Sen. Tammy Duckworth speaks with the Paul Simon Institute on today’s political issues


Julian Castillo | @julian_castillo24

Tammy Duckworth, Illinois Senator, speaks to SIU students via Zoom Oct. 4, 2021. “Living in Illinois made me the person I am today,” Duckworth said.

The Paul Simon Institute held a zoom Q & A with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, to discuss her life, her new book Every Day is a Gift and current political issues in the U.S., including the debt ceiling.

“The best way to describe it is that we spent a bunch of money on our credit cards,” Duckworth said. “Both Republicans and Democrats spent a lot of money on our credit cards, and now the bill is due and we have to pay it. That’s just the bottom line.”

Duckworth also said the infrastructure bill should be passed because of the condition  of roads, bridges, and public transportation  in the nation, which currently have  a D- grade from the   American Association of Civil Engineers.


Duckworth defended the why and how troops were removed from Afghanistan.

“If we had not withdrawn the troops the way we did then, the Taliban would have seen that as a violation of the Doha Accords, and begun and broken their agreement, which was to not attack U.S. troops,” Duckworth said. 

Duckwoth said, in the future, work with Afghanistan needs to be nonpartisan, and any government officials who have been in the decision-making process with Afghanistan in the last 20 years should not be anymore.

Before getting heavily into those political issues, Duckworth offered the Zoom audience some insight into her background.

She said she and her family arrived in Hawaii with one-way tickets from Thailand and with little money to their name.

“The closest part of the U.S. we could get to was Hawaii,” Duckworth said. “We didn’t go there because it was paradise, we went there because it was the closest U.S. soil we could get to from Thailand with the remaining few 100 bucks we had left.”

Duckworth said she was thankful for the minimum wage so she could get a job to be able to help her family get by.


Duckworth also credited her high school yearbook advisor, who was a part of the yearbook in high school with other students and is grateful for her yearbook advisor, who would give low income students money to eat.

Even though the yearbook advisor could be disorganized at times, Duckworth was grateful for the yearbook advisor because She said, if it wasn’t for that advisor, him she might have dropped out., she said.

“I would have probably gotten two or three minimum wage jobs, and I would never have graduated high school,” Duckworth said. “Which meant I would never qualify to serve in the Aarmy, and I would never be a U.S. Senator today.”

Coming from a family with a military background, Duckworth said she always wanted to serve in the Foreign Service and the Diplomatic Corps., she said.

While she was attending George Washington University, someone from her ancient history fellowship recommended Northern Illinois University to her since she wanted to study Southeast Asia, Duckwoth said.

“I’ve been out to all these other schools to talk to folks, but nowhere was as welcoming as Dekalb,” Duckworth said. “I knew I was home, and I have never left.”

Duckworth’s book is called Every Day is a Gift to remind her of the  friends who helped her after the helicopter she was piloting in Iraq was shot down by insurgents. 

Duckworth chooses to look back at that day in celebration of life rather than feeling sorry for herself, she said.

“My book is called Every Day is a Gift because every day since that day for me has been a gift given to me by my buddies who carried me to safety,” Duckworth said. “It’s just a moment of thanks and that day is the one day of the year that the guys who saved my life allow me to call them, and say thank you for saving me.”

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewis. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.