By REP. TULSI GABBARD
(Editor’s note: Former Honolulu City Councilmember Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, was elected in November to represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, which covers part of Oahu and all of the state’s other islands. She replaces Mazie Hirono, who was elected to the Senate.)
The opening of the 113th Congress comes at a time of change and transition for our state, with many challenges facing our country.
We have just said aloha to our iconic American hero, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye — a man whose legacy will live far beyond his life. We have said mahalo nui loa to our retiring senator, Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii’s own “Ambassador of Aloha” and great servant-leader.
These two Hawaii leaders have set the standard of public service high and inspired us all through their lives to do our best to live aloha, protect and celebrate the diversity of Hawaii, and always do what is pono. As a new member of Congress, I will work every day to live up to the example they set.
At the core of the challenges we face, we see the great necessity for servant-leaders to stand up, set aside differences and work together for the good of the people. The aloha spirit that guides me, and the experiences I value most, including founding an environmental nonprofit, owning a small business, and serving on two Middle East deployments with the Hawaii National Guard, have taught me the importance of service and finding common ground in order to work toward true progress and solutions.
My highest priority as your new member of Congress is to provide you with the highest level of service, act on the priorities I outlined during the campaign, and continue the conversations that we have started over the last several months. I work for you. You can always count on my door being open.
We will continue our proactive outreach efforts, and will have a member of my team assigned to each county to provide access and service to you. We will also maximize technology and social media to keep you updated on what’s happening in Congress, and to hear your thoughts, insights and ideas on how we can serve Hawaii and our country better.
Keeping these lines of communication open and constant will be invaluable as we look to tackle issues that directly impact middle-class families and our kupuna living on fixed incomes. The recent “fiscal cliff” bill that passed was a very small step toward finding long-term solutions, by permanently extending middle-class tax cuts. There is so much more to be done. However, these last-minute, late-night deals must not become our standard of governance. Taxpayers should not have to face the uncertainty that comes with these 11th-hour compromises.
As a twice-deployed combat veteran, I know the cost of war, the sacrifices our service members make, and the difficulties they face upon reentering civilian life.
In 2013, the war in Afghanistan will reach its 12th year. I will continue to push for a safe and immediate withdrawal of our troops in Afghanistan, and invest here at home.
I will work hard to make sure that our veterans receive the respect, service and care they deserve, by making sure they have access to job opportunities, providing medical care for wounded warriors, and bringing a fresh focus on the unique needs of the growing number of female veterans.
Tammy Duckworth and I are the first female combat veterans ever elected to Congress in our nation’s history. Never before has this constituency of selfless women heroes had a voice or representation in Congress, and I look forward to bringing attention and service to the unique challenges, sacrifices and opportunities they bring.
By working with Hawaii’s own Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, Congresswoman Duckworth and others, we will find solutions to these ongoing challenges.
Given Hawaii’s location and crucial international ports, my service on the House Homeland Security Committee will enable me to bring into focus the impact our nation’s homeland security policies have on the islands. By drawing on my experience leading counterterrorism training during my deployment to Kuwait, I will bring unique insights and a first-hand perspective.
As the U.S. maintains and bolsters its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, I want to ensure Hawaii benefits from, and provides leadership in, this new focus in defense, economic and educational exchange, and foreign policy.
Finally, I remain very committed to taking common-sense steps to promote a friendlier small-business environment in Hawaii and, in turn, create more jobs.
Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy, and must be supported and encouraged to grow. Our tourism industry supports many of these small businesses. In turn, conservation of our land, the ocean and its creatures is integral to the preservation of our culture and economy. I remain committed to protecting our precious home and environment.
I look forward to visiting with you soon, hearing from you, and serving you as we head into 2013.
This article appeared in The Star-Advertiser on Jan. 6.