Now starting her third term, United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor has established herself as “the people’s Justice”—a national icon who used her strength of character and work ethic to rise from a financially impoverished childhood in the South Bronx to a seat on the highest court in the land. In keeping with her promise to President Barack Obama, Sotomayor keeps an unusually active schedule of appearances, with the goal of making the law accessible to all people. She also works to inspire women, Hispanics and other minorities to pursue their dreams, regardless of any obstacles that may stand in their way.
Sotomayor’s presence on the Court shows us that, no matter what our background or how traditionally rigid our institutions, we are moving toward a truly representative democracy.
Here are four more extraordinary women in Washington who are using their powerful influence to move us forward:
First Lady Michelle Obama is having a dramatically positive impact on the health of America’s children with a string of landmark successes in her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity. She has convinced Wal-Mart, Olive Garden and other retailers to offer products with less sodium, trans-fats and sugars, proving that a first lady’s platform can be a powerful influence on public policy.
Even though Elizabeth Warren recently left the city after creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, her focus remains on Washington with her bid to become the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. A Harvard professor, author and consumer advocate with the brains and backbone to stand up to Wall Street and predatory lenders, Warren draws on her middle-class roots to make new policy and fight tirelessly on behalf of working Americans.
As the Minority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) continues the extraordinary leadership that made her one of the most successful Speakers of the House in history. No other leader in at least the past 50 years can match Pelosi’s accomplishments in passing groundbreaking laws, from health care and financial reform to an economic recovery package, minimum wage increase and bill that brought health coverage to 11 million children. Pelosi’s unstoppable work ethic and ability to achieve results has made her one of the most influential women in American political history.
Asra Nomani, a Muslim feminist, author, former Wall Street Journal reporter and professor at Georgetown University, is on a mission that impacts what I believe is one of America’s most critical issues: our lack of understanding about Islam. Compared to Rosa Parks for her gutsy and game-changing activism, Nomani is bringing controversial issues about Islam into the mainstream and educating a nation that is inundated with false stereotypes about Muslims.
Who do you think is the most influential woman in Washington? Cast your vote in this week’s Short List.