As America heads into a new decade in 2020, we must develop a forward-thinking, unifying agenda that prioritizes some of the most important issues challenging our nation. Together, we need to identify common sense solutions for the most intractable problems we face today as a society and visibly improve the lives of all Americans. Listed below are the issues I intend to prioritize in my personal and professional lives, as I see them as foundational and critical to advancing our nation’s peace and prosperity in the 21st Century. Together, we can empower Americans by providing better, healthier and unifying opportunities to live and thrive in our nation.
Please note: the reading lists below represent suggested literature for interest and enlightenment but are not necessarily endorsements.
Free Speech and Equal Treatment
Our Constitution and the Bill of Rights define the very essence of our society. I’d like to highlight two: Free Speech and Equal Protection. Both are fundamental and wholesome values, precious tenets that we should all get behind, and aspire to fulfill. But sometimes we fall short.
Suggested Reading on Mental Health
- Bedlam: An Intimate Journey Into America's Mental Health Crisis 1st Edition by Kenneth Paul Rosenberg
- Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life Paperback (10th Anniversary Edition) by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
America needs a comprehensive policy, with research-based programs and the requisite funding, that affirms we as a society are serious about addressing the broad-range of mental health issues affecting our families, our neighbors, and our communities. Mental health is one of the most underestimated issues of our time because there is not a single segment of our society that is immune to its effects. It is essential to recognize the social and economic toll on our communities and its negative impact across all demographic groups. The statistics are clear.
- Millions of Americans, approximately one out of five, which is about 19.1 percent of American adults, experiences mental illness each year.
- About 20.1 percent of homeless people have a serious mental health condition and 37 percent of adults incarcerated in state and federal prison system have a diagnosed mental illness.
- Across the U.S. economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year.
- Over 24 million individuals experiencing a mental health illness are going untreated.
Valuing and prioritizing mental health is an investment in America’s future.
I propose that we raise greater awareness of mental health challenges and the impact it has on our nation. It is time we acknowledge mental health as a top health priority and apply our collective spirit toward effective and humane solutions. By increasing awareness and improving access to affordable mental health care, we can reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions and champion mental wellness for all Americans.
All Americans, regardless of income, whether young or elderly, families or individuals, should have access to a nutritious diet which includes more fresh vegetables and fruits and fewer processed foods. Currently, across the U.S., too many Americans do not have access or cannot afford healthy food choices. We cannot allow that to stand. Food insecurity —whether quantity or quality— due to a lack of resources or access, is a significant and hidden issue in our nation with far-reaching consequences. The lack of proper nutrition contributes to a host of corresponding societal issues including chronic health conditions that place a burden on our health system and impacts our economic productivity.
- About three-fourths of Americans have an unbalanced diet low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and healthy oils.
- Low-income communities suffer from higher rates of obesity and chronic disease due to limited access to fresh foods, a higher concentration of fast food restaurants in their neighborhoods and environments not conducive to physical activity.
- The disruption of food intake due to lack of resources is prevalent throughout the country. Recent statistics show that 17.4 million U.S. households experience food insecurity every year.
- Studies have shown that neighborhood conditions affect physical access to food. Particularly those living in urban areas, rural communities, and low-income neighborhoods may have limited access to full-service grocery stores.
- Americans, who lack affordable and nutritious food options, must resort to convenience stores and small independent stores, which often charge higher food prices, sell lower quality foods, and a limited variety of fresh foods.
Through targeted policy initiatives, we can address nutrition and access to healthy food as a national policy priority. A healthier America is key to creating a stronger nation. In every community, every neighborhood, whether urban or rural, we must identify and create both government sponsored and robust private-partnership programs, to offer Americans access to reasonably priced fresh and healthy food options. We must recognize that food prices pose a major barrier for many who are forced to choose between nutrition and affordability. I propose implementing community-based programs such as neighborhood farms to promote and ensure that Americans are not forced to decide between paying household expenses or having access to fresh food options. Through such programs, we can mitigate the impact of poor nutrition on the health and wellness of communities, advance the development of healthy communities, and improve economic productivity.
Healthy Communities: Nutrition and Access to Affordable Food Options
Suggested Reading on Healthy Communities
- Undo It! by Dean & Anne Ornish
- The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities by Will Allen
- The Essential Urban Farmer Paperback by Novella Carpenter (Author), Willow Rosenthal (Author)
Suggested Reading on Housing
- Housing America (The Metropolis and Modern Life) 1st Edition by Emily Tumpson Molina
- Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America by Randy Shaw
- Ending Homelessness: Why We Haven't, How We Can by Donald W. Burnes and David L. DiLeo
As a nation, we must urgently establish sensible policies that address the growing shortage of affordable housing in America. Recent studies have shown that housing affordability—and consequently availability— is worsening especially for low-income and middle-income households and contributing to the alarming rise in homelessness a very real trend that we must combat to ensure America’s long-term prosperity and stability.
- Over half a million Americans go homeless on a single night in the US, including many veterans returning from active duty in conflict zones around the world. This is a national shame.
- Approximately 200,000 can be found sleeping on the streets and over 350,000 in emergency or transitional housing programs.
- 11 million low-income households spend more than half their paycheck on rent.
- Nearly two-thirds of renters nationwide say they cannot afford to buy a home, and saving for that down payment is not going to get easier as home prices are rising at twice the rate of wage growth.
- The U.S. has a shortage of seven million affordable rental homes for extremely low-income renters, whose household incomes are at or below the poverty guideline (30 percent of their area median income).
- Extremely low-income renters face a housing shortage in every state and major metropolitan area, including the District of Columbia.
Most Americans agree that this is now an urgent policy priority. Through research-based initiatives, we must find sustainable answers that allow Americans to live securely and to thrive in their communities. Working together, we must strive to be part of the solution. Nationally, I propose an in-depth study of the current housing crisis to identify a public/private sector approach that will provide sound solutions for Americans. As part of this study, we should examine current living conditions and also the government’s mortgage finance system in order to identify areas for reform. Above all, we must also seek opportunities to enhance the lives of Americans by leveraging policies that focus on the renewal of our urban areas and development of our rural communities. Through the current opportunity zone program, we can support the transformation of American communities.
Education is a crucial foundation in the lives of all Americans. Every child in America deserves a quality education that will prepare them to be successful in today’s competitive global marketplace. But, the current state of our education system is both troubling and lacking effective consensus as we prepare our society for a very challenging future.
- Among the world’s developed countries, the U.S. ranks only 28th in terms of access to high quality pre-kindergarten.
- Studies indicate that preschool participation is heavily influenced by a range of socioeconomic factors, including household income, parental education levels, and race and ethnicity. The state where a child lives also has an impact.
- While there is a high rate of reading literacy in America, with 99 percent of the population over age 15 having good reading comprehension, the US ranks below average in science and mathematics in comparison to other developed countries.
- While high school graduation rates are at an all-time high of 84 percent, the nation should be much higher, closer to 90 percent.
- Of high school dropouts, nearly 60 percent will go to prison at some point in their lives.
As an entrepreneur, I am a proponent of adopting a rigorous curriculum and effective options to prepare Americans at all levels of the educational system to become part of a rapidly evolving, high-tech, and competitive world. As a result, I believe that we must address our lagging education system by implementing an action plan to tackle the barriers to access and to enhance the quality of education. In order to succeed as a nation, we must provide a solid educational foundation, which includes a strong base in the sciences and mathematics, and also values the arts and cultural opportunities. We must also expand the use of technology in classrooms. To improve our current system, we must encourage development of trained educators, pay them appropriately, and reduce classroom sizes. It is essential that we retain dedicated, competent, professional and administrative front-line educators as a fundamental premise to building a better America.
We should also improve access for all and incorporate alternative education schemes — from home-schooling and charter schools — to augmenting the funding and policies of our private and public-school systems, beginning with early education and enhancing the quality of education for all Americans by investing in communities of need. Through education, we can empower Americans to live successful, solutions-driven lives.
Suggested Reading on Education
- Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel
The beloved bestseller that offers a practical, inspiring new roadmap for raising self-reliant, ethical, and compassionate children.
- The Knowledge Gap: The hidden cause of America's broken education system - and how to fix it by Natalie Wexler
- Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner
Suggested Reading on National Security
- The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security by Bartholomew Sparrow
- Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power by David Rothkopf
- Homeland Security: Assessing the First Five Years by Michael Chertoff and Lee H. Hamilton
Our national security will always be the bedrock to our values and our great future.
Given the numerous challenges to our national interests, we must be consistently vigilant and prepared to deal with external threats of all sorts, in an ever complex and changing world. There are several national security priorities.
- Preserving and continuously ensuring homeland security, particularly border security;
- Monitoring and combatting terrorism from state and non-state actors;
- Implementing a broad-based domestic and international counterterrorism plan;
- Fighting transnational crime, cyber-crime, and maintain cyber security;
- Securing and enhancing America’s economic power globally;
- Countering major economic competitors like China;
- Maintaining key international alliances with bilateral and multilateral partners;
- Fortifying American energy dominance.
I propose that we continue to focus on enhancing America’s economic competitiveness through free trade and market innovation. Through this clear strategy, we can continue to protect the nation’s vital interests and economic security. America must be at the forefront in order to maintain our global position and recognize that our nation can only be secure if we maintain our economic dominance.