The Honorable Shelley Berkley

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
“I went to Washington, spent three days there meeting with everybody, and they gave me a lot of food for thought. I have to say that I hesitated after being in Washington. When I got on the plane, I really had a good talk with myself. ‘Is this what you want to do? Is this what you want to dedicate your life to?’ At the end of the flight, before we landed, I said, ‘I do. It’s going to take every bit of energy and time and resources that I could possibly muster, but it’s important enough to me.’ I thought that I could do a good job, that my reasons for running, I think, were the right ones. Truly a desire to serve your fellow man, your fellow citizens, and that’s exactly what I did. Once I made the decision, I never looked back.”
—The Honorable Shelley Berkley, July 22, 2019

Abstract & Transcript

U.S. Representative from Nevada (January 3, 1999–January 3, 2013)

From a young age, Shelley Berkley knew she wanted to work in public service. In this oral history, she details her experience volunteering for the early campaigns of Senator Harry Reid, Senator Richard Bryan, and Governor Mike O’Callaghan, which served as her introduction to electoral politics. With her mother’s encouragement, Berkley decided to start a family and run for office. She discusses the ongoing balance of life events and work responsibilities that followed—like giving birth to her first child while serving as a state legislator—and the family support that made it possible. Berkley sheds light on aspects of House re-election campaigns, including the support she received from unions and women’s groups, and the challenge of campaigning in one of the fastest-growing districts in the country.

In this interview, she explains her focus on local and international issues as a member of both the Ways and Means Committee and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. As the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, Berkley prioritized American relations with the Middle East and Israel. Additionally, she stresses the importance of working with her Nevada colleagues to protect Yucca Mountain from becoming a nuclear repository. She also recounts her work concerning young immigrant constituents that became one of the building blocks for the DREAM Act. Berkley reflects on her 2012 Senate campaign and what it means to have been a political role model for a generation of Nevadans.

Biography

BERKLEY, Shelley, a Representative from Nevada; born Rochelle Levine in New York, N.Y., January 20, 1951; graduated from Valley High School, Las Vegas, Nev.; B.A., University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 1972; J.D., University of San Diego Law School, San Diego, Calif., 1976; member, Nevada state assembly, 1983–1985; member, Nevada University and Community College System Board of Regents, 1990–1998; elected as a Democrat to the One Hundred Sixth and to the six succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1999–January 3, 2013); was not a candidate for reelection in 2012, but was an unsuccessful candidate for election to the United States Senate.

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Audio

Desire to Serve

The Honorable Shelley Berkley reflects on her early ambitions to be in public service.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Second-Generation American

The Honorable Shelley Berkley shares her family's Jewish history.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Family Support and Elective Office

The Honorable Shelley Berkley recalls a conversation with her mother about running for office and starting a family.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"Vote for My Mom"

The Honorable Shelley Berkley recalls being pregnant while running for the Nevada state assembly and dressing her son in a campaign shirt when he was born.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Decision to Run

The Honorable Shelley Berkley recalls making the decision to run for Congress.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"Crazy Time in Life"

The Honorable Shelley Berkley remembers balancing her family life and congressional duties.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

A Fast-Growing District

The Honorable Shelley Berkley details the challenges of campaigning in a transient district.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Appointed to Ways and Means

The Honorable Shelley Berkley remembers Speaker Nancy Pelosi supporting her desire to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Yucca Mountain and Nuclear Waste

The Honorable Shelley Berkley defends her opposition to storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Citizenship for High Schoolers

The Honorable Shelley Berkley describes a challenge faced by young immigrants in her district.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

"I'm Not Wishy-Washy"

The Honorable Shelley Berkley describes her 2000 campaign button design.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Generational Impact

The Honorable Shelley Berkley reflects on the legacy of her long political career in Nevada.

The Honorable Shelley Berkley, U.S. Representative of Nevada
Interview recorded July 22, 2019 Deed of Gift
Transcript (PDF)

Images & Artifacts

Congresswoman Shelley Berkley
<i>Congresswoman Shelley Berkley</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_berkley_portrait.xml
Representative Shelley Berkley served seven terms in the U.S. House, from 1999 to 2013.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Swearing In, 2001
<i>Swearing In, 2001</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_berkley_swearingin.xml
Representative Berkley posed for a ceremonial swearing-in photo at the start of her second congressional term.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
Prime Minister Netanyahu
<i>Prime Minister Netanyahu</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_berkley_netanyahu.xml
Representative Berkley met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
Women of the House
<i>Women of the House</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_berkley_group.xml
Representative Berkley (back row, second from the right) posed with some of her female House colleagues in March 2003.
Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office
Shelley Berkley Lapel Pin
<i>Shelley Berkley Lapel Pin</i>/tiles/non-collection/o/oh_berkley_button.xml
Representative Berkley describes the design elements of her 2000 campaign button in her oral history, including the rectangular image: "...it had four sides, and I thought that was important because I’m not wishy-washy."
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives