March is Women’s History Month and a time to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of women everywhere. Women have played a vital role in American history but continue to be underrepresented and underappreciated in many facets of society.
To celebrate Women’s History Month and facilitate conversation about the presence of women in politics, the Community Outreach Political Engagement program hosted an event titled “Highlighting Women’s Voices: A Conversation with Senator Pat Billie Miller.” Rebecca Nowinski, the political engagement program director, led the conversation and asked Senator Miller an array of questions that focused on her experience as an accomplished woman in politics.
“It’s easier for me to recognize and handle racism than it is sexism because I have been faced with racism all of my life,” Miller said. “Sexism was new to me, but I’m tough and I know how to stand my ground.”
Miller won a special election earlier this year and now represents the citizens of Stamford and Darien in District 27 of the State Senate. Prior to becoming a State Senator, Miller served as a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives for 12 years. There are now two Black women in the CT State Senate for the first time.
“I want to see more Black women and more Hispanic women involved in politics…It makes no sense to me that, in 2021, I’m the fourth Black women to serve in the General Assembly,” Miller said.
“I want to see more Black women and more Hispanic women involved in politics … It makes no sense to me that, in 2021, I’m the fourth Black women to serve in the General Assembly,”Senator Pat Billie Miller
Miller has a long history of success in the CT General Assembly, having served on the Education Committee, the Finance and Revenue Committee and the Judiciary Committee. Despite her past, she had to do most of her campaigning on her own and utilized the Citizen Election Program, which provides election financing to qualified candidates, to raise a majority of her funds.
Her work has largely been focused on education policy and passing bills regarding education literacy.
“What I’ve learned is education is a bipartisan issue,” Miller said. “Because I work on education literacy, I form relationships on both sides of the aisles, and they’ve helped me get my bills through.”
She is currently leading the fight to pass the Right to Read Act. The coronavirus pandemic has created growing concerns regarding the achievement and opportunity gap and this bill seeks to regulate how students learn to read. Miller said that she believes that reading intervention should be based on the science of reading and is working with her fellow Democrats as well as members across the aisle to create a better learning environment for Connecticut children.
Miller left students with one last piece of advice: Get engaged, get involved. Students are the future leaders and changemakers and, according to Miller’s advice, becoming involved in the political process in any capacity will only help students on their path to enacting meaningful change at the local, state and national levels.
Although the daily responsibilities of a State Senator or House of Representative can be long and tedious, Miller is up to the challenge and is working on behalf of her constituents each and every day.
“People elected me to be their voice and so with that is going to come hard work,” Miller said.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of UConn UConntact Events website.