Congresswoman Martha Roby ‘Leans In,’ discusses return to her native Alabama

Martha Roby
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby

Republican Congresswoman from Alabama and working mom Martha Roby now appears like she was always destined to be a leading Yellowhammer woman, but that wasn’t always the case. In a personal op-ed appearing on the pro-ambitious woman website Lean In, she talks about how she was as tempted as anyone to leave her home state for fame and fortune elsewhere.

“I was 23 years old, a third-year law student ready to embark on my dream career in the music industry. Having completed a music business degree at NYU, I felt more than ready to make things happen.

My boyfriend (now husband) Riley and I were home for my brother’s graduation ceremony. We were both almost finished with law school and had already talked about the possibility of getting married. Our plans included an out-of-state move to Nashville, where I would pursue a career on Music Row.”

But of course, circumstances change. Or as Roby puts it, “We plan and God chuckles”:

“He challenged the graduates not to contribute to Alabama’s “brain drain,” a long-existing problem in which young, talented Alabamians leave the state to follow their ambitions elsewhere. “Invest in Alabama,” he said. “Chase your dreams, but whenever possible, contribute to building up your home and making it a better place.”

I don’t know if the graduates were listening, but I sure was. And so was Riley. How many bright, talented individuals had we seen leave the state to pursue careers in so-called greener pastures? Montgomery and the State of Alabama had hard-to-fix problems. Would it make the difference if Riley and I, who care deeply about our home, put down roots? Ambition to follow one’s dreams is admirable, I thought, but so is realizing a responsibility to stay and help lift up a community. If we didn’t, who would?

At 23, I didn’t know what I had to offer. Possibilities raced through my mind. Maybe I could practice law in Montgomery. Maybe I could volunteer and become a civic leader. Maybe I could get more involved at church or in local schools. Whatever my decision, I knew – along with Riley – I felt a sudden and certain calling to stay in Montgomery and help my community and state become a better place.

A few short years later, our local city council member announced her retirement. Watching the story on the evening news, I elbowed Riley and he shot me a knowing look. Though young and inexperienced, I worked hard and won that council race. Years later, I entered an equally-unlikely race for Congress and won it as well. Now, beginning a second term in Congress, I realize I’m just scratching the surface of what I can do to help solve Alabama’s hard-to-fix problems.”

The 38-year-old Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd district, based in Wiregrass and parts of the Montgomery metro area. She was elected a member of the 112th Congress in 2010.