This platform is for all of us. As a community. As a state. As a nation.
I believe in putting people over profit. Conservation over consumption.
Individuals over industry.
Wyoming is a state rich in natural, agricultural, and human capital, but the modern economy is leaving many workers and their families behind as technology, large corporations, and a focus on profit either ignore or undervalue human contribution and experience. As manual and blue-collar labor in many industries is being replaced by automation and artificial intelligence, many workers in our state face an existential threat to their livelihood and well-being (1, 2, 3).
We need to build a resilient and transformative economy, support workers in transition through training, education, and professional development and refocus economic pursuits towards human welfare and stability.
Diversifying our economy to meet the needs of the modern world not only means attracting or developing new businesses and companies but it also means providing the infrastructure and support for quality access to those industries.
A major reason the United States remains such a viable and strong nation is due to two foundational beliefs: a federalist form of government that protects states’ rights and the unalienable individual rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for its citizens. Protection and support for these two components of our nation is vital to our nation remaining the beacon of democracy in the modern world.
Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy of conservation, environmental protection, and establishment of public lands serves as a model for the use and management of our outdoor resources (21). Wyoming is incredibly fortunate to have over 30% of its land designated as either protected or public and open to all people (22). Federal oversight of these lands through the National Forest Service, BLM, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service ensures that these lands remain protected and open for the interests of the people, not corporations or private companies (23). We must keep these lands in the public domain and counter any legislation that attempts to privatize or sell our public lands across the US and within Wyoming.
However, conservation of our lands, wildlife, and recreational opportunities must take into account both local and global threats to our environment, including climate change (24, 25). We need to work towards developing long-term green jobs, seeking out alternative energy sources to curb our reliance on carbon, establishing protective measures against the polluting of our air, water and soil, and adopting sustainable agriculture practices (26).
Universal healthcare is not simply a question of choice or preference. Universal healthcare is about what is ethical, equitable, and economical for our country and people (32). Currently, millions of people are either uninsured or under-insured, leaving them vulnerable to financial burdens at best and financial collapse at worst (33). In addition, rising insurance premiums, higher deductibles, and increasing medical costs set to further hurt the middle and lower class, forcing them to make hard choices about their health, family, or finances (34, 35).
All industrialized countries provide universal basic healthcare for its people (36). The US is a notable, unfortunate exception. We must move to develop a single-payer healthcare system that provides coverage for all Americans.
Supporting education across the state and nation is foundational to our country’s stability and growth. Wyoming is fortunate to have the ability to spend more per student than many states in the nation (38). In addition, we are a model for progressive funding for our low income students and families (39). However, since over 80% of school funding comes from state and local taxes, the future of our schools’ ability to deliver quality education at this level is never certain (40). Combined with an education system across the nation that does not share the same advantages as us, we must work together to ensure a more equitable education program for all students. Uniting under this goal will strengthen all schools, including our own.
Wyoming has also made great progress in making post-secondary training, college, and university affordable and accessible for many students with the advent of the Hathaway Scholarship and the Wyoming Works Program. Nevertheless, we are far below the national average for graduating high school students who attend a post-secondary college or university. As the skills needed for the jobs of the future require continuing education, committing to make higher education affordable and accessible for our students is a top priority.
Immigration and Justice Reform are closely connected: both are about treating people with respect, dignity, and parity. For many immigrants, poor living conditions, violence, or lack of opportunity drive them to seek a better life either as a worker or refugee. The vast majority of immigrants are simply normal people who are no more or less likely to commit crimes or be a threat to public safety than citizens (42). They become our neighbors, our coworkers, and our friends and family (43). Similarly, a large percentage of prisoners in the US are non-violent and ready to reenter society if given the opportunity and funded support networks. Many were placed behind bars for extended periods of time for nonviolent, drug-related, or other low-level crimes through punitive laws such as minimum sentencing (44, 45). In addition, marginalized populations are disproportionately incarcerated, even in Wyoming (46). Both populations deserve impartial treatment under our laws and justice system which would help us to save millions of dollars in taxpayer funding of our state and federal prisons (47).
Therefore, we need humane, transparent, and fair immigration and justice reform that is inline with our foundational values, universal human rights, and our Constitution.
Americans of all ages are increasingly concerned with how to pay for retirement. Rising healthcare, prescription, and long-term care costs force many to make huge financial sacrifices (51). In the past 30 years, a steady shift from defined benefit pension plans to contribution-based plans has not provided the security generations past experienced (52). And uncertainty about how Social Security will look in the future leads many to wonder how they will be able to maintain a living once they stop working, either voluntarily or because of disability (53, 54).
In Wyoming and other rural states, our communities face other obstacles that hit retirees, seniors, people with disabilities, and people requiring long-term care particularly hard. Geographical distance and a decline in the number of healthcare facilities and physicians leave many people isolated and unable to access care quickly or efficiently (55, 56).
In order to address these shortcomings, we need to work at both the state and national level to ensure our current and future seniors, retirees, and people with disabilities stay above the poverty line, receive the healthcare they require, and have access to prescription drugs and medicine.
In Wyoming, gun ownership is woven into our cultural fabric. We own guns for sport, hunting, and personal protection. We teach gun safety at an early age and do our best to remain sensible, responsible gun owners. However, we also understand that gun deaths, accidental shootings, and mass shootings are a reality in our country that needs to be addressed. Therefore, responsible gun ownership extends beyond the personal use, security, and purchasing of firearms within our borders (60). We must acknowledge that it will take a nationwide, concerted effort to simultaneously recognize the right to bear arms and minimize or eliminate gun-related violence in our communities.
Therefore, we should work as a nation to establish a culture and system of responsible gun ownership around the purchasing, securing, and use of firearms in our country.