There are many reasons why I love America. I have learned over my three terms in Congress, by representing people that voted for me, didn’t vote for me or didn’t vote at all, that America is better than the sum of its parts. Serving people of all walks of life has shown me that way more unites our country than divides us. This understanding has allowed me to win elections many people thought I couldn’t, especially when the political environment was overwhelmingly against my party.
In this experiment called America we strive to create a more perfect union. Our founding principle of a right to free speech has given us the freedom to disagree, and the resulting competition of ideas has produced policies tackling a variety of problems. As has happened many times throughout our history, we now face generational defining challenges at home and abroad.
We are in a geopolitical competition with China to have the world’s most important economy. There is a global race to be the leader in artificial intelligence, because whoever dominates AI will rule the world. We face growing cyberattacks every day.
Extreme poverty, lack of economic opportunity and violence in Central America is placing unbearable pressure on our borders. While Congress has a role in these issues, so does the private sector and civil society.
After reflecting on how best to help our country address these challenges, I have made the decision to not seek reelection for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.
I left a job I loved in the CIA as an undercover officer to meet what I believed to be a need for new leadership in Congress on intelligence and national security matters. I wanted to help the Intelligence Community in a different way by bringing my knowledge and experience to Congress. I’m leaving the House of Representatives to help our country in a different way. I want to use my knowledge and experience to focus on these generational challenges in new ways. It was never my intention to stay in Congress forever, but I will stay involved in politics to grow a Republican Party that looks like America.
As the only African American Republican in the House of Representatives and as a Congressman who represents a 71% Latino district, I’ve taken a conservative message to places that don’t often hear it. Folks in these communities believe in order to solve problems we should empower people not the government, help families move up the economic ladder through free markets not socialism and achieve and maintain peace by being nice with nice guys and tough with tough guys. These Republican ideals resonate with people who don’t think they identify with the Republican Party. Every American should feel they have a home in our party.
While I have 17 months left in my term, I’m very proud of the last 55. There were times when it was fun and times when it wasn’t. When people were mad, it was my job to listen. When people felt hopeless, it was my job to care. When something was broken, it was my job to find out how to fix it.
When border patrol agents weren’t getting the tools they needed to do their job, I stepped in to help. When I found an opportunity to expose more students to computer science, I partnered with non-profits to train local teachers to incorporate coding into math class. I made sure taxpayer money was used more efficiently by changing how the government purchases IT goods and services.
It was never about the size nor difficulty nor sexiness of the problem; It was about making a difference. My philosophy has been simple. Be honest. Treat people with respect. Never shy away from a fight. Never accept “no” or the status quo and never hesitate to speak my mind.
Two centuries ago, I would have been counted as three-fifths of a person, and today I can say I’ve had the honor of serving three terms in Congress. America has come a long way and we still have more to do in our pursuit of a more perfect union. However, this pursuit will stall if we don’t all do our part. When I took the oath of office after joining the CIA, I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all its enemies. I took the same oath on my first day in Congress. This oath doesn’t have a statute of limitations. I will keep fighting to ensure the country I love excels during what will be a time of unprecedented technological change. I will keep fighting to make certain we successfully meet these generational challenges head on. I will keep fighting to remind people why I love America: that we are neither Republican nor Democrat nor Independent; We are better than the sum of our parts.