Over the first six months of my term, my staff and I visited all 79 towns of the 5th Congressional District, concluding our tour of businesses this week in the towns of Liberty and Hope.
As we celebrate Independence Day, it is the ideals of liberty and hope that speak to the core of who we are as a nation.
I’m honored to serve North Jersey in the U.S. House of Representatives. In this role, I’ve been lucky enough to see the best of New Jersey and the best of the United States: brave law enforcement officers and service members putting themselves in harm’s way to keep our families safe; communities coming together to support innovative small businesses and important causes; moms and dads celebrating milestones like graduations and retirements; citizens connecting with their elected officials and making their voices heard.
Even with all the challenges we face – and trust me, I know that list runs long – we live in the greatest country in the world.
My grandparents immigrated here from Russia and Germany; my wife’s grandparents came to the States after surviving the Holocaust. Our families weren’t here that fateful day 241 years ago when a brave group of colonists declared themselves to be independent and truths to be self-evident. Yet the promises contained in that declaration ring through our family – and all our families – to this day: that America remains the land of opportunity.
I’m the son of a man who started a small business in the basement of his house. He has lived the American dream. Like me, he still believes deeply in that dream – that we all are created equal, endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Because of the wisdom and forethought of those Founders who took a stand in Philadelphia, I’m still optimistic that America’s best days lie ahead. Our Founders never thought running our country would be easy. After all, the preamble of our Constitution opens with “in order to form a more perfect Union.” In other words, America would be a work in progress. They designed it that way. Our Founders feared that, in the wrong moment, their work building the greatest democracy in history could be undone.
So they intentionally put a series of checks and balances in our Constitution, giving distinct roles to Congress and the president, including making it difficult to pass legislation. They were thinking about the long game. After all, they had fought hard risking their liberty and lives for America’s freedom from an oppressive and autocratic England; they didn’t want the same outcome here.
My point is that what we are living through now may be difficult, but it’s not the first time. We’ve had plenty of ups and downs in our nation’s history. Fortunately, America’s trend line has consistently pointed upward, and even in today’s environment that’s still the case.
There’s even the hit Broadway musical featuring our nation’s first Treasury secretary, who was shot and killed by the sitting vice president in a duel here in the Garden State that makes our current cable news duels seem tame by comparison.
While we’ve always had different points of view, there is a real difference between disagreeing on policy and pure obstructionism. There is a need to reach back to the collective good that we should be rowing together instead of fighting against one another.
Moving past the partisan arguments will take a commitment from all of us to actually reach across the lines that divide us and start talking with – rather than at – each other.
That’s what I’m trying to do in Congress. I am proud to serve as the co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 21 Democrats and 21 Republicans who come together on a regular basis to look for areas of common ground and get things done. There are some areas where we may not ever agree, but on issues like cutting taxes, fixing our roads and bridges, and standing up for our veterans and first responders, there’s plenty of room to work together. After all, a broken bridge isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue; veterans live in rural and urban areas; and we all know we pay too much in taxes. These are just plain good for America issues.
I will continue to look for opportunities to reach across the aisle to get things done. This Independence Day, I ask you to join me. Reach out to your friends and neighbors, even those with whom you think you have little in common. Because we all share one important thing in common: We are American. And we all believe in liberty and hope.