The following is a transcript of an interview with Louisiana Congresswoman-elect Julia Letlow that aired Sunday, March 28, 2020, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We go now to Louisiana Congresswoman-elect Dr. Julia Letlow. Welcome to FACE THE NATION.
REP.-ELECT DR. JULIA LETLOW: Thank you so much for having me, MARGARET.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor, you are the first Republican congresswoman in Louisiana’s history, and you won your seat in a special election that was held after your husband, Luke Letlow, recently passed away from COVID in December. And I’m wondering how that experience firsthand with COVID is going to inform your work here in Washington.
REP.-ELECT LETLOW: Well, it’s definitely going to inform my work. You know, I just want to take a second to acknowledge all of the Americans out there who have lost loved ones to COVID. I want to say that I- I see you. I hear you. I most importantly, pray with you. I’m a huge proponent of the vaccine. It has lifesaving capabilities. And I want to encourage anybody out there who’s eligible to go ahead and get that vaccine. It’s so important.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that’s a resonant message coming from you, not just because of your personal experience, but also, I mean, frankly, looking at your district. Louisiana is going to open up eligibility on Monday, right? For everyone 16 and up. One group, though–
REP.-ELECT LETLOW: That’s right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But what we’re seeing in our own polling, though, is a new level of hesitation among self-identified Republicans 65 and younger. So when you were speaking to voters, what is your message to them about why they should trust this vaccine?
REP.-ELECT LETLOW: That’s right, that’s why I want to be an advocate and a voice for- for everyone. Look at my family, use my story. You know, I experienced a tragedy in my immediate family and COVID can touch every family out there. And so, you know, there is a vaccine that has lifesaving capabilities. I want to encourage everyone to trust it and get the vaccine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you spoke with former President Trump. You also received a phone call from President Biden who talked to you about your loss. Can you share with us anything about that phone call?
REP.-ELECT LETLOW: Sure, they were both so gracious and expressed their condolences and President Biden, who is no stranger to loss, as well as shared with me that he understood the pain that I was walking through and that it will get better. And I know it will.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I know we all hope it certainly does for you, and you have a lot of business to carry on- on behalf of your constituents when you get here. I mean, looking at your district, you have one of the highest poverty rates in the country, about 25%. You’ve said for you a priority is expanding broadband access infrastructure. That’s high on President Biden’s list. Does that mean as a Republican in the House, you are going to get on board with his proposals?
REP.-ELECT LETLOW: Well, I’m definitely going to get on board with any proposal that is going to provide rural broadband to my district. Just like you said, we have some of the highest poverty rates in the nation right here. My background is in higher education. I believe if you can educate a child, you give them a future. And so I want to champion education all the way from early childhood K through 12, our underutilized trade schools and community colleges to our four-year institutions. And there’s nothing like a pandemic, MARGARET, to bring to light how vital rural broadband is in educating our children, but also providing health care to the constituents in my district.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So there has already been apprehension. The bill hasn’t even been proposed yet. You know, it’s just being talked about. But the price tag on it, you know, another two trillion or more. Does this mean as a Republican, you would vote for anything that would expand broadband access?
REP.-ELECT LETLOW: Well, I would definitely have to take a close look at the bill. You know, I’m not up there yet, so I would definitely have to analyze it. But I’m going to be looking for avenues to find a way to expand rural broadband in my district. So I’ll look at everything that’s on the table.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You are joining a record-breaking number of women in the House of Representatives. When we looked at Louisiana, it’s at around the bottom of the country when it comes to equal pay for women, particularly Black women, it’s about 47 cents on the dollar. Latina women about 52 cents. Women writ large, about 74 cents. Is addressing pay equity a priority for you?
REP.-ELECT LETLOW: It’s definitely something that I will look into. I believe women should be paid equitably, but I am so proud to be the first Republican woman elected to represent the state of Louisiana. You know, when you look at our- the population, the makeup of Louisiana, roughly 52% is female. Every issue is a woman’s issue. And so it’s a wonderful opportunity for Louisiana to have a woman to have a seat at the table.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be watching what you do with that. I want to ask you to- just to share some of your personal experience. You- you talked about your personal loss here. And I know when we looked at your background, you’ve experienced quite a lot of grief in your life. You also lost your 17-year-old brother in a car accident when he was in college. You wrote a thesis and a dissertation on grief itself. What is your lesson, as you said, for those who have lost during this pandemic? How do you continue moving forward, as you did with, you know, bringing your children here to Washington, continuing to push forward with a career in the mass of- of such a loss?
REP.-ELECT LETLOW: That’s right. Well, you know, I happen to be a woman of faith. I believe that the Lord doesn’t waste and experience good or bad. And so all of those experiences that I’ve had prior, even writing a dissertation, just like you said, on finding meaning after the loss of a family member, is helping guide me through. You know, one of the findings of my dissertation was that when a person can get outside of themselves during the grieving process and find ways to serve others, that can actually be cathartic in- in helping guide them through the grieving process. So I just see everything in my life and in my marriage has led me to this one moment in time. I’m so honored and excited to serve the people of the Fifth District.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman-elect, we will be watching. Thank you for joining us today. We’ll be right back.
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