Two years ago, Mia Love was 768 votes away from becoming the first ever black Republican congresswoman in United States history.
With almost 250,000 votes cast in Utah’s 4th District election, the narrow loss was disappointing to Love, yes, but not devastating. Speaking with her then about life, politics aside, one discovered that difficulties are her fuel, determination is her lifestyle and the future is her focus.
As evidence, look where she is today. This week, she made history by winning the spot she so narrowly missed two years ago.
A Brief History of Love
Ludmya “Mia” Bourdeau was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1975, two years after her parents emigrated from Haiti to escape poverty, violence and a cruel dictator. Both her father and mother worked to provide a living, and instilled in their children the idea of self-sufficiency and giving back to community.
Soon after graduating from the University of Hartford with a degree in performing arts, Mia joined the Mormon Church and started working as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines. Soon she moved to Utah, reconnecting with Jason Love, a missionary she met previously in Connecticut. He helped her move in, and eventually things blossomed into a relationship and marriage.
But the plot thickens. Just before getting married, Mia was offered a lead role in a Broadway musical called “Smoky Joe’s Café,” a show that won a Grammy and was nominated for multiple Tony Awards.
But that wasn’t the spotlight she was destined for. She turned down the role and focused her attention on family (she now has three kids, the oldest of whom will soon turn 13) and eventually the community.
Her civic involvement began in 2002, and she soon won a seat on the city council of Saratoga Springs, a small town north of Utah Lake. In a decade, the agricultural town of a 1,000 grew into a city of more than 18,000, and Mia’s efforts revolved around the needed economic changes. Mia was elected mayor in 2009, and continued to help the city grow, and fight through the recession.
In 2012, still serving as mayor, she found herself in the national spotlight, fighting for a spot in the US House of Representatives. . The Republican Party considered her race one of the ten most important in the country, and both the Romney campaign and Speaker of the House John Boehner lent heavy support. Practically every media outlet in America seized onto her unique story as a black, Mormon, conservative woman Republican,calling her, as one ABC reporter did, a candidate “unlike any we’ve ever seen before.”
Get Back Setback
She lost. The spotlights flipped off, and the confetti didn’t fall in her favor. But that fits into her life, and doesn’t define it, she explains.
Mia says she treats setbacks as a process of moving forward, comparing it to running.
“When you’re out there, there are days when you’re doing so well, and then there are days when you cannot run. You went from running an eight-minute mile to can’t-get-past-the-ten-minute-mile,” she says. “You have to just keep getting up, and you keep running. I remember when I first starting running, my first 5K was like 35 minutes. Now it’s less than 25. And I have setbacks. But because I’ve continued to go and run, I’m a lot stronger, and I can do a lot better.”
Instead of focusing on the negative, Mia says she focuses on the many things she was able to accomplish during her campaign, like putting Utah in the spotlight and sending a message that resonated. She also focuses on what she still has and what’s ahead.
“I’m still a mayor, I’m still a mom. I’m still a wife,” she said. “There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Running, But Not for Office
Moving forward despite setbacks characterizes Mia’s attitude, which is apparent not just in politics, but also in her exercise, namely running.
The principles driving her running are many of the same principles that drive her when it comes to family and community, she says. A fundamental principle from all these worlds is that anything worth doing is difficult.
“The things that people take pride in are the things that they work hard for,” she says. “[That] principle is certainly valid and true.”
When she started running about seven years ago, Mia says she didn’t think she could do it, and hated it.
“I just thought ‘this is way too hard, I don’t know how people do this, and why would they want to put themselves through this pain? It doesn’t make any sense,’” she says.
But then she was able to latch onto making and meeting goals, and got stronger. She says she is currently healthier than she’s ever been in her entire life.
“I look at that girl in high school and I’m like ‘my gosh, she couldn’t do a thing,’” she says. Now, running is a central hobby of Mia’s. She usually runs three or four times per week, reaching 35 miles total on good weeks.
Mia’s Favorite Run
Mia’s husband was in Liverpool, England, for work a few years back, and she came along. She found out about a half marathon through the city and decided to do it on a whim.
Her husband called her crazy, but she ran it anyway, and her only regret is that she left her camera at home. Furthermore, she came in second in her age group. After the race, she says, “everyone sat back and lit up a cigarette and I was like, ‘no wonder why’.”
Mia runs mile after mile, but also seems to run from spotlight to spotlight. Her college degree was in performing arts, and she had a shot a Broadway, which she didn’t take. She chose another path, which eventually led her to be a speaker at the Republican National Convention, a stage much larger than any on Broadway. Being adaptable while holding onto some core beliefs has been key.
“I have a moral compass that leads me into what I should be doing,” she says. “But you also have to understand that, you know, you have these set plans and there are times when your life leads you to a different cause, to a greater cause. Even though I went to school and got this musical and performance background, my life has led me in a different area, and I have absolutely no regrets.”
She discovered fulfillment in service and being social. She also discovered what she says is everyone’s duty to be good examples and help their fellow man. When you have life leading you in one direction, Mia says, sometimes you find a “greater cause,” or find that you can make a “bigger, better impact doing something different.”
Individuality and Family
When it comes to great causes and impacting others, Mia says her own family is a driving force, and central to everything.
Her children are the reason why she does everything she does, she says, and the reason why she serves in the community. It’s one thing to talk about who they should be, but “it’s a different thing to lead by example,” she says. She wants her kids to be leaders wherever they can be, to make sure they are a positive influence in the world, “like my parents taught me.”
Her husband, who calls himself the “financial contributor” to Mia’s mayoral position (which pays $830 a month), provides essential support, Mia says, not just in terms of money, but morally.
“He’s in this life with me and he’s supportive of whatever I choose to do, and we trust each other,” she says. “My husband is the other half of this equation that certainly wouldn’t work without him.”
The media focuses on how different Mia was, but Mia says her differences don’t really set her apart from anyone else in the state, and family is a big reason why.
“Seriously, there may be different features, but I consider myself first and foremost a wife, a mother, an American,” she says. “That’s who I am.”
She says her differences aren’t what made her mayor or gave her success in government, and she wants to pass that message on.
“It’s important for me as an individual to make sure that I teach my children about making sure that they are judged by the content of their character, that they’re not getting into college just because of the color of their skin, that they’re there because of their ability,” she says.
Love and Health
Mia says that a lack of accountability and responsibility among patients and physicians might be the biggest problem the health of America.
“I believe that for those who can consciously make decisions to care for their bodies should, because at the end of the day, we all are going to have to bear the cost of that,” she says.
She hopes that policies and procedures can be changed to better incentivize healthy diet and exercise.
Whether or not you agree with her politically, Mia Love’s story offers a lesson above politics. She is adaptable yet resolute, defeated but unconquerable and different but just like us.
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