Isle women in the spot­light

One of three such speak­ers, can­di­date Tulsi Gab­bard high­lights mil­i­tary is­sues dur­ing her time at the podium

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By B.J. Reyes bjreyes@starad­ver­

Hawaii con­gres­sional can­di­date Tulsi Gab­bard had a brief but note­wor­thy mo­ment in the na­tional spot­light Tues­day, one of three women with Hawaii ties to ad­dress the open­ing day of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

Gab­bard be­gan her roughly 90-sec­ond turn at the mi­cro­phone with a hearty “aloha” and spoke of the con­tri­bu­tions of ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies.

“The sac­ri­fices made by our troops and mil­i­tary fam­i­lies are im­mea­sur­able,” said Gab­bard, a cap- tain in the Hawaii Army Na­tional Guard and vet­eran of two de­ploy­ments to the Mid­dle East. “These days, it’s of­ten women in uni­form — moms, wives, even grand­moth­ers — who de­ploy and leave their fam­i­lies be­hind.

“Such heroes and pa­tri­ots need and de­serve lead­ers who truly un­der­stand and care about their hard­ships, and will fight for them. Lead­ers like Pres­i­dent and Michelle Obama, and Vice Pres­i­dent (Joe) Bi­den and Dr. (Jill) Bi­den — the strong­est ad­vo­cates our mil­i­tary fam­i­lies could ever have.”

Gab­bard, the Demo­cratic can­di­date for Hawaii’s 2nd Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, was the first of three women from Hawaii who took the stage Tues­day evening.

Also ad­dress­ing the crowd in Char­lotte, N.C., was McKin­ley High School and Univer­sity of Hawaii grad­u­ate Tammy Duck­worth, a dec­o­rated Iraq War vet­eran and for­mer as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs, and the pres­i­dent’s half sis­ter, Maya Soe­toro-Ng of Hawaii.

Gab­bard’s ap­pear­ance at the con­ven­tion caught the at­ten­tion of Politico, the na­tional po­lit­i­cal news agency. The web­site in a piece pub­lished Tues­day named her one of five “Demo­cratic politi­cians to watch in Char­lotte,” along with Duck­worth.

“Gab­bard has a back­ground Democrats love: a 31-year-old fe­male Iraq War vet­eran who’s on course to be­come the first Hindu-Amer­i­can in Congress,” Politico wrote. “The Honolulu city coun­cil­woman’s speech is a na­tional com­ing-out party of sorts for the Hawaii con­gres­sional can­di­date.”

Gab­bard was the seventh of eight speak­ers in a seg­ment Tues­day night high­light­ing the women of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence,” Gab­bard said af­ter­ward in a phone in­ter­view. “The en­ergy in the room was elec­tric and the Hawaii con­tin­gent was loud and proud.”

Speak­ers each high­lighted a dif­fer­ent is­sue sup­ported by the women’s House cau­cus, in­clud­ing equal pay and women’s health.

“It was sug­gested that I could talk about my mil­i­tary back­ground and ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause each of us was go­ing to rep­re­sent a dif­fer­ent is­sue,” said Gab­bard, who served with the Na­tional Guard in Iraq in 2006 and Kuwait in 2008, ac­cord­ing to her web­site. “For me to have the op­por­tu­nity to share my own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence and to pay trib­ute to all of our ser­vice mem­bers and mil­i­tary fam­i­lies was an honor.”

Ex­cite­ment ran high on the out­door lanai at Big City Diner in Kailua, where more than 40 Gab­bard sup­port­ers sipped ice tea and le­mon­ade while await­ing their can­di­date’s speech. They burst into loud cheers and ap­plause at the first glimpse of Gab­bard and each time she ap­peared.

The group in­cluded Gab­bard’s par­ents Mike, a state se­na­tor from West Oahu, and Carol, a for­mer state school board mem­ber.

Mike Gab­bard’s eyes welled up as he watched his daugh­ter take the stage and ad­dress the con­ven­tion. He gave a lit­tle wave with his fin­gers to­ward the TV.

“It’s just to­tally ex­cit­ing, and we’re so proud of her,” Carol Gab­bard said. “When she’s speak­ing, she speaks from the heart.”

Her daugh­ter was “very hum­ble and very self-as­sured,” Carol Gab­bard said. “She sees her­self as that ser­vant leader.”

John Rogers, 54, of Kailua said: “I wish she had more time to speak, but it was good. She looked good amongst all the other women.”

Avid cam­paigner Linda Tibby, 56, of Kailua, said she felt ex­cited as she watched. “Oh, there goes our work, our door-to-door (can­vass­ing). She’s there. That’s the re­sult.”

The con­ven­tion ap­pear­ance high­lighted a busy trip to Char­lotte for Tulsi Gab­bard, who is not a vot­ing mem­ber of Hawaii’s con­ven­tion del­e­ga­tion, nor has she been elected to Congress. She is heav­ily fa­vored to beat Repub­li­can ac­tivist Kawika Crow­ley in the gen­eral elec­tion for Hawaii’s 2nd Con­gres­sional Dis­trict (ru­ral Oahu-neigh­bor is­lands).

Gab­bard was in­vited to speak at the con­ven­tion by U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, DCalif., the House mi­nor­ity leader.

“Con­gress­woman Nancy Pelosi called me and she told me about the ‘women of the House’ pre­sen­ta­tion that she was putting to­gether,” Gab­bard said. “She asked me if I would like to par­tic­i­pate to speak about my ex­pe­ri­ence in the mil­i­tary and to speak about women in the mil­i­tary.”

Gab­bard said her time in Char­lotte has given her a chance to meet per­son­ally with U.S. House lead­er­ship and other mem­bers of Congress as well as con­stituency groups such as the Asian-Amer­i­can Pa­cific Is­lander Cau­cus.

“I’ve been able to talk about and dis­cuss the is­sues and chal­lenges that are im­por­tant and the work that needs to be done at the na­tional level,” she said.

In an emo­tional high­light, Iraq War vet­eran Tammy Duck­worth brought the con­ven­tion to its feet with a graphic de­scrip­tion of the rocket-pro­pelled grenade that struck the Black Hawk he­li­copter she was co-pi­lot­ing in 2004, ex­plod­ing in her lap and cost­ing her both legs and par­tial use of one arm.

“Last week, Mitt Rom­ney had a chance to show his sup­port for the brave men and women he is seek­ing to com­mand. But he chose to crit­i­cize Pres­i­dent Obama in­stead of even ut­ter­ing the word Afghanistan. Barack Obama will never ig­nore our troops. He will fight for them,” said Duck­worth, whose re­marks prompted chants of “USA, USA.”

Duck­worth is mak­ing a sec­ond bid for the north­ern Illi­nois seat in Congress held by Repub­li­can Rep. Joe Walsh.

Soe­toro-Ng in­tro­duced her­self as “an ed­u­ca­tor, mother of two and proud to be Barack Obama’s lit­tle sis­ter.” She shared the lectern with Craig Robin­son, Michelle Obama’s brother, and they praised their re­spec­tive sib­lings.

Soe­toro-Ng spoke of how their mother, Stan­ley Ann Dun­ham, in­stilled such val­ues as ed­u­ca­tion, in­clu­sive­ness and re­spect for women — val­ues the pres­i­dent has tried to pro­mote through his sup­port for child­hood learn­ing, af­ford­able higher ed­u­ca­tion and al­low­ing gay cit­i­zens to serve openly in the mil­i­tary, Soe­toro-Ng said.


Tulsi Gab­bard, above left; Maya Soe­toro-Ng, pic­tured with first lady Michelle Obama’s brother Craig Robin­son; and Tammy Duck­worth all spoke Tues­day at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Char­lotte, N.C.


Mike and Carol Gab­bard watched Tues­day along with sup­port­ers gath­ered at Big City Diner in Kailua as their daugh­ter Tulsi Gab­bard spoke at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Char­lotte, N.C. “When she’s speak­ing, she speaks from the heart,” Carol Gab­bard said.

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