Story was originally published by the Cornell Chronicle
New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul discussed her career in public service and shared insights about combining a career with one's passion Sept. 1 in Cornell Law School's Myron Taylor Hall.
Hochul said she took a steep pay cut and forfeited partnership in a prestigious D.C. law firm to kick-start her political career, which includes a Congressional term representing New York’s 26th district in 2011-13.
Early in her career, Hochul said, the political scene was “a better time for our country.” She reminisced about the “willingness by Democrats and Republicans to actually work together” as Congress tackled immigration reform, tax reform and a $1.6 billion anti-drug bill in the late 1980s.
Now, Hochul said, “nothing gets through Congress.” Commenting on the current gridlock in politics, Hochul said, “You have to find the right answer for the country, not the best decision for your political party.”
Although frustrated by divisiveness at the federal level, Hochul said New York state government is much more collaborative. Hochul, project chair on 10 regional economic development councils, touted bipartisan success particularly in submitting on-time, balanced budgets and creating infrastructure programs.
Characterizing this political era as a period of “cleanup,” Hochul discussed fixing broken policies. She said “locking up young people for minor crimes and stripping them of the opportunity to have meaningful lives” drives an urgent agenda for reform. Additionally, Hochul considers mounting student debt “a crime” and acknowledged “too many people do not have the opportunity [to attend college] because of the cost.”
Hochul said she pursues many gender-equality initiatives, including a project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Concerned women “hold themselves back,” Hochul said, noting “women want to be overqualified and perfect” whereas “guys just take risk and go for it.”
“A lot of things in life worth pursing require risk,” she said.
Hochul urged students in the audience to capitalize on their opportunity to study at Cornell. Acknowledging the “cachet” of a Cornell degree, Hochul said, “You can have a huge impact before you even walk across that stage and get your diploma.” She called on students to use their education to “support a cause and dedicate [themselves] to public service,” and said that following her passion for politics and helping others propelled her to success on Capitol Hill.
Of her current office, Hochul said, “I am honored to be in this position because it allows me to go all over the state connect with people in their own environment, get people jobs and opportunities … There are so many ways I can touch people; that is a gift, and I will always view public service as a privilege.”