America's Leaders—Off The Record

Photos and personal comments that begin to answer the question of "What are America's leaders really like?"

Staceyann Sinclair of Rasmussen College on a life experience that shaped her:

Staceyann Sinclair of Rasmussen College on a life experience that shaped her:

"A life experience that helped shape who I am today is growing up in a home with my grandmother who happened to be the first physician in our local community, and a female physician at that. And, growing up with her the first ten years of my life really helped shape who I am today and how I think about education and how education is an important part of my life. From that day on, I knew that I wanted to be someone who received an education, earned an education and was able to do great things because I saw the opportunities that it provided me and my life from my grandmother having that much knowledge and that much education for us to be able to take trips, for us to be able to engage in different areas of the community and it really did make me say, 'Hey, I know I’m going to go to school. I’m going to continue to get an education and it’s going to make a difference.' Because I’ve also seen others in my family who didn’t get an education and how far back they ere in the things they had to do and not having the same opportunities provided to them because of a lack of education. So, I value education. It has been a big portion of how I decided to go through college, and from college on to grad school, and then, who knew, I’d be working in education 17 years later and being a campus director at Rasmussen College and helping shape other people and helping them see how education can make a change in their life."

Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20) on what drives him:

Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20) on what drives him:

"As the grandson of immigrants, I am driven by the opportunities that this country presented for them. It's about tethering the American dream and it's what motivates me to continue to work hard so that all families across this great nation can learn about those opportunities, tether that American dream and make life a much better opportunity for them and their children."

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) on a principle that guides her life:

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) on a principle that guides her life:

"One of the principles I live by is 'luck favors the brave.' I started running for Congress as a 29 year-old young woman running against a seated incumbent and no one thought it was possible for someone of my age to win a primary, let alone a general election. So many people didn’t think that someone in their 20s would have a unique voice to represent our District. And, instead of running away from that, I showed the bravery and courage early on to step into the arena and offer my voice and talk about why it is important to have young representatives in Congress to make sure that we have voices that represent all generations in our country today. Luck favors the brave…I hope you realize that some people think I got lucky to win my election, but it was the early bravery and courage to get in the race."

Scott B. Gwilliam of JBT Technologies on a person he admires:

Scott B. Gwilliam of JBT Technologies on a person he admires:

"I admire Mrs. Gill from my junior year of high school at Brighton High in Salt Lake City. She was a math teacher and she made a big impact on my life, changing my whole attitude towards education. She was the teacher who helped me really develop that desire to continue learning throughout life. And, even today, I still think of her frequently as I continue to pursue educational opportunities."

Congressman Bob Latta (OH-5) on a person he admires:

Congressman Bob Latta (OH-5) on a person he admires:

"One of the persons I most admire is Winston Churchill. Churchill was the Prime Minister of Great Britain during WWII. If you look at his background and his history, he had a lot of stumbles along that route. But ... he never [gave] up. And he always had a positive outlook. He always looked at the future. He knew things could improve, but ... always said, 'you never, ever, ever give up.' And I think that is what we have to always look at in ourselves. We always have to have a positive outlook on life and especially our surroundings."

President Elsa Nunez of Eastern CT State University on overcoming obstacles:

President Elsa Nunez of Eastern CT State University on overcoming obstacles:

"Like many others coming to the United States, my family arrived in Newark, New Jersey, in the mid-1950s not knowing a word of English and with little money to our name. At that time, there were no English-as-a-Language or bilingual education programs in the schools. This lack of language instruction was made worse by financial challenges at home—we didn’t have enough money for books, summer enrichment programs, or learning materials and resources that could have helped my family’s social and cultural assimilation. Insufficient financial resources and the absence of English language skills still confront many immigrants to this country, making it difficult for children from other cultures to join social groups, succeed academically, and develop self-esteem. I still remember the two most important things my father taught me 60 years ago—education is the best means people living in poverty have to better themselves, and exercising our voting rights and other duties of citizenship is how best to protect the freedoms and privileges we enjoy."

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (FL-24) on life advice:

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (FL-24) on life advice:

"When I was young I used to be so upset when I made a mistake and I thought the world was going to come to an end. But as I've gotten older, I know better. I know to live for a new day and things will get better each day. So never give up; keep moving forward; and know that all people make mistakes."

Congressman Duffy (WI-7) on his experience on MTV’s The Real World:

Congressman Duffy (WI-7) on his experience on MTV’s The Real World:

"So I grew up in Hayward, Wisconsin, small town of about 2,000 people…not a whole lot of diversity and culture coming out of Hayward. I signed up and I did The Real World on MTV. I did the Boston season and when I did that show, I was forced to live with six other people in a house that came from all different walks of life, probably people I wouldn’t have become friends with in my everyday life had I not been forced to get to know them and live with them on The Real World. And what I realized by doing that show is that when you spend time with people that you might think you don’t have much in common with, you actually have more in common with them than you had originally anticipated. So I learned to allow my initial perception of who people are based on stereotypes to fall away and actually spend time and get to know people that are in my life and around me. And I think that Real World experience has a big impact on the kind of member of Congress I am. I know a lot of people think there is a lot of division in Washington, and there is, and a lot of division between the parties, but I think what you realize if you sit down and talk to people that you might think are very different from you, is that you do have more in common for your vision for America and on your legislative agenda, so surprisingly, MTV, The Real World, has an impact on the way I engage with people here in Congress. And I think it is in a far more positive way than had I not done the show."