‘I had the audacity’: Brenda Lawrence sums up her political career

A: The thing that is so defining when I look over my career in public service was being a PTA mom. You always had to go to this board to get things done, and I said, “I want to be on that board, because they don’t get it.” I didn’t know anything about politics. I was just a little Black girl from the east side of Detroit who worked her way through college, married her childhood sweetheart and wanted to do the right thing. But man, the election night, the campaign, it was so energizing. And when I got to sit on that board and take a vote, knowing the responsibility, it consumed me. 

When my children left school, I ran for city council. I wanted to keep serving, and then I had the audacity to step up and say, “I want to be mayor.” There had never been a woman [mayor of Southfield], never been an African American. 

And then to have the audacity to run for Congress and serve alongside some of the giants — to serve with Elijah Cummings, to serve with John Lewis, to be part of the Black Caucus and be reminded of the humility of being a member of Congress, to walk the halls of Congress built by slaves. It’s a constant reminder of this country’s always striving for a perfect union. Because every time we start talking about what’s bad in America, historically, we can look at so many good things. There’s not a day that I don’t look at the Capitol dome, and just take a deep breath and say, “Wow, this is amazing. It’s amazing to serve.”

Some people take it to another level with their arrogance, because they forget this is about service. It’s not about your title and your swagger and how many staff people you have.

Q: You talked about having audacity. What does that mean to you?

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