I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and grew up in Red Wing as a constituent of the Minnesota 1st Congressional District. From an early age, I was inspired by the public service of my parents and the election of the late Paul Wellstone, and I knew that I wanted to follow their example and serve my community. I was given that chance after September 11, 2001, when I witnessed the day’s terrorist attacks firsthand as a college student in Washington, D.C.
I committed myself to military service in the coming months, signing up for Army ROTC so I could do my part to protect the nation’s security. From 2005 through 2009, I served as an active duty soldier and completed two combat tours of duty as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In Iraq, I searched for roadside bombs and pursued those threatening Americans and Iraqis alike, earning the Bronze Star for Service, the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and the Ranger Tab.
Even as my military duty was ending, I knew that my dedication to service was only beginning a new chapter. I felt a new calling to serve children at home as a teacher in high needs communities. On the week I left the Army in 2009, I began teaching first graders on Chicago’s south side, followed by two years spent as a middle school math teacher in Gary, Indiana. My experience as a soldier and teacher taught me the enormous impact public policy has on the lives of everyday people, and I became determined to use that wisdom as a policymaker.
For the third time, I asked to serve, moving to Washington, D.C. after graduate school to join the Obama administration, first as a White House Fellow and then as an acting Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon. In that position, I worked tirelessly to ensure that our millions of service members were ready to fight, and that they had the tools to lead a quality life as veterans after their service was over. I worked closely and continually with Congress to make sure new policies and laws made sense and had the best impact possible.
After finishing my service with President Obama, I moved back to Minnesota, the place I have always called home, to write and conduct research on the military. My wife Amy, an elementary school teacher, and I want to raise our two young boys, Conor and Declan, in the same southern Minnesota that instilled the value of service in me.
Today, the issues facing the 1st District are complex and challenging. I want to make sure that no citizens of southern Minnesota are left behind in an evolving economy—rather, that they are offered opportunity through affordable post-secondary education and the development of new job sectors. I want to make sure they’re provided a high quality of life through investments made in infrastructure and affordable, universal health care, and that the most vulnerable among us are cared for in a way that lives up to the compassion of this country. I want to make sure our farmers are supported, that they continue to be our nation’s best, and that they can find new markets for their crops throughout the world.
In foreign and defense policy, I will lead an effort to bring new Congressional oversight to our unending war on terrorism, while ensuring our service members are only sent into harm’s way with a clear mission and when it’s absolutely necessary. What’s more, I will work to help our veterans find empowering opportunities after their military service has concluded.
Our southern Minnesotan communities are at their strongest when we know we all belong, when we serve each other, and when we create opportunities for everyone to thrive. And our country is at its strongest when America can be counted on to lead by example. It is critical that our Members of Congress embody that spirit of leadership, and I plan to do just that as the 1st District’s representative, a responsibility I would consider the honor of a lifetime.