In 1984, as I began serving my second term in the Louisiana Legislature, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco was beginning something much more remarkable: A third act. She had been a teacher and, for nearly 15 years, a full-time mother of six. Then, in her early 40s, she decided to embark on a career in public service.
That year, when she arrived at the State Capitol as a freshman, fewer than 5% of elective offices in the South were held by women. Together, the two of us accounted for 40% of the women in the Louisiana legislature, all of whom were in the state House of Representatives.
For me, Kathleen was always much more than a colleague; she was a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration. As a legislator, she would work circles around our male colleagues, often with her young children in tow. By her mere example, she proved that a loving and nurturing mother could not only be a serious leader; they are, in many respects, ideal leaders.
Twenty years after she first showed up as a legislator, she was elected governor.
To Kathleen Blanco, the people of Louisiana were all a part of her family, and throughout her multiple terms in office, particularly her four years as governor, her passion for ethical and compassionate government was unmatched.
She was a fierce and effective advocate of higher education, an ambassador of our diverse and inimitable culture, and a champion for all of Louisiana. She laid the foundation for the most successful rebuilding effort in our nation’s history, a collaboration of federal, state and local governments working alongside nonprofit and faith-based organizations. In the aftermath of devastating storms, she helped us recover and endure.
Years before, she demonstrated the same type of grace and strength following the tragic accident and death of her youngest son Ben. Her ability to persevere under tremendous loss and move forward through unimaginable grief, all while in the public eye, is a testimony to her unshakable faith in God and her extraordinary resolve.
This, I suspect, will be Kathleen Babineaux Blanco’s lasting, unrivaled legacy.
Her good service to the people of Louisiana will long be remembered and cherished. We pray the Blanco family find peace and comfort as they remember the life of this remarkable woman. I will miss her and will forever remain grateful for her friendship and for her selfless, inspiring service.
former U.S. senator