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Women We Love Meet Perry Finney Brody

When you meet Perry FINNEY BRODY, HER smile takes you in FIRST.

But just you wait: her heart for others shines even brighter.

According to those who know her best, Perry Finney Brody was born with a contagious smile, uniquely paired with fierce determination and sense of fairness. While the time and place of her birth - mid-60's Birmingham, Alabama - her petite size, and that ever-present smile might lead some to assume she's simple sugar and magnolia, the truth of Perry lies well beyond. She greets both opportunities and adversity with that ever-present smile. In the face of a challenge, the smile transforms into the palpable determination accompanied by dogged advocacy, graceful persistence, and laudable stamina - whatever may be needed to carry the day.

A graduate of Vanderbilt University - from which she received both her undergraduate and law degrees - Perry lives in a suburb of Washington, DC, with her husband and two college age children (son, Owen, a Vanderbilt undergraduate and daughter, Perry Ann, soon headed to Washington University in St. Louis). Having spent nearly three decades working on Capitol Hill, she has served for the past six years as Chief of Staff for Representative Filemón Vela. Vela came to serve Texas's 34th congressional in 2013. and his work in Congress, including advocacy for immigrant rights, education programs and healthcare - veritable sweet spots for Perry's determined calling to make things right. Among other honors, she was recognized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Alumni for her commitment to promoting diversity on Capitol Hill.

We're honored that Perry is also a passionate champion of Her Best Foot Forward, specifically our focus on UhuruPads - hygiene products paired with health and hygiene education for girls in Tanzania. In particular, she connected to our commitment to creating meaningful work for local women within Tanzania's first 100% biodegradable sanitary pad production facility. We sat down with Perry - our first featured #WomanWeLove - to talk with her about work and life and understand what drives her to advocate passionately for others.

We’ve seen you juggling multiple cell phones (each with multiple calls in the queue!) while navigating DC traffic, as you share something nutritious from the backseat snack supply you keep handy should you pass someone in need. Do you ever slow down?

I do slow down! I love spending time with my family – both near and far – and I love a good book. I've been fortunate to have a great partnership with my husband, David, and support from family and friends which allows me to balance my work and family, involvement with our kids' schools and activities and also the things which matter to us a family. We love going back to Vanderbilt, whether to visit our son, spend time with family, or connect with classmates and friends from our time there.

So tell us, what’s a book you’d recommend to a friend?

“A Prayer for Owen Meany” has special significance for me. When my son – Owen – was born, the parents of a dear friend sent a copy of it to me. While traveling to Croatia to bring economic development to the region, their son, Adam, who was my dear friend, died in a plane crash along with Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown. “Owen Meany” was the last book Adam read. I didn’t know this – and then I named my son Owen. A strange and meaningful coincidence.

It was very special when Owen read the book in high school and we could share it together. The message I took away from the book was that everyone has a purpose. We might not know what that purpose is or when we will find it. To be ready, we have to prepare, work hard, hone our God-given skills, and serve when our purpose presents.

Do you have a personal motto?

Remember those who have come before your and help those who will come after.

Perry at the State Department with former boss, Representative Silver Reyes, and current boss, Representative Filemon Vela

I always try to remember and honor the men and women who helped me when I was starting my career, and then pay it forward to the next generation – training, mentoring, and helping to open doors. This doesn’t just apply to my career but to all aspects of my life. I have been given the tools and the opportunity to be successful and, because of this, I feel its my duty to help people in any way I can.

Washington can be a trying place – but it’s also inspiring. You’ve been here nearly 30 years. What inspires you when things get tough?

I’m inspired by the idea that I can make a positive difference in the lives of others – whether on a micro or macro scale, whether person to person, in a small group or a larger community. When things get tough, I take stock of why I came to this work and why I am still passionate about it. Though I can see myself doing other things - there's lots of work to do - it has been a great ride. Plus, getting to see John Lewis on the elevator every so often and stand beside him as he continues to advocate for others is always an inspiration.

Being so close to the political world, can you share your thoughts on current issue gives you greatest concern?

I have to say I have great concern about all the polarization. If you are so entrenched in your own position, it’s extremely hard to see any merit in the other side. If you don’t know anyone who is different from you, seeing the world as they do is going to be extremely difficult. Progress requires negotiation, give and take, and compromise. Polarization is a huge barrier to this process.

Is there a moment that, if given the chance, you’d like to freeze in time?

Nope – I’ve had a great life, made up by a series of remarkable people and moments. Given this, there really isn’t a single moment I’d want to freeze. Life has ups and downs, both contributing to the adventure. If you freeze one moment, you’d surely miss getting to the next great moment.

Thanks, Perry Brody - We're Honored to Have You #WalkWithUs

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