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Case Western Reserve University students honor 10 NASW Social Work Pioneers®

Barbara Lee



Congresswoman Barbara Lee has dedicated her public and private life to combat the problems and challenges that confront our community, our country and our world. Since her election to Congress in 1998, Barbara has been committed to the issues that affect the East Bay including education, housing, health care, the environment and HIV/AIDS. She is continuing the long tradition in the Ninth District of representing the voice of reason and compassion in Congress.

Barbara Lee came to California in 1960 from her native EI Paso, Texas. After receiving the Bank of America Achievement Award and the Rotary Club Music Award, she went on to graduate from Mills College in 1973. Barbara earned her Master's degree in Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley in 1975. During her graduate work, Barbara established a community mental health center in Berkeley, CA.

Barbara's doorway to public life opened when she interned for legendary Ninth district Congressman Ron Dellums. Her dedication and passion for the issues - affordable housing, HIV/AIDS, 21st century education -led her to the position of Chief of Staff for the Congressman.

In 1990, Barbara successfully ran for the California State Assembly and served for six years before being elected to a term as a California State Senator from 1996 to 1998. When Ron Dellums retired from the Ninth district congressional seat, he enthusiastically endorsed Barbara. Since her victories in 1998 and 2000, Barbara faithfully serves her East Bay constituents.

Barbara spends her time in Congress working to build bipartisan support to provide for the basic and interrelated needs of Americans: health care, housing, education, jobs, and the quest to create livable communities in a peaceful world. Barbara continues to strive to serve all of her constituents' needs today and tomorrow.

Congresswoman Lee fights for the issues that most concern the families of the East Bay: education, housing, health care, the environment and HIV/AIDS. In her short time in Congress, Barbara has made great strides in these areas by building coalitions and working hard every day.


The Congresswoman works hard to reduce class size, strengthen after school programs and increase funding for educational programs and initiatives. She introduced the Student Support Act, which will provide $100 million over five years to hire more school counselors, social workers and psychologists. Currently, students in many states exceed the National Academy of Sciences, recommended ratio of counselors to students by nearly fourfold.

Barbara works tirelessly to raise millions of dollars for math and science education at the Chabot Observatory and Science Center in Oakland. She also garnered funds for violence prevention and environmental awareness programs at the Martin Luther King Freedom Center in Alameda County. The Congresswoman's lifetime commitment to social welfare underscores her conviction that our future lies in the care and education of our youth.


One of the biggest issues facing East Bay families is the skyrocketing cost of housing in the Bay Area. Barbara Lee has made the issue of affordable homes for families one of her top priorities in Congress. As a member of the Financial Services Committee's Subcommittee on Housing, Barbara plays a leading role in the fight for affordable housing, one of the most urgent issues facing the Bay Area.
She helped secure a $34 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the City of Oakland and, through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, convened a Western Regional Summit on Housing and Wealth Accumulation in which Fannie Mae contributed 500,000 to the Northern California Land Trust for low cost housing. additionally, the Congresswoman consistently supported legislation to expand opportunities for home ownership, improve the quality of public housing in this country and assist individuals and families who are homeless.


Barbara Lee believes that access to healthcare is a basic human right, one that is too often denied or restricted here in this country. The Congresswoman introduced and supported several bills concerning health care, including the Universal Healthcare Act and the Patients Bill of Rights. She also fought to expand prescription drug coverage for seniors and other Americans.

In other health issues, Congresswoman Lee introduced the Benign Brain Tumor Cancer Registries Amendment Act that will provide for the collection of data on benign brain-related tumors through the National Program of Cancer Registries. The collection of this data will be beneficial to public health agencies, scientific research labs and health system public policy groups. Most importantly, it will provide crucial data that can save lives.


Congresswoman Lee understands the value of continuing to expand our local and national economy, but she also realizes that as we ensure growth and expansion we must also bring livability rather than congestion, pollution and conflict.

Barbara Lee has worked to increase funding for mass transit while supporting legislation to raise fuel economy standards, reduce pollution and address environmental racism California's current energy crisis has graphically demonstrated the fundamental need for a new energy policy. Along with other members of the California delegation and the Progressive Caucus, Lee seeks to forge policies that will protect both consumers and the environment.


The global HIV/AIDS pandemic is the most devastating humanitarian crisis of our time. Domestically, HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacts communities of color, and women and youth are at greatest risk for new infections. Globally, HIV/AIDS is wreaking havoc in developing countries. The HIV/AIDS crisis is decimating several countries in Africa and Asia, leaving behind millions of orphans in its wake.

This year Congresswoman Lee introduced legislation that would facilitate the importation and manufacture of generic HIV/AIDS medications in countries with high incidence and prevalence rates. She has also introduced legislation that calls for multilateral debt cancellation by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for developing nations hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, so that they can use their financial resource on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment rather than continuing to shoulder undue and excessive debt to these lending institutions.