On Tuesday, March 16, the Winston Center for Leadership & Ethics hosted a Chambers Lecture with Susana Martinez.
In 2010, Susana Martinez was elected governor of the State of New Mexico, becoming the state’s first female governor and the first Hispanic female governor in the history of the United States. Prior to being elected governor, Martinez served as a prosecutor for 25 years and specialized in child abuse and sexual abuse cases.
Martinez introduced herself by explaining what inspired her to chase her dreams. She attributed her success to two of her elementary school teachers.
“They told me I could be anything I want to be,” reflected Martinez.
She recounted a story in which her teachers asked her where she wanted to be in five years. Martinez thought she wanted to be a mayor, but they asked her why she didn’t say a governor.
"I didn’t have an answer besides saying, 'I’ve never seen a female governor!'"
Martinez also credits her parents for teaching her to dream big.
“They always taught me to stand for something. And at the end of the day, this is America. And in America, todo es posible. Everything is possible.”
Martinez prides herself on bipartisanship. During her campaign, she traveled to towns all across New Mexico, no matter the political preference of the community members. She desired to hear Republican, Democrat, and Independent concerns.
“I strongly believe that you should vote for the best person with the best ideas,” said Martinez. “You can say what you want to get elected, or you can be a leader.”
While in office, Martinez prioritized two major issues: education and balancing the budget. When Martinez assumed office, New Mexico was ranked 49th in the nation in education. Only 63% of students were graduating from high school. By the time Martinez left office, the graduation rate had increased to 74%.
Martinez attributes successfully balancing the budget to reducing the size of the government in New Mexico. Her administration hired people only in areas that needed development: children's services and education. In addition, Martinez worked to diversify the New Mexico economy to move away from dependency on gas and oil.
In a historic decision, New Mexicans elected another female candidate to succeed Martinez.
When asked about breaking the glass ceiling, Martinez answered, “Well, this glass ceiling should’ve been broken a long time ago.”
Martinez concluded her lecture with enough time to allow questions from the audience.
An audience member asked, “Do you think the political divide is rooted in Democrats versus Republicans or racism?"
“This divide comes from an unwillingness to communicate with one another or work with one another,” responded Martinez.
For example, Martinez disagrees with the size of the $2 trillion COVID relief bill because she believes only 9% is actually dedicated to COVID relief. However, Martinez vocalized her belief in bipartisanship.
“When I ran for office, I was hoping my ideas on education and for New Mexico would be more important than the fact that I am a woman and Hispanic.”
She believes there needs to be more conversation between the two parties. Disagreement and debate is healthy; in fact, she welcomes debate.
“There is a lot that divides us and there is a lot we have to work on. But we have to believe that we are stronger together,” concluded Martinez.