Wednesday, June 10, 2009

State Sen. LeAnna M. Washington awarded honorary doctoral degree by Lutheran Seminary

“Wow. Wow. Who would have ever thought it possible that a welfare recipient, high school dropout and teenage parent would be standing here today like this. It is through God’s grace and God’s grace alone that it is happening.”

Pennsylvania Sen. LeAnna M. Washington traced a troubled early life that included being a victim of domestic violence during remarks of gratitude as she received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) during the school’s recent 145th commencement exercises in the city’s East Mt. Airy section. Admitting that she once thought God was not a part of her life, she said she eventually prayed daily for “direction on where to go,” admitting to herself and God that the “paths I had chosen for myself were not good ones and led nowhere.”

Sen. Washington said “the driving force of my life has been my children…to make sure that they not live a life like I lived…as victims going from place to place to place.” She said she has been determined that her children would “learn love and respect for themselves and others, and they have.” She added that her goals have included leaving paths for others to follow and reiterated a continuing commitment “to make a difference in people’s lives.” She urged her audience of seminary graduates to be, alums, faculty, staff and friends “to make sure you reach your hand out and to do it for the Lord…”

Washington, a self-described “mother, grandmother and great-grandmother,” was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate in 2005, representing the Fourth Senatorial District, after having served six consecutive terms representing the 200th Legislative District as a State Representative. The senator’s district includes Mt. Airy. She has been a political force in the region for more than two decades. Her efforts have included working on behalf of developing the Germantown Avenue and Wadsworth Avenue business corridors and on support for The Brossman Learning Center and William Allen Square on the LTSP campus.

In the Senate, Washington serves on numerous committees, including Aging and Youth and Public Health and Welfare. She’s a member of the Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania Children’s Trust Fund, the Children’s Health Advisory Council, and the Governor’s Health Care Advisory Panel. She heads up an effort in the Senate to end illegal handgun trafficking and has co-sponsored community forums on violence prevention. Other legislative interests include funding for mass transit, improving services and conditions in nursing care facilities, kinship programs for children in foster care, education reform and economic development.

Washington holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University and has earned a Certificate from the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University. She is the first woman elected to serve as Chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and the first woman Chair of Black Elected Officials of Philadelphia. Her civic service on boards includes Arcadia University, the Greater Philadelphia NAACP and the Sedgwick Cultural Center. Civic awards include Outstanding Community Leader (Philadelphia Tribune, 2008), Civic Leaders Award (Women Against Abuse, 2007), Distinguished Leadership Award (Community College of Philadelphia, 2004), and Sojourner Truth Award (Women’s Institute and Network, 1999).

Sen. Washington and LTSP President Philip D. W. Krey before commencement

Sen. Washington receiving the academic hood (left to right:
LTSP Dean J. Paul Rajashekar, Sen. Washington, LTSP Board Chair Dr. Addie Butler)


Sen. Washington speaking after receiving the Doctor of Divinity

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