Generational decisions

Published 10:47 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

by Randy Forbes

Decisions are part of the fabric of our everyday lives. Most that we make in a day won’t matter in the long run: whether to pack lunch or buy lunch; whether to mow the lawn tonight or wait until tomorrow. Some small decisions, though, hold greater weight. They create a wake that can ripple across decades. It’s the parent’s decision to have their children participate in household chores to teach the value of hard work. It’s the dad who chooses one Sunday to take his family to church, even when his life is falling apart. It’s the student who becomes the first person in his family to walk across the high school graduation stage.

I call these generational decisions. Often they stem from a single choice — the decision to make a chore chart, to drive to church, to study hard. Yet they set in motion a different course that will be realized two and three generations down the road. The first high school graduate may set a precedent in his family for the value of education; three generations later, the same family sees a great-granddaughter walk across the stage with a Ph.D.

America makes generational decisions too, which, for better or worse, shape the course of our nation.

I think about when President John F. Kennedy presented the country with a historic challenge, daring us to put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the 1960s. That challenge transformed space discovery in America and unleashed an era of international leadership that has spanned decades. It shifted our perspective, allowing us to understand our place in the universe, and inspired a new generation of scientists, engineers, and technology. It unified Americans after decades of division from the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement. It brought a sense of pride back to our homeland that still stirs American hearts today when we hear that scratchy recording of Neil Armstrong’s famous words.

Generational Decisions work both ways: a poor decision can impact the trajectory of the nation just as much, if not more, than a positive decision. I think about how every time a Supreme Court Justice chooses to brush aside the rule of law, it sets a precedent that lingers across generations. Landmark cases as far back as Marbury v. Madison expanded the power of the Court, setting a precedent for the role of the judiciary branch that we still see playing out to this day. The Court’s infamous decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford in 1857 delayed the abolition of slavery, impacting countless lives. The ripple effect of the Roe v. Wade decision is still with us today. And when the president decides not to enforce U.S. immigration laws, it paves the way for future presidents’ to selectively enforce and unilaterally rewrite democratically passed laws. These are Generational Decisions.

I believe our country is once again at a crossroads. The decisions we make today will dictate the opportunities, future, and freedom of Americans tomorrow.

That’s why I opposed the Administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. It’s a gamble that puts our children and grandchildren’s security at risk by economically empowering an already aggressive Iran. It’s a gamble we cannot afford to take.

That’s why I support bills to secure the border and remove any president’s ability to unilaterally shutdown immigration enforcement. The rule of law matters. Not just for today, but for tomorrow.

That’s why I’m fighting to constitutionally require Congress to balance the budget. It’s time for Washington to recognize what the American people already know —  continuing the current cycle of temporary spending and last-minute deals is not only unacceptable, it’s unsustainable.

And that’s why one of my top priorities has always been supporting our men and women in uniform. National security is not a faucet you can switch off and on. We must continue to invest in research and development, and encourage the innovation that gives our service members the technological advantage they need to accomplish their missions and return safely home. To ensure our children and grandchildren enjoy the freedom and security we have enjoyed, we must be looking beyond current challenges and crafting a national security strategy for two and three generations down the road.

It’s time we put away the short-sighted politics of now and start playing the long game. Our nation’s most influential leaders — George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr, and others – all made tough decisions that pushed our nation forward because they had honed the ability to see past today and envision a freer, better tomorrow. They understood that the choices they made, the words they spoke, the challenges they presented would stretch far beyond a single podium or a single place and time

The same is true today. As Americans, we are stewards of this grand experiment in liberty and democracy we call the United States. We must not allow it to slip through our fingers. We must approach decision-making with the knowledge that the choices we make today are shaping the future for our children, our grandchildren, and generations we will never know.

RANDY FORBES represents Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. For contact information, see