Op-Ed: Pride, Pomp and Circumstance, and Opportunity

As summer is set to begin and we take time to remember all those who died in service to our country on Memorial Day, an annual tradition will unfold all across Lancaster County – the graduation of students from our high schools and colleges.

Graduation is a special time because it is the culmination of many years of hard work and learning. It represents a genuine accomplishment for our young people, and they deserve to be celebrated and cheered by their family and friends for their determination to achieve earned success.

Commencement speakers will welcome new graduates into their next phase of life with a heavy dose of advice for finding their passions, chasing success, and thriving in the real world. Students will be offered inspirational words, life lessons and suggestions, and admonitions about having the right priorities and values to tackle the next phase of their lives.

Certainly, these moments are founded in true optimism – that the best in life remains to be discovered, experienced and enjoyed. Each young person’s adult story is yet to be written, their contributions to our society yet to be realized, and their legacy still undetermined. The promise of a future filled with happiness and opportunity awaits.

Like many people, I find graduation to be inspiring.

It serves as a solemn reminder as to how awesome my responsibilities as a State Senator really are. For example, the policies our General Assembly promotes and the laws that we enact will have a significant impact on how much opportunity our graduates today will have as they transition to the leaders of tomorrow.

This is why, since being elected, I have consistently supported and sponsored legislation that advocates for an “opportunity society” where everyone, regardless of their station in life, has a chance to succeed.

Statistically it is proven – and intuitively we know – that opportunity can be created for people by enacting policies that support strong families, highly effective schools, vibrant communities and by having a working economy that is driven by the free market.

Taken together, policy that supports these four components can make all the difference for everyone, including this year’s graduates. They are the foundation of what makes America so wonderfully unique and are the cornerstones of what we have traditionally termed the, “American Dream.”

Strong families are the bedrock of our culture and are the basic unit of society. The bonds between spouses as well as parents and children are so firmly planted in history and our experience that we sometimes take their importance for granted. Research has definitively concluded that there is no replacement for the way the family institution creates and develops human relationships.

Highly effective schools are another key to creating opportunity.

In addition to inspiring our children to explore the joy of learning, developing critical thinking skills, and providing a safe place for them to mature during adolescence, our teachers are preparing our young people to meet the ever-increasing challenges they will face during their lifetimes. The success of our schools in achieving this important mission cannot be overstated.

Just as strong families and highly effective schools help create an “opportunity society,” so do vibrant communities.

Communities can thrive when they maintain reasonable taxes, are hosts to small and other businesses, have recreational opportunities, appropriately balance growth demands, foster volunteerism and welcome input from their residents and visitors. When people in a local area truly connect, they are a powerful force that can create support structures to meet challenges and collectively manage their needs and desires for themselves and their neighbors.

Finally, the fourth building block to an “opportunity society” is a working economy driven by the free market.

As many people have unfortunately become well aware of during the last several years, a dysfunctional, stagnant economy can be a frustrating barrier to the ability to succeed.

High unemployment and underemployment, in addition to sluggish wage growth, places stress on individuals and families, denies the dignity of work to those that seek it, results in additional poverty, adds unnecessary costs to taxpayers, and diminishes the power of American entrepreneurship and ingenuity.

Earned prosperity cannot happen without a robust economy, which demands that policy and lawmakers properly manage those things which can help or hurt growth, including regulations and other rules imposed on business and industry.

So, as we memorialize those that have given their last full measure for our freedom by celebrating those sacrifices on Memorial Day, we also are drawn to a future – hopefully filled with opportunity – for our graduates who deserve to be congratulated on their accomplishments.

As your Senator, I promise never to forget those that have sacrificed so much which is why I fight so hard for a society where everyone, including this year’s graduates, can experience earned success.