By: Stacy M. Brown / NNPA

A distinguished figure rises above the ranks in the heart of a bustling and very divided United States Congress. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), unanimously elected as House Democratic Leader in January 2023, occupies a unique place in American political history.
As the highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives and the first person of color to lead a major party in the U.S. Congress, Jeffries has brought a fresh and vital perspective to the nation’s political landscape.
A Dynamic Path to Leadership
Unwavering dedication and a steady commitment to his constituents have been hallmarks of Jeffries’ journey to this crucial position. Before becoming the House Democratic Leader, he held positions as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Whip of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
He was crucial in shaping the successful “For The People” agenda, which played a key role in the Democratic Party’s victory in the 2018 midterm election and their regaining of the House. However, his role as an Impeachment Manager during the historic first impeachment of President Donald Trump propelled him into the national spotlight. Jeffries made history as the first African American man to hold such a position.
By paying homage to his roots in Brooklyn, he demonstrated both his adeptness in politics and his cultural significance. Jeffries famously quoted the late rapper, The Notorious B.I.G., to argue against Trump.
During Trump’s second impeachment hearing, he clearly stated that he abused his power and tried to hide it. “And we are here, sir, to follow the facts, follow the law, be guided by the Constitution, and present the truth to the American people. That is why we are here. And if you don’t know, now you know,” Jeffries declared—the last bit being a lyric from the Biggie song, “Juicy.”
A Champion for Safer Communities and Affordable Housing
Jeffries persists as a tireless advocate for policies that impact everyday Americans. His commitment to building safer communities, ensuring affordable housing, and reducing costs for American families has been unwavering. During the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, Jeffries was pivotal in guiding Central and South Brooklyn toward recovery. He played a crucial role in passing important laws like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. These laws seek to create jobs and enhance the lives of everyday people.
However, according to colleagues, Jeffries’ exceptional ability to listen sets him apart as a true leader. From across the political spectrum, lawmakers consistently highlight his ability to understand the diverse perspectives within the Democratic Party.
Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, highlighted that Jeffries is effective because he devotes considerable time to listening to members’ perspectives, their concerns, and the feedback from their constituents. Even Republicans, like Congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana, have praised Jeffries for being more engaging and creating an environment that values and listens to diverse voices.
A Bridge Between Generations
Jeffries also straddles the generational divide. Many new members of Congress see Jeffries as a colleague rather than a figure of authority, which makes him more relatable and approachable than previous leaders. Rep. Joe Morelle of New York contrasts the leadership styles of Jeffries and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, noting that Jeffries is more relatable to their generation compared to the previous era, where Pelosi was seen as being on a pedestal.
Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks, a close ally of Jeffries, describes him as “the perfect bridge” between generations. He’s someone who can seamlessly discuss the music of both “Biggie Smalls and Gladys Knight.”
A Legislator of Impact
Jeffries’ legislative track record reflects his commitment to making meaningful federal laws and program changes. Bills like the FIRST STEP Act and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act show his commitment to social and economic justice, as his colleagues have noted.
He has played a significant role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, securing funding for state and local governments, and advocating for emergency unemployment benefits. As the highest-ranking House Democrat, many see Jeffries as a leader for these times. His focus on unity, listening to diverse perspectives, and championing policies that positively impact everyday Americans make him a political force. He remains committed to winning back the House while being a bridge builder.
“Hakeem Jeffries and the leadership know that the ultimate benchmark is winning and that we have to take back the House,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said earlier this year. “That ultimately is the yardstick for judging leadership in the minority.”