The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs Leadership Lecture Series kicks off tonight (Oct. 13) with Leticia Van de Putte, Texas State senator for District 26. She will discuss her leadership of the "Texas Eleven" and the walkout in 2003 that temporarily froze the Texas State Legislature. Here, Senator Van de Putte shares her thoughts on her comadre style of leadership and the issues that influenced her to run for office.
Q: You are opening the LBJ School Fall Leadership Lecture series as the first speaker and will be talking about "Latina Legislator: Leticia Van de Putte and the Road to Leadership," written by Sharon Navarro. Would you explain a little about this book?
A: Initially, Sharon expressed an interest in using my story as a case study. She wanted to document my life and career in order to offer a broad perspective on the development of Latina politics in the Texas state legislature. After three years of research, she subsequently decided to publish a book focused on understanding the behavior of Latinas in electoral politics with my career as her central case study.
Q: How would you describe your personal brand of leadership?
A: I approach my leadership role with an objective to gain consensus and inclusiveness. This comadre style is a collaborative approach that has helped me empower others who share my vision to meet their needs and take responsibility for their actions.
Q: What essential lessons about leadership have you learned in your role as a state senator that everyone should know?
A: My years in public office have reinforced my belief that you should give everyone their due respect regardless of differences in politics, philosophy, background and culture. This ideology stems from my career in health care. As a pharmacist, I serve patients from a variety of backgrounds and strive to earn mutual respect between myself and my patients.
Q: As a female, Latina political figure, are there specific obstacles that you have had to overcome in order to gain political office?
A: My decision to run for public office came at a time when I had six children under the age of 10. At the same time, my husband and I owned two separate businesses. I was questioned about my ability to parent my children since the cultural expectation was for me to stay at home with my family. In the end, I overcame this obstacle and demonstrated to my constituents that I could represent them while fulfilling my role as a mother.
Q: Before running for office, you were a pharmacist for 32 years. What influenced your decision to run for public office?
A: There were very few people in the Texas legislature who were passionate about issues relevant to health care, early childhood education and small business owners. Further, there weren't enough women in the state legislature. I was angry by this situation, which influenced my decision to run for public office.
Texas Senator Leticia Van de Putte will be the first speaker in the Leadership Lecture Series on Oct. 13 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in Bass Lecture Hall, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, 2315 Red River St.
A live webcast of the lecture with Senator Van de Putte will also be available.
Learn more about this and other Leadership Lecture Series events.