I was raised with a “travel bug” – a want to explore and understand the world and our relationship to it. My Dad had seen the world during his time in the Navy and told us “nothing makes you appreciate America more than traveling to other places” – meaning we shouldn’t take our democracy, freedoms, and opportunities to provide a better future for our children for granted. My Mom read Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth” as a child, which opened her eyes to the beauty and distinction of other countries and cultures. It led her to expose my siblings and I to everything from Middle Eastern dance and cooking (yes, I remember her making both bagels and pocket bread from scratch before they were ubiquitous in local grocery stores) to art and music. So when I had the chance to leave college for a year and move to Taiwan to live, work, and study, I took my summer earnings, got my first passport, and landed there two weeks later. It was a transformational year. I witnessed big steps towards democratization in Taiwan with the lifting of martial law and legalization of political opposition parties. I discovered public health through my volunteering at a local orphanage. And I traveled throughout mainland China and saw the growing optimism that came with the first re-establishment of markets and commerce in “Special Economic Zones” – an optimism that was summarily crushed one year later in the Tiananmen massacre.
Since then, I’ve been privileged to travel around the world and work with dedicated professionals, activists, and community members to make their own communities safer and healthier. And I’ve done that more often than not by working with our diplomats, foreign service officers, and the Department of State (DOS). As a Commander in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, I was honored to be assigned to the DOS as the Senior Scientific Advisor for our global HIV program. I’ve also achieved results by partnering with Americans living overseas for mission or business work. I’ve seen how our “penny-on-a-dollar” investments in foreign assistance have not only saved lives, but have also built a warmth and appreciation for Americans and American values, fostered economic development that leads to bigger markets for American products, and stabilized political environments to reduce the pull of radicalism and the likelihood of more wars. I’ve had the privilege of working in Afghanistan to complement the work of our armed services in “winning hearts and minds” by helping people – working to expand family planning and child survival products and programs to the farthest reaches of the country. I’ve witnessed how “global is local” – that we are stronger, safer, smarter, and wealthier here at home when we are actively engaged in promoting America’s interests, values, and engagement overseas. And as your Congresswoman, these will be my priorities to support global diplomacy and American leadership:
- Keeping American families safe by opposing the current dismantling of the State Department and ensuring a robust corps of expert diplomats, as well as full and strong U.S. representation around the world to champion American values: democracy, economic growth, and protection of human rights – including those of women, those in the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities;
- Strengthening our homeland security and promoting peace through diplomacy and development to prevent war and de-escalate conflict – ensuring our military does not “need to buy more ammunition” and our troops are deployed only when absolutely necessary;
- Opposing isolationism in foreign policy, maintaining strong and predictable relationships with our allies – such as consistent support to NATO, and vigilantly addressing and responding to threats such as those posed by a nuclear North Korea, expansion of the regional influence of Iran, and Russian interference in our elections;
- Opening new avenues for trade and growing global markets in manufacturing, technology, and agriculture to the benefit of our region’s workers and businesses;
- Ensuring that the United States remains known as an active and enthusiastic proponent of the Paris Climate Agreement and opposing President Trump’s withdrawal from the pact, not only to emphasize the importance of the future health of our planet, but also to make sure that America is the leading voice in environmental progress and innovation;
- Addressing barriers encountered by Americans living or deployed overseas to ensure their needs are not overlooked in tax, voting, or other policies.