From Volunteer to Pioneer: DSA Interview with Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

During her conversation with DSA Executive Vice President Adolfo FrancoCongresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson recalled many years ago when she was just a local volunteer being approached by people to run for office.

“It was frightening” she said. In fact, she waited until the very last second (literally) at the filing deadline to formally declare her candidacy for the Texas House of Representatives in the early 1970’s.

Throughout her over 40 years in public office, she noted how she has always tried to stay in touch with her constituents and legislate according to what is important to them. “I’m rarely swayed by anyone outside the district.” The most important issues in her Dallas-area district is where technology and automation are going to take her constituents.

She explained to Franco how she owes her success in large part to her former career as a nurse—she is the first nurse elected to Congress. It required her to recognize that every person is entitled to their own opinion. You can respect other’s opinions while pushing your own. She said her nursing background “Made a tough environment less taxing on me.”

Congresswoman Johnson has been a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee for many years in Congress and currently serves as its Ranking Member. She is the first woman and African American to do so. She talks about her strong support for research and sound science. She looks at all the products we have been able to gain by these principles, including satellites used to predict weather. “Space exploration has brought us more progress than any other endeavor.”

She explained to Franco how she also thinks technology has a large part in the future of direct selling. But never forgetting her earliest interactions with direct selling as independent distributors came to her door selling a variety of products. When Congresswoman Johnson moved to Texas, she met someone who was very familiar with direct selling—Mary Kay Ash. She has experienced first-hand how direct selling has “built a middle class of women…it’s one of the best side jobs that any female can have. Mothers can still find time for their family and build a constituency to sell products.”

Congresswoman Johnson is also a co-sponsor of HR 3409, the Anti-Pyramid Promotional Scheme Act of 2017. With almost 40 bi-partisan co-sponsors, she thinks the bill is very positive for all Americans. “I’m putting confidence in the intelligence of people both urban and rural that this is a protection of their constituents.”
Congresswoman Johnson also had the great honor of serving as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, which is made up of all African American members of Congress. During her time in Washington, D.C. she has seen a considerable increase in members of the Caucus.

She has seen a change not only in numbers, but the districts represented by these members. Traditionally these members had been from large, urban East Coast districts, but Congresswoman Johnson said: “When I came it was a new approach to the Caucus, they were Southerners with very diverse districts and those districts had elected people with the commitment that you would know what your district was like.”

Congresswoman Johnson also says she supports free trade as an essential driver of economic growth in her district. “A lot of misinformation goes around trade….I took time to study the issue; I went to Mexico and Canada when we were negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For the good of American goods, we needed that agreement.”

To ensure entrepreneurship continues to thrive she thinks honesty in advertising is essential, “People have more confidence in direct selling if you say exactly what you mean clearly….it should not be in small print, the people need to know what they’re getting into. Ultimately, it will interfere with the sale of products.”

She thinks the DSA Code of Ethics and future programs are extremely important to direct selling, “It builds confidence in people that you are as concerned about protecting them as you are about selling your product.”

Direct Selling Association

Direct Selling Association

Direct Selling Association (DSA) is the national trade association for companies that manufacture and distribute goods and services sold directly to consumers.