Listen to Learn:
Joyce Ann Elliott was born on March 20, 1951, in Willisville, Arkansas. Elliott was the second person of color to graduate from her recently integrated high school; the first was her older sister.
Elliott attended Southern Arkansas University where she earned a B.A. in English and speech. She attended Ouachita Baptist University where she earned an M.A. in English.
Elliott taught at Joe T. Robinson High School for 30 years.
She was previously a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, serving from 2001 to 2007. Since 2009, she has been a member of the Arkansas Senate representing the 31st District, which consists of portions of Little Rock and Pulaski County. She is presently running for the 2nd Congressional District seat in the United States Congress.
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[00:00:42] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. My guest today is someone that has been in the news a lot lately, Arkansas’ state senator, Ms. Joyce Elliott, who is running for congress against incumbent US representative, Mr. French Hill. In Stephanie Smittle’s Arkansas Times article titled From Willisville to Washington, Senator Joyce Elliott is Ready to School Congress. Stephanie writes, “If elected, Joyce Elliott will be the first black lawmaker Arkansas has ever sent to congress.” Joyce, is that right?
[00:01:14] JE: Yes, that is right. A lot of people are confused. They’re confused by because during reconstruction there were black lawmakers in the state, but we're the only one of our former confederate states that's not done. So that is why.
[00:01:28] KM: I was surprised to hear. That’s why I cited it as her, because I thought I don't know if that's true or not. Yeah, that clever Arkansas Times title is a play on words for Ms. Elliott's previous career as a high school teacher. And though race may arguably no longer matter getting ahead in America – We just had a black president, the highest office in the land. It has played a large role in Ms. Elliott’s life.
Young Joyce was born in a small Arkansas town in the 1950s and schooled during the height of our country's desegregation. Feeling it her duty, though hard, she and her sister, Caroline, acquiesced and volunteered to be the token black students at a somewhat hostile and all-white high school. This experience along with coming of age during John F. Kennedy's term as president instilled a hopeful, thoughtful life of duty, service, education for all and gave Ms. Elliott the toughness that is needed in today's politics.
It is with great pleasure to welcome to the table the smart, civic-minded, and as her friends and colleagues call her, the workhorse, Ms. Joyce Elliott.
[00:02:41] JE: All right. Thank you so much for having me. It's a real pleasure I know to be here, and I'm looking forward to our dialogue.
[00:02:47] KM: Thank you very much, Joyce, for coming. I want to tell everybody that's listening that usually we meet in the studio together with my guests, and you and I had planned to do, but yesterday everybody at the State Capitol, I believe it was, was exposed to COVID and everyone is quarantining. So you and I are doing a radio phone-in call and we're not actually together live, and we're going to try to not talk over each other. Thank you so much for joining me.
Well, I want to start off by saying, well, it's a good thing you're tough, because just this week the ads against you from your opponent or maybe I should rightly say from the Republican party have been vicious. How do you handle that?
[00:03:28] JE: Yeah. It has been surprisingly vicious because I just never knew French Hill as this person, and it kind of goes back, and much of what you've said in the introduction for me, because when I chose to remain at a school where we were told to our faces the kids – There were three or four other families that were at this school. And after we had integrated the school, we were told that we could go back to
our old black school and we were expected to do so. And some little voice in me just telling me, “No. That’s not the right thing to do that.” That somebody had to take a stand.
So here we were in the midst of this room and these men are telling us we can go back. And I just worded out, “I'm not going.” And immediately became as scared as heck and hot all over because this little voice inside me was causing me to take a stand about something I thought was wrong. And so that's where I got my toughness, I guess, for even taking some of the things that are happening now, because being that 15-year-old girl and integrating school was not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
And I might remind you, we actually started early compared to most schools in our city, because after Hoxie, Charleston and Central High, most other people just waited around for a while, and this was 1966 when we started. And most of the schools didn't really get serious about integrating until the 70s.
[00:05:06] KM: I didn't realize that, that there was this big gap between the 1957 Central High desegregation and then these smaller towns waiting five, six, seven years before they integrated. Do you also, in making that decision, gave up your valedictorian position? You were slated to be the valedictorian of Oak Grove High School, mostly black school. And when you chose to go to Willisville High and be a part of this integration, you lost scholarships. You lost your valedictorian status.
[00:05:39] JE: Yes. And we like a lot of people was not unusual. We were poor. We grew up in Lewisville, Arkansas, population 152 down in the southwest. But the one thing I wanted to do, I really wanted to go to college. And I read everything I could get my hands on so. So I knew about the world out there, and I knew the way that I could get into that world was – I think it was education. And like a lot of other people who had gone to the school that I went to, Oak Grove, you got a scholarship to an HBCU. In this case, it would have been UAPD. And when I went to that school, it became very evident early on that I was not going to be the valedictorian, and not only was I not going to be, I was slated to make sure that I did not become the valedictorian.
Those same two men who met with us to tell us to go back to school had a private meeting with me, had my transcript, and it was the first time I'd ever had any kind of reaction to being a good student and having good grades that was not positive. And they questioned my transcript and asked where I got those and assured me, “You would not get these here.” And I didn't know – This is a long story, but I want to make it short. I didn't know at the same time the young man who was there to be the – Who was a punitive or the assumed valedictorian had been told that had been brought into that meeting and told that I had really good grades. And if you weren’t to be the valedictorian, he needed to do something about Joyce Elliott.
[00:07:17] KM: So I guess you’re used to competition.
[00:07:19] JE: The other thing I’m used to do too is not holding the grudge. Because he and I had reconciled many years ago, and that really became one of my finest examples of bringing people together, because I just – Since I was a 15-year-old, I just knew there had to be a better way.
So I've just kind of been on this unity tour throughout my whole life, and that's why at the legislature, and they'll tell you, democrat or republican, I work with everybody because I don't think we have to give in to Washington has to be this way or is this way. We can do better than this. It's hard work. There's no doubt about that.
[00:08:00] KM: Yeah. I was lucky enough to get to interview uh Sybil Hampton, who was the second class to integrate Central High School, and she went through a year of vetting and interviews to make sure that she was tough enough, that she was a tough enough teenager to handle the hostile environment at Central High School. Did you have to go through anything like that?
[00:08:20] JE: I didn't go through any kind of vetting, because decisions were made that I don't even
know all of the background and how they were made, because in Nevada County, county was where I was, there was the upper part in Prescott, there was an all-black school there, and I was in the lower part. And there was an all-black school in Roston, Arkansas where the place was. And when we were ordered to integrate, I guess the school board or whoever just decided that these five or six families – Because there were about five old white schools, these five or six families will go to this school, and this five or six will go to that school, until all of the all-white schools were integrated with a few black students. And not a single white student had to move or do anything, and not a single white student was sent to the previously all black school that was still there. And that inspired me about being a public school teacher.
[00:09:19] KM: At an early age you read the newspaper. You read about President JFK. How did reading about him affect your view of the world?
[00:09:28] JE: My grandmother was an avid reader of the newspaper, and keep in mind, I'm in Southwest Arkansas. We're close to Louisiana, and we're getting the Louisiana politics, and you had to be out of your mind not to be interested in those stories. And so for the one thing, it was compelling. And the rest of my members in my family read the comics, and I just want the news stories. But this was at a time when John F. Kennedy was running for office. There was lots and lots of coverage during that time, and I read every bit of it.
And the thing that inspired me about it more than anything, for the first time ever I heard my elders around me talk out loud about politics and talk out loud about voting, because I every time I've heard them talking about voting, I would hear the term poll taxes. But I didn't know what it meant. But they started saying it out loud. And I realized that this man was something special to people, and the first time I realized somebody in politics could give somebody hope, because they thought life was going to be much, much better because this one man was being elected. And that's kind of when I got the political bug. I thought, “One of these days, I don't care what this is, I'm going to do this.”
[00:10:49] KM: How old were you?
[00:10:49] JE: I was about nine to ten.
[00:10:52] KM: What?
[00:10:52] JE: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:10:54] KM: What’s a poll tax?
[00:10:55] JE: I knew when they were whispering about it. I knew the poll tax meant something that was not pleasant, and i knew they had to pay for it. But the poll tax literally meant you had to buy this piece of paper to present when you went to vote. It was one of the ways of suppressing the vote, because so many people did not have that 50 cents or 15 cents or whatever it took that you had to go – Even worse than that, you had to go someplace that was not – You would get questions about why do you need it?? Why do you need a piece of paper or a poll?
[00:11:30] KM: You had to buy you’re a piece of paper to vote?
[00:11:32] JE: Aha, and that's why it was called a tax.
[00:11:34] KM: I got you.
[00:11:35] JE: You had to have that piece of paper to present, yeah.
[00:11:38] KM: This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Arkansas senator Ms. Joyce Elliott, who is running for US representative in
Arkansas's second congressional district against incumbent Mr. French Hill. Still to come, how does being a teacher prepare you for politics? What motivated Ms. Elliott to run for office? And what it's like to be a kidney donor to her sister? And if we have time, I'm going to ask her about her fashion sense, her signature hairstyle and her jewelry. We’ll be back after the break.
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[00:12:53] KM: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I'm speaking today with Arkansas senator, Ms. Joyce Elliott, who's running for US representative in Arkansas’ second congressional district against incumbent Mr. French Hill. Before the break we talked about Joyce
Elliott being a trendsetter, a goal setter. She’s one of the first high school kids to –
[00:13:12] GM: Highly motivated.
[00:13:13] KM: Highly motivated. She started reading the paper when she was nine years old and wanted to go into politics. She was integrated her school in Willisville, Arkansas. And now we're going to talk about her roots in Arkansas. Ms. Elliott, your uncle wanted you to go out of state to college, but you didn't. You taught in Boston, Texas eventually. You did follow your husband's career to Tampa, Florida. In the mid-70s you came back to teach in El Dorado, Arkansas and then eventually ended up teaching 20 years at Joe T. Robinson in Little Rock. You are smart, have done a lot, could probably do anything you wanted to do. I mean, what nine-year-old reads a newspaper? But after such a tumultuous high school experience, you chose teaching as a profession. Why would you want to go back to a place that was so tough?
[00:14:02] JE: Because I knew it shouldn't be that tough especially for kids. And one of the things that my – As I indicated earlier, I didn't have money to go to college and I'd lost that scholarship. So I had to figure out a way to work and pay for college and so forth. And when my uncle – That was hard to turn down. He was the one in the family who had done well. And I'll tell you, the thing that made it the hardest of all is when he said, “If you'll just come to Michigan and go to school, I'll buy you a car.” We never had a car in our family. [inaudible 00:14:34]. But at any rate, what I had determined – For me, Dr. King and all he was doing in so many civil rights workers. That was a real thing for me. I mean, I read about these people in real-time. I never saw him. But I read about the things that were happening in real time, and I could see the same things that he was talking about and that we'd see in the newspaper, and occasionally on a TV if I was in somebody else's home. And I just knew what I was supposed to do to make my contribution. And I'm not critical of it. I never adjusted it. My sister left Arkansas, others left Arkansas, but my thinking was somebody has to stay here and take a stand to change this. And if I don't do it, who's going to do it?
And so that's why I decided to stay and not – I would never want to ask others to do what I want to do if I can. And my thinking was what if I just went off to Atlanta, or to Dallas, or Chicago where things – Not that they were perfect, but where things that are already in good shape so to speak. And I couldn't figure out what my contribution was going to be there. And I just knew it needed to be right here in the red dirt of South Arkansas, or in Arkansas.
[00:15:49] KM: The red dirt.
[00:15:49] JE: That’s why I stayed.
[00:15:51] KM: You taught for 30 years, and did you teach the same subject, literature, the whole time?
[00:15:57] JE: I taught literature and I taught speech and communication, part of which included speech correction. And I loved it. I loved my teaching career. I taught senior high students, and that was – As they say, that was my jam. I was not good with the smaller kids, I knew that, but I wanted to teach high school.
[00:16:17] KM: You had some pretty impressive students you taught that grew up to do some pretty good things, Representative Johnny Roebuck, Representative Frederick Love, City Manager Bruce Moore. Those were all your students.
[00:16:29] JE: Yeah. Representative Love was one of my students. Andy Davis was one of my students, Representative Andy Davis. And as a matter of fact, I called them my bipartisan student, because one was a democrat and one was a republican, which was just great. One was black, one was white. I think they were just so symbolic of the way I lived my life. And when I taught kids, I always tried to get them to think for themselves, challenge, but think for yourself, and to get an opportunity to think about this, to serve with two of my former students. That’s really special. Of course, Bruce Moore was one of my students as well and many other people right here in the area. But yeah, when you teach that long, you start seeing your students pretty quickly.
[00:17:15] KM: That's a great testament to your ability to teach. While teaching, some of the things you worked on, you were co-lead in the classroom Teachers Association to get students from El Dorado access to advanced placement courses. You developed a teacher-to-teacher development workshop. You collaborated on legislation that helped college students retain credits when transferring institution and held universities accountable for low graduation rates, and you advocated for 1987 National
Board for Professional Teaching Standards. this is a volunteer teacher certificate with financial incentive. And then you took a two-year hiatus to serve as the president of Pulaski County National Education Association. Some of your co-workers have said they are surprised you didn't go to work in the public sector sooner. How did being a teacher prepare you for going into that service and why did you stay a teacher for 30 years along with all that other you did?
[00:18:12] JE: One, because every year – I mean, every day, you walk into the classroom and you know you’re going to make a difference. Unless you're just a vegetable or something. You know you aren’t. And it was what I wanted to do from the bottom of my heart, and it just was so rewarding. And I loved
being around those students and it just kept me energized all the time, and the learning was so fantastic. But the one thing that's really true is I always had very diverse groups of students. And when you think about teaching and being prepared to go into the public sector, especially as a legislator, there are so many parallels here. I tell all teachers, “If you have really done a good job of teaching, I promise you, you're prepared for the legislature.” Because what you have to do is work with all kind of attitudes, all kind of parents. It's a very diverse place where not everybody's on the same page all the time, literally. And you have to figure out a way to be that person to work with all those kids no matter what their income was, no matter their color was, no matter what their learning styles were.
And that is the thing that really has helped me so much in the legislature, because we have the same kind of thing, except that I always tell my legislative friends, the kids caught on a whole lot better into let's get together, work together the way things are some now. But because I did that, it was being a
Bipartisan working legislator just came – That just came naturally for me. And even when
I was in the legislature, I with Governor Huckabee. I worked with Governor Beebee, and it was not ever an issue of whether or not I was going to work with somebody just because they were democratic or I'm not going to work with somebody because they're republican. Because I had taught all those different kind of things.
[00:20:04] KM: How do you feel about the current changes to our public and private schools in Arkansas right now? I've seen you on TV. Even though you and I are not personal acquaintances, I've seen you on TV forever, and I've seen you at some press conferences and I heard you say you may punish Little Rock, and I’m quoting I think, “You may punish Little Rock by closing schools and taking over the district. But five or ten years from now, what's going to be different if we are not looking at the source from which all the problems come from?” What is wrong right now with the Arkansas schools?
[00:20:33] JE: Well, what I was referring to then is the city Board of Education had taken over schools because of test scores. And that is – I know a lot of people think that makes sense, but it doesn't, because you don't learn that much in a test score. But as long as we can predict – and these are the things that I'm talking about that we don't pay attention to. As long as we can predict that a child is probably going to have a low test score or not do as well as you or I might think they should because of where they live in this city, as long as that is the case or as long as their income determines what they're
going to be making on that test score and the opportunities they have, if we don't address these kind of things, what I was referring to, rather than taking what I think is the lazy way out and just saying it's going to be determined on the test score. Because at the same time, the state board I guess thoughtfully were doing well, what they did was destabilize communities by closing schools.
And I was never able to, to my satisfaction at least, get people to understand you are making a judgment based on one simple thing. And on the one hand you say you kind of know why it's that way because of all the inequities. But we're not addressing the inequities. We're addressing the outcome without thinking about changing the inputs.
[00:22:02] KM: Yeah. I think that's the way everybody solves problems, is they’d look at the end results and they start trying to fix the problem at the end instead of going to the source of the problem. So these kids –
[00:22:12] JE: That’s right.
[00:22:13] KM: When I read that about you I thought, “Oh, we have the same philosophy.”
[00:22:16] JE: That’s right.
[00:22:18] KM: Dyslexia – I noticed. You got testing for dyslexia. I'm dyslexic, and I could never have had a good test score no matter what. I mean, just the idea of sitting down and they hand you the test, I broke out into a cold sweat because you were timed.
[00:22:32] JE: I can imagine.
[00:22:33] KM: Yeah. I saw you enacted, and maybe with Governor Huckabee you did this. I'm not
Sure, but enacted something for dyslexia kids. Is that right?
[00:22:43] JE: That was with Governor Hutchinson. Actually, 2013, yeah, Governor Hutchinson. Yeah, because when I thought all those years, I had students that there was nothing wrong with their brains and I would see them struggle and struggle. And I did not know what to do to help them except try to take time to do things verbally and so forth, which was not sustainable it just bothered me so much that I figured it was probably dyslexia. Some other kind of reading problem, obviously. But when I got a chance to do the research and had a chance in the legislature to do something about it, I did.
So in 2011 was the first time I introduced the bill. Was not successful in 2011 because they just took a whole lot more research I needed to do and creating more and more allies. And one of the allies that I ended up working with was Johnny Key, who is now the Secretary of Education. And once again, it was me as a democrat, him as a republican, but we both cared about this. It just wasn't a democratic-republican issue, and because when we passed it in the senate, it passed with no dissenting votes. And so it has changed the lives of hundreds, I would guess even thousands of kids in our state now. And it's one of the pieces of legislation that's being looked at across the country for what we did to address that issue.
[00:24:12] KM: Well, congratulations. How frustrating is it to have to start in 2011 and here it is 2019 before you actually get something done? That would drive me crazy.
[00:24:25] JE: Yes. And that's one of the things I've really got from teaching as having the patience of Job, because you cannot – Like I had a kid who was struggling because they didn't get it the first time, I had to go back and go back and go back again. So it’s just a skill I developed, because I just almost never – When I approach legislation, to me it needs to be something profoundly important, and if I have to keep working at it, I will keep working at it.
[00:24:59] KM: Was there something that just happened one day around 2000 and – I think it was 2000 when you first ran for office, around the year 2000 where you just thought, “Okay, it's time for me to run for a public office now.” Was there some defining moment?
[00:25:14] JE: Yeah, because like I said when I was nine or ten years old and in the fourth grade I remember getting into fourth grade during that time when I knew for sure I wanted to do this. I was actually waiting for my son to finish high school, and my son finished high school in 1998. And it would be two years later before there would be – I would have an opportunity to run. But as soon as those two years were over, this is just the time. It was not a one-off thing. It was something I always knew I was committed to doing. Speaking of patience, yes.
[00:25:51] KM: Your first two terms, you taught while you were also a representative with your first two terms. And then –
[00:25:57] JE: I did. I did, because the pain was so low. I had to keep teaching. And when I went to the
Legislature, I had to take leave without pay. And it was just living paycheck to paycheck. I felt like I was back in my childhood days. It was that hard. And so when the vacation was over, I had to go back to teaching, but this was a time that we also got into all of the late view discussions, and that started to consume a whole lot of – All of our time. [inaudible 00:26:35] desegregation case that required – The courts found the state out of compliance with the constitution to make sure all kids had an equitable and efficient education.
[00:26:50] KM: That's what Judge bob Brown was talking about on our interview two weeks ago that he created a legislature about. Yeah. So speaking about your unity tour, how your life has been a unity tour. Part of your campaigning after school was with your ex-husband, Bill Barnes. He's in your corner.
[00:27:09] JE: I would go to school and work my day and I would campaign in the afternoon. And the guys that were running, there were four guys I think originally, then it ended up being three. And I think they had a little bit more time and I was just so determined, because I remember what it felt like being a girl and not getting to – I was a good athlete. I did not get in to play basketball and get a basketball scholarship when I got out of high school, because then we didn't have Title IX. And so I just thought, “I will not – I will work as hard as I must, but I will not be the person who turns back, because I've got three guys I've got to work against.”
[00:27:47] KM: Let's take another quick break, and when we come back we'll continue our conversation with Arkansas senator Ms. Joyce Elliott, who is running for the US representative in Arkansas Second Congressional district against incumbent Mr. French Hill. Still to come, if elected, her plans for congress. What does she dream about doing? And what are her policies when we come back.
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[00:28:45] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Arkansas senator, Ms. Joyce Elliott, who's running for US representative in Arkansas's Second Congressional District against incumbent Mr. French Hill. Joyce Elliott, you have many passions, and I believe after talking to you for the last 30 minutes, education, childcare, pre-k are among your top. And on your website you list policies, you have policy listings that you have posted your stance on, and they are – I'm just going to run through them real quick and then we'll talk about your favorite; healthcare, economy, veterans, infrastructure, education, COVID-19. Isn't that interesting that's a policy now? That's Interesting. I thought, “Wow!” Labor, agriculture, environment and energy, and public service reform. I especially liked that one when I read it. But which one of these are you the most passionate about and is the most important to you and why? And I can probably guess, but you tell me. Oh! We have a caller.
Jeff, do you have a question for Joyce?
[00:29:47] Jeff: Yes. You said that you’re a prior teacher. What’s your stand on the 1619 project?
[00:29:52] JE: As far as the 1619 project, being something that's a worthy thing to do. I think it is absolutely something that we should take a look at, because one of the things – I know it's been controversial with people because we were all taught our history in a particular way. And any time our history gets added to – And I think it’s valid that we should. We learn things that we need to learn to make sure we are learning all of our history. But we should learn all the perspectives and know more about our history than we knew today.
[00:30:27] KM: What is the 1619? What is 16 – Tell our listeners what that is.
[00:30:32] JE: It’s a project that went back to take a look at our history from 1619, the days when the slaves arrived here on the continent. And what it does is if you think back to your history, I think back to my history, we didn't learn very much about what the perspectives were and what life was like for those people who were slaves, and in turn, did not learn much about people who were descended from those slaves in most of our history. And it was a Pulitzer Price-winning. It was a Pulitzer Price-winning endeavor. And it became very controversial because it's a sensitive issue. Any time you talk about race, and so many times we've been told all of our lives we shouldn’t talk about race, because it's too sensitive. But we don't learn about each other when we don't.
And so it was a project to try to fill in some of those gaps. And for a lot of people, if it really became a point of controversy. As a teacher and just as a person, I love learning about other people and being empathetic to other people's point of view.
[00:31:39] KM: Let’s talk about your passion. So healthcare, infrastructure, education, COVID-19, labor, agriculture, environment, energy, public service report. What do you think we should do about education in pre-k?
[00:31:53] JE: I think we need to determine exactly how great we want to be in our country, period. And a part of that to me means creating world-class educations everywhere for all kids no matter where they live, and that they all have access to a world-class education. And that's so important to me because as we keep telling our students, you have to perform on a world stage. And it's just wrong to keep telling them that and not prepare them in a way that they can perform in a global world.
And so the way I think it will matter in congress is that we need to become – We need to very carefully become partners with the states. And so if a state wanted to create a world-class education system, then we need to work out ways so that congress could work with those states because it's too much to ask of states alone. I think that is just so crucial. And a part of that world-class education means getting a great start in the early years, because right now in Arkansas, we have a good pre-k system that we're not funding as we should. But it is something that we need to take a look at, like the countries that are highest performing countries in the world, the very first thing they do is make sure all kids are off to a great start so that you cannot determine where they live and determine what their educational outcomes are going to be.
And as a part of that, with pre-k through k-12, we need to be sure if a student wants to get a college education. We need to make sure there is a way for them to do it, and there's a way for you to do it that is not going to be so onerous. But if we are going to have a world-class country and maintain it, our education system needs to be thought about as pre-k all the way through college.
[00:33:52] KM: And this harkens back to going to the source of a problem. We always want to go to the end results and go, “Why are these kids not going to college and why are we not getting good jobs and why is the unemployment rate high?” Well, we’re addressing the problem at the end rather than starting at the very beginning.
[00:34:12] JE: Yes. And we almost end up punishing people because we didn't start at the beginning. And I guess the last part of that world-class system, school system, to make sure in addition to higher education, when you want to think about it, we should have world-class career tech systems as well. That’s what these other countries are doing. And a four-year degree is not considered better than a career tech degree. And sometimes, many times, even in these other systems, they go back and forth. Somebody who might – A four-year degree might decide, “There's something over the career tech side I'd like to do.” And it's not thought of as a two-tier system in these other countries. But we tend to think about career tech. Some people are just good with their hands. That's not what career tech is. You're good with your brains too, and I always hate it when I hear it described that way.
[00:35:02] KM: I think you could call me a graduate of career tech. I went to a vo tech school, and it was one of the best educations I've ever got. Let's talk about public service reform. I like the things you said about public service reforming.
[00:35:15] JE: One of the things that is so difficult to do is to make sure – We have all these ideas, and among the things about this is revolving door that allows congress to just come right out and be lobbyists when they retire. I think there just has to be. There needs to be sometime between those two things where it's really significant, because when you do that, if you've been at congress first, and you just automatically – You're going to have some authority that you would not have had if you just had kind of a cool knock period. I think that's really important.
And for the – I think we just need to eliminate dark money, these groups that lobby congress, if you're going to lobby congress. It needs to be transparent. Everybody needs to know what's going to the members of congress. But as long as there’s dark money, you don't know who's influencing whom or at least trying. And other thing I'm remembering is lobbyist activities or disclosure, and so many lobbies, so many things they do are not disclosed and we don't have an apparatus to make sure we know what lobbyists are doing in many cases to have an impact.
[00:36:34] KM: I mean, isn't a lobbyist just somebody who bribes the senate? I don't get that at all, why that's legal.
[00:36:39] JE: The way it came about actually was there are people who wanted to have some influence especially for big corporations, generally not for just average people like us. And so the well-to-do folks, the big barons who went to Washington and they – I think it was the – It might have been – I think it was the Willard Hotel where a lot of the meetings took place. It’s a very swanky hotel. And these folks literally hung out in the lobby and waited for the congress people to emerge from their meetings. And that's how they got to be called lobbyists. They were influencers.
[00:37:20] KM: What? In the lobby, hanging out in the lobby. That’s a good story.
[00:37:25] JE: Yeah.
[00:37:25] KM: I just want to take a minute and say you're listening Up in Your business with me, Karrie McCoy, and I'm speaking today with Arkansas senator Ms. Joyce Elliott who is running for the US representative in Arkansas Second Congressional District. All right, we we've only got 10 minutes left. This is just personal for me. You donated a kidney to your sister. Is it Gloria?
[00:37:45] JE: Yes.
[00:37:46] KM: Is Gloria her name?
[00:37:47] JE: Yes.
[00:37:48] KM: Tell us how that came about. And I want to know if there are lifestyle modifications that have to be made after such a procedure.
[00:37:57] JE: And that’s such a good question, that last part, because people always wonder about that. But my sister who was the youngest of our five girls, and we didn't have any particular reason. We don't know what happened. But she was – Her kidneys were just attacked by a very aggressive kidney disease, and it has a big long name, but I don't even remember. And they tried very hard to treat it, but there was no reversing it. And so she’s on dialysis for a while for about almost – Yeah, a year. Just a little bit over a year. And so when – And we have a large family and all of us got tested. And as it turned out, we were all a match. It was just uncanny. But it turns out I was the perfect match, because I was the healthiest of everybody. I didn't smoke. I was a runner, and I ate good food and whatnot. So when all of us met and found out, we were a decent match. But we had a discussion. And so everybody agreed, and this was a surprise. Everybody agreed, “Joyce, since you have the best lifestyle and you're the healthiest, we all think it should be you.” “Oh, yeah. Of course you do. So it won't be you.”
But it was – Because I love my sister and it was not a big deal to do it, because I talked with the doctors who would study it and not study it and all that. And so I knew it would not endanger my health. So I decided to do it. And the day we had the surgery, my sister actually got up and walked into my room. We were in different rooms. And she walked into my room and I said, “What are you doing walking around already?” “Oh, my kidneys are already working.” I'm still right there in the bed because I’m cut from here to here. And so it was very successful right away. And this was the same time too, by the way, when I was running for office and I was still teaching. And I went back to school that year. The surgery was in late July – No, mid-July, because I went back to school pretty early in August. And I had sick leave days, but I didn't have enough to use those days and still have some if something else happened. Had I answered your question, which one of these things was my biggest fashion? Right now, it is healthcare, and I think at that point is when it became so incredibly a part of anything about having a decent life. And so – And I'm a walk in pre-existing condition because of that. And I have not – I have not had to change my lifestyle. People need to know, it is perfectly safe to do versus one of the things. I guess there's a reason we have two of them, because my life has just gone on as usual.
[00:40:59] KM: You like to expand the Affordable Care Act. You'd like to stand up to prescription and drug price gouging. You'd like to make Washington work for small states with COVID-19 relief and resources. You’d like to help with Medicaid, do more for rural hospitals that are uninsured. That seems like a pretty important one. And protect social security and Medicare so that seniors don't lose affordable coverage.
[00:41:26] JE: Yes. Yeah. One of the things about the Affordable Care Act was really what it did in rural areas and not closing hospitals. That was a big deal for a lot of folks. But I had had that experience though much earlier, because in Nevada County where I grew up, I believe it was maybe 1996 or so, I wasn't still living there, but my mother was still there and my other family members, my sister, my brother and several cousins. But our hospital had closed a long time before the Affordable Health Care came along. And we knew, I knew what that meant. And so I know for people, oftentimes we assume transportation is available for people and many times it's not. And a part of any – I guess you would say in any kind of community or town, they might even think about it as a county, with any kind of high-quality of life, you need to you need to have a hospital, and they're small. They're not specialties. But they certainly are step between you and critical care if you have to come to say UAMS or something.
[00:42:32] KM: So far in all of your accomplishments, and there are many. I mean, we've scratched the surface. What are you most proud of? And what do you want think your legacy will be?
[00:42:45] JE: I think probably because it's so important to getting a great start is what I was able to do with to help with pre-k, because at the time we need to get back to that. We had the number one pre-K in this nation. The number one right here in Arkansas.
[00:43:04] KM: Really?
[00:43:06] JE: Yes, we did. We ticked all the boxes for being number one, because we started out that way. We started out very intentionally to make – Because, keep in mind, this is when after we had been sued [inaudible 00:43:18] we talked about for adequacy for education. Pre-k is not in the constitution, but it's grades one through twelve that is. And so we were spending all this money and making sure we met the court order. And it made no sense. We thought if we don't invest in kids in the lower ages and to have them more ready when they get to k-12. And so it was one of the best investments we could have made and the humans that we depend on to make sure we have –
[00:43:53] KM: What are we now? What is our pre-k rank now?
[00:43:57] JE: Well, the last time – I think we are – I know we're lower. I don't know the exact number, but the reason we are lower is because we are not funding it as we should. And we have students who don't have access. What our goal was and what we were working toward was universal – Not mandate, not on universal mandate, but universal access for every parent who wanted their kids, all the parents who wanted their kids to get that great start especially if they were not able to do that, which many parents are. [inaudible 00:44:31] many others are.
[00:44:31] KM: This is your last question. When you're lying in bed dreaming, and I know you do, because everybody does, and you see yourself in Washington and you're daydreaming about it, what does that daydream look like?
[00:44:45] JE: It looks like a group of people who've come from all different corners of this country who can put aside whatever their loomings are and they are working together to represent everybody in this country. That we are a mosaic of thoughts that can create the mosaic of all the different – That can represent all the different kind of people in our mosaic in our country no matter who they are. Because if I really take it to heart United States of America.
So my dream is that is exactly what we'll be working toward to make sure everybody have the opportunity to pursue happiness and being a united a united country.
[00:45:35] KM: Thank you so much for taking time to visit with me. You are on the run. You are busy all the time. I really, really appreciate you taking the time to visit with us.
[00:45:46] JE: I thank you too. And I assume it's okay to ask people to go to joyceelliott.com and learn more about our campaign. I would really appreciate that, because I think the more you learn, the more you will sign up for this campaign.
[00:46:01] KM: Spoken like a real teacher. In closing, to our listeners, I want to thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening, and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy, and I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[00:46:21] GM: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today’s show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today’s guest. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Subscribe to podcasts wherever you like to listen. Kerry’s goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.