Closing The Gap

Stacey Abrams will make history as the first black woman to deliver the State of the Union response

Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams takes the stage to declare victory in the primary during an election night event on May 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Getty Images

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams was the first black woman to be nominated by a major party for governor. Though she lost the November election, the rising political star is still breaking barriers.

On Tuesday, Abrams will be the first black woman to deliver the formal response to the State of the Union address in the custom's 53-year history.

"Her electrifying message of courage, perseverance and hope reinvigorated our nation and our politics, and continues to inspire millions of Americans in every part of the country," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement last week.

Abrams is writing her own speech, which includes stories from her life, her experience on the campaign trail and her stance on key policy issues. "I plan to deliver a vision for prosperity and equality, where everyone in our nation has a voice and where each of those voices is heard," she said in a statement.

Abrams knows that making a big vision a reality isn't easy. In November, she took to the TED stage to discuss lessons she learned from her campaign and provided hard-won advice about moving on after major setbacks.

She said the gubernatorial loss forced her to ask herself some tough questions — including how to move forward. She soon realized that her first try "wasn't enough."

"It's easy to figure out that once you didn't get what you wanted, then maybe you should have set your sights a little lower, but I'm here to tell you to be aggressive about your ambition. Do not allow setbacks to set you back," she said.

Oprah Winfrey and Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams greet the audience during a town hall style event at the Cobb Civic Center on November 1, 2018 in Marietta, Georgia. 
Jessica McGowan | Getty Images

When things go wrong, don't be paralyzed by fear or assume that every failure is yours alone, she said. Study the mistakes you and others have made, and "be clearheaded about it."

Abrams advised that you ask yourself three simple questions before pursuing any goal: "What do I want? Why do I want it? And how do I get it?" The "why" is essential, she said. If you set a goal, make sure it's something that "you must do."

"It has to be something that doesn't allow you to sleep at night unless you're dreaming about it," she said. "Something that wakes you up in the morning and gets you excited about it, or something that makes you so angry, you know you have to do something about it."

Abrams said she's motivated to speak for the voiceless and stand up against oppression. "That wakes me up every morning, and that makes me fight even harder."

That drive moved Abrams to reach her share of other political milestones. In 2010, she was the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American to lead in the Georgia House of Representatives as House Minority Leader.

During her gubernatorial bid, she inspired both Oprah Winfrey and Will Ferrell to go door-to-door campaigning on her behalf.

"Going backwards isn't an option and standing still is not enough," she said.

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