I’ve known the name Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for as long as I can remember. She first became involved in politics in 1982 as a member of the Florida state House of Representatives. She moved on to the state senate and, finally, the U.S. Congress as a Republican representative for Florida’s 18th Congressional District, a position she has been re-elected to 10 times.
While I don’t agree with with many of Ros-Lehtinen’s stances (she’s anti-choice and hawkish, among other things), there are some I do (she’s fiercely pro-gay rights). Regardless, I respect her for what she’s accomplished and I believe she’s smart and well-spoken. She’s a frequent guest on Real Time with Bill Maher and always holds her own against a usually more liberal panel.
And now, to the crux of my story. When I was last in Miami, my parents and I decided to kill an hour by heading to one of the Cuban restaurants, where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came — Casa Larios. We’re sitting at the bar, and my parents mention that Ros-Lehtinen is sitting behind us at a table with her husband. I get excited because I had just seen her on Real Time, they urge me to go up and introduce myself, I say no…this little dance goes on for a few minutes.
Then we notice that they’re getting up to leave. I quickly work up the nerve, grab my business card and stop them while they’re almost out the door. We end up speaking for a few minutes — she’s a fan of the magazines I work on, they want to know where I live in Brooklyn, we exchange business cards, etc — and it was all very pleasant and quick.
Fast forward to last week, and a letter reaches me in the mail at work from:
Here’s what she had to say:
I was floored. Okay – it’s clearly a form letter with a few key identifying factors inserted, but, still, it’s impressive and there’s even a personal note. This was thoughtful and precise and the workings of a true politician.
Now I totally get how she became the first Cuban-American elected to Congress and one of the highest-ranking women in Congress. My takeaways? Pay attention, follow up…and never miss a visit to Casa Larios.
Posted by: Mariela