Dina Titus: Greek American Congresswoman of Atomic Proportions
Greek Americans have had a long history in politics. But most names have belonged to men. Except for now. We finally have a Greek American woman in the White House! Of course, we are talking about our girl, Dina Titus, D-Representative from Nevada. In an exclusive interview, she spoke to www.greekamericangirl.com from within the broadcast studios of the White House about her Hellenism, her gab-loving grandfather, and the need to have more “fierce” Greek women in politics. Wearing a blue vest and an honorary pin with the Greek blue-and-white stripes, she sported her Greek spirit on the anniversary of OXI Day and on her way to the black-tie dinner organized by the OXI Foundation in Washington, a group founded to magnify the importance that Greece played in turning the tide of World War 2.
Here’s a brief bio:
Dina Titus was born Constandina Aliki, in a small town in Georgia called Tifton. It seems that she inherited politics on both sides of her family. From her father’s, the Titus side, her great, great grandfather James Seward served as a Democrat in the U.S. Congress from 1853 to 1859 and in the Georgia State Senate from 1860 to 1864. Her uncle, Theo Titus, served in the Georgia Legislature as a Republican and her father Joe ran for a seat on the Tifton City Council. On her mother’s side, the Greek side, she had ‘pappou.” Her grandfather, Arthur Constandinos Cathones, an immigrant from Attica, ran a restaurant, The Plaza, in their small town that served as a forum for discussion. Most of the public figures of the town, the sheriff, the deputies, the postman, teachers, civic leaders, they would all gather at the coffee shop and talk politics. She loved pappou so much when she was inaugurated into Congress, she used his Bible to be sworn in.
Although she did not grow up speaking Greek, she stayed faithful to the Greek Orthodox faith. “To get Greek olives and feta, you had to drive 100 miles into the next state,” she notes in the interview. Titus has traveled to Greece to visit relatives in Athens and Trikala and keeps very true to her Hellenic roots. Dina attends the St. John the Baptist Church in Las Vegas and participates in activities of the Philoptochos Society and Daughters of Penelope in her community. Most recently, Dina was honored at the 2012 Salute to Women event hosted by the Daughters of Penelope.
She attended the College of William and Mary for undergrad studies. She credits the teachers at William and Mary for being role models of public service that influenced and encouraged her foray into politics. She then continued to the University of Georgia for a Masters, finally attaining a doctorate in political science from Florida State University.
She taught for a brief year in Texas before moving on to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she spent the majority of her teaching career. At UNLV, she taught poly sci to raving student success. Known both throughout the student grapevine and the formal administrative circles as a dynamic and forceful teacher, Titus received many awards during her teaching career. She started her service in the Nevada Senate in 1988. Because the Nevada legislature met every two years in the spring, she was able to attend legislative sessions and also maintain her teaching post. In fact, she took advantage of her position as a living, practicing politician by setting up an internship for undergrads in the Nevada legislature. By the time she retired from teaching in 2008, she had already served the 7th District for 20 years in the Nevada state senate.
It was at this point that she decided to run for Congress as a representative for Nevada’s Third District. She was elected in 2008 but lost to Republican Joe Heck by only 2000 votes two years later. She tried running again, this time for Nevada’s First District, and won. She has served in this post since 2013.
She has many accolades and accomplishments under her belt (a very svelte belt at that). According to her official bio page, “During her service in the Nevada State Legislature, Dina was a champion for quality education and renewable energy development, and a strong advocate on behalf of Nevada’s children, seniors, and persons with disabilities . . . One of her proudest moments came in 2006 with the dedication of the Dina Titus Estates, an innovative affordable housing complex for disabled Nevadans, in recognition of Dina’s tireless advocacy.”
During her term in office in the Nevada State legislature, she initiated several bills that were of particular importance to women. One was the bill that forced insurance companies to cover the costs of a mandatory vaccine for the HPV virus in girls and women (that’s the virus that causes cervical cancer).
In addition to her political career, Titus is considered a guru on all things atomic. Because her home state of Nevada has been central to the debate on nuclear testing and armament, she has taken a keen interest in the history and public policy debates on the issue. In fact most of her academic papers and scholarly work involves around nuclear power, waste and weapons. She has authored two acclaimed books, Bombs in the Backyard: Atomic Testing and American Politics (University of Nevada Press, Revised Edition 2001) and Battle Born: Federal-State Relations in Nevada during the Twentieth Century (Kendall-Hunt, 1989). She even maintains a “personal museum” of atomic memorabilia and lore. She appeared in the 2006 PBS documentary, “The American Experience: Las Vegas – an Unconventional History,” by acclaimed director Steven Ives; she was honored to give a guest lecture to the Los Alamos Historical Society and present an academic paper at the International War and Peace Conference at Sokendai University in Tokyo. She even has a reading room named in her honor at the Atomic Testing Museum on the Las Vegas campus of the Desert Research Institute.
In terms of her personal life, she has been happily married to Dr. Thomas Wright, a professor of Latin American history for 30 years.
During her interview, she told www.greekamericangirl.com that the best thing about being a Greek woman is that “they are fierce, they are fighters. We need more Greek women in the House.” She encourages young women who are seeking a career in public service to seek out internships to get a feel for what the job is. She extended an open call for young women of Hellenic heritage to contact her office to set one up.
And this is not all that can be printed about her in one page. Dina Titus is a veritable titan of atomic energy. Her dynamism and power can light up the universe. Here’s a toast to another example of a great Greek American womanhood—“Stin hygiea sou.”
Watch the video:
To learn more about Dina’s Hellenic connection, check out http://www.dinatitus.com/hellenic-leadership
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