doing just fine. They're the doctors and the accountants and the scientists.


And so they don't need extra help. They don't really face discrimination. And then also the hate crimes in the past year that those statistics that I mentioned, two thirds of those were against Asian women and Asian women are, you know, unfortunately, a stereotype is meek and submissive and also hyper sexualized. And so there's this whole war they got where they're coming to them because they were working in a massage, you know, they were giving massages, that sort of thing.


So I do think that there's sort of several things going on at once that Asians have been this other category. Asians were actually in internment camps in the United States than any other race.


It also is somewhat frustrating to me, and I've spoken out about this for a year, that there's not enough attention paid to the fact that two million of our essential workers are Asian-Americans and they've been disproportionately affected by covid. Nearly one third of the nurses who have died from covid-19 were Filipino Americans, even though they make up just four percent of our nurses. And so part of the challenge is expanding the press's understanding of what a story is and trying to cover what are very important activities and the consequences in the community writ large.


Well, that's exactly it. I don't think people connect the dots and this is where we need voices like yours and voices in the media to connect the dots and say, you can't call this a Chinese virus. In fact, most of the cases in the United States came from Italy. So it is just a way to divide us, something Donald Trump was doing to cover himself for the fact that he wasn't handling this. Absolutely. And Asian-Americans are a frequent scapegoat throughout our nation's history, for one thing.




Well, finally, Tammy, I wanted to ask you, as an Asian-American woman, as a mom, have you and your family experienced any anti Asian bigotry this past year?


My mother has. My mom is seventy nine and still drives and goes shopping by herself and does all of that. But she's come home from being at the grocery store where people have said things to her, literally pushing her out of the way. Or, you know, I think she said something like this, I'm going to push out of the way at the supermarket so I don't want to catch your Chinese virus. Oh, boy, that sort of thing.


I'm much more miserable, so I don't get much. I mean, I experienced the racism. I mean, I've been asked where are you from while wearing the uniform of this country with her flag on my shoulder right here.


Well, I just want to thank you for your leadership. Once again, you have just moved right to the forefront. And I appreciate your not only raising these issues, but demanding action. Know everybody needs to be paying much closer attention to what's happening in the Asian-American community. Is there anything you want to add before we wrap up?


Well, just thank you for for coming back and covering this. I think those of us who are privileged to be able to have a soapbox to stand on, we have to sort of exercise that privilege in a way that recognizes the responsibility that comes with. And sometimes it's speaking hard truths to people and then talking about things that people are like, oh, you know, we're not going to pay attention. I've got other things to worry about. I know this is important.


Well, one thing I never worry about is you speaking truth to power, my friend, and keep it up. Keep going. Thank you so much.


And. To learn more about what you can do, please check out Stop AAPI Hate Dog and to the AAPI community. Let me just say, you do not deserve to live in fear for your safety or your families. You are a vital part of this country.


And millions of people are grieving with you and standing with you.


You and me both is brought to you by I Heart Radio, where produced by Julie Soberon, Kathleen Russo and Lauren Peterson with help from Huma Abedin, Niki Toure, Oscar Florez, Lindsay Hoffman, Brianna Johnson, Nick Merrill, Rob Russo and llona Val Morrow. Our engineer is Zach McNees, and the original music is by Forrest Gray. If you like, you and me both spread the word post about it on social media, send it to your friends and make sure to hit the subscribe button.


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