Prior to President Trump’s announcement that he was rescinding a policy that had let transgenger students across the country use school bathrooms of their choice, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos discussed what was about to happen with someone who represents gay and transgender employees at the department.
DeVos reportedly was against the move and had expressed this to the president, but she stated her resistance to the policy change only in private. In public, she stood with the president, both figuratively and literally. She was there with him when he made the announcement. Later, during a speech she made to the Conservative Political Action Conference, she denounced the Obama-era policy as being an example of overreach during the Obama years.
People who know DeVos — during her time as an advocate for both school vouchers and charter schools — insist that the former chairperson of the Michigan Republican Party will not simply play the role of someone who is weak and pliable. They say that — while she is gracious, especially in public — that she is a fighter as well. In the past, they say, she used her family’s significant wealth to help friends and to hurt enemies. She also used her money to help pass legislation that she supported, and to oust those who got in the way of such legislation.
Mike Cox, who is a former Michigan attorney general and a Republican, said that DeVos was able to instill fear in many people, and not just because of all her money. He says that, when she set her mind on accomplishing something, she was determined to see it through.
Some say that — when it came to the transgender student policy — DeVos’ lack of government experience, along with her only brief history with the president — worked toward her disadvantage in the battle with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who strongly favored eliminating the policy and who has many decades of Washington experience. But people say that, in the future, she will eventually learn how to get her way, and do so.
Randi Weingarten, who is the president of the American Federation of Teachers and who is typically an ally of Democrats — says that it can be very easy to underestimate DeVos. But Weingarten adds that this is a mistake and that DeVos is someone who could be dangerous.
DeVos, who is 59 years old, was raised in the western part of Michigan, in a town called Holland. Her father Edgar Prince was the founder of a billion-dollar auto parts company, and her brother Erik Prince founded and ran Blackwater, which has provided private security for Americans working in Afghanistan and Irag. Dick DeVos, who is her husband, comes from an even richer family. His father founded Amway.
Follow Betsy DeVos on twitter.