Sophie Kane

Over 100 people stood and cheered for Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, at the end of her hour-long speech about her own experience in politics and the national “social safety net” in the Yale Law School on Thursday.

DeLauro’s speech, which was open to the public, was the beginning of a three-part evening lecture and dinner to honor her as this fall’s Chubb Fellow. The Chubb Fellowship, which began in 1949 to award someone in public service, is given out each year by Timothy Dwight’s Head of College, who is now Mary Lui. Previous award winners include U.S. presidents, Supreme Court justices, senators and other well-known Americans in public service.

In selecting DeLauro for the award, Lui told the audience on Thursday that she aimed to recognize the Congresswoman for her long-track record of public service, which includes 28 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and important leadership positions, such as co-chair of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

“I am delighted that we are honoring today Representative Rosa DeLauro,” Lui said. “In her 28 years in office she has fought for the nation’s working families by supporting an increase of the minimum wage, increasing employees access to paid sick days … and helping women achieve equal pay for equal work.”

DeLauro expressed gratitude for being selected as the Chubb Fellow and said she viewed it not as a “recognition of past deeds” but as a “call” to continue the work she has begun.

DeLauro dedicated a significant portion of her speech describing her family’s history, including the harassment her father faced after moving to the United States from Italy in 1913. She highlighted both of her parents’ commitment to public service. Her mother, Luisa DeLauro, served on New Haven’s Board of Alders for 35 years, making her the longest-serving alder in the city’s history. DeLauro said she gained much inspiration from her parents to enter public service and to work for people in need.

“They taught me that government can expand opportunity, move us to greater equality and can help ensure the life, health and the dignity of families, that we have a moral obligation to help the most vulnerable. That has been my mission throughout my career,” she said.

DeLauro spent the remainder of the hour-long speech advocating for the “social safety net,” including programs such as medicaid, medicare, food stamps, housing assistance, paid family medical leave, the minimum wage and other initiatives that provide Americans with a base of support. As chair of her Appropriations Subcommittee, DeLauro said she is largely responsible for deciding how to spend a third of the discretionary, non-military spending of the U.S. budget. In this role, and throughout all her work in Congress, DeLauro tries to ensure that children “do not get punished for their parent’s poverty” and that every American has a fair chance at success, she said.

DeLauro said social safety net programs she advocates for lifted tens of millions out of poverty and enjoyed broad bi-partisan support for nearly 40 years before Republicans took control of the House in the 1990s. Since then, she said, conservatives including former Speakers of the House Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan have criticized many of the programs.

“We are witnessing the most massive fall of the social safety net in recent history… it is a betrayal of the legacy of good governance in the United States,” she said. “Everything is at risk and we are watching a historic pushback by the American people.”

Despite the recent setbacks, DeLauro highlighted opportunities for progress in the near future. She said that the House has passed hundreds of bills which are now waiting for action on the Senate floor, including legislation to raise the national minimum wage to $15, to require companies to offer paid sick days to workers and to provide a child tax credit for families in need. She also spoke about her most well-known legislation, a bill which requires that men and women who do the same work are paid the same wage, which she called a “basic premise” and “essential progress,” leading to loud applause among the audience.

Near the end of her speech, DeLauro voiced her criticisms of President Trump, saying that the country is in a “constitutional crisis” and that Democracy is currently “fragile.” Although she was initially reluctant to lend her support to the impeachment inquiry, she said she now supports it. She ended with a call to “mobilize” all of society in order to “demand progress,” which prompted the crowd to give her a long standing ovation.

In an interview with the News, Christian Robles ’23 said that he was impressed by DeLauro’s speech and inspired by her call for action.

“I thought Congresswoman DeLauro did a very good job of focusing on her record in public service and some of the things that she’s fought for… she’s been fighting a lot for labor issues, healthcare issues, other economic issues.” Robles said.

After her speech, DeLauro went to Timothy Dwight College for a formal dinner with Yale undergraduates before a reception ended the night.

DeLauro, who was first elected to the House in 1990, is the longest-serving member of Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation.

Emmett Shell | emmett.shell@yale.edu