Note: Given that this is our first try with The Stump, we’re allowing Dafan Zhang’s submission to be posted, even though it was late. He assures me that he did not get a sneak peak at his opponent, Billy Smith’s submission. This privilege will not be afforded to candidates in the future.
My name is Dafan Zhang, and I am running to become your State Representative in the 164th district of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I have one mission: to bring about positive changes to our community.
Of course almost every candidate says something similar, and at election time it is difficult to tell a real promise from a lie. Many people become apathetic or even cynical about elections and politicians because they hear a lot of positive slogans but do not see a lot of positive changes after elections end.
To move beyond election propaganda, you must look deeper and ponder the motives of the candidates. People get into politics for all sorts of reasons: interest, career move, profit, or something else. A politician’s motivation will always drive his or her decisions, most of the time over the will of his or her constituents. Therefore when you elect someone whose interests mostly aligns with yours, you can have a degree of confidence that he or she will represent your interests. But what about when they do not align, as so frequently happens? How do you even know what their interests are beyond what they say to get elected? Understanding the motivation of a politician, then, is of paramount importance before bestowing great power upon someone you barely know.
By now you may have heard my story. I have been a resident of the 164th district since 2000, and I have faced some mighty struggles. Starting my adult life in America as a homeless high school dropout, I have worked hard to earn a living, get a great education, and start a family. It was a long and winding journey, but I have achieved my American dream. There was nothing magical — I simply wanted to make positive changes, one step at a time.
When I announced that I was running for office, many people could not figure out my motivation. Is it interest or a career move? I did earn a Master’s degree in state and local government management at one of the best universities in the world, but if I was truly hoping to make a career out of politics, why did I not join many of my friends and classmates and start a career in government? Instead I chose to go to law school. Is it profit then? Giving up a job that pays more than twice as much to become a state legislator debunks that theory. So what is it?
Well you see, my motivation is not rooted in personal gain or accomplishment. I strive to bring the power of positive change to everyone around me. Earlier in my life, I always felt a lack of power. I felt powerless when I only had a train station to call home. I felt powerless when I received hundreds of rejection letters for jobs that I am capable of doing due to lack of a degree. I felt powerless when I had to close my store because my customers no longer had the money to buy my services. I needed help, and no one came. I had to muster the courage to move on all on my own. I followed the only path available to me: work harder than everyone else and gain more skills through education. That’s why today, as a proud owner of skills and expertise in computer science, government and policy, and law, sky is the limit.
Therefore, I choose to stand up because I believe I am ready to make a difference for everyone else. I believe everyone deserves to feel the way I feel today. I believe that if I can change my own life with scant resources, I surely can bring more positive changes to others with more resources. I have done many things in life that others said are not possible. As a matter of fact, I secretly enjoy the moment when someone tells me “no.” They don’t know my secret – small positive changes can make a big difference. I want to lead by example and share that secret with everyone around me.
As your State Representative, I will learn about everyone’s issues and try to use the office to bring positive change to each and every one of them. And there are a lot of issues in dire need of reform: education, taxes, jobs, wages, crime, affordable housing, inequality, ethics, campaign finance, liberties and rights, immigration, diversity, community, parking . . . Each and every one of those issues deserves positive change. Bringing positive change will be tough and will require rugged determination and creativity, something I have demonstrated time and again. Please help me empower everyone in our community so they too can seize opportunities and improve their lives, one positive step at a time.
Nothing is perfect in life, but everything deserves to be at least a little bit better. That is my true motivation.