By Joe Sestak
This week I officially launched my campaign for the United States Senate, driven by the strong conviction that, when we work together, we can help restore the American Dream for all.
For too long, ideology has paralyzed our government, and “trust deficit” is the phrase I use to describe the state of our union. I am entering this race because I want to change that, and we must start by holding our leaders, of both parties, accountable for their actions.
For the next few weeks, I will cross Pennsylvania on foot – all 422 miles, from New Jersey to the border with Ohio – to demonstrate that I intend to be a different kind of Senator, one who will walk alongside and be a reliable advocate for all communities.
As the precocious narrator in To Kill a Mockingbird reminds us – you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. So in that spirit, I want to earn the trust of Pennsylvanians – one step at a time.
We Pennsylvanians are rightly proud of our unique place in American history. For it was here, over two centuries ago, that our founders aspired toward a more perfect union – one that promises to promote the general welfare for all and secure the blessings of liberty for each.
These twin constitutional pillars have given us a practical pathway to govern, unlocking the talents of rugged individuals while ensuring shared prosperity for the common good. They have prodded us to strike that pragmatic balance to make government work for the people. And when we have succeeded in that, our nation has achieved great things as one.
Today, as we face an increasingly competitive global economy, we must do no less.
My views on leadership were formed, for the most part, during my 31-year career in the United States Navy, where I eventually reached the rank of a three-star Admiral. I saw how American leadership is most effective when it embraces and empowers the dual tenets of our unique national character: rugged individualism in pursuit of the common mission.
To ensure individual achievement, we provided every sailor career-long training and education, enabling each of them to contribute fully to our general overall military readiness. At the same time, we retained our sailors’ commitment because each had the opportunity to achieve individually the skills he or she valued as their personal contribution.
We, in other words, created ladders of opportunity, and our people were brave enough to climb them on their own. No doubt about it, I could not have successfully commanded the 15,000-sailor USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier Battle Group if the military did not prepare and empower our people to serve a collective purpose.
It is an approach that brings unity to a mission, not divisiveness.
The success of our nation should be no different. Americans want a government that gives them the opportunity to apply their innate abilities, intellect, ambition, and persistence for their individual achievement, while ensuring a shared investment from our collective resources so that we all might benefit.
They want leaders who will lead the country based on facts and analysis, plot a course of action, and be held accountable for the results. Americans just want an effective government to do its job well.
And so –
Knowing that 28 million small businesses create 70 percent of all new jobs – shouldn’t we work together to ease their access to loans, lessen burdensome regulations, and keep corporate power in check?
Knowing that 66,000 of our bridges are structurally deficient, and that less than 10 percent of American households have access to high-speed optical fiber lines – shouldn’t Congress stop bickering and start funding a world-class infrastructure and broadband system so we can thrive among all nations?
Knowing that the $1.2 trillion in student loans account for more debt than auto loans and credit cards – shouldn’t we act now to address both sides of the college affordability equation by broadening access to federal aid (a program President Eisenhower started) while holding colleges accountable for skyrocketing costs?
Knowing that American workers and small businesses face stiff competition in the global marketplace – shouldn’t we work together to strengthen institutions, such as the Export-Import Bank, to help them excel around the world?
These are not abstract, philosophical questions; these are real, immediate challenges that people across our state confront every day. So this month, as I cross Pennsylvania on foot, I want to earn your trust and show that I have what it takes to help us confront these issues.
Joe Sestak is a former Navy admiral and U.S. congressman (PA-07). He is presently running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.