If there was ever a time to get involved and make a difference, it is now. In one of his final acts in office, President Obama encouraged people to “grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself,” if they were disappointed in their elected officials.
While we need good, honorable and focused individuals to run for office, we also need passionate and energetic people to step in to lead the nonprofit organizations filling the gaps in services our government no longer provides.
With an open seat in my district, now that Congressman Sander Levin announced his retirement, I was given an opportunity to run for this open seat.
Like many of you, I am frustrated by just sitting on the sidelines, watching and listening to the news around me. Real or fake I am ready to do something about it. Instead of running for political office, I have decided to focus on getting involved in philanthropy, lending my experience to causes I am passionate about children’s health and education, finding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, literacy and filling food deserts among many others. Perhaps I will even try to help corporations find their soul and become more engaged through corporate philanthropy. Brands can do more than government today to solve the problems that exist around us — education reform, workforce training, environmental issues, free trade, gender issues, income inequality, climate change, and sustainability are all issues companies can have an impact on and force government to act upon. I am going to connect companies to causes and communities, for a purpose, profit, and impact.
In addition to running for office, getting to know your elected officials, or voting, together, we can maximize our impact if we get involved in a cause that matters to each of us. Whether it is through fundraising, networking or rolling up your sleeves to pick up the work, there are many opportunities to have a direct and immediate impact on the lives of others — Without politics.
Finding a way to turn her campaign movement into a movement to get people engaged, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is encouraging everyone to get involved around issues you are passionate about or into problems affecting your life that you have the power to change. Clinton said,
· If it does not exist build it.
· If you think someone should do something then you should do it.
· If a problem is affecting your life then change it.
· Stop keeping your opinion to yourself — speak out on social media and in the media.
We have the power to change. We just need to stop talking about it and start doing it. By getting involved we will make a difference and will set a new standard in public engagement and community involvement.
The standard, however, should not be politics. It should be the community and it should be through philanthropy. The average Congressional seat costs $1.5M. Imagine what you can do if each campaign raised $1.5 and donated it all to a charity. There are 435 House Seats. If the Democratic and Republican nominee each raised $1.5M and donated their funds, that would bring a total of $1.3B to support filling a void left by government.
While rich with a great family, I am part of America’s middle class — Where I want to and need to work to support my family. To make sure they have food on the table, a warm and safe place to sleep at night, a strong education and an even stronger support network around them. After I can guarantee that, my wife and I can make sure our children have a chance to experience the things they enjoy and help them discover their true potential. Then we shift our focus to the community around us and work together to support others where we can. In getting involved locally, I am able to make a difference in my community, together as a family. That is where I can make the greatest impact. Starting with my children and moving forward to the community around me.
I am frustrated when politics gets in the way of policy. When people in positions of influence lose focus and forget why they wanted to get involved in public service. To help people in influential positions remain focused, I have built my career around starting conversations. No matter how hard the issues are, we need to start conversations about issues that matter to us. It should not matter if the person we are talking to agrees with us or not. If we don’t start the conversation we will never be able to find consensus out of chaos.
Once we start the conversation we are bound to find something that we can agree on. Whether you bond with someone over a policy issue, yesterday’s football game or the weather, we can find something to start the conversation and open the door to a deeper discussion over what matters. After all, there is always a path forward and I work to help others get on the same path.
In starting the conversation, I am not the expert. I am, however, good at keeping people focused on their goals and helping them reach an outcome they could be happy about. Professionally, it is my responsibility to keep everyone focused. I do this by listening and being engaged in the conversation we started.
Running for office, however, takes you away from your family and politics kick you off the same path. As a dad and husband, I want to be near and with my family, and I want to provide them with every opportunity to live a long life, enriched with family, culture, and community. I equally enjoy being near my wife. Together we work hard on focusing on our children. While we want to give them everything, we live within our means, do not spend what we don’t have, and make the most of everything we do have.
As an individual, I am frustrated by the world around me. I am disappointed that we still live in a world where people are suffering as a result of bad people craving power and somehow influencing others to support them. I am concerned that we live in a world, full of technological advances to enhance our lives but technology and data that can destroy our lives. As a private citizen, I will work through philanthropy to make a larger impact in the world around me. While I will support people running for political office, for now, I will make my impact by rolling up my sleeves, giving up some time and getting involved in the community. I hope you will join me!