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America Needs Millennials to Answer the Call to Public Service

I know that many people are fed up with the failures of our governments and our politicians.  We face so many problems today and our system seems incapable of solutions.  I understand this frustration.  I ran for Congress to get things done, but Washington is often tied up in worthless bickering.  Even the simplest thing, such as naming a post office after a fallen hero, got stalled for half a year in the House.  But that post office finally got named for Chicago Fire Captain Herbie Johnson.  And at the end of the last Congress, I got two other bills signed into law after five years of work.  Some things – but not nearly enough – are getting done, but at too slow of a pace. 

This era of gridlock will end.  But what concerns me is that the current state of our system is driving many good people out of public service.  I have seen it happen in Congress.  But what is even more concerning to me is that so many young people have lost faith in public service.  They don't see government and politics as worthwhile endeavors to be involved in, so they don’t ever consider public service.  The problem is that if we don't have talented people who want to be involved in policy making and implementation, our future will be bleak. 

I'm not saying that millennials don't care about the world and those around them.  Many are doing volunteer work and others are pursuing a career working for non-governmental organizations who are making a positive difference in the world.  I see this every year as I travel around my district and when I nominate high school seniors for our nation’s service academies. 

I am not arguing for big government, but government and politics will always play a very significant role in shaping the lives of the people of this nation, and without good people in public service, we will all be worse off.  Every day I am reminded of how important it is to have smart, knowledgeable, hard-working staff helping me make a difference as a representative.

Almost fifty-five years ago in his Inaugural Address, John F. Kennedy told Americans, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  He inspired the nation, especially young people, to embrace public service.  Our country faces many problems today that are going to require smart solutions, and some of these are going to require the American people acting through their governments to solve.  It is time for millennials to embrace these challenges. 

Ironically, as Donald Trump continues to lead in the polls largely on his criticism of the failures of politicians and government, he is also making an argument that our system isn’t hopelessly broken.  Trump says he can make government work for the American people.  He says that through his leadership and by bringing good people into government he will “make America great again.”  Whatever you think about Trump, he is right that good people can make a difference.  And it is going to be up to millennials to lead.