Last Thursday, I had the privilege of hosting the American Legion “Boys State” at the Capitol in Frankfort. Every year, rising high school seniors from all across Kentucky spend a week learning about the workings of state government and how to exercise leadership in a practical way. One of the largest Boys State classes in years, this group also included five participants from the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba (yes, there is more than just a prison there). And, when they visited Frankfort, four young ladies from Guantanamo who are attending Girls State also accompanied them.
I spent time emphasizing the opportunities that await these outstanding young men and women who will soon step into leadership roles in our society. As they grapple with college and career options over the next year, all the rights they look forward to exercising very soon as full-fledged adults come with corresponding responsibilities.
One day prior to meeting with the Boys State group, I addressed the Military Officers Association of America in Louisville. Reflecting on 32 years in the military and 10 years in the legislature, I highlighted some obvious contrasts. The American military is held in such high esteem because it emphasizes integrity, service, and excellence. Men and women serving in uniform share a common allegiance to the country and the Constitution and are single-minded in their focus on mission accomplishment. They enjoy a lasting camaraderie with fellow servicemen and women devoted to the same ideals, who serve for a cause greater than themselves individually. And, they pointedly avoid individual or “party” agendas.
During the week of Memorial Day, my family was in Colorado Springs to witness my son’s graduation from the Air Force Academy. He honored me by requesting that I commission him as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force. I watched as the President of the United States put aside politics for a brief hour and purposed to inspire this newest generation of America’s Air Force officers. (The President’s willingness to stand in the hot Colorado sun for over an hour to salute and shake the hand of all 820+ graduates was most impressive.) And two days later, my entire family rejoiced as my son married a beautiful young lady.
As great a blessing as it was to participate in all those events, I was most encouraged to see the caliber of young men and women who continue to step forward to serve us all. Hailing from every corner of America and as diverse as our national population, these young officers are eager and ready to lead and serve. Similarly, a new generation of leaders is beginning to stream into Frankfort. Many, like Chad Meredith, set aside private careers to invest in our Commonwealth. In both elected and unelected positions, they gladly benefit from the wisdom of those who have gone before while avoiding the destructive trap of partisan pettiness.
Over the course of this year, America will endure a presidential election unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes. The stakes are incredibly high, with threats multiplying around the world and the make-up of the Supreme Court hanging in the balance. It appears that the nominees will inundate the nation with dramatically opposing philosophies of government. Now is the time for American patriots here in Kentucky to advocate for policies that will restore our greatness.
One state committee that prioritizes results over partisanship is the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Safety Committee where I have the privilege of serving as a Vice Chair. This year we helped formulate policies to protect and support our Kentucky State Police, motivated by a determination to honor the sacrifice of Trooper Joseph Ponder. This committee was also instrumental in securing a significant pay raise that will benefit every trooper and aid in recruiting and retention. We also passed House Bill 256, a bill I crafted to offer all military Reservists in-state tuition. Military advocates at Fort Knox and Fort Campbell assure us that this will be a great investment in the Reservists stationed in Kentucky at very little real cost to the Commonwealth. Like most new statutes, this law will go into effect in mid-July. Finally, this committee provides oversight of our widely acclaimed Veterans Nursing Homes in Kentucky—including the newest one that will open later this year in Hardin County. These successes need to be multiplied throughout state government.
Given the number of veterans who call the 18th District home; given their commitment to a way of life that was built around duty, honor, and country; given the tremendous blessings our community continues to enjoy (from a low cost of living to low crime rates to a new Veterans Nursing home); and given the bountiful natural and human resources we are blessed with here in Kentucky—let’s determine to focus on those things which unite us and will inspire and encourage the generation that is about to rise up to lead our society. If we stand united in that manner, we will overcome every challenge, meet every adversity, and continue to enjoy the blessings of Heaven.