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The Freshman Jahana Hayes

Jahana Hayes, the former national teacher of the year, who - in 2018 - became the first black woman elected to congress from Connecticut, is feeling her way around Capitol Hill and her new job.

She is part of what has been described as the most diverse class of freshmen ever elected to the U.S. House and Senate and she is one of 36 women who took office in Washington, D.C. following last year's elections.

There is something else about this class of freshmen. Whether true or not, the news media has portrayed them - as a group - as impatient and unwilling to wait their turn. Traditionally, Congress is a place where members put in their time over the course of several terms, build seniority, get better and better committee assignments and eventually - sometimes after years - amass power.

Hayes at the opening of her district headquarters in Waterbury, Connecticut in January.

But in a sign of the political moment we occupy, Hayes and other newcomers seem unwilling to play by those rules. As a reflection of the voters who sent them to Washington, they see a system that has not been working for the American people and they want to change things now. Right away. They are quick to criticize politics as usual among both Democrats and Republicans and they are willing to challenge leadership. As they see it, they have been given a job by their constituents and like their constituents - they expect to report to work every day and do their job.

During a town hall meeting in March, Hayes told a crowd in Danbury, Connecticut, she has only been guaranteed a job for two years, she does not have time to wait.

At that same town hall, the newly elected congresswoman read through a list of accomplishments of her first 100 days in office. It took her more than a half hour.

At times she sounded as if she was testifying at her annual employee review or telling her parents about her time at summer camp. She apologized for national media attention she has received and like more senior politicians said news coverage about her has been misleading.

She presents herself as earnest, and criticized veteran lawmakers who she feels do not serve their constituents well by becoming too familiar with the ways of Washington, and by being too loyal to their political party.

Hayes and her fellow freshmen have - knowingly or not - set up a test of wills. The will of a class sent to Washington to get the job done vs. a system meant to get the job done at a casual pace. It is tradition for freshman lawmakers to keep a low profile and stay quiet during their first term. It is also tradition for more senior members to ignore the flourishes of freshmen when they stray.

To win, the class of 2018 has to break tradition and force leadership to answer to their demands. To win, leadership simply has to wait until the freshmen gain seniority.

Hayes speaking to a town hall meeting in Danbury, Connecticut in March.

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