Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams on Monday urged Albany State University students to use the power of the ballot box and to always remember that they are the ones who ‘hire’ their elected officials.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams remembers her upbringing as a small child in Hattiesburg, Miss.
"My mother said we were the 'genteel poor.' My parents worked, but they didn't always make enough for to make ends meet," Abrams, the second oldest of six siblings, told a gathering of students Monday at Albany State University's ACAD Auditorium. "The kids would gripe and complain about what we didn't have. But my parents taught us that no matter how bad you think you have it, somebody else always has it worse than you do.
"My parents are both ministers and they believe in service. We worked in homeless shelters and food lines and I grew up with a strong belief in service."
She developed an interest in government at an early age.
"It's important for people to have a voice and I appreciate what government can do for people even though it can make me very angry at times," the DeKalb County Democrat said. "I wanted to understand government, why it worked for some people and not for others. The more I understood, the more I wanted to be part of it."
As the House Minority Leader in the General Assembly, she is the first woman to lead either party in the Legislature and is the first African American to lead in the House of Representatives. She serves on the Appropriations, Ethics, Judiciary Non-Civil, Rules and Ways & Means committees.
She had three pieces of advice for ASU students.
"Number one, start where you are," Abrams said. "As college students you have started something, and no one can ever take your education from you.
"Number two, use what you have. Barack Obama would not be president today if young people had decided to stay home and watch TV rather than get out and vote. You not only have an obligation to vote, but find our more about the people who affect your lives every day.
"Number three, do what you can -- speak up, stand up and show up. Remember, you hired all of your representatives when you voted for them. Show up at the ballot box, if you do that you have the power to change the world."
Abrams received her juris doctorate from Yale Law School. She graduated from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin with a master's degree in public policy. She earned a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies (political science, economics and sociology) from Spelman College.