Leading By Example: Learning “The Art of Tough” from Barbara Boxer

“One goal of this memoir is to inspire people to fight for change,” Barbara Boxer, former Democratic U.S. Senator from California, writes in her recently-released book. “It takes what I call the Art of Tough and I’ve had to do it all my life.”

The Art of Tough is an empowering memoir that immerses readers in Boxer’s personal life, beliefs and values. Readers get an insight into Boxer’s upbringing as well as her 10 years in the House and 24 in the Senate. In her Boxer notes that many—mostly men—did not believe she would flourish in the political sphere. Nevertheless, she persisted and does not plan on retiring at 76.

Boxer is not afraid to reveal her flaws and let readers know that she makes decisions with her heart and gut. Failure does not daunt this powerful woman. It was Ms. who helped Boxer realize men don’t easily give up when it comes to failing whereas women take it personally—leading her to go door-to-door to speak her mind and persuade others to take action. Readers will be enlightened by Boxer’s touching recollections during her long run as Senator, as well as the people who have influenced and motivated her.

Boxer’s memoir takes an interesting approach by featuring an appendix. The book contains a brief history of the senators who came before her, pieces of her poetry and lyrics (yes, she sings!), and a list of some of her major accomplishments in office—such as efforts to prevent abusive treatment of victims of sexual assault in the military, pass the Violence Against Women Act, increase AIDS funding, honor Malala Yousafzai by expanding scholarships for women in Pakistan and more.

Boxer’s memoir is worth reading because it not only compels us as women to take action over things that matter to us but also teaches us to never give up and feel good about being ourselves. Boxer is the definition of fearless and tough, and she is not afraid to stand up for what’s right. Her book reminds us all that fighting for justice can be achieved as long as we learn the “art of tough.”


Meliss Arteaga studied at California State University Northridge and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in gender and women studies.