I don’t aspire to leadership. That might sound weird coming from a guy running for Congress, but I believe the most effective leaders organically rise to the occasion; they don’t seek it out. The best leaders have solutions to some of the greatest problems their communities are facing in that moment.
Too often, however, many political leaders seek first the power associated with leadership without much consideration for the responsibility that accompanies it. For that reason, we have elected officials who are skilled at achieving power but who are not actually equipped to lead.
When I decided to leave journalism to pursue politics, it was because I believed the values instilled in me from my Christian upbringing and as a journalist over the last 10 years converged to meet this moment. A moment fraught with distrust, misunderstanding and fear.
Here’s a quick glimpse into those values:
- Truth. This is first and foremost. Everything else flows from truth. We spend much of our lives trying to learn about the world and make sense of things we don’t understand. Truth is necessary for truly knowing one another. Anything communicated that is untrue contributes to confusion, conflict and chaos. Truth, especially when spoken out of love, produces clarity and order.
- Integrity. Because I value truth, I say what I mean and I mean what I say. If I hold anyone to a certain standard, it’s because I’ve first lived that standard in my own life. And I usually arrived at that standard out of some hard lessons learned. And when I learn those hard lessons, I’m candid about what they were and anyone who might have been hurt in the process. Life requires so much energy on its own without having to waste it covering up lies or deceit. As William Barclay said: “Blessed is the man who has nothing to hide.”
- Duty. I was fortunate to grow up in a family that modeled dutifulness from both my parents and my grandparents. When you come from a family of 8 that isn’t wealthy by any means, it requires a lot of sacrifice from parents to make sure the children’s needs are met. And that’s doubly true as my mom stayed home to homeschool us and care for three of my special needs siblings (something she still does as their primary caretaker). My dad worked two jobs to make ends meet, moonlighting as a janitor or substitute teaching to complement his salary as a graphic artist for the phone book company. And my maternal grandfather would drop anything to come bail you out on the side of the road if you experienced car trouble. Outside of work, my grandfather raised chickens and harvested honey—”anything to make a buck,” he once told me. That was his duty speaking; he had a family to care for. And that required doing whatever he could in order to provide for them.
But outside of duty to family, I was taught we have a duty to our neighbors. I remember times when my mom created a care package for a woman she saw living under a nearby bridge, or cover the grocery bill for a woman whose card was declined. I also never saw my mom throw anything out. Any gently used clothes or furniture were donated to the local Salvation Army for others in need. When it came time to vote for the proposed Cowboys stadium in Arlington, my grandmother voted “yes” and said it would be worth the raised taxes if it meant producing more jobs for folks in our community. Compassion precedes duty.
So, that’s how a guy who doesn’t aspire to leadership ends up running for Congress. I see the problems in my community, state and country and have a sense of duty to step up where I feel I can contribute solutions.