Although I live in Nebraska, I keep an old family van in Washington, which is helpful when our children are visiting. On one occasion, the van was particularly messy. The children were smaller then, and I didn’t have time to clean it. Having to park the van in a downtown garage, I handed the keys to the attendant, and with embarrassment about the mess said, “Sorry, I have five children.” He was a nice gentleman and replied, “Don’t worry—I have seven. And they are going to take care of me when I’m old!” Smiling, I responded back, “You know what that’s called? Social security.” He then said enthusiastically, “I like that! Can I say that?”
While we think of social security as the important retirement security program—essential to so many people—perhaps we should explore a broader understanding of how we find our security together. I want to re-imagine social security in a wider sense of the phrase: what it means to find belonging, protection, and support. Ultimately, society depends on a binding set of narratives and an agreement with one another that we care, that we are committed, and that we have a common vision.
Americans continue to confront a number of longstanding challenges to our country’s wellbeing. Widespread distrust of government and the economy’s capacity is deepening divisions and further fracturing our society. Fortunately, our nation has great character and strength, found first and foremost in durable values that keep us resilient even in the most turbulent of times. Although justifiable anxiety and anger are the hallmarks of the present moment, Americans desire a new settlement of security and opportunity.
A constant focus on the Washington solution offers a false sense of solidarity and is no substitute for community. Technocratic management through centralized government cannot rekindle the vibrancy of our society. Far from healing our wounded culture, the government cannot fix everything that is wrong. Doing so will simply recalculate winners and losers. This is especially true at a moment when America’s political system suffers from so much discord and dysfunction.
A hopeful politics and a truly good society are ultimately relational. Although we are not immune from harsher downward trends, in Nebraska we have, to some degree, safeguarded the importance of community, the necessity and integrity of the family, and the quality care for oneself and those around us. Such social vibrancy reduces the necessity for government intervention.
Proper progress recognizes that our individual liberty is not merely a license to do whatever we want. A hyper-sense of individualism can obscure the foundational truth of our shared humanity, inhibiting the common endeavors necessary for advancing a brighter future. Liberty and therefore human happiness is inextricably intertwined with society and our responsibility to one another, giving fullness to the meaning of social security.Read More
Stories about America’s political, economic, and cultural crises are dominating headlines across the nation. Widespread bipartisan dissatisfaction with the status quo is propelling a new conversation against the dysfunction and gridlock that have thwarted effective government in Washington. As struggling families across the country face pressing challenges, elected officials often prioritize divisive rhetoric instead of empathy and imagination. Disagreements have widened into chasms, exhausting our country’s spirit and distracting us from possibilities.
In the midst of a contentious presidential primary season, maybe it’s time to pause, change the subject, and celebrate some examples of the best our country has to offer.
In the gym of Beemer Elementary School in northeast Nebraska, the community recently celebrated the life of Joseph Lemm. While deep sadness marked the occasion, the community’s desire to gather, tell stories, and honor this remarkable man pointed to a much deeper understanding of the values that bind us. Joe chose to put on three different uniforms, first by enlisting in the United States Air Force after high school, then in a career with the New York City Police Department, and finally with the New York Air National Guard. He served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In December, Joe gave his all for his country, along with five other Americans who were killed in Afghanistan. Although Joe left Nebraska a long time ago, he carried his early formation with him throughout a life of service, and I suspect Nebraska was never far from his heart. Before the service, Joe’s mother Shirley embraced me, Governor Ricketts, and Senator Sasse as though we were family members – and maybe we were. Everyone in the gym in the little town of Beemer knew that in the midst of this deep grief and loss, Joseph Lemm’s life had great value and purpose.
This week, Washington was buried in an avalanche of snow, and I had more time than anticipated to spend in my office in Lincoln. I noticed some young people walking around in the signature blue Future Farmers of America (FFA) jackets. I love those jackets emblazoned with the name of their hometown below the FFA symbol. These young people had gathered with others from the Distributive Education Clubs of America; the Future Business Leaders of America; the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America; Educators Rising; and Future Health Professionals Skills USA to discuss food security. Even in Nebraska we face problems with structural poverty. These young students recognize the problem of children facing hunger, leading the way to find solutions for the impoverished, vulnerable members in their own communities.
The same snowstorm that kept me from Washington did not deter hundreds of other Nebraska students who left the comfort of their homes and drove through the night on buses to exercise their fundamental American rights: the freedom to assemble and the freedom of speech. In the face of the devastating blizzard, these principled boys and girls participated in the annual March for Life. They are young people who refuse to accept the current settlement of our wounded culture. They traveled to Washington to explicitly express their pro-life views and proclaim that we must do better as a nation in caring for unborn children, their mothers, and our broader society. Although our nation experiences sad differences over this question of abortion, I think we should commend these students for responsibly exercising their rights and standing up for their deeply held beliefs.
Nebraskans continue to demonstrate a better pathway for America. In public servants and military veterans such as Joseph Lemm, in young people gathering to tackle systemic childhood hunger, and in students trekking halfway across the country and hazarding dangerous weather in defense of vulnerable persons, perhaps we can find the answer to what is right about America at a time when so much seems to be going wrong. Our best traditions, carried forward by our families and communities, are the social force that will turn our country around.Read More
Politicians are first and foremost responsible to engage with the citizens they are elected to serve. One tradition that embodies this important value is the Nebraska Breakfast. For more than seven decades, Nebraska’s Congressional delegation has been doing something almost unheard of in Washington—joining weekly to meet with visiting constituents and provide important policy updates. And you’re invited!
The Nebraska Breakfast began in 1943 when Senator Hugh Butler began meeting informally with the other members of the Congressional delegation and their guests. A great idea became a lasting tradition. This year marks the 73rd year of Nebraskans gathering in Washington for breakfast and conversation. The Nebraska Breakfast takes place each Wednesday in which both the House of Representatives and Senate are in session.
The delegation members each give a brief update on current issues and introduce their guests from Nebraska. In one of last year’s many highlights, Coach Mike Riley accepted my invitation to attend the breakfast. We like to have a little fun while tackling some of the tough issues facing our country.
When visiting our nation's capital, I strongly encourage you to make the event a part of your itinerary. Whether you are in Washington on business, a tour, or vacation with your family, the Nebraska Breakfast is worth taking the time to attend.
This year’s first Nebraska Breakfast will be held next week on Wednesday, January 27. The other 2016 breakfasts are scheduled for February 3, 10, and 24; March 2 and 16; April 13, 20, and 27; May 11, 18, and 25; June 8, 15, and 22; July 13; and September 7, 14, 21, and 28.
The Nebraska Breakfast begins at 8:00 am Eastern Time and is held at the Senate Buffet in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, First Street and Constitution Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. For more information, please contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-4806.
I hope you can join us!Read More
When I was first elected to serve on the Lincoln City Council, I asked for the earliest meeting minutes in the history of the city. As I recall they were from 1871. I expected the proceedings to be full of colorful anecdotes about the Old West—perhaps a story about a shootout on "O" Street. Instead, the records spoke of managing a drainage ditch, buying a new fire apparatus, and other routine matters. This is the ordinary work of government.
I sometimes ponder how our leaders of the past would view the current condition of the country. If George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, or Theodore Roosevelt were suddenly placed in the context of modern society and government, would they recognize the problems we face? Or are things completely different?
One constant between the eras is the constitutionally-mandated State of the Union address. In modern times the address has evolved to a speech in the House of Representatives, full of expectations, controversy, and drama. It is an essential part of our political tradition.
The President reasonably structured his remarks around four key issues: the use of technology for proper ends, economic security, a measured foreign policy, and a better type of politics. Technology should be channeled toward proper progress for everyone. The economy should deliver widespread opportunity and security. Our national security strategy should chart a wise course between isolationism and over-intervention. Finally, we should pursue a new type of politics that aims to achieve constructive outcomes.
Most politics today is infested with an ugly dualism: a widespread desire for a better political approach yet hypocritically laced with factional interests. The President showed his own brand of this inconsistency in front of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who were seated in the House Gallery. The Little Sisters dedicate their lives to serving the elderly and the poor with health care. They are forced to sue the President’s administration to preserve their basic freedoms of conscience and religious liberty. Unfortunately, while the President yearns for a new type of politics, he glossed over a legacy of division.
The presidents of bygone eras would be familiar with many of our challenges: providing stability and order, maintaining security and freedom, and negotiating tensions between progress and tradition. On the other hand, unforeseen dynamics have changed so much about the modern age. They likely would be startled by advances in technology, the growth of government, the complexities of a globalizing economy, and new social fractures.
In a recent conversation with a scholar on the founding moments of our country, we discussed the deep divisions between those who shaped our Republic—but also on the friendship that bound them together. Their divisions never rose above their desire to protect that friendship—a quality sorely missing in today’s discourse.
In the midst of a tumultuous political season, clashing visions and coarsening rhetoric are widening political debates into seemingly irreconcilable divides. The hard work ahead lies in rediscovering a binding set of values. Many Americans feel their voices don't matter. If we want better politics, our nation must demand it.Read More
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today announced the selection of 15 students from eastern Nebraska to receive nominations to America's top military academies.
"A military academy appointment is a tremendous honor and a great responsibility," Fortenberry said. "Nominees must demonstrate capacity for leadership, personal integrity, and rigorous scholarship. I am pleased to nominate several young Nebraskans who meet these qualifications."
Following are the 2015 nominees:
William Addy of Lincoln Pius X High School. William is the son of John and Julie Addy and has been nominated to the United States Military Academy.
Grace Austin of Lincoln Christian High School. Grace is the daughter of Jeffrey and Rachel Austin and has been nominated to the United States Naval Academy.
Megan Deprez of Lincoln Southwest High School. Megan is the daughter of James Deprez and Kathleen Derby and has been nominated to the United States Air Force Academy.
Joshua DeWald of Lincoln Pius X High School. Joshua is the son of Michael and Terese DeWald and has been nominated to the United States Military Academy.
Justin Goodwin of Bellevue East High School. Justin is the son of Benjamin and Heidi Goodwin and has been nominated to the United States Naval Academy.
Regan Hefner of Bellevue West High School. Regan is the daughter of Ronald and Brooke Hefner and has been nominated to the United States Air Force Academy.
Nathan Ketner of Seward High School. Nathan is the son of J.B. and Carla Ketner and has been nominated to the United States Naval Academy.
April Kruse of Lincoln Pius X High School. April is the daughter of Dennis and Michelle Kruse and has been nominated to the United States Naval Academy.
Celine McNabb of Bellevue West High School. Celine is the daughter of Kevin and Charlotte McNabb and has been nominated to the United States Air Force Academy.
Karla Mendoza of Macomb High School (Illinois) and her hometown of Madison (Nebraska). Karla is the daughter of Juval Mendoza and Elizabeth Ward and has been nominated to the United States Naval Academy.
Jacqueline Parriott of Conestoga High School at Murray. Jacqueline is the daughter of James and Rita Parriott and has been nominated to the United States Naval Academy.
Brennan Roberson of Lincoln Southeast High School. Brennan is the son of Timothy and Lisa Roberson and has been nominated to the United States Air Force Academy.
Dawson Siemonsma of Plattsmouth High School. Dawson is the son of Keith Siemonsma and Jennifer Stander and has been nominated to the United States Military Academy.
Megan Wackel of Lincoln Pius X High School. Megan is the daughter of Thomas and Ann Wackel and has been nominated to the United States Air Force Academy.
Chandler Walsh of Waverly High School. Chandler is the son of Christopher and Jennifer Walsh and has been nominated to the United States Naval Academy.
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) made the following statement after President Obama’s State of the Union address:
“The State of the Union is an essential part of America’s political tradition. I thought the President’s speech was reasonably constructed around four key issues: the use of technology for proper ends, economic security, a balanced foreign policy, and a better type of politics.
“Overall, the President attempted to give an uplifting message, which is especially important in our time of turmoil. Technology should be channeled toward proper progress for everyone. The economy should deliver widespread opportunity and security. Our national security strategy should chart a wise course between isolationism and over-intervention. Finally, we should pursue a new type of politics that aims to achieve constructive outcomes.
“Certain segments of the speech contained troubling inconsistencies. From where I sat, perhaps the most glaring was the talk of a better political life in full view of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are forced to sue the Administration to preserve their basic freedoms of conscience and religious liberty. Unfortunately, the President’s discussion of unity glossed over a legacy of division.
“It is true that Americans feel their voices don't matter. This is a sad reality. If we want better politics, our nation must demand it.”
Fortenberry is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Have you ever noticed the number of American flags flying on front yards and farms in Nebraska? It’s amazing. The flag marks our pride of citizenship in a particular, special way. Or if you have ever traveled overseas, you know the feeling of excitement when you see our flag flying elsewhere. Even when meeting Americans abroad who are strangers, you often experience an immediate bond, the kinship of ties to our country. As the military says, “one team, one fight.”
Especially in times of significant duress, it is important to remind ourselves that America has tremendous capacity for constant replenishment. Unexpected opportunities often give us a chance to reassess and realign in new and compelling ways, both to preserve valuable traditions and to restore the promise of our nation. This understanding is especially important as we confront dysfunctional government, economic stagnation, global violence, and the social fallout of a fracturing culture.
In our age of anxiety, a stronger America can be glimpsed through what I call four interlocking principles: government decentralization, economic inclusion, foreign policy realism, and social conservation.
First, decentralizing government would empower families and communities to take greater ownership over their lives. While Washington has an important role in maintaining the guardrails of societal stability, those closest to an opportunity or a problem ought to have the first authority to seize the opportunity or solve the problem. Second, economic inclusion would help America recover from an arthritic economy. Instead of power concentrating in a Washington-Wall Street Axis, a vibrant market would expand the space for constructive interdependency and community dynamism. Small business is the key to private sector renewal. Third, foreign policy realism would chart a new course between isolationism and over-interventionism. Although America has an important role to play on the world stage, many Americans are alarmed by an exhausted, drifting, and often counterproductive foreign policy.
Fourth and most importantly, social conservation would preserve the conditions for order, for opportunity, and for happiness. As we fight back against dimming hopes and diminishing opportunities, we must remember that a healthy society depends upon more than politics for promoting sustainable values and our greater ideals.
I have prepared the following report as an overview of the work my office has engaged in over the past year. As we think critically about how we regain the high ground of purposeful government, an opportunity economy, a balanced foreign policy, and a flourishing culture in a good society, I invite you to review the links, videos, and statements that are of interest to you.
Click here to view my Year-End ReportRead More
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s announcement of a task force to monitor the progress of Offutt Air Force Base runway repairs makes a lot of sense.
Air Force analysts have rated Offutt’s runway as worst among the 17 airfields under the 55th Wing’s parent command. Trained personnel walk the tarmac to collect loose pieces of concrete.
It needs repairs, primarily to protect the wing’s vital national defense missions, but also to help preserve 5,500 of the base’s more than 10,000 jobs and its $1.3 billion in yearly economic impact.
The feds have already agreed to spend $7.5 million on design work for a replacement runway. But funding for the project needs shepherding, given its estimated costs of up to $125 million. That’s where this new task force can step in, much like the region’s collective efforts on behalf of securing local, state and federal funds to repair river levees that protect Offutt from flooding.
Fortenberry, vice chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, is joined in this effort by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and U.S. Reps. Brad Ashford and Adrian Smith. “We will work closely with the Pentagon through the design phase to monitor ongoing developments as we move toward needed new construction,” Fortenberry wrote to constituents.
It’s encouraging to see such vigilance from this bipartisan group of officials and vital that they communicate our region’s unified support of the base. Nebraska’s senators, Ben Sasse and Armed Services Committee member Deb Fischer, also are key voices for Offutt.
One day soon, federal replacement of the runway should help guarantee that Offutt remains home to the “Fightin’ 55th.”
Click here to read the editorial on the World-Herald's website.Read More
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today made the following statement after North Korea’s possible nuclear test:
“As the world has focused on ISIL’s death cult, attention has drifted away from another equally grave threat to civilization itself: North Korea’s dynastic and despotic leadership. In a region already roiled by increased Chinese military posturing, this ongoing threat to the international community of responsible nations is very real. This is one of the world’s most dangerous situations.
“While North Korea’s claim about testing a hydrogen bomb has not been verified, the international community should not underestimate the country’s young, ego-driven leader. North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons could grow substantially. One key to halting this aggression should be China’s influence.”
Fortenberry is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. Fortenberry previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee for eight years.
Fortenberry discusses the President's executive action on guns with Kevin Thomas on KLIN's DriveTime Lincoln.
Click here to listen to the radio interview.Read More
1514 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Jeff Fortenberry was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2004 to serve Nebraska’s First Congressional District. His work in Congress is rooted in the belief that the strength of our nation depends on the strength of our families and communities. Jeff is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which appropriates United States government expenditures. He serves on three subcommittees with importance for Nebraska: Agriculture, Energy and Water, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.
Jeff previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee where he placed particular focus on human rights concerns, Middle Eastern affairs, and nuclear weapons non-proliferation. He also represented Nebraska on the Agriculture Committee, where his work on two Farm Bills advanced opportunities for young and beginning farmers and promoted agricultural entrepreneurship.
Prior to serving in Congress, Jeff worked as a publishing industry executive in Lincoln, where he also served on the Lincoln City Council from 1997-2001. Jeff also has significant personal experience in small business, and early in his career he worked as a policy analyst for the United States Senate Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations. Jeff earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and two master’s degrees, one in public policy. He and his wife Celeste live in Lincoln and have five daughters.
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Hosted Winnebago & Ponca Tribes of Nebraska in my Lincoln office for update from tribal leadership. https://t.co/KiqYE7t7cR
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Pleased to join Vietnamese community of Saint Andrew Dung Luc in celebration of Tet, the New Year! https://t.co/i4JoqR87Sd
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Perhaps we should explore a broader understanding of how we find our security together. https://t.co/ULsD1m4DpZ
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A hopeful politics and a truly good society are ultimately relational. https://t.co/ULsD1m4DpZ
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Hosted the Winnebago and Ponca Tribes of Nebraska in my Lincoln office for an update from their tribal leadership.
Pleased to join the Vietnamese community of Saint Andrew Dung Luc in celebration of Tet, the New Year!
A hopeful politics and a truly good society are ultimately relational. Although we are not immune from harsher downward trends, in Nebraska we
Proud to stand with my fellow Nebraskans at Saturday's Walk for Life. The weather was much better in Lincoln than it was for the young people
Nebraskans continue to demonstrate a better pathway for America. In public servants and military veterans such as Joseph Lemm, in young people