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African-American Congresswoman Leads 'Women for World Peace'

  • Cindy Saine

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, second from right, participates in a ceremonial swearing in with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 5, 2011 (file photo)

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, second from right, participates in a ceremonial swearing in with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 5, 2011 (file photo)

U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson is serving her 10th term representing a Texas district that includes a large part of the city of Dallas. She is the first nurse to be elected to the U.S. Congress and has founded an initiative led by women, based on non-violent conflict resolution, called "A World of Women for World Peace."

The congresswoman said that when she first arrived in Washington 20 years ago as a newly elected member of Congress, she had grown accustomed to the challenges of being an African-American woman with an important title while she was a member of the state legislature in Texas.

"You know when you grow up in Texas as an African American, you build some resilience. And so instead of always being angry, you really kind of feel sorry for the ignorance of people."

Johnson said now, 20 years later, things have not changed that much, and there are still some congressional staff members who snub her and treat her as if she were a staff member instead of a veteran Congresswoman.

"You can always tell that if it is a person they are working for that might have a few feelings, it is really expressed through their staff. The disrespect, pushing you aside, and ignoring you on the elevator, or not expressing any kind of courtesy, you know they are from some type of ignorance and you just accept it as that."

In 2010, Congresswoman Johnson was elected as the first African-American female ranking member of the House Committee on Science and Technology. She said she strongly agrees with President Barack Obama that the United States has fallen behind other countries on science and math education, and this is impeding the ability to compete with other countries.

She said the United States will not be able to compete on the world stage unless it puts more emphasis on making sure American children have top quality teachers.

"For some reason, we have not encouraged our most skilled people to go to the classroom. So we have a number of good teachers, but teachers who have not majored in the areas they are teaching, which handicaps them and handicaps the students."

After the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Congresswoman Johnson said she felt she had to do something to try to reduce violence in the world, and that she believes women have a unique ability to work as peacemakers throughout the world.

"One of the reasons why is, you know women give birth to these soldiers, and the last thing that a woman wants to do is to see an offspring have to go to war and get killed."

Johnson founded the "A World of Women for World Peace" initiative, which includes a curriculum of conflict resolution for girls of all ages. She said the program is based on respect for those who have different beliefs.

"That is kind of our approach, is to respect those differences, allow people to have their space to have those differences, and I have worked with people in war-torn areas, from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Bahrain, throughout Africa, Sudan women, Palestinian and Israeli women, and also Iraqi women as well."

Johnson said in her travels to Africa and throughout the world, she always seeks to meet with local women leaders. She said she has suggested more women be included in peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, because she believes that conflict will never be resolved without their input.

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