The idea for my book began to take shape three years ago, after the 2010 midterm elections. A new class of Republican Members was being sworn into Congress. Many of them held extreme views and they had radical methods for getting their way: If they didn't get exactly the policies they wanted, they were willing to obstruct government so that no one could move forward to solve major challenges facing the nation.
This was the beginning of a leadership crisis that has only grown in magnitude in the years since. By sheer coincidence, my book will be coming out today (Oct 15), the same week that Congress must forge a compromise, or else face the possibility of triggering another massive recession, with the potential to throw the global financial system into chaos.
I chose the title For the Next Generation because I recognized that if we punt every major challenge, from economic policy to education to immigration, then it will wind up hurting our kids the most. And I've seen firsthand that most people in the country hate it when Congress acts this way, as they should.
We cannot afford to be more interested in winning the politics of today than ensuring a stable and secure tomorrow.
It's not enough to just say that we have to stop governing by crisis and find common ground. We actually need to do it! So in writing this book, I sought to identify specific ways in which politicians can work together on key policy issues and move past this constant state of discord.
Elected officials often talk about the importance of the next generation, but for me this is not an abstract concept. I have school-aged children who I love with all my heart and I am responsible for them -- both as a parent and as a legislator. When I glance into the backseat of my car and at the pictures that surround my desk in Washington, I am reminded that what we accomplish today will impact the next generation on so many critical issues. I am deeply concerned for my kids and the thousands of children whose families I represent in South Florida on so much of what their future depends, from whether they will be able to afford college, or there will be a job for them when they graduate as adults. I want them all to be able to have access to quality, affordable health care and to feel safe in their communities.
Anyone who has become a parent knows that it changes you fundamentally. It brings out the best in us. For me, being a mother has also given me important perspective as I negotiate over legislation that will shape the future of our country -- and our kids.
Moms have to negotiate every day, often with stubborn kids who don't understand why they're being asked to do something they don't want to do. Those negotiating skills are actually a perfect precursor to negotiating with colleagues in Congress! I have a strong suspicion that if more moms were in Congress, there would be a more cooperative environment and more of an emphasis on getting to yes instead of digging in.
In each chapter of my book, I have tackled a major issue that has been allowed to linger too long and must be dealt with now. Not just health-care, immigration and gun safety but finding sustainable energy sources, repairing our crumbling infrastructure and safeguarding our safety net programs so that they can be strong well into the future. To illustrate these issues, I draw upon episodes from my life as a mom and my career as legislator. Over the next few weeks, Huffington Post will be running a series of excerpts from my book to highlight some of the issues I think are most important for our generation to address so that the next generation of Americans is not forced into a crisis of its own.
I hope that the brinkmanship we're seeing in today's Congress will soon be a thing of the past and that we will realize that all of our children, from Democratic and Republican families, will be growing up in the same nation. I encourage voters who are parents to bring that perspective to the issues that face our country, and then cast their ballot for the candidate who is going to work productively toward the nation you want your children to inherit. I challenge readers to take action to effect positive change.
We don't all need to run for office to make a difference -- and politicians certainly don't have the solutions to all of our problems. Public service was the path I chose, but I want readers to follow their own passions, joining whatever cause stirs their emotions the most. And if I can happen to convince a few moms to run for office too, then that would be just fine. We could use a few more mothers in positions of power! I truly believe that the way we should measure our success as a nation is by how well our children are doing. Using that standard, we have a lot of work to do. I hope For the Next Generation is a catalyst to putting us on a pathway towards working together and breaking the vicious cycle of gridlock on which we seem to be stuck.
For the Next Generation is available now on Amazon.com.