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Commissioner Spotlight: Rosie Rios

Q: Who’s your favorite Founding Father or other American hero? In what ways might you be like them?

Rosie: I have always been inspired by our Founding Mothers – all the women who have made significant contributions to our history, specifically Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony. Harriet Tubman was a spy for the Union army and born into slavery. She is of course known for the Underground Railroad, but there is so much more to her story. She was also a women’s suffrage activist. Susan B. Anthony led the effort to the 19th amendment. She never really saw the fruits of her efforts, as she died prior to the passing of the amendment. She dedicated her life to this mission, and for her to have this 40-year effort and never see it come to fruition is commendable.

For women today, it is difficult to stand up for what they believe in. Could you imagine what it was like for women 100-150 years ago? They went above and beyond to make their mark.

Q: What is the strongest national pride you’ve ever felt?

Rosie: I remember the Bicentennial like it was yesterday. I was 11 years old and remember watching the fireworks from the local airport. Seeing those fireworks, it was indelible. When I visited the Freedom Train, I felt a sense of community from a national perspective and was very proud to be an American.

These memories are part of the reason why I wanted to participate in America 250. When you get a call for public service, it’s hard to say no. The story of our country is not one dimensional. For a Latina woman like myself, this means a lot to me. My parents came to America from Mexico for the same reasons.

Q: What is your favorite American saying or quote? Why does it inspire you?

Rosie: “Failure is impossible.” – Susan B. Anthony

Every day, I wear a bracelet on my left hand that is engraved with this quote to remind myself of the tireless efforts of the brave women before me, while also reminding myself of all that I and the next generation can achieve.

Q: What is a unique viewpoint from your home state that you’re excited to bring to this nationwide project?

Rosie: California has the highest number of Native American languages. The history of California represents in many ways the history of our country – a nation of nations. California and indigenous languages having that much representation is looking at our nation in different ways. It is not about one person or one culture, and California represents that.

Q: What was your first brush with democracy?

Rosie: Voter registration is my personal passion. I started volunteering for voter education initiatives in college because I knew that once you hit 18, you need the right information to act on your civic duty. Now is such an important time to understand how the system works and become more educated about candidates. It is our obligation as U.S. citizens.

Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for America in the next 250 years?

Rosie: I see a call to action as a collective voice. Leading up to and following 2026, I want all Americans and each American to have a deeper and more expansive view of our nation’s history. There are so many American stories that have never been told. By learning this history, I hope many Americans find their voice, their niche, and go after what they believe in. I would love for the journey of discovery to continue beyond 2026, so that we can all appreciate our national parks, different cultures and each other. United states, united concept.

Q: How do the above experiences inform your role on America 250?

Rosie: I consider myself an accidental everything – accidental feminist, educator. This all started when I began my job as Treasurer of the United States during the height of the financial crisis. I led the effort to have a woman on our currency. It is eye opening to see what public values about our history, and sad to learn what little people know about what women have done in our history. This galvanized me to do what I do today, and hope to bring this energy to the Commission. It’s not his story, it’s our story.

Rosie Rios was the 43rd Treasurer of the United States and just completed her term as a Visiting Scholar at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is most recently known for initiating and leading the efforts to place a portrait of a woman on the front of U.S. currency for the first time in over a century. Rosie was the longest serving Senate-confirmed Treasury official beginning with her time on the Treasury/Federal Reserve Transition Team in November 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.

To learn more about Rosie and other members of the Commission, click here.

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