Tammy Duckworth was the first Asian-American to be an Illinois Senator, and the first woman with a disability to be elected to Congress.
Tammy Duckworth was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1968. Her father was an American development aid worker, and her mother was Thai. After living in Thailand and Singapore, at the age of 16, Duckworth and her family moved to Hawaii. She graduated from the University of Hawaii and then attended George Washington University where she joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. After obtaining her master’s, she joined the National Guard and began to train to become a helicopter pilot. In 2004, she was called into active duty to Iraq. While flying in Iraq, her helicopter was shot down by a grenade and she lost both her legs as a result. After her accident, she was awarded the Purple Heart Award. In 2006, Duckworth served as State Director of Veterans Affairs, and in 2009, under President Obama, she served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Three years later in 2012, she resigned from this position and ran for Congress in Illinois, defeating her opponent. After serving as a Congresswoman for three years, she ran for Senate and won, officially making her the first U.S. Senator born in Thailand. During her time in office, she has continued to pass influential legislation, advocating for Americans with disabilities. In addition to being the first Senator born in Thailand, Duckworth was the first person to give birth while in office, as well as the first woman with a disability to be elected to Congress.