My Turn: Looking for a new era of ethical leadership
Growing up working on farms in Iowa, and throughout my 26-year military career, I learned that leaders are defined by what we do and how we do it. We are honor-bound to set an example for others, advance the priorities of those who depend on us, and to understand that partisan rhetoric is no substitute for sound judgment and real results.
The recent scandals plaguing Washington have shown an appalling lack of leadership at a time we need it the most. The FBI raids on the homes and businesses of members of Congress, the Walter Reed fiasco, and many others transcend ideological differences between right and left. We’re talking about right and wrong.
All of us bear the cost. While our elected officials scramble to keep their jobs, the war in Iraq continues to claim American lives and billions of tax dollars. Osama bin Laden is still at large. Gas prices will soon reach $4 a gallon. Pollution and global warming threaten our very way of life and our dependence on foreign oil is endangering our economy and security.
Every day, I hear from citizens of all political stripes who want to move beyond the era of scandal-ridden, pay-to-play politics, and toward a fresh start, a hopeful future, and real solutions to the problems we face in the fourth district and across the country. I agree. So I’m devoting the remainder of this column to the challenges that I believe we can overcome together, when this sad era of corruption and scandal finally comes to a close.
Like most Americans, military leaders, and the Iraq Study Group, I believe open-ended involvement in Iraq’s civil war is preventing us from defeating the real enemy – al-Qaida. We need to work in a bi-partisan fashion to bring our heroic troops home from Iraq, and launch a diplomatic surge to restore America’s credibility around the world. Then and only then will we be able to reunite our country and the international community around the most pressing cause of our time, and redeploy our forces to the real frontlines in the war on terror.
Unfortunately, by paying record prices for gas, we are helping to fund the very people who are trying to hurt us. That’s why America can and must commit to a program to achieve energy independence in 10 years. And if Brazil can do it, so can the U.S.
Iraq and Afghanistan have left an already under-resourced Veterans Affairs in a state of crisis. As a veteran, I understand that providing quality health care and support services to more than 1.6 million new veterans requires more than better government – it requires each of us to lead by example. We must fully fund the VA Health system, invest more in access as well as aftercare, and ask every American to put their money where their mouth is on troop support. That’s why I’m donating a percentage of my campaign funds to support the vital work of the non-profit, community-based veterans service providers who fill in the gaps.
We face many other challenges. The world’s top scientists have concluded that human caused global warming is reaching a critical mass. Our national debt has ballooned and the price of health care, housing and a college education are increasing at a much faster rate than wages or benefits. Confronting these challenges is not a matter of new taxes – it’s a matter of new priorities and ethical leadership.
There are so many things that make our country great. Here in the 4th District, I see good people who work hard, play by the rules, raise their families and serve their country. My wife and I understand those values, having raised our two children here, and just watched our son deploy to his fourth rotation in Iraq. In time, the government’s investigations will conclude, and whatever the outcome, there will be lessons to learn, questions to ask, wounds to heal, and problems to solve.
I hope that every single person who lives in this district, regardless of political persuasion, is part of that dialogue. Only then, can we be confident that we have ushered in a new era of leadership that is reflective of our priorities and worthy of our trust.
Charlie Brown, Lt. Col. retired, spent 26 years in the U.S. Air Force as a rescue helicopter and reconnaissance pilot. He is a credentialed California teacher and was the Democratic Nominee for Congress in California’s 4th District in 2006.
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