U.S. Sen. Rob Portman: Finding common ground and making a difference

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 11, 2022

Not many people these days would say that politics is an honorable profession. A recent poll showed 20 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. And I guess we all give people reasons to be skeptical. Especially when we seem too political and partisan gridlock keeps us from solving problems people care about like the energy crisis and what’s happening on our southern border. 

 But I know it doesn’t have to be that way. Politics at its best can be honorable. It’s about finding common ground to help people. We all have our own views and that’s fine and as elected leaders we certainly have a responsibility to represent our states and our constituents. But I think sometimes we forget we were hired to do our best to find that common ground and to achieve results. That’s what we were hired to do. 

When I need to be reminded about that, I think about my political mentor, George H.W. Bush, who gave me my first job in politics. First on the campaign trail and then in his White House. To him, public service was absolutely a noble calling a, way to serve. And he helped young people like me see that by his example. 

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In working for his son George W. Bush, I witnessed that same commitment to public service. In my Senate office, as these folks behind me can recite, we have a mission statement and we developed it together. It says the following: ‘Our mission is to deliver bipartisan results through effective servant leadership with integrity, selflessness, and excellence so all Ohioans can reach their God-given potential.’ 

What is servant leadership? 

I think it begins with the respect for constituents by listening to them and understanding their concerns and whenever possible delivering those results for them from casework to legislation. During my time in the Senate, I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for Ohio and the country by trying to follow that formula. 

 I’m told by my staff today as of this week, over the past 12 years there were 195 bills that I have authored or coauthored that have been signed into law. By definition almost all are bipartisan and the product of the back and forth it leads to that common ground. 

As an example, a bill I wrote with Senator Hassan is on the president’s desk. About early hearing detection. Not the most pressing issue to many people but to the Ohio family whose child’s hearing loss will be diagnosed early, it could be life-changing. These accomplishments are a  testament to the willingness of members and staff on both sides of the aisle to find a way to achieve mutual objectives by listening and respecting to different points of view. By doing that even during a time when there is trust and dysfunction, we’ve been able to achieve a lot together.

So, to all of my colleagues—I have worked with every one of you in one way or another. Thank you for that privilege and Godspeed as you continue to serve your constituents and carry the torch of freedom forward.

— From the senator’s farewell address on Thursday

Rob Portman is a Republican and the junior U.S. senator representing Ooio. His office can be reached at 212-224-3353.