U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) gave a virtual presentation Friday as the spring 2021 Mary Louise Smith Chair for Women and Politics.
Porter’s presentation, “Truth to Power,” was sponsored by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. She grew up on a farm in Iowa and went to Yale University for her B.A. and Harvard University for her doctorate.
She represents the 45th district of California, Orange County, and is a single, working mother passionate about issues affecting single-parent families. She encourages people to get involved in their government, and she was the first Democrat elected to office there since the 1940s.
The Mary Louise Smith Chair brings political leaders and scholars to Iowa State to educate students about the role of women in the political process.
Sehba Faheem, senior in in biological systems engineering, opened the floor for Porter with an introduction.
“In [Porter’s] freshman year, she gained notoriety for asking tough questions to CEOs such as Mark Zuckerburg and Jamie Dimon … our speaker tonight continues to create history, advocate for other people and follow her path as a House representative,” Faheem said.
Porter said systems among elected officials operate to keep power in the hands of a small number of people.
“Everyone else is just expected to live with it,” she said. “Most politicians do live with it.”
She continued to say she does not intend to vote how she’s told, raise money and get reelected like some of her fellow representatives.
Porter was a member of the House Financial Services Committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In that position, she found herself holding bank CEOs and administrative officials accountable for unlawfulness within their companies.
This includes Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who was underpaying his employees while retaining his billionaire status.
Porter said many representatives look up to him for advice. But not her.
“I had one question for him: how could someone who worked full-time as a teller at his bank afford to live off the salary his bank paid them?” she said. “… Dimon, maybe to his credit, answered my question honestly and said, ‘I don’t know.’”
Porter said she works to better the lives of Americans and hopes to empower women like herself to get involved in governance.
“There is money and status in hoarding power,” Porter said. “A really good way to take power away from someone is to convince them they don’t have power to start with.”
Porter said she thinks one of the things women are facing as more women become involved politics is the precedent for women in government. She said the whole point of being a trailblazer is carving a way for it to be easier for the women who come next, and she hopes to do so.
“I know that the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women in Politics gives women the foundation to use their voices, to speak truth to power, in whatever unique way that might look like for them,” she said.