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My wife and I recently welcomed our little daughter Lily into the world. She was healthy, curious and perfect. It was the happiest day of my life and also the scariest.
I wasn’t afraid of the stuff they teach you in parenting classes though, I knew we’d figure it out. What terrified me was that the country Lily is coming to doesn’t set her up for success. The fundamental factors for a good life (safety, health, opportunity) are all more complicated than when I was a child.
As I’ve started changing diapers and washing burp 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 yelling at the TV, one corruption scandal after another. I’m sick of this. It’s time we get back to basics and have the government put our kids front and center.
We need a new pro-family agenda based on building a world in which our children can thrive.
First of all, we have to keep our children safe. It is heartbreaking and unacceptable that rising crime rates mean parents are now thinking twice about letting their children play outside after school every day.
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We have to stop the influx of drugs into our community and the violent crime that goes 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 crack down on drug trafficking.
At the same time, we must do better to stop 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 need to keep our children healthy. This means addressing the air they breathe, the water they drink, and their physical and mental health. When our children don’t grow up healthy, it affects every aspect of their future, from their educational achievements to their job prospects. More than half of America’s school children have lead-contaminated water systems, and too many suffer from childhood asthma exacerbated by air pollution.
I had asthma as a child and I don’t want my daughter to have to carry an inhaler to school every day like I did.
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Finally, we must ensure that our children are prepared for stable, well-paying careers and a future they can believe in. And I’m not saying that means they need college (and all the debt that comes with it). In fact I think the opposite.
We need to give children and parents the power to determine their own best path. For many people in my hometown, that means a great skills education that leads to high-paying jobs right out of high school. Our education system needs to be reconfigured to teach real skills again so our kids are prepared for the jobs that really need to be filled.
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This pro-family agenda is not that complicated. All parents want their children 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 the future of our children.
I haven’t been a parent for long, but I can tell you one thing I’ve learned: All the partisan bickering that is so constant in our politics now seems like a lot of noise. Instead of wasting time scoring political points, we’d be much better off learning from parents and spending more time thinking about the world we’re giving our children.