America’s New Congress is filled with hundreds of Members and thousands of stories. Each week, GOP.gov will introduce you to a new House Republican.
Our member of the week is Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida’s 27th congressional district.
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen served as the Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 2011 to 2013. She is the first Cuban American and Latina to be elected to congress. Prior to her congressional service, she owned and operated a private school in Miami-Dade County.
1. What inspired you to run for Congress?
I was the principal and teacher of a small private school in South Florida that I had founded along with my parents. Oftentimes, the parents of students would come to me and ask for help with the problems they were experiencing. I realized that as a public servant I could help many in my community and decided to run for a seat in the Florida House and Senate. The passing of Congressman Claude Pepper offered me an opportunity to help my community further on a national level. Representing South Florida is my dream job and one that I’m blessed to be able to do.
2. What was your dream job growing up?
Education has been a lifelong passion for me. I became a Florida certified teacher and then owned and operated a private school in South Florida. My years in the State legislature allowed me to help many students and their families with the creation of the Florida Prepaid College Tuition Program. In Congress, I have been an advocate and strong supporter of legislation to help students across the nation achieve their dreams of higher education.
3. Do you have any hidden talents?
Ha! If I told you they wouldn’t be hidden!
4. What is the last book you read that you simply could not put down until you finished?
Oh I loved Girl On A Train! The storytelling from different perspectives kept me on the edge of my seat. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the ending!
5. Who is your biggest influence in your life?
My parents, Enrique and Amanda Ros, who sacrificed everything and fled our native Cuba taken over by Communist dictator Fidel Castro in order to ensure that my brother and I grew up in the freedom and democracy generously offered in the United States. My parents taught me to work hard and help others. Those lessons remain with me and strive to live up to their legacy of strength and compassion.
6. When did you know you were a Republican?
When I realized that freedom is borne from self-determination. If the government bestows something upon you, it can also take it away. Liberty may be complicated sometimes, but I’ll take that any day to being told what my options are.
7. What is the most important–but under-reported—policy issue you work on?
While not exactly a policy issue, my office works diligently at constituent service and it has a daily impact on our community. Our staff resolves so many cases with a favorable outcome for our constituents that they’ve become agency experts!
8. Describe your ideal “day-off”.
Breakfast or lunch with my husband, Dexter, and our rescue pup, Zoey. A visit from the grandkids (who live across the street) and a quick movie before watching a couple episodes of Perry Mason or Murder, She Wrote (it’s a tough decision).
9. What is your most favorite meal that you like to cook?
I prefer to leave the cooking to others since my skill in the kitchen is less than stellar. More often, I’m the takeout order-placer and picker-upper.