My name is Kevin Strouse, and I’m running to be the congressperson from the 8th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. I appreciate this opportunity from Keystone Politics to explain a bit about where I’ve come from, how those experiences shaped me, and where I hope to take us.
Trading my cap and gown for a military uniform
I graduated from college in May 2001 with an offer to matriculate into a journalism master’s program, and turned that opportunity down to enlist into the Army. My decision puzzled my friends and family, but for me it was straightforward. America had worked for my family. My parents had worked themselves up from modest means, and as a result I had a good life growing up in Southeastern Pennsylvania, where I got an excellent education in Pennsylvania’s public schools and had the opportunity to attend college. I wanted to give back to the country that had offered so much opportunity to my family and me.
I chose to try out for the Airborne Rangers, in part because I thought jumping out of planes would be fun (it wasn’t) but mostly because I wanted to test my ability to take on extreme mental and physical challenges, and be at the tip of the spear should our country face challenges of its own.
I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times as an Army Ranger and later as a counterterrorism officer in the Central Intelligence Agency. I saw the best and worst of humanity. I served with soldiers who were willing to work days on end with only an hour of sleep, and I met Iraqis who warmly invited us into their houses to drink tea, even as we brought war to their neighborhoods. But I also met Iraqis who were targeted for violence because they choose to practice their religion differently, and saw Afghan women who were required to cover their faces and walk three feet behind their husbands. I lived in communities where there were no paved roads, and schools, along with any notion of opportunity, were nonexistent. This made me appreciate being an American.
Throughout my time in the Army and the Central Intelligence Agency, I had the opportunity to work with some of the finest, most dedicated Americans. I also learned to make difficult decisions on some of the most urgent issues facing this country. And most importantly, I learned to lead teams and work through profound disagreements to get the job done, skills that will serve the 8th District well when I represent it.
Growing an America that works for everybody
I know that even with America’s ideals, we still have a lot of work to do. Many of our schools have fallen into disrepair and students lack access to quality, affordable education—denying them opportunity. Our country still denies equal rights to gay couples looking to marry. Perhaps most troubling, many Republicans—including our own Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick—who sent me overseas to bring democracy to foreign lands, were trying to deny Americans the right to vote by passing Voter ID laws.
I’ve said we need policies that will promote economic growth for all Americans, build the middle class, and deliver America’s promise as the land of opportunity.
My plan for America will:
- Dramatically improve our education system. At the federal level, this means securing universal Pre-Kindergarten to boost the literacy, math, and social skills of every child and prepare them for their academic career. It also includes keeping student interest rates low and protecting our Pell grant program so that all high school graduates have the chance to advance their education.
- Modernize our infrastructure. The Highway Trust Fund is running out of money and Congress, as usual, is dawdling with the current two-year transportation funding bill set to expire in September. In the meantime, a lot of politicians talk about wanting to bring jobs back home. I agree, but we are going to need a first world infrastructure so that we can remain the best country in the world in which to do business.
- Raise the minimum wage to provide more economic opportunity for all. Right now a full time minimum wage employee makes $13,200, barely above the individual poverty line but well below the poverty line of $23,850 for a family of four. Raising the minimum is a first step in providing more economic opportunity for the hardworking poor because it will put upward pressure on wages and grow the economy. Raising the minimum wage for millions of hard-working Americans —the kind who spend nearly every cent they make—puts billions of dollars into the domestic economy.
I was proud to serve in our military with the Army Rangers and in the Central Intelligence Agency as a counterterrorism officer and team leader because I believe and have always believed in what America represented—equality of opportunity, freedom to live as you wish, and protection of individual liberties. Those are the principles that I fought for, and will continue fighting for as a Congressman for Pennsylvania’s 8th District. My background shows that I am willing to sacrifice for my principles, and that I have the fortitude to fight for Democratic ideals.