Democrat Tammy Duckworth made it to Congress on her second try, defeating freshman Republican Rep. Joe Walsh six years after losing to now-6th District Rep. Peter Roskam, also a Republican. A double-amputee veteran of the Iraq war, Duckworth was given prominent speaking slots at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 and again in 2012 to tell her unusual life story.
The daughter of a Vietnam War veteran father and a Thai mother, Duckworth spent much of her early life abroad, moving with her father's jobs at the United Nations and, later, at international companies. Born in Bangkok, she lived with her family in Singapore and Indonesia before settling in Hawaii when she was 16. "Thank God for the food stamps, public education, and Pell Grants that helped me finish high school and college," she said in her 2012 convention speech.
Duckworth studied marine biology at the University of Hawaii. After graduation, she came to Washington to pursue a master's degree at George Washington University and to work at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. Her interest in Southeast Asian history, culture, and politics led her to doctoral work at Northern Illinois University, the same school where Burmese opposition activist Aung San Suu Kyi sent her sons to study.