On Friday June 12th, nearly 200 people came together on Capitol Hill to honor the leadership of women and mothers in public service and recognize their commitment to improving maternal mental health and family life.
In the historic Cannon Caucus room, the Seleni Institute was privileged to present the Winnifred Mason Huck Leadership Awarn to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, and the Chair of the House Middle East Subcommittee and first Hispanic woman elected to the US Congress, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Winnifred Sprague Mason Huck, for whom the award was named, was the first person in American history elected to the U.S. House of Representatives who managed the rigors of the political world while also bearing the tremendous responsibility of motherhood.
“Through their exemplary service to our country, both of these awardees provide a model for parenthood and service to women leaders who are preparing to support the nation’s next generation,” said Seleni founder and chairwoman, Nitzia Logothetis, speaking to members of Congress, current and former senior administration officials from the White House and departments across town, and the media.
Watch our interview with Seleni founder Nitzia Logothetis and to learn more about the organization and its mission:
The highest-ranking woman in US history and current House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, addressed the crowd saying that she was “proud this year’s Winnifred Mason Huck Awards honor the extraordinary leadership of two mothers in the political world…With the engagement of mothers in leadership throughout our democracy, we must continue to insist on greater respect for the needs of working mothers – in government, in business, and across our society,” said Pelosi.
“Being a mom is a tough job,” admitted Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, “but the rewards that come with it are endless.” In accepting the award, she thanked her husband, children, and parents for giving her the support she needed to balance her role as a mother with her life as a public servant. “I’m proud to receive the Winnifred Mason Huck Award because it is a testament that women can juggle two important goals.”
Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said she was honored to receive the award and credited motherhood with enabling her to do a better job helping the people she serves. “I am committed to supporting the next generation of women and mothers in government and executive leadership roles so they can bring their experience and perspectives to the table.”
Burwell also shared a humorous insight into life as a mother in leadership. During the Ebola crisis earlier this year, President Obama scheduled a last-minute meeting with her on a Saturday, which conflicted with Burwell’s daughter’s birthday party. So she asked the President if he could change the meeting time so that she didn’t have to miss the special celebration. He understood and moved the meeting. It’s a minor point but one that sums up the conflicting demands placed on women in positions of power who also bear the responsibility and joy of raising a family.
“Women in public service embody Seleni’s belief that when women are supported, they are able to best care for themselves, their children, and their families,” said Logothetis.