Betsy DeVos: A Political Advocate Who Maintains Her Professionalism

Just before President Trump revoked the policy that allowed transgender school students to use the restroom that best matched their gender identity, Ms. DeVos met with a delegate for transgender and gay employees at the Education Department to warn them of President Trump’s decision. Ms. DeVos was opposed to President Trump’s decision, but she maintained public politeness during the official announcement.


Although Ms. DeVos is new to Washington and has held no official government position in Washington before being elected, she is making positive efforts to improve education. Ms. DeVos lost her argument for upholding the policy that allowed transgender public bathroom access because her opponent was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions has many years of experience in Washington as he was a senator for decades, and he is known to have close affiliations with those close to President Trump.


Although she lost her argument against Attorney General Sessions for transgender public restroom access, her critics and supporters expect that she will do well in her position once she is accustomed to Washington politics. One of Ms. DeVos’ first acts in her new position was to reach out to two major teachers unions that resulted in a positive outcome. Many have observed her public politeness and professionalism, but she is known to be a relentless political fighter in her home state. According to former state attorney general Mike Cox, “In Michigan, she instilled fear in a lot of people, and it’s not just because she’s a billionaire. I found Betsy to be very determined, steely, when she sets her mind on a goal.” Moreover, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, stated “There is a real tendency to underestimate her. She comes across as personable, plain-spoken, but she is dangerous.”


Ms. DeVos is working to improve education for children in the United States by advocating for the use of vouchers. Ms. DeVos wants funding to be taken from public schools to be used as vouchers for underprivileged children, so they have the opportunity to attend charter or religious schools. Ms. DeVos has been a strong supporter of charter schools, and she feels her plan will create competition with public schools that will cause the public schools to make the changes that are necessary to improve education.


When Ms. DeVos was asked how she felt about her critics, she replied “The media has had its fun with me, and that’s O.K.” Although her friends say that she becomes annoyed when she is portrayed as an idiot, she ultimately shrugs it off without response.


Ms. DeVos was born in Holland, Michigan, in 1958. She was raised in the Christian Reform Church and attended Calvin College, which is a Christian college close to Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is married to Dick DeVos, and the couple support numerous political, religious, and conservative groups. In addition, from 1992-1997, Ms. DeVos served as the Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan, and she was the chair for the Michigan Republican Party from 1996-2000.


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Dick DeVos Funding the Expansion for the Kennedy Center

The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation contributed one million dollars to the expansion fund for the John F. Kennedy Arts Center. It is in the process of expanding to include additional educational and rehearsal space, three new pavilions, a pedestrian bridge, dining and office space. One of the pavilions will be on the riverfront and linked to the main buildings by the pedestrian bridge. Since 2013, a fund raising campaign has been underway. The original goal was to raise $125 million for both construction and programming initiatives. The goal had to be increased as the buildings cost also increased by $19 million.


That increase prompted the fund raising goal to be increased another $50 million. Deborah Reuter noted that the expansion will be entirely funded by the gifts of supporters of the arts. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation is among several supporters giving up to a million dollars. Another eight parties were named and many anonymous donors also contributed. Donations went up to $50 million from David Rubenstein, the Carlyle Group Co-Founder and chairman of the Kennedy Center’s board of trustees.


The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation focuses on empowering organizations that support communities, education, the arts, leadership and justice. Some of the places the foundation supports include:


The West Michigan Aviation Academy – Founded in 2010 by Dick DeVos is a high school located on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Students with an interest in interest in aviation or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) are exposed to them first hand, plus they study English, world languages, social studies, and history. There time there is highlighted by learning the important character traits, respect, trust, and accountability. They also enjoy extracurricular activities including athletics and club events, plus they develop leadership skills and community development.


The Inner City Christian Federation – the organization has a 44 year history of providing over 500 lower to moderate income families with a path to home ownership in the Southside of Grand Rapids, Michigan. They manage 160 plus units of affordable housing in the area.


The DeVos Institute of Arts Management – Has served over 1,000 organizations from more than eighty counties, such as traditional performing and presenting organizations, museums and galleries, arts schools and libraries, and botanical gardens.


Project Clarity – It’s goal is to restore the water quality of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed near Holland, Michigan. This area covers 500 miles of rivers, streams and ditches in approximately 175 square miles. Using a multi‑phased approach, it is establishing rain gardens, bioswales, retention ponds, storm water sediment basins and boxes.


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