Growing up in Rockford, my values early on were shaped by my parents and 4-H. My mom was a farm girl from southern Illinois and my dad is a city boy from Chicago. My parents taught me the value of giving back to your community, service to country, and what it means to be an engaged citizen.
In 2004 my husband, Allyn, and I were living in St. Paul, MN where I had just graduated from law school, after four years of working full time and attending night classes. I was seven months pregnant with Meredith, our first child, and Allyn and I were looking forward to heading back home to Rockford the next week for my baby shower. I came home from sitting for the first day of the Minnesota bar examination, and I received a phone call that my mother had unexpectedly died. And just like that, the center fell out of my world.
Sometime before her death, a doctor told my mom that she needed an MRI, and my mother called a hospital here in Rockford to ask how much an MRI would cost. The hospital told her that because she was uninsured, they would not be able to tell her how much it would be — only that it would cost thousands of dollars. My mom gave up and never got an MRI. My children never knew their grandmother because she didn’t have access to healthcare. In the wealthiest country in the world, no one should ever lose a loved one because they lack healthcare.
COMING BACK HOME
My mother’s death, in large part, is why I felt called to come back home to Rockford. Because my mother couldn’t have a direct influence on my children, I wanted her to have an indirect influence by giving them similar experiences to the ones she gave me. I wanted my kids to know our family and friends, to go to the same public schools I went to, and participate in the same 4-H club.
My mother and 4-H instilled in my a passion for citizenship and good governance. She taught me how to both value other cultures and have pride in our own country — the two are not two mutually exclusive. Immigration law was a natural fit for me, and I built my law practice up from my living room 10 years ago to the biggest firm west of Chicago.
To me, there is no better job than welcoming people to the United States of America — no matter where they are from or what they look like. The American dream is as simple as this: being able to make a living doing what you are passionate about.
Bringing the House Home
On November 6, 2016 the majority of us watched the election of division over unity, intolerance over common decency, and personal gain over public service. As Democrats, we know it is not enough to resist what is wrong, we must lead on what is right.