This Too Shall Pass

Interview with Former Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Amelie Zands

“Cuba is Not Free, and Human Rights Are Not Respected” 

Today we interviewed Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the former congresswoman from Miami. She is a Cuban immigrant who moved to the US when she was eight years old. When her family left Cuba, they bought round trip tickets to the US, as they always thought they were going to return home. Decades later, she still has that ticket. 

My grandparents fled from Cuba to New York when they were about seventeen and eighteen years old. When I heard that we were interviewing a former congresswomen who was born in the same city as my grandmother, and who understands a part of my heritage that not many people do, I was ecstatic. I asked how her experience as a Cuban-American affects the way she views US foreign policy, and she replied, “It has shaped how I think.” Her understanding of how the Russian government has been involved in Cuban affairs has fueled her passion for helping foreign countries face similar problems in their own governments. She explained that she works to make life better both in the US and in Cuba: “I work hard and pray, hoping that someday my homeland will be free.” She is passionate about bringing people together, “building bridges and not blowing them up.” I hope that one day I am able to visit Cuba in a time of understanding between people. – Amelie Zands

Lucy Harris

A Lesson in Bi-Partisanship

Today we had the pleasure of interviewing former US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this interview, since we hadn’t yet interviewed someone with such close ties to Congress and government. I was also very curious about what we would learn from her, since she comes from a political background that differs from that of the others we have interviewed so far.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed hearing about what Rep. Ros-Lehtinen had to say about how much connection matters in life. She spoke a lot about the importance of bipartisanship and building bridges with other individuals, even when those individuals have different views from you, come from different backgrounds, cultures, or have different identities. It was nice to hear how much she had to say about this topic and how she tries to include bipartisanship in all of the work that she does. She was adamant about how it is important to believe in yourself and the goodness of people. Finding the good things about people helps to connect with them even if you are initially suspicious of making that connection. – Lucy Harris

Manumailagi Hunnicutt

Living Outside the Bubble

Today we interviewed former congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I was nervous to interview her since she was the first conservative interviewee that we’ve had, and I thought that since she was in Congress and had a very high standing in our government that the interview would be a lot more formal and perhaps uncomfortable than our previous interviews. To our surprise, she was extremely relaxed and funny. She was personable, genuine, and generous as she spoke to us. She gave us bags of popcorn and plates of cheese that we enjoyed during the interview. The visit was really nice, to be honest.

She stated that a major reason that she retired from Congress is that there is so much toxicity in politics, and no one seems to value bipartisanship. Her words affected me because I am always astonished that so many people refuse to listen to others with different beliefs. I’ve noticed that we tend to live in social bubbles in which we only interact with others who share our beliefs. While it is comforting to live in a bubble, not opening ourselves to new ideas and perspectives hinders improvement of our democracy and increases polarization. I often find myself having the same interactions with my peers, so knowing that people in our government also value connection with those who hold different beliefs is reassuring. – Lagi Hunnicutt