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My wife and I recently welcomed our baby daughter Lily into the world. She was healthy, curious, and perfect. It was both the happiest day of my life and also the scariest.
I wasn’t scared of the stuff they teach you in parenting classes though, I knew we’d figure that out. What terrified me was that the country Lily is coming into is not setting her up for success. The foundational factors for a good life – safety, health, opportunity – all are more complicated than when I was growing up.
As I got into the swing of changing diapers and washing burping cloths, I’ve also focused on using all the power I have as an elected official to move the needle back in the right direction.
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Our government has lost sight of what matters. Culture wars, pundits screaming on TV, one corruption scandal after another. I’m sick of it. It’s time we get back to basics and make the government put our kids front and center.
We need a new pro-family agenda based on building a world our kids can thrive in.
First up, we have to keep our kids safe. It’s heartbreaking and unacceptable that rising crime rates mean parents are now thinking twice about letting their kids play outside after school each day.
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We have to stop the influx of drugs coming into our community and the violent crime that comes along with it. Congress needs to direct more resources to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program so our police and sheriffs can work together to crush drug trafficking.
At the same time, we have to get better at stopping violence before it even starts, by expanding programs that identify at-risk youth and push them in the right direction.
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Next, we have to keep our kids healthy. This means addressing the air they breathe, the water they drink, and their physical and mental health. When our kids do not grow up healthy, that impacts every aspect of their futures from their educational achievements to their job prospects. More than half of American school kids are served by water systems contaminated by lead, and far too many suffer from child asthma exacerbated by air pollution.
I had asthma growing up and I do not want my daughter to have to bring an inhaler every day to school like I did.
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Finally, we need to make sure our kids are set up for good-paying, stable careers and a future they can believe in. And I’m not saying that means they need college (and all the debt that brings). In fact I think the opposite.
We need to give kids and parents the power to determine their own best path. For many people in my hometown that means a great skills education leading to great paying jobs right out of high school. Our education system needs to be re-wired to teach real skills again so our kids are prepared for the jobs that actually need filling.
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This pro-family agenda isn’t that complicated. All parents want their kids to be safe, have clean air and water, and be set up for success. But you could listen forever and not hear any of our leaders focused on our children’s future.
I haven’t been a dad for too long, but I can tell you one thing I’ve learned – all the partisan bickering that’s so constant in our politics now seems like so much noise. Instead of wasting time scoring political points, we’d be much better off if we learned from parents and spent more time thinking about the world we will give our kids.