Diana DeGette 

Stateswoman and sister

Sometimes people get real nervous, even spellbound, when they're around her, which is pretty funny. She may be in Congress, but jeez, she's just my sister.

People always ask me what Diana was like to grow up with. Since I'm the youngest of five and Diana's the oldest, I finally get to hand over the answer that I -- the baby -- have been patiently waiting for years to say: Diana always was, and is to this day, much, much older.

Inevitably, people get to the other predictable question: Did the 1979 Colorado College graduate and future Congresswoman always want to be in politics? Well, of course she did.

Our mom, the venerable Patricia Anne Rose, always proclaimed that Diana DeGette would one day be Governor of Colorado. Unfortunately, Mom didn't live to see her oldest child elected to public office. But somehow, from where she's coaching now, I don't think Mom is disappointed with her daughter's Congressional trade-off.

Since she was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, DeGette has sponsored health care legislation giving poor children access to health care; she is pushing a bill to expand Colorado's wilderness areas and she has ardently taken up the battle to enact sensible gun safety laws.

Currently the only CC grad serving in Congress, DeGette returns with pride to her alma mater next Monday to deliver the commencement speech to the 500-plus graduating seniors of the Class of 2000.

What is the most important advice you can give to graduating seniors? Make sure you give back to your community in whatever way you can, given your ability and your circumstance. Knowledge leads to action and you have to dedicate yourself to lifelong learning. Everybody has different abilities, but no matter what people do for a job -- for some, that means serving in Congress, for others, it may be planting trees -- everyone has a responsibility. No one gets a pass.

What's the most important advice that Dad ever gave you? Never assume.

Is your staff's biggest nightmare your family? No. Actually that's their littlest nightmare. What they are afraid of is that I might escape from them sometime.

I know your family secret: We get along with Republicans. So what's your favorite thing about Colorado Springs Congressman Joel Hefley? He always watches my back.

What's your best Bill Clinton story? A couple weeks ago, I was in Denver and I was riding in the limo with the president and [House Minority Leader] Dick Gephardt from the University of Denver to Air Force One and we got to talking about Colorado Springs. Clinton knew more about how the Religious Right became centered in Colorado Springs than either Gephardt or me. He knew all about the organizations there, where they came from and who runs them. Actually that's not the best Bill Clinton story I've got, but it's the most recent one and the one that relates to Colorado Springs.

Why does the president believe that all the fundamentalists came to Colorado Springs? I believe that's a state secret that can't be divulged.

So which is the president's favorite local group? Oh, Focus on the Family, by far.

People in Colorado Springs also want to know why you haven't hired me at top dollar and thus removed the plague from their midst. Where's the lucrative offer? I offered you $18,500, but you wouldn't take the job.

Well, you know I wasn't interested in a pay raise. So how'd you get mixed up in politics anyway? At some point I just went bad.


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