Author:
Tom Marabello
Subject:
U.S. History, Political Science, Women's Studies
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Assessment, Homework/Assignment, Lesson Plan, Reading
Level:
Lower Primary, Upper Primary, Middle School, High School
Tags:
African Americans, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Biography, Congress, Congressional Elections, Latino Americans, Minorities, Politics and Government, Voting, Women, Youth
License:
Public Domain Dedication
Language:
English

You too could serve in Congress one day!

You too could serve in Congress one day!

Overview

This lesson allows students to delve into the life of a current or historical member of Congress. Biography can be a powerful too that can impact a person. The Members of Congress categories include: youngest, women, African-Americans, Latino-Americans, Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, former athletes, former entertainers and Independents/third party. Students should conduct research and then either write a report, give a presentation (or do both) as an assessment. The lesson provides names for each category, a sample rubric and recommended website resources for research.

Background

Above Photo: Members of the 117th Congress (2021). This was the most diverse freshmen class in congressional history. You could compare it with this photo from the new House members in 2010 and/or with this photo of a group of members from the 1920s. Upon comparing the photos, what has changed in 8 years? And in less than a 100 years?

This lesson is meant to inspire students to think about their future and know that American citizens are eligible to run for and serve in Congress.*

Many students may believe that only rich or well connected people can run for office. This lesson will look at the biographies of some members of Congress who are just ordinary American citizens who got elected to serve. Part of civics education should be about encouraging youth to get involved in politics and interested in potentially running for office when they become eligible.* We should strive to elect members of Congress who are knowledgeable about The Constitution and want to serve to help make our country better and sustainable for future generations. Students interested in an internship can apply to be a Senate Page while still in high school.

*According to Article I, Section II, Clause 2:

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

*According to Article I, Section III, Clause 3:

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

Activities

Have students research and report on the life and work of a current member of Congress or one from history. Depending on grade-level and types of learners, you could have students write a paper, give a presentation or create a short film about their assigned or selected member. Here are some possibilities. A great resource is the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Youngest Members of Congress and dates of record:

  • Sen. Rush Holt of West Virginia (1935-40)
  • Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts (1962-69)
  • Sen. Franck Church of Idaho (1957-61)
  • Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware (1973-79)
  • Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey (1979-81)
  • Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia (2021)
  • Rep. Clarence McLeod, Michigan, 13th District (1920-21 and 1923-25)
  • Rep. Jerry O'Connell, Montana, 1st District (1937-39)
  • Rep. Lloyd Bentsen, Texas, 15th District (1948-49)
  • Rep. Hugo S. Sims, Jr., South Carolina, 2nd District (1949-51)
  • Rep. William J. Green III, Pennsylvania, 5th District (1964-65)
  • Rep. Jed Johnson, Jr., Oklahoma, 6th District (1965-67)
  • Rep. John B. Breaux, Louisiana, 7th District (1972-75)
  • Rep. Thomas J. Downey, New York, 2nd District (1975-77)
  • Rep. Susan Molinari, New York, 14th District (1990-91)
  • Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Rhode Island, 1st District (1995-97)
  • Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., Tennessee, 9th District (1997-2001)
  • Rep. Aaron Schock, Illinois, 18th District (2009-13)
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York, 14th District (2019-21)
  • Rep. Madison Cawthorn, North Carolina, 11th District (2021)

African-American Members of Congress:

  • Sen. Hiram R. Revels of Mississippi (1870-71)
  • Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts (1967-79)
  • Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois (1993-99)
  • Sen. Barack H. Obama of Illinois (2005-08)
  • Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina (2013 - present)
  • Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey (2013 - present)
  • Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California (2017-21)
  • Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia (2021)
  • Rep. Joseph Rainey, South Carolina, 1st District (1870-79)
  • Rep. Jefferson F. Long, Georgia, 4th District (1871)
  • Rep. Josiah T. Walls, Florida, At Large (1871-76)
  • Rep. William L. Dawson, Illinois, 1st District (1943-70)
  • Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., New York, 22nd, 16th & 18th Districts (1945-71)
  • Rep. John Conyers, Michigan, 1st, 14th & 13th Dirstricts (1965-2017)
  • Rep. Shirley Chisholm, New York, 12th District (1969-83)
  • Rep. Charles Rangel, New York, 18th, 19th, 16th, 15th & 13th Districts (1971-2017)
  • Rep. Barbara Jordan, Texas, 18th District (1973-79)
  • Rep. Andrew Young, Georgia, 5th District (1973-77)
  • Rep. Julian Dixon, California, 28th & 32nd District (1979-2000)
  • Rep. John Lewis, Georgia, 5th District (1987-2000)
  • Rep. Kweisi Mfume, Maryland, 7th District (1987-96 & 2020 - present)
  • Rep. Gary Franks, Connecticut, 5th District (1991-97)
  • Rep. Maxine Waters, California, 29th 35th & 43rd Districts (1991 - present)
  • Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina, 6th District (1993 - present)
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas, 18th District (1995 - present)
  • Rep. J.C. Watts, Oklahoma, 4th District (1995-2003)
  • Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland, 7th District (1996-2019)
  • Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota, 5th District (2007-19)
  • Rep. Marcia Fudge, Ohio, 11th District (2008-21)
  • Rep. Frederica Wilson, Florida, 17th & 24th Districts (2011-present)
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota, 5th District (2019 - present)

Hispanic/Latino American Members of Congress:

  • Sen. Dominique Bouligny of Louisiana (1824-29)
  • Sen. Judah P. Benjamin of Lousiana (1853-61)
  • Sen. Dennis Chavez of New Mexico (1935-62)
  • Sen. Joseph Montoya of New Mexico (1964-77)
  • Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado (2005-09)
  • Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey (2006-present)
  • Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida (2011-present)
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada (2017-present)
  • Sen. Alex Padilla of California (2021)
  • Rep. Joachim O. Fernandez, Lousiana, (1931-41)
  • Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, Texas (1961-99)
  • Rep. Manuel Lujan, New Mexico (1969-89)
  • Rep. Bill Richardson, New Mexico (1983-97)
  • Rep. Ilhena Ros-Lehtinen, Florida (1989-2019)
  • Rep. Nydia Velazquez, New York (1993-present)
  • Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida (2003-present)
  • Rep. Linda Sanchez, California (2003-present)
  • Rep. Joaquin Castro, Texas (2013-present)

Asian/Pacific Islander American Members of Congress:

  • Sen. Hiram Fong of Hawaii (1959-77)
  • Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii (1963-2012)
  • Sen. Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii (1977-90)
  • Sen. Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii (1990-2013)
  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois (2017-present)
  • Sen. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii (2013-present)
  • Rep. Dalip Singh Saund, California (1957-63)
  • Rep. Mike Honda, California (2001-17)
  • Rep. Bob Matsui, California (1979-2005)
  • Rep. Doris Matsui, California (2005-present)
  • Rep. Bobby Scott, Virginia (1993-present)
  • Rep. Andy Kim, New Jersey (2019-present)
  • Rep. Grace Meng, New York (2013-present)
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington state (2017-present)
  • Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Florida (2017-present)
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii (2013-21)
  • Rep. Judy Chu, California (2009-present)

Women Members of Congress:

  • Sen. Hattie W. Carraway of Arkansas (1931-45)
  • Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine (1949-73)
  • Sen. Maurine B. Neuberger of Oregon (1960-67)
  • Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum of Kansas (1978-97)
  • Sen. Paula Hawkins of Florida (1981-87)
  • Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland (1987-2017)
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California (1992-present)
  • Sen. Patty Murray (1993-present)
  • Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana (1997-2015)
  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas (1993-2013)
  • Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine (1995-2013)
  • Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine (1997-present)
  • Sen. Hillary R. Clinton of New York (2001-09)
  • Sen. Elizabeth H. Dole (2003-09)
  • Rep. Jeanette Rankin, Montana (1919-43)
  • Rep. Florence Kahn, California (1925-37)
  • Rep. Edith Rogers, Massachusetts (1925-60)
  • Rep. Frances P. Bolton, Ohio (1940-69)
  • Rep. Clare Boothe Luce, Connecticut (1943-47)
  • Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut (1991-present)
  • Rep. Patsy Mink, Hawaii (1965-77 & 1990-2002)
  • Rep. Patricia Schroeder, Colorado (1973-97)
  • Rep. Lindy Boggs, Lousiana (1973-91)
  • Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro, New York (1979-85)
  • Rep. Marge Roukema, New Jersey (1981-2003)
  • Rep. Lynn M. Martin, Illinois (1981-91)
  • Rep. Connie Morella, Maryland (1987-2003)
  • House Speaker & Rep. Nancy P. Pelosi, California (1987-present)
  • Rep. Jane Harman, California (1993-99 & 2001-11)
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California (1995-present)
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois (1999-present)
  • Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona (2007-12)
  • Rep. Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts (2007-19)

Former Athletes who became Members of Congress:

  • Rep. Collin Allred, Texas (2019-present)
  • Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky (1999-2011)
  • Sen. Bill Bradley, New Jersey (1979-97)
  • Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado (1993-2005)
  • Rep. Jack F. Kemp, New York (1971-89)
  • Rep. Steve Largent, Oklahoma (1995-2003)
  • Rep. Heath Shuler, North Carolina (2007-13)
  • Rep. Mo Udall, Arizona (1961-91)
  • Rep. J.C. Watts, Oklahoma (1995-2003)

Former Actors/Entertainers who became Members of Congress:

  • Rep. Sonny Bono, California (1995-98)
  • Rep. Bob Dornan, California (1997-83, 1985-93, 1993-97)
  • Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota (2009-18)
  • Rep. Fred Grandy, Iowa (1987-97)
  • Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee (1994-2003)

Third Party and Independent Members of Congress:

  • Rep. Thompson H. Murch, Maine (1879-83)
  • Rep. Henry Persons, Georgia (1879-81)
  • Rep. George Washington Jones, Texas (1879-83)
  • Rep. Lewis P. Featherstone, Arkansas (1890-91)
  • Sen. Thomas E. Watson, Georgia (1921-22)
  • Rep. Omer Madison Kem, Nebraska (1893-97)
  • Rep. Roderick Dhu Sutherland, Nebraska (1897-1901)
  • Rep. Victor L. Berger, Wisconsin (1923-29)
  • Rep. William Kent, California (1911-17)
  • Rep. Charles Hiram Randall, California (1915-21)
  • Rep. Merlin G. Hull, Wisconsin (1935-53)
  • Rep. Vito Marcantonio, New York (1939-45 & 1945-51)
  • Rep. William Carney, New York (1979-87)
  • Sen. John Bell, Tennessee (1857-59)
  • Sen. David Davis, Illinois (1887-83)
  • Sen. James H. Kyle, South Dakota (1891-1901)
  • Sen. Marion Butler, North Carolina (1895-1901)
  • Sen. William A. Harris, Kansas (1897-1903)
  • Sen. Henrik Shipstead, Minnesota (1923-41)
  • Sen. Robert M. La Follette, Jr., Wisconsin (1935-47)
  • Sen. James L. Buckley, New York (1971-77)
  • Sen. Harry F. Byrd, Jr., Virginia (1971-83)
  • Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont (2001-07)
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont (2007-present)
  • Sen. Angus S. King, Maine (2013-present)

Objectives

This lesson allows students to learn more about an historical or current member of Congress. Many of the names listed were the first of a certain group to be elected to Congress or came from a non-traditional political background. By having students delve into the life and impact of a member of Congress, they may become inspired to get involved in politics now or down the road. While this lesson plan may not align to specific curriculum standards, it can be a great way to get students to read and write, and gain skills in creating and giving a class presentation. 

Assessment

Depending on your age group, levels of ability and skills, there are several ways you could assess this lesson. It would be best to give students some time to conduct research and then either write a report or create a presentation about their assigned or self-selected member of Congress from the given lists.

Sample Rubric:

  • Presentation was clear and concise, with few or no typos.
  • Presentation was interesting and informative.
  • Presentation lasted 5-10 minutes.
  • Provided information about the member of Congress' life, education, work experience, election(s) and any legislation they wrote or were part of while serving in Congress.
  • Bibliography/Works Cited at the end was properly formatted (MLA or other style) with a minimum of 2-3 sources consulted and used.
  • EXTRA CREDIT OR DIFFERENTIATION: Created a video or digital documentary that was creative and included images of the person and time period in which they live(d).

You could also include having to submit notes from research (hand written or typed). If you want stuents to write a report in addition to or instead of the presentation, consider what you expect them to include and how long it should be. Some of the members of Congress listed did not serve for long and it may be challenging to get more than 2-3 pages written about them.