Category Archives: Politics

The Fallacy of Composition

Last block, I took ‘managerial economics’, which was my last core class.  Even though I was an econ major for my undergrad, it was still pretty challenging.  One of the topics my professor briefly mentioned was called ‘the fallacy of composition’, which means that a solution for one individual does not necessarily work for a whole group.  Though he didn’t go into a lot of detail, I found this idea really interesting.

This logical fallacy applies to a lot of things.  For example, some might claim that we need to pay down the national debt at the same time, while others might worry that this effort would depress the economy and cause inflation.  Others might say that Obama’s proposal to provide free community college education to all Americans might increase opportunities in some areas, but create a higher unemployment rate due to a lack of high-skill jobs in another.  In one case, it might make sense to localize control of the public school curriculum, and in another, a school could fall behind due to a lack of standards to guide a child’s development.

I am really lucky to be in a field where I am literally paid to ponder the pros and cons to every decision.  Finding solutions to problems in data is my passion, and I have always been a numbers person.  But the kind of mental processing to which most people are accustomed is merely linear thinking.  By this, I mean assuming a direct connection between one thing and another.  When we are faced with a problem we don’t understand, we tend to take a mechanistic view to identifying a solution, breaking the problem down to its individual parts and assuming that every effect has a single cause.  I think this type of rationale is valid, but not complete.

In order to truly facilitate a better world, I think it will be necessary for more people to adopt a synthetic, non-linear way of thinking.  Before any course of action, more considerations need to be made about external effects.  This is bigger than conventional game theory.  It’s definitely not easy to understand that affecting one part could actually affect the system as a whole.  This goes against everything that dictates how I do my work: you must think hard about the potential effects that can come out of a decision, even when you don’t have the data to support it.  This capacity to predict effects beyond what you are directly affecting is difficult to master, but I think will likely be the key to addressing challenges over time.  Unilateral decisions are not going to fix global warming, poverty, income disparity, or public health issues.

Systemic change is not going to happen overnight, but I hope I live to see some kind of progress in my lifetime.  Relying on numbers and statistics is important, but not as important as deeply considering the chain of events that can occur from making one choice compared to another.  When making a decision about the best remedy for the most pressing social ills, be sure to take a step back and effectively consider how others will be affected.  We need to come up with structures for thought instead of building thoughtless structures.  We need to let go of our experiences that turned us into conditioned humans instead of letting ourselves represent the human condition we once were as children.  When we were small, we found joy in bringing others happiness, and as we ‘matured’ and were burned a few times, we became more selfish and defensive.  The more people who come to master this difficult way of thinking, the better off this world will be.  We have become less alive.

I am not at all saying that I have never taken stances on issues that were self-serving.  I know I have hurt people and made mistakes.  But I think that creating a better future starts with me, hopefully inspiring others to share the same attitude.  The more we look out for each other, and the less afraid we become about making changes in our lives in order to benefit others, the more better off we all will become.  Individuals can make a difference everyday by letting go of judgment, hatred, and anger – things that all prevent us from living a full life.  Don’t get caught up in the fallacy of composition or in the numbers.  They’re a great place to start, but what’s truly important will be justified by something more.

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Empowering with Purpose: Why Hillary Clinton is an Effective Leader

Men and women around the world consider Hillary Clinton an exemplary leader.  Her leadership style resonates with many, ranging from listening intensely to being diplomatically assertive.  She has smart answers to today’s hard questions, and takes the best interest of the community seriously.   Highly skilled and intelligent, she has capitalized on her uniqueness in a turbulent political and business world to lead effectively in many important leadership roles, including First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, Senator of New York, and Secretary of State.

A leader cannot accomplish anything alone – a loyal and committed following is conducive to making a meaningful difference.  Hillary has a track record of effectively driving change by use of expert and referent power – that is, influencing others to rally beside her by sharing her powerful vision as well as supporting it with facts and evidence.

Hillary’s expert power was developed over many years of hard work in numerous capacities.  She realized her passion for public service early in her career during law school, but turned her vision into reality as she dedicated the rest of her life to serving her communities and gaining valuable insight along the way.  Her ability to convert pressing issues into impactful initiatives has as contributed largely to her thought leadership in a multitude of areas.

In Peter Drucker’s article, What Makes and Effective Executive, he examines the practices which enable leaders to collect the knowledge needed and formulate action to drive a significant impact.  During her 3-year tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary took it upon herself to travel over 956,733 miles to 112 nations to fully understand firsthand the extent of her responsibility and prioritize the issues facing her organization.  One of her biggest wins as First Lady was the enactment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, demonstrating her ability to build rapport and trust with both supporting and opposing groups.

Perhaps the most admirable of Hillary’s leadership qualities is her courage and modesty to assume personal responsibility and learn from her setbacks, including her loss in the primary election in 2008.  She takes criticism seriously without getting discouraged, and successfully bounces back from every downfall with a more seasoned perspective.  People are fallible, including experienced leaders –nothing is more respectable than for someone, like Hillary Clinton, to be unafraid to admit her mistakes, and move forward with persistence and determination.

It is this tremendous humility and professional will that contributes to Hillary’s referent power and makes her a “Level Five Leader,” a concept developed by author and consultant Jim Collins.  She conducts herself with compelling modesty, always awarding credit where it is due and celebrating the successes of others.  While many emulate her leadership ability when leading their own organizations and teams, she humbly acknowledges that she is just as inspired by her colleagues and supporters as they are by her, saying, “I always believed you could learn something from nearly everybody you meet, if you’re open to it.”

According to Collins, professional will means, “demonstrating an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results—no matter how difficult.”   One of the most significant initiatives Hillary spearheaded was the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.  She facilitated a shift in attitude among officials who were blocking the legislation, helping them understand how the bill represented core American values they share, while also listening and acknowledging their concerns.  She called the effort, “4 years of hard work to strengthen the relationship… getting them to see our point of view, and learning more about theirs.”

In today’s dynamic environment, Hillary demonstrates a stanch resilience to find creative solutions to complex issues and persevere in the face of difficult challenges.  It is unreasonable to expect any person to be a “Level Five Leader” 100 percent of the time, but Hillary Clinton embodies “a clear catalyst from good to great” in critical times when her judgment matters most.  Even those who disagree with her ideas see her in the highest regard as she has mastered the art of compromise and building productive relationships.  She says, “Part of the great challenge of living is defining yourself in your moment, of seizing the opportunities you are given, and of making the very best choices you can.”  As she has in each of her past roles, she continues to incorporate this philosophy into her leadership approach, guiding and inspiring others along the way.

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Supply Chain

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) have failed to agree upon and sign a new contract for the last six months.  Since last month, demand planning and forecasting has been difficult, and I’ve had to raise prices to mitigate stock outs since many of our POs haven’t landed.  The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are congested and there are chassis shortages because the union refuses to work.  Some of my containers have been rerouted to Oakland, but ILWU workers walked off for three shifts there too, causing further delays.

I received an email just now saying that ocean carriers announced a $1,000 congestion surcharge per 40-foot container.  I have dozens of containers sitting in the ports right now, and many of my SKUs are going to stock out if this inventory doesn’t land in the next week.  I’ve already increased my prices to slow sales volume, but I can only do so much.  One of the SKUs that is going to stock out in the next couple of days is a Key SKU, meaning that this SKU alone drives about 10% of the revenue streams of my business.   Not to mention that Q4 is hands down the busiest time of the year in retail – The seemingly small scale disruption caused by the longshoremen’s attempt to apply pressure on management could potentially have a large negative impact on the economy and suppress sales during the holiday season.

In spite of how irritating this situation is, and the additional costs of time and money it is imposing on me and Overstock, I’m quite fascinated with these dynamics.  It’s kind of interesting how big of a ripple effect labor slowdowns and contract negotiations between unions and employers can have.  I can understand why businesses dislike labor unions, but I also see how important it is for labor unions to stand strong to negotiate better terms and conditions.  If it weren’t for unions, we wouldn’t have the standard 8-hour work days, or 40-hour work weeks.  We wouldn’t have family or medical leave, employer-based health coverage, or even weekends off.  Labor unions have accomplished a lot of things that many of us take for granted.

Supply chain is much more interesting than I thought. 🙂 There are many different levers I can pull to keep my business running smoothly, but this union’s tactics are making it quite the challenge.  I probably look like the biggest weirdo because I’m excited and jazzed up about something that is not necessarily a good thing for my business, haha but it’s really cool to see all these moving parts in action.  I probably won’t be pissed off about this whole thing until I’m impacted more directly. 😛 Nonetheless,  I hope that the ILWU and PMA are able to reach a compromise soon that benefits both parties.

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Ethical Compass

My first block in Westminster’s MBA program is drawing to a close, and it’s been an amazing experience so far.  It feels incredible to be back in school, and to learn new and exciting things everyday.  I’ve loved working through case studies with a room full of smart people and leaving each session feeling more enlightened.

One of the most amazing things I’m experiencing is that I am not just building my foundation of academic knowledge, but I am also learning more about who I am.  I remember starting my business ethics class thinking that I am Paul Krugman and John Cassidy’s protege, and that I am a liberal inside and out.  But realizing the ideas I was expressing during class discussions, I started to realize that I’m becoming somewhat conservative.

AAAAAH!  Somebody slap me and bring me to my senses, right?

Before I lose all my friends, I want to clarify that I am still a rational, well-meaning person, haha.  I just don’t think I’m as much of an advocate for a “socialist”-esque community like I was when I was in college.

One of our assignments for my ethics class required negotiating a social contract with the class by way of an online discussion board.  Following was my first post:

“At a high level, I believe the role of government should be to provide the freedom and empowerment necessary for individuals to pursue their goals.  This includes ensuring the protection of persons, property and human rights, promoting hard work and productivity, and providing incentives for the market to alleviate social ills.  It is definitely important to establish a society that is just and fair, ensuring opportunity and equality for all individuals.

I think this role can be fulfilled by a civilization built around John Rawls’ Theory of Justice.  Rawls reaches his conclusion from behind what he calls a “Veil of Ignorance”, meaning that he has no knowledge regarding what his situation will look like, and thus he cannot develop principles that favor his particular circumstances.  Without knowing what his position in life will be, he will be most likely to choose principles fairest to all.  This theory includes two principles:

1. Everyone is entitled to basic freedoms (e.g., freedom of speech, political liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc.)

2. Difference Principle: There can be inequality in any society as long as it makes the person in the worst situation better off.

Building upon his second principle, I think it’s important to control the level of inequality.  I definitely want to promote a “rising tide that lifts all boats,” but I think mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that a large disparity of social/income inequality does not exist.”

It literally took me three hours to determine the theory on which I would base my proposal.  It was no easy task to determine who would become the “winners” and “losers”, and I felt conflicted when putting this theory together.  But it just seemed to be the most justified and fair.

Surprisingly, I got very few comments on my proposal, but those who did comment on it agreed with me.  Even more shocking to me was that the recurring theme among a class full of MBA students was one what emphasized socialism – a heavily progressive tax system, an extended entitlement program for the elderly, disabled and unemployed, free education, free healthcare, free housing, even free grocery… Everyone was rallying behind a classmate named Viktoria, who was advocating for such a system.  It was very interesting to see that dynamic.  I definitely would love to see a world where everyone had open access to these necessities, but such a world cannot exist.  It is simply too expensive, and I don’t think that a system with socialist characteristics as well as the ability to progress technologically and economically would not be sustainable.

So the next post I made was:

“I agree with many of Viktoria’s points.  I especially love that her contract is primarily built upon a concern for the welfare of others, and places an emphasis on giving equal access to many of the resources conducive to a successful life.  I am 100% behind the protection of fundamental human rights.  However, I worry that a society built around her contract, namely the components relating to free education and healthcare, will be too costly and presents a high likelihood for wasted resources.

When resources are provided for “free”, there will always be free-riders who game the system at the expense of actual contributors.  I don’t feel entirely comfortable with a heavily progressive tax system, because I want to enter into a society that promotes hard work and [technological, academic, scientific] progress.  Though the Ayn Rand view appears to be controversial, I feel that it is truly representative of reality – many people are motivated by greed and profit, but many breakthroughs in medicine, science and technology–solutions to many of our country’s existing social problems–have come out of a desire to accumulate wealth and prosperity, as well as the liberty and resources to do so. I fear that the imposition of a larger proportion of taxes on high-income earners (hopefully the greater contributors in a society) would be a crutch to innovation.  The tax rate should be the same among all income levels – the wealthier will still be providing a larger portion of the government’s revenue, but at least it will be fair across all income-earners.

I think that Mike’s view is a much better approach to handling the “free education” portion of her contract.  I would love to advocate equal access to resources such as education and healthcare, but I worry that Viktoria’s approach may be too costly.  By admitting individuals into a specific level of study consistent with their likelihood to succeed in that subject are, we will be making the best use of our educational resources.  I also like that Mike sees excessive taxation as a form of harm – I mentioned in an earlier post that the government’s role should merely be to protect individuals, their property and their rights from harm, and excessive taxation can definitely cripple the economy from growing and negatively impact many people.

The bottom line is that everyone will enter the world with advantages and disadvantages.  Some people will need to work harder than others.  But my nirvana is a merit-based society that is constantly growing and innovating.  One where the government provides its citizens the freedom to do as they please so long as it doesn’t infringe on the freedoms of others, or inflict harm on others, and a society where the more privileged will do their part to alleviate social ills.  If more privileged individuals do not exercise their social responsibility to address social problems, the government should provide incentives for them to do so, but should not be the direct provider of any free public service.  The government should definitely step in when the rights and preservation of citizens are threatened, but overall I think individuals will need to make the best of the cards they are dealt in order to truly allow society to flourish and continue to progress.”

And, of course, I received even fewer comments on my second post than I did on my first.

I felt bad.  I felt like the ideas I was expressing were very different from what I’ve advocated in the past.  I just sat and thought, “Am I becoming one of them? Am I moving into the dark side!?”  But I realized that I’m not.  I am effectively applying ethical principles that seem like conventional Republican ideals to back policy decisions that a more moderate Democrat would advocate.  I’m still blue, but more of a baby blue than a royal blue.  It’s better to sit on the fence anyway – sitting at either end of the spectrum just starts too much trouble.  🙂

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A brighter future for immigrants

People come to the U.S. in search of a better life, bringing their children with them in hopes that they may enjoy the same level of opportunity and freedom as do all Americans. We truly need a system that allows children who were raised in the U.S., in spite of their undocumented status to easily transition into the system without fear of deportation.  The United States should be a country that can be viewed as a sanctuary, not one that requires people to jump through arbitrary hoops in search of a better life.

“I was released today because I am a low priority and not considered a threat,” Mr. Vargas said by telephone shortly after his release. “I would argue that the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country are not a threat either.”

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A Conservative Says…

A couple of days ago, I read an article where a man who calls himself, “Joe the Plumber”, claimed that the recent deaths of victims in the UC Santa Barbara shooting “don’t trump” his right to own a firearm.

In a letter to the parents of the 7 victims, he wrote:

“I am sorry you lost your child.  I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through right now.  But: As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights.”

This just blows my mind.  How anyone can say such a thing, and believe so strongly in it, is beyond me.

There’s a saying that goes, “A conservative says, ‘If it hasn’t happened to me, I don’t care.’  A liberal says, ‘This should never happen to anyone, and that’s why I care.’”  And at the Davis County Convention, I recall Utah Representative Brian King saying something along the lines of, “There are a lot of things that Republicans and Democrats have in common.  There are also a lot of things that set them apart.  But I think the one thing that makes Democrats stand out the most is genuine concern for their neighbor.”  Joe the Plumber is a perfect example of what the quote and Rep. Brian King meant.

It is absolutely important to look out for yourself, and for your family.  That’s natural.  Everyone is looking out for their best interest, and it makes rational sense to do so.  But imagine how different the world would be if people were less selfish, and actually made a conscious effort to ease the lives of others, both friends and complete strangers – not necessarily to the extent that they do for their own family, but just a bit more than they do now.  I feel that the world would be a much better place.

We all have things we value, and to many, freedoms and rights are among those highly prized possessions.  But to be so insensitive to say that the death of a family member – an invaluable and irreplaceable part of any person’s life – comes before your rights?  To be clear, your right to own a gun is not being taken away at all.  New laws are being considered that are designed to make our communities safer and to protect others as well as allow those [responsible enough and] who want to own a gun to do so.  In this way, we cover all our bases, and everyone is happy.  I don’t understand how anyone wouldn’t want that – everybody wins.  Joe the Plumber may place the same or even more value on his ‘constitutional rights’ as the UC Santa Barbara shooting victims’ families place on the lives on their loved ones, but neither should be devalued just the same.

We live in a world where compromises are necessary to move forward.  One person’s disagreement with another person’s is not the be-all and end-all – instead, we all need to be tolerant of each others’ opinions.  In order to live in harmony, we need to accept each others’ differences, even though we may not approve of them ourselves.  We need to see things from our opponents’ points of view and be understanding of where our enemies are coming from.  Understanding will make all the difference: The world does not revolve around you; others have wants and needs, experience the same joy and pain, and are doing what they can to make the most out of their existence just as you are.  Be respectful, be kind, and make the world a better place by thinking about ways in which you can improve the lives of others.

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Convention Weekend

Kathleen Villanueva - Utah Democratic Convention Credential

 

This weekend was a busy one for me.  Friday evening, I attended the Taylor & Mayne awards dinner to see Weston Clark deservedly receive the award, and I also went to the United Way Young Leaders annual party.  I was also invited to a SL Chamber event at the new aquarium and a friend’s launch party for his new product that I wasn’t able to make it to.  Yesterday, I attended my second convention ever as a delegate for House District 14.  Even though there aren’t as many big elections (no senate or presidential elections this year), it was still just as exciting as the last.

Two years ago, I went to my first convention ever – all alone.  While I had a lot of family and friends supporting my decision to run for delegate, I attended the convention alone, not knowing anyone really. But putting myself in the spotlight was one of the best decisions I ever made.  This year, I still arrived alone since I don’t really have any political frinds, but there were familiar faces everywhere.  It was so much easier to network and get introduced to such inspirational and well-meaning people.

Kathleen Villanueva Utah

Kathleen Villanueva and Luz Robles (UT-SD1 and Candidate for Utah House CD2)

I expressed my aspiration to work in politics someday, despite my wonderful situation at Cicero.  I am very grateful to have such an interesting and rewarding job, but ultimately I’d still like to pursue my dream of crafting policy that will better the lives of millions of people.  It’s incredible how I’ve always had a plan to work in politics, and after so many years, I’m still working so hard to execute it – while there are other people who never even gave two cents about politics, and ended up landing one of the neatest opportunities in it and falling completely in love with it.  I truly envy the people I just described, but either way, I’m moving forward, and I’ll get there someday. 🙂

I love meeting candidates and talking about the issues that are important to me.  I stressed issues including funding for education, long-term investments in infrastructure, technology and alternative energy, and an economic environment that both enables hard-working students out of undergrad to easily find jobs, as well as for business owners to innovate and grow.

In an effort to get more involved, I am now secretary of the Davis county chapter of the Utah Young Democratic Caucus.  I am looking forward to get more engaged and to make more of a difference in my community.  I really need to do more beyond my role in the Rules Committee.  I feel bad that I get jazzed up about politics during election years, but once the election is over, I kind of fall out of politics and just start concentrating solely in working and making money again.  I need to stay engaged throughout the whole year if I ever want to get there someday.

I don’t know if we’ll win any federal elections, or be able to replace all the retiring Democrats in our state legislature with more of our own… But I feel confident that we’re making progress.  Someday this state is going to turn purple. 🙂 I really want to help drive that change, and I can’t wait to experience what it will feel like to have helped contribute to such a huge victory.

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Another One About the ACA, the Shutdown, etc…

… I don’t and probably never will understand the logic behind the extreme right’s selfish, unreasonable, obstructionist tactics.

I have a quick bit of advice for Boehner, Cantor, and the whole team on that side of the aisle: give up.  You lost.  Obama won this one – no, AMERICA won this one.  The ACA is happening, and the people actually SUPPORT it, whether you like it or not!

The ACA was passed by both houses of Congress 3 years ago.  The bill was then signed into law by the President, and the SCOTUS upheld the constitutionality thereof.  The American people re-elected Obama to the Presidency while the ACA was the most controversial issue of the election – in fact, Obama beat Romney by nearly 5 million votes!  The ACA is the law of the land.  Now House Republicans are throwing a tantrum at the expense of the 800,000 federal employees who were effectively laid off from their jobs yesterday, including my father and many other close friends.  The Republicans have finally passed a jobs bill; only their jobs bill, of course, costs people their jobs.

Win the election first before you start imposing your unreasonableness and unpopular ideas on the entire country.  Oh wait – you won’t be able to win a presidential election by promoting extremist ideals and by engaging in unethical behavior.  Good luck with that.

The government shut down, but the ACA is up and rolling.  The GOP gained and accomplished nothing by trying to hold out for some kind of withdrawal of the ACA because it’s NOT going to happen.  Americans are so overwhelmingly supportive of Obamacare to the extent that the servers for the ACA Marketplace have crashed since it’s gone live due to high volume and traffic!  With each day that passes, the more real the ACA becomes.  It’s here and it’s not going away.  Meanwhile, the negative opinion toward the Republican Party will increase the longer the shutdown stays in effect.  It’s a measurable fact that Americans are already holding the Republicans accountable for it.  And for what?  To make a statement that they clearly don’t understand the policymaking process?  Or to demonstrate how much they TRULY care about the interests of the constituents they represent?

The founding fathers devised our form of government to assure the success and participation of minorities’ desires.  However, this small number of Conservatives are not acting in the interests of the people or government, but are obviously trying to dismantle the government from within.  There are 532 MOC’s at present. 20 out of 532 represent less than 4 percent of the Congress. Imagine that. Less than 4 percent of Congress is destroying us.

On the bright side, this might be a wake-up call to many voters who may be encouraged to vote the extremists out of office.  Could this even raise the possibility of a three-party system, or at least perhaps a paradigm shift to some sort of middle ground?  If this kind of incompetence and irresponsibility continues by the Republican Party, I think it’s safe to say we have a shot at taking over all three branches come 2016. 🙂

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An Example of Poor Leadership

Congressional poll numbers are at an all-time low precisely because of the Tea Party and the like of Ted Cruz.  The people are against congress because they can’t get anything done – Cruz and his obstructionist antics embody that paralysis. “My way or the highway” is no way to represent the “interests of your constituents,” and neither is blackmail or extortion.  Yes, Cruz is beholden to the people who elected him, but once he hit the Senate, he also has to do what is good for the country as a whole, and what he is doing is harmful.  Not only will federal jobs and entitlements in his own state be affected by a government shut down, but those of other states will be impacted as well.

This is why it’s so important to elect genuine leaders who care about real issues, and who will actually place an emphasis on solving the nation’s problems – not attention-seeking, arrogant jerks who will selfishly create MORE problems only after 9 months in office.

How the hell did something like providing healthcare to poor people become the biggest threat to American civilization anyways?  If opponents would only read the facts, they’d find that Obamacare isn’t as horrific as the media makes it seem, and they’d find out that all would ultimately benefit from such policy.

Inhale, exhale. </rant>

UPDATE (10/1):

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Let Freedom Ring.

As our break from complaining about America to celebrate America comes to a close, I just wanted to reflect on what the meaning of Independence Day is to me.

We are so lucky to live in this country. While we are definitely not without our conflicting views regarding different issues, I’m just thankful we are even able to have that freedom to disagree with each other and to even disagree with our government. And I’m thankful that [IN THEORY] we have a system in which out of every contention and dispute, we are able to reach a consensus that makes sense for the majority of Americans and get one step closer to a more perfect union. Relative to the other political systems out there, ours definitely serves as a model for other countries.

But freedom isn’t free. There were (and still are) many heroes who fought to protect our liberty so that we could live our comfortable lives here at home. Many didn’t return home, and many of the ones who did were deeply impacted by the unimaginable and were never the same again. I am so grateful for every person who has served in the United States military and sacrificed so much for their country, their families, and people like me who they’ll never even meet.

To all you service men and women: While Independence Day is the most appropriate day to show appreciation for all you’ve sacrificed for our country, please know that we always feel thankful. Though we will never be able to completely understand what you went through, please know we will never forget the invaluable contributions you made to the well-being of our country as well as our own personal prosperity.

Well, back on the grind tomorrow – Let freedom ring. 🙂

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