Ask people to describe a Republican politician in a few words – divergent, progressive and adventurous may not come to mind. But that’s exactly what Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is.
A former lawyer and congressional staffer, Senator Kirk has a passion for forward-thinking politics. “Working for the red, white and blue is why I get up in the morning,” he says. “I’m pro-choice and voted for the immigration bill.” When asked if he thinks the rest of the Republican Party will ever transform and get on board with his way of thinking, Senator Kirk replied, “It needs to.”
Senator Kirk created the Women’s Advisory Board in 2011 to make sure he’s knowledgeable on women’s issues. “The board has given me a new perspective,” he explains, learning more about injustices like sexual harassment in the workplace. “They even alerted me to BackPage.com, an online forum for pornography and prostitution [that was investigated by the FBI]. The site was seemingly facilitating human trafficking, treating young women as if they were a commodity to be bought and sold.”
Senator Kirk is also an advocate for young women working to better communities far and wide. In 2010, a group of students – the EcoMacs at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School – built a biodiesel processor for a school in Haiti that was suffering after the devastating earthquake. “McAuley told us Haitian officials were holding up the donation for money, which is something that unfortunately happens too often in developing countries,” explains the senator. “They see the opportunity to extract money from assistance where it’s really needed by a community.” So Senator Kirk worked with the state department and Haitian government to make sure McAuley’s donation would serve its purpose and not be diverted.
Senator Kirk’s adventurous side came out many years ago when he decided to go skydiving – in winter. “I developed an unexpected expertise,” he shares. “I went often with my girlfriend at the time and loved it. We bailed out above the snow at about 14,000 feet. And while snow doesn’t look particularly threatening from up there it can really sting your face as you free fall. When you hit it, you know it.” The senator has hit other obstacles, but the conclusion here is that this man can handle anything.