Sharice Davids, U.S. Representative for Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District, recently paid a visit to Olathe North. She spoke about her personal and political experiences to U.S. Government classes, Distinguished Scholars Political Science students, and others who were interested in hearing what she had to say. Davids spoke on a wide variety of topics, ranging from what inspired her to become a representative to the Green New Deal.
Davids began with her personal background, describing what led to her becoming a representative. After graduating from Leavenworth High School, Davids attended six different schools, from Johnson County Community College to Cornell Law School. Once she graduated from Cornell, Davids returned to Kansas City, Missouri to work for a law firm. When this work became too repetitive, Davids decided to change course to something more involved.
“I decided to do things that were more community and economic-development focused,” she said. “I ended up living at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The work I got to do felt really impactful, like it mattered.”
After this experience, Davids realized that she, along with most Americans, didn’t have a thorough understanding of how the U.S. government operates. Instead of remaining ignorant, she decided to apply to be a White House Fellow to educate herself to the fullest extent.
“When I got selected I was there for one year, for the end of the Obama Administration and the beginning of the current one,” Davids explained. “I got the chance to see what this transition looks like in the federal government.”
After returning home to Kansas, Davids decided to run for the representative seat of Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District. She won 54% of the vote, compared to incumbent Kevin Yoder’s 44%. Senior Chase Freeman asked Davids what inspired her to run for a seat in the House of Representatives.
“[The White House Fellows program] was probably one of the most empowering things I’ve gotten to participate in. I got to pull back the curtain and see that all the people in D.C. are just regular people.”
Freshman Aarushi Pore asked Davids if she liked being a member of Congress.
“I’m glad I’m doing it,” Davids answered. “I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life at this moment.”
Several students asked Davids about her specific role and the work she’s done in Congress. Senior Bella Wasson inquired if there were any steps she was taking to stop the climate crisis.
Davids informed the students that she is on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over many U.S. waterways and estuaries. She also mentioned that transportation and infrastructure are some of the biggest contributors to climate change.
“We get the chance to pass a lot of legislation regarding our waterways; in fact we just passed seven bills in order to restore and clean up our estuaries all over the country in my committee,” she explained. “I think people don’t think about this stuff when thinking about climate change.”
Davids was also asked if there was a piece of legislation that she’s worked on that she’s been the most proud of.
“I felt very emotional when we passed the Equality Act, because I feel like even if it doesn’t get taken up by the Senate or signed by the president, that it’s the kind of legislation that sends a message to a group of people who have been marginalized, and says your experience matters and you should be treated fairly,” Davids explained. The Equality Act protects LGBTQ+ people for the purpose of civil rights.
Sophomore Donivan Bullins asked her if she supports the Green New Deal, a package of policy proposals that aim to combat climate change, and is sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey.
“The Green New Deal has a lot of stuff in it that I think is good,” Davids answered. “There’s a lot of stuff in there that we are working on in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee right now.”
Davids recounted an incident when she gave a presentation on a bill regarding a Native American tribe in the Northeast and a land claim.
“Because I have done work in Native communities and also have legal background in that space, I got up and told the caucus the background, like ‘look, this is based on treaties’ and I talked about the role of Congress in its relationship to tribal communities,” Davids said. “I think probably five or six other members of Congress came up after that and said ‘I didn’t understand this issue before. I understand it better now, and am going to vote in favor of this bill.’”
Davids explained that before, as a private citizen, her power was in organizing groups to fight for a cause. Now, as a member of Congress, her power is in talking to individuals to further a piece of legislation.
“Now, if I can change the minds of two or three members of Congress, that can be the difference between a piece of legislation passing or not,” Davids explained.
Davids reflected on the impact she’s made in her first year as a representative.
“It really helps to have a diverse group of voices in a room where policy is being created,” she stated. “New ideas that are constantly coming in bubble up from communities and people who are on the ground, living and breathing the effects of policy.”