Editor’s Note: “Catching Up With Kay” has been a way for Senator Hagan to keep North Carolinians informed about her work in Washington and her travels throughout the state. This farewell op-ed was originally published in the Dec. 15 edition of the Greensboro News-Record.
By U.S. Senator Kay Hagan
Dec. 15, 2014. With the year quickly drawing to a close, we are all looking forward to what comes next — holiday plans with friends and family and the promise of a New Year. But as we celebrate the season and look with hope and excitement toward the future, I want to take a moment to look back and to thank you for what has been the greatest privilege of my life: the opportunity to serve you, the people of North Carolina, in the U.S. Senate.
You sent me to Washington six years ago to represent our shared values — to fight for the priorities that make our state great. And I have been so proud to wake up every day ready to stand up for our teachers and students, to help create jobs and build an economy that works for everyone, and to make sure that we are keeping our promises to our service members and veterans.
I put North Carolina first in everything I did — in every vote I took and in every bill I introduced. And I am extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish in the last six years.
I’m proud that, working together, Sen. Richard Burr and I were finally able to get service members and their families affected by water contamination at Camp Lejeune the answers, health care and justice they deserve. North Carolina is the most military-friendly state in the nation, and I worked every day to keep it that way. I championed legislation to connect our returning heroes with jobs, and when the tuition assistance benefits for service members were shut off because of sequestration, I worked across the aisle to get the program reinstated in just two weeks. When the promises made to our military, veterans and their families were on the line, I never backed down.
I also never backed down when it came to supporting education, a sacred value in our state. Over the past six years, I have been honored to meet so many of our teachers, including North Carolina’s past Teacher of the Year, Karyn Dickerson, who was my guest at this year’s State of the Union. I’m constantly inspired by the drive, commitment and creativity of our teachers, and I worked hard to ensure that our educators and students had the tools needed to be successful.
From pushing for programs to keep North Carolina on the cutting edge of education technology to stopping student loan rates from doubling, it was important to me that all children in our state had the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Throughout my entire term in the Senate, however, my number one priority has been creating jobs and growing North Carolina’s economy. The first bill I co-sponsored was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gave women the tools to fight for equal pay for a day’s work. Ever since, I have been working to advance common-sense policies that benefit our families and support our businesses — from passing my AMERICA Works Act to close the skills gap and train workers for the jobs that are available today, to fighting for North Carolina’s farmers in the Farm Bill, to resolving more than 36,000 constituent services cases for the people of North Carolina, including helping small business owners cut through red tape and hire more people. For example, when a North Carolina furniture manufacturer ran into difficulties receiving a tax refund from the IRS that it needed to stay in business, my office was able to cut through the red tape and get that money in its account within three weeks
I’m extremely proud of my staff, and I believe the work we’ve done has helped set our state on a path to a brighter future. But if we are going to continue to make progress on the issues that matter — strengthening our education system, growing our economy and supporting our service members and veterans — all our representatives, Democrats and Republicans, must work together.
One of my guiding philosophies is “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Six years ago, North Carolinians gave me the opportunity to be their voice in Washington, and I’ve put North Carolina first every single day. I urge my colleagues to do the same — to break through the political gridlock, to see past the “D” or the “R” behind someone’s name, and to work together in a bipartisan manner, as I have, to move our state and our country forward.
Indeed, working together is the only way we can ensure that North Carolina remains the place “where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.”
I thank you for the opportunity to serve, and I wish you and your family a joyous holiday season and a happy New Year. May God bless North Carolina.