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"Girl Scout Troop Capitol Hill"
Women of the U.S. Congress advocate for today's girls.
From inner cities to suburban communities to rural America to military bases, Girl Scout troops are making an important difference for girls in our communities. Now a prestigious and powerful Honorary Congressional Girl Scout Troop, "Troop Capitol Hill," is bringing core Girl Scout values of leadership and strength to another community: the United States Congress.
Four extraordinary women lead Troop Capitol Hill. The co-leaders in the U.S. Senate are Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and in the U.S. House of Representatives they are Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) and Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.).
"The Honorary Congressional Girl Scout troop is an important resource for Girl Scouts because the Congresswomen are powerful and committed advocates for girls," said Laurie A. Westley, GSUSA Vice President, Government Relations and Advocacy. "As former Girl Scouts, these four co-leaders understand the importance of Girl Scouting to girls nationwide."
Like so many accomplished American women, these four members of Congress credit Girl Scouts with teaching them many of the values and lessons they brought to Washington.
Senator Mikulski, who proudly carries a copy of the Girl Scout Promise and Law with her every day, commented, "I loved being a Girl Scout and am delighted to be part of the Honorary Troop in the U.S. Senate. The lessons I learned as a Girl Scout were lessons about leadership, accomplishment, and service to the community. These are part of my core values as a United States Senator."
Representative Emerson said, "The work we did in the community as Girl Scouts taught me to reach beyond myself to serve others." Senator Hutchison remarked, "Being a Girl Scout was an important part of the foundation of my life. The lessons I learned early on with my troop have stuck with me throughout the years, and they are lessons I will pass on to my children." And Representative Tauscher commented, "Being a Girl Scout taught me the importance of teamwork, which has been a great asset to my professional career, both when I worked on Wall Street and today as a member of Congress."
Using Their Influence
Girl Scouts' partnership with the Honorary Congressional Troop has provided girls with enormous opportunities.
The co-leaders have been strong supporters in securing needed funds for Girl Scout programs. They bring attention to key policies that impact girls and active participants with their local councils. Through this work, they have helped Girl Scouts expand programs and reach more girls across the nation, especially in traditionally underserved communities.
The Honorary Congressional Girl Scout Troop has helped Girl Scouts of the USA secure nearly $15 million in federal funding over the past few years. These funds have been distributed to Girl Scout councils for innovative programs in public housing, rural communities, and prisons. Senator Mikulski, for example, secured $3.8 million to help councils launch more Girl Scout troops in public housing. Senator Hutchison was one of our strongest supporters for a $5 million appropriation for P.A.V.E. the Way (Project Anti-Violence Education), a Girl Scout education initiative aimed at preventing violence and its effects on girls and young women. Because of their unyielding support, many more girls across the nation now grow strong through Girl Scouting.
In addition to federal appropriations, Senators Mikulski and Hutchison were a driving force behind having all proceeds from the inspiring book Nine and Counting: the Women of the Senate, dedicated to the Girl Scouts. Its dedication reads, "To the Girl Scout organization, which, for eighty-nine years, has helped young women realize their full potential; and to the young women of America, who can create whatever you can dream."
In the public policy arena, Representatives Emerson and Tauscher and Senators Hutchison and Mikulski led an effort this past summer to bring increased national attention to the issue of girls' stark underrepresentation in science, math, engineering, and technology. In a letter sent to every member of Congress, the co-leaders praised the "Girls Go Tech" campaign and asked that each congressperson write to her or his local media outlets and urge them to air the Girl Scout PSA "It's her future. Do the math."
Working with Local Councils
All four troop leaders are active with Girl Scouts in their communities. They regularly meet with girls and Girl Scout representatives who travel to Washington, D.C., graciously letting girls get a firsthand look at their lives and showing them that what they dream is possible. They also visit local councils in their states and districts. Representative Emerson, for example, has visited the Girl Scout councils in her state on numerous occasions to meet young women, celebrate council successes, and participate in Girl Scout events.
"Through Troop Capitol Hill we can spread the word about Girl Scouts, address the concerns of our nation's girls, and do our part to give back to an organization that gave so much when we were young girls," said Representative Tauscher. "Meeting with these young girls is often the highlight of my day."
For Girl Scouts, meeting with Troop Capitol Hill leaders and members can be an invaluable experience. The four congresswomen who lead the troop are distinguished role models who achieved their goals and dreams, often in the face of adversity.
"In my lifetime, the advancement of women has been impressive. I can remember being unable to get a job after graduating law school because they weren't hiring female attorneys," recalled Senator Hutchison. "The lesson I learned was the importance of perseverance: When a door is shut, open a window."
When Senator Mikulski was elected to Congress in 1987, only one other woman was then serving in the Senate. Currently, 14 of the 100 senators are women, as are 63 of the 435 members of the House. While this is the largest female representation in the history of the U.S. Congress, the troop leaders have higher expectations.
"Troop Capitol Hill is a reminder of what we learned through Girl Scouting and connects us with today's Girl Scouts. I enjoy meeting these young women and hearing about their goals," said Senator Mikulski. "I have no doubt that some of them will be in Congress one day—or the White House."
The exceptional women, leaders, and members of Troop Capitol Hill are a tremendous asset to the Girl Scout movement. Through their hard work and dedication to the Girl Scout mission, they have made an enormous impact on the lives of girls.
Adapted from LEADER, Fall 2003. © Girl Scouts of the United States of America.