When Tammy Duckworth wanted to show her constituents that she was ready and determined to serve in Congress, she hopped on her bicycle — her hand-cranked bicycle.
In 2004, Duckworth lost both her legs when the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting was shot down in Iraq, but, in one of her campaign ads last summer, she used her pedal power to show her commitment to “go the extra mile” for working families in Illinois’ 8th District.
In November, Duckworth won her race — and on March 4, she’ll join us at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum.
Throughout her career, Duckworth has been a strong voice for women’s leadership, improved health care and a stronger economy — and this isn’t Duckworth’s first term in Washington, D.C.
In 2009, President Obama appointed Duckworth as Assistant Secretary of Veteran Affairs, where, among other efforts, she worked to address the unique challenges faced by Native American and female veterans. In her run for Congress, Duckworth made better health care for all Americans a key priority in her campaign — a priority she honors in her personal life, as well.
This summer, Duckworth joined the Schaumberg Bicycle Club for a ride and shared her love of cycling and the need to promote healthy activities for all Americans.
“This is how I get my cardiovascular fitness,” she said, as she settled into her bike. “But the thing is, if I had been injured on I-90 instead of in combat my husband and I would never have been able to afford all the things I needed to be happy and healthy in life. And, you know, it’s also just about a healthy lifestyle. I loving riding. I love it. My husband even has a little trailer on his bike for my wheelchair, so we can stop and have lunch — or bike and get an ice cream cone!”
We couldn’t be more honored to have the Congresswoman share her inspiring story at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum. Read more about Duckworth’s incredible career below — and register for the Forum today!
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran and former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Duckworth attended college at the University of Hawaii and then went on to the George Washington University, where she earned a Masters of Arts in International Affairs. Following graduation, Duckworth, who is fluent in Thai and Indonesian, moved to Illinois, where she began pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science at Northern Illinois University. While at NIU she also worked at the School of Nursing researching public health and environmental causes of cancer. Later Ms Duckworth worked for Rotary International as a manager for administration of Rotary’s clubs in the Asia Pacific Region.
In 2004, Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard. She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom until her helicopter was hit by an RPG on November 12, 2004. Duckworth lost lost her legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion and was awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries.
Duckworth spent the next year recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. As one of the highest-ranking patients, she quickly became an advocate for her fellow Soldiers and testified before Congress about caring for our Veterans and wounded warriors.
Following her recovery, Duckworth ran for Congress in 2006. After a narrow loss, she became Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. In Illinois, she worked to create a tax credit for employers who hired Veterans, established a first-in-the-nation 24/7 crisis hotline for Veterans, and developed innovative programs to improve Veterans’ access to housing and health care.
In 2009, President Obama appointed Duckworth to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. At VA, Duckworth led an initiative to end homelessness among Veterans. She created the Office of Online Communications to improve the VA’s and accessibility, especially among young Veterans, and also worked to address the unique challenges that Native American and female Veterans face.
Duckworth ran for Congress in 2012 to advocate for the practical solutions and cooperation needed to rebuild our economy and ensure that every American has a chance to achieve the American Dream.
Duckworth lives in Hoffman Estates with her husband Bryan, an Army Major. Since her recovery, Duckworth has taken up scuba diving, surfing, skydiving and flies as a civilian pilot. Fulfilling a promise she made at Walter Reed, she has also completed several marathons. She has resumed her Ph.D. studies at Northern Illinois University and is also working toward a Ph.D. in Health and Human Services at Capella University. In her spare time, she volunteers at local food pantries and enjoys couponing and flea markets. Duckworth declined a military medical retirement and continues to drill as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.