Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle told students, campus and community members Thursday that success doesn’t teach us much.
“I believe our best teacher in life is a crisis,” Wagle said. “That’s when we learn about ourselves. That’s when we learn about others.”
Wagle was at Pittsburg State University to deliver the 11th annual Profiles of Women in Government lecture.
In remarks that she titled “Soaring with Clipped Wings,” Wagle recounted her life and her political journey, describing both the successes and the setbacks. Two of those setbacks were life threatening.
In 1996, when Wagle, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, was 42, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin. She was told it was incurable and advanced. Unexpectedly, without treatment and with only the support of family and her church, the tumors dissolved and Wagle was in remission.
“The experience was very sobering to my family and it made us re-evaluate our values and the direction we were going,” Wagle said.
In 2001, Wagle’s family faced another serious crisis. That year, Wagle’s youngest son, Paul, who was 10, was diagnosed with leukemia. What followed was more than two years of aggressive chemotherapy. A relapse six months after treatment ended required a risky transplant procedure in Texas. There were many serious complications and setbacks over the months and years that followed, but Paul survived and eventually thrived.
“My children are grown. Our family has had our wings clipped numerous times over the years, but the challenges we’ve faced have shaped who we are today,” Wagle said.
Wagle concluded with a challenge to students in the audience.
“Always be an optimist and know that trials are temporary,” she said. “You will be better problem solvers than we are. You will have the opportunity to advance society. Go conquer the world.”
Wagle, who represents the eastern part of Wichita, is the first woman to serve as a top legislative leader in the state. She is serving her fourth term in the Kansas Senate and previously served in the Kansas House. Wagle is a graduate of Wichita State University. She and her husband, Tom, own real estate investments and a real estate management and leasing company. They live in Wichita and together have four children and seven grandchildren.
The Women in Government Lecture Series is sponsored by PSU, the PSU Foundation and the Helen S. Boylan Foundation.
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