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The Obama-Biden Administration: Bringing Back an Era of Dignity and Respect
I had the honor and privilege of working for the Obama-Biden administration for 8 years, as the head of the
United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) in Nevada. I learned many things during this time – about rural communities, Tribal challenges, farming needs and more. But my biggest takeaway from that era is the profound impact that the Obama-Biden culture and way of doing business had on the agency: and that was simply to treat everyone with dignity and respect.
This especially strikes me today as something so important, in fact critical, to an effective government. It bears repeating how far we’ve moved away from this in just 3 years under President Trump. His culture is one of cruelty, humiliation and ridicule, and a complete lack of trust, and lack of empathy. What makes this even more shocking is the radio silence from Republicans in Congress, including my opponent and our sitting Representative Mark Amodei, essentially allowing our American culture to fall into a dark abyss.
When I first joined the FSA, I was so excited and felt like my life had come full circle, as a farm boy from a small rural community going to Washington to work with farms. I quickly learned that the agency had a history of discriminatory behavior. But it was even more quickly evident that the Obama-Biden culture of dignity and respect was expected to trickle down into all aspects of government work.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak took the Administration’s lead and did just this, first with talk about transforming the culture of agency – from the past discrimination to one of dignity and respect - and then putting it into action. This was a turning point in my life. It opened my eyes to the offenses that happen in everyday America, and helped me to understand every individual’s role in working towards a more equitable America, including mine.
I soon led the Nevada-wide training within the FSA on discrimination, and took the lead on researching, creating and instituting anti-bullying trainings as well. This was soon adapted by other states.
The results? The short of it is we got along better, respected our differences, and treated each other with kindness. This not only created a better culture and led to better retention within the FSA, it also led to better relations with the very communities we were looking to help – farming communities, Tribal communities and rural communities.
We went to Tribal communities and met with Tribal leaders and members on their land, in their homes, and in their community centers, instead of requiring them to drive 75 miles to see us. We went and listened to many stakeholders in communities to hear from them about what they needed instead of telling them what we thought they needed. We began to overcome distrust from the past, and became better at helping ourselves and others.
The culture of dignity and respect that the Obama-Biden Administration brought had a broad reach across our government and country. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s culture has brought the opposite at a grand scale by destroying respect, kindness, empathy, and a common good in so many areas of our lives, leaving our people from historically disenfranchised communities vulnerable to attacks and the stripping of their rights. We learned to lead by listening.
I was thrilled to hear former President Obama’s endorsement of Joe Biden on Tuesday, and even more thrilled to see the entire Democratic landscape of influencers get behind Joe. Elizabeth Warren endorsed Joe Biden today, which now means the entire field of Democrats who ran for President in 2020 have now backed our presumptive nominee. The unification happening is inspiring, and sends a message to all of us to come together to defeat the most corrupt President in the history of our country.
But this isn’t just about a party – this is about saving our country. It’s about returning to a culture of dignity and respect. This is the fight I have signed up to join, and will continue as your next congressman. Are you with me, Nevada?