Last year I had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with United States Senator Sherrod Brown. Attached is it below in which he reflects on his daily life and work as a United States Senator. He also discusses lessons learned from his decades of public service to the American people.
Senator Sherrod Brown has served as Senator from Ohio since 2007, having been elected in 2006. Prior to that he has been in public service for many years in a variety of roles ranging from as Congressman from Ohio's 13th district from 1993 to 2007, Secretary of State of Ohio from 1983 to 1991 and as a Member of the Ohio State House from 1975 to 1982.
In the Senate he is currently the Co-Chair of the Joint Pensions Committee and serves as Ranking Member of the essential Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs which oversees financial services, housing, urban development, and mass transportation policy.
He has taught at Ohio State University and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University and a Masters of Public Administration and Master of Arts in Education from Ohio State University. When he was elected to the Ohio State House at age 22 he at the time the youngest person ever elected to it.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about being a Senator and what have you found the most challenging?
A: The most inspiring part of my job is talking with the Ohioans I serve — hearing their stories, listening to their ideas, seeing the work they’re doing in their communities, and talking with them about how we can improve our state, together. The best ideas don’t come out of Washington — they come out of conversations like these across Ohio.
Getting folks out of their partisan corners is always a challenge, but there’s more bipartisan work going on than a lot of people realize. Last Congress, I was able to pass more than 20 bills, the fourth most of any senator — and every single one of those was bipartisan.
I work with Senator Portman to get things done for Ohio — whether it’s the Leveling the Playing Field Act and fighting for our steel industry, or fighting for Ohio jobs at places like the Whirlpool plant in Clyde; whether it’s funding the Great Lakes cleanup, or passing laws to combat the opioid epidemic.
Q: What inspired you to pursue public service?
A: My parents came from different backgrounds — he was a northerner from Mansfield, Ohio, and she was a southerner from Mansfield, Georgia. He was a doctor and a Republican, she was a teacher and a Democrat. But they both taught me to challenge powerful special interests, and to look out for the little guy — the big guys can take care of themselves. That’s a lesson I’ve carried throughout my life.
And when I first decided to run for Senate, my wife and I had long conversations about it. And, we were guided by a question we asked ourselves when things got tough: “What would we say when our future grandchildren asked, ‘what did you do to help?’” We now have seven grandchildren, and we haven’t stopped asking that question.
Q: A lot of young people nowadays hope to make an impact in their communities as well as on the national policy process. What advice for them do you have?
A: Change never comes easy in this country. It almost always requires going up against powerful interests – but that power should never go unchecked and unquestioned. Whether they want to work in government or in journalism, at a non-profit or a private company, I always encourage young people to think critically — and to think about how they can not only comfort the afflicted, but afflict the comfortable.
Q: What do you consider the most impactful policy initiatives you have worked on while in office?
A: The most important issues I work on are the ones where I’m fighting for working people in Ohio and around the country. Far too often, hard work doesn’t pay off. I’m fighting to change that — whether it’s the work we did to permanently expand the Earned Income Tax Credit in a bipartisan deal, or working with the Obama Labor Department to give more than 130,000 Ohioans more money in their pockets with the overtime pay they’ve earned, or working to solve the pension crisis that threatens millions of workers and thousands of small businesses.
I’m co-chairing the special committee Congress created to solve this crisis. More than 1.3 million Americans are at risk of crippling cuts to the pensions they earned over a lifetime of work, and thousands of small businesses are at risk of bankruptcy. This fight may be the most important that I’ve ever been a part of, and I won’t stop fighting until we get a bipartisan solution to this crisis.
Q: What is something about being a U.S. Senator that you'd think many people would find surprising?
Again, I would point to how much bipartisan work actually gets done in the Senate, when you look beyond the cable news headlines. I don’t always agree with the president, but he has signed seven of my bills into law — everything from increasing scholarship funds for the children of fallen officers, to expanding education opportunities for veterans, to supporting grandparents now raising their grandchildren in light of the opioid epidemic.
Earlier this year, we negotiated a bipartisan budget deal that will get new federal resources to local communities to combat the opioid epidemic, and I worked to ensure Ohio is among the first in line to get that funding.
Q: What's your favorite website or social media platform and why?
My wife, journalist Connie Schultz, has an amazing Facebook page. She has created a real community through social media that talks about everything from family and pets — our dog, Franklin, makes a frequent appearance — to the serious of issues of the day.
While people may get into spirited debates, Connie has created a space where people stay civil and respectful, and feel comfortable sharing different points of view.
Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed are only those of the author and not those of the Department of Defense.