Shy and retiring are not adjectives that many of her Capitol Hill colleagues would use to describe California Rep. Barbara Lee, ardent defender of the poor and peacenik. But as a girl growing up in largely segregated El Paso, Texas, she told BET.com, the future lawmaker was "quiet, introverted and really shy."
Her mother, who sounds much like the woman her daughter turned out to be, wasn't having that. She enrolled Lee in as many extracurricular activities as possible, including piano lessons, drill team, cheerleading and the Girl Scouts, the latter of which would teach the soon-to-be California girl about the environment and working outdoors.
Lee, pictured left, and her younger sister Mildred, ages 11 and 10 when this photo was taken, were the only two African-Americans in Troop 151. That didn't stop her from earning a lot of merit badges and becoming fiercely competitive at Girl Scout cookie time.
The most important lesson, and one which she applies to her work today, was learning to appreciate the environment and her responsibility to help protect it.
"We learned how to do a lot of home economics type things," the former Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman told BET.com, "but more important, it was about hayrides, being outdoors, cookouts, learning how to camp out and make fires, but understanding that by camping out you were also a part of nature."
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Barbera Lee)
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