An Interview with Congresswoman
by Edward S., Franklin Square, NY Carolyn McCarthy was content leading an average life. She was a licensed practical nurse with over 30 years experience working in the medical field. She was raising a son, Kevin, and was a typical housewife. Then, on December 7, 1993, her life changed forever. The Long Island Railroad massacre occurred, and her husband was killed and son injured. Instead of dwelling on the negative impact of this incident, she tried to find as many positives as she could.
So Carolyn McCarthy ran for and was elected to the House of Representatives in November, 1996 to serve the people of Long Island. The main reason for her election was her stance against gun violence. She also took positions on healthcare reform, environmental protection and tax cuts for working families in Nassau County. She currently serves on the House Education and Workplace Safety Committee.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Brooklyn in 1944 and moved to Long Island in the early A50s with my family and I am still living in Mineola.
How would you rate your high school experience?
I had a great high school experience. I had some tremendous teachers. I had learning disabilities. Back then they did not know what learning disabilities were, but I had the support of teachers who helped me. And when I finally went to nursing school, professors also gave me a lot of support.
Did you attend a college or university?
I took continuing education courses at Farmingdale, Adelphi and Nassau Community College.
What kind of classes were you interested in?
For many years, I loved history. I did take a lot of nursing courses in holistic health. Many years before people even knew what holistic health was, I felt it would be important.
Do you feel extracurricular activities provide an outlet that can teach children the positive aspects of life, and how to handle the negatives?
Yes, especially sports, and I am encouraged to see more sports offered to young women. We have seen the positive effects sports have on young men, and women need this same opportunity. These activities teach teamwork - and how to excel. I think after-school activities are extremely important in developing a young person.
How has your everyday life been affected by your time served in Congress?
Well, it's a different life, to say the least. Even with nursing I would put in long hours, but always had vacation time. When we are in session in Washington, we work 70 to 80 hours a week. When I am not in Washington I need to spend time in the district. The district office has done a tremendous job helping the community deal with Medicare, Medicaid, health care, illegal immigration, social security and veterans affairs. These are all the important parts of what a congressional office does.
How would you rate your own performance so far?
As a freshman, I hope I have done a very good job. I don't know everything about politics. I've worked on some educational bills that have been accepted. I feel I have become a national spokesperson against gun violence, and have helped reduce gun violence in the nation. I have also been able to help many schools in Nassau County, which was my number one priority as a congresswoman. As a freshman, when you normally are not able to do a lot, I feel I have accomplished a great deal with a lot of hard effort.
Do you feel if you are elected for a second term, you will be able to accomplish more due to the experience you have gained?
Sure, as I go into the second term I'll know a lot of the political ropes, which took me several months to learn. Now I know how to get a bill passed, or how to work with my colleagues on both sides of the political spectrum. You have to work with everyone. I definitely feel I can accomplish more the second time around.
What do you feel the largest flaw in the American government is, and how do you plan on changing this flaw?
Well, the biggest flaw is that politics do get in the way of what is good for the people. It comes down to who puts the best spin on a topic. Politicians tend to forget that they are dealing with the people, the voters.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.