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A Strong Voice in Texas PDF Print E-mail
2007-12-15 18:20:42
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson represents Texas's 30th Congressional District, which is entirely within Dallas County. Turkish-Americans who live in Dallas, TX generally are residents of her district and she is one of the members of the Caucus on U.S.-Turkish Relations. Her first visit to Turkey was one and half years ago and she said she learned a lot of things and really enjoyed her stay. She makes an effort to keep in touch with Turkish-Americans in the Dallas & Houston areas and her Chief of Staff & Legislative Director is a Turkish- American, Murat Gökçiğdem. Graduated from West Virginia University, Gökçiğdem is responsible for issues related to international law and trade, intellectual property law, and domestic and international monetary policy.

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Congresswoman Johnson with Cemil Özyurt, Editor-in-Chief of TurkofAmerica Magazine, at her Capitol Hill Office.


In the past months, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), an educational charitable organization based in Washington, D.C., worked with Representatives Johnson (D-TX), to distribute copies of the documentary film, Atlantic Records--The House that Ahmet Built, a film that was made by PBS/Public Broadcasting Service on the successful life of music producer/composer Ahmet Ertegün, to the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congresswoman Johnson is widely recognized as one of the most effective legislators in Congress and she is credited with authoring and co-authoring more than 120 bills that were passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the President.

She is currently a Senior Democratic deputy whip, chairwoman for the Texas Democratic Delegation, chair for the House Metro Congestion Coalition, co-chair for the North America’s Supercorridor Caucus and co-chair for the TEX-21 Congressional Caucus. In addition, Congresswoman Johnson served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus during the 107th Congress. She answered TurkofAmerica’s questions.  

You were the leading voice against the Iraq invasion four years ago. At that time, there were not too many people against it. How do you see the current situation after all of that?
There might be some people who, close to the President, believed what he said. But now I have a feeling that not more than 4-5 percent of the people really believe it. I think there is a loyalty there that desires not to embarrass the President.

You were against the invasion because you did not believe what the President said or was it a just a political decision?
This country has always standards. The decision to invade Iraq, I just felt that it was a mistake from the beginning. Even now, the majority of American people think that we have to pull out the troops as soon as possible. I think coming out needs a strategic plan as well because we can’t pull out in one day, certainly. We need to establish diplomatic relations in the entire region. We have to show some sincerity that we don’t believe there are weapons of mass destruction. We have to allow them to run their country by themselves.

You were a member of first delegation that visited Iraq. Did you have a chance to talk to Iraqi people and see what they were thinking?
I worked with some Iraqi women’s organizations. What their continual conversation was, many of them wanted Saddam Hussein out but they did not want to have to pay the price of contributing to accomplish that. They want us out. They realized that they need some security and we could train people to defend themselves. Not as many people as literally got training. We have to work in that region in order to make sure that there is no additional chance to give them to rebuild everything back in place. But there are very strong feelings about the U.S. being over there. Nothing will change until the U.S. is able to say “we are really here on your behalf.” I am not sure at this point that the Iraqi people know why we are there. I am not sure why we are there.

The Iraq invasion gave the U.S. a very negative image. What should the U.S. do to fix that?
We have to put a great deal of effort into building more diplomatic relationships there. We should hear and help them for rehabilitation. We have done a few things in Baghdad, but there are not enough visible things accomplished there. Many of us feel that the U.S. should have never been in Iraq. We thought it was legitimate to go into Afghanistan but not Iraq. The majority of the countries in the world do not consider the U.S. on the right side right now. That will relatively quickly change when the President’s term expires, but I believe sincerely that the relationship has not been too much damaged. Whatever it takes, we will with diplomacy gain back.

Have you ever been to Turkey?
Yes. One and a half years ago. Time really goes fast. I was in Cyprus first then went to Turkey. I was with the delegation. I learned a lot things and really enjoyed it. I have a lot of Turkish-Americans in the Dallas area. They are doing great things. I think Turkey is very important. Right now we are quite aware that the U.S. doesn’t have the best image as she once did and we have a lot of work to do to close those gaps. The relationship is very important to most people, and most people in the Congress.

Turkey is located in a very strategic region. The neighbors of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, have some problems with the U.S. and this affects Turkey very much. What do you predict the U.S.’s relations with those countries will be in the future?
The U.S. doesn’t want to make the same mistakes in Iran and Syria. I feel strongly and am sure the American people want to have good relations in the entire region. It will be observed and it will have to be sorted out.  We have to attempt to establish trust, and the relationships will follow from that.

You are recognized as one of the most effective legislators in the Congress. What is the most important achievement among those bills?
I think that my primarily achievement is education for young people. I have done a lot of work attempting to get attention on the education issue. Trying to implement some meaningful programs for increasing the quality of education. Because the U.S. education quality is ranked very low, even though it’s the richest country in the world.

In the last election you won with 80 percent of the vote and defeated the Republican candidate. You have been in public service since 1972 and your district really loves you. Are you considering retiring? Or what is your plan for next term?
In Texas, most of the Turkish-American live in my district. I enjoy meeting people, listening to their experiences. I also know what they need. I keep in touch with my district. And I am really staying now to serve.  I’m not thinking about retirement.

WHO IS EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON?
 Congresswoman Johnson studied nursing at St. Mary's College at the University of Notre Dame and earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from Texas Christian University in 1967.  Johnson was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1972 and became the first woman in Texas history to lead a major Texas House committee, the Labor Committee. She was recognized and appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve as regional director of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1977. In 1986, she was elected a Texas state senator, becoming the first African-American female from the Dallas area to hold this office since Reconstruction. She is now in her eighth term representing the citizens of the Thirtieth Congressional District of Texas.

(December 2007, 27th Issue)
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