I hope each of you have had the happiest of holidays!  There were many complaints regarding 2016, but I am thankful for many of the personal and professional changes in my life and look forward to the great opportunities we will see in the New Year.

I was fortunate to see family and friends over the break.  I was especially delighted with the Christmas gift from my mother.  When I opened it, I found a pair of brand new work gloves.  While this might not seem like much, I immediately knew the significance.  I recognized the brand as the same type my father used before he passed away.  This was the last pair of gloves he bought and was not able to use. This led to my resolution for 2017 – keep fighting for better opportunities for kids in Oklahoma.

My dad worked in construction his entire adult life before he became severely injured in a truck accident soon after I was born. Even with this slowing him, he still did what work he could around our home and by helping our neighbors.  He even attended small engine classes at the local career technology center to learn more about how to repair lawn mowers so he could tinker in his garage.  There are not many days when I do not think of him and what he did to help others, and that certainly helped shape me as a person.

He and my mom made certain I studied hard and was active in school programs, such as 4-H and Scouts. I was fortunate that it was their involvement in my life which made a world of difference for me. This led me to public service, both as an elected official and running the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, a non-profit aimed at improving the lives of children.

At OICA, we will soon unveil the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book, a document which contains statistics on where Oklahoma ranks in categories impacting the children of our state and the nation. Thanks goes to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the entity which funds this effort in all 50 states so people are aware of their ranking and what efforts are needed to improve conditions. You can check out our mission at oica.org and soon see the digital version of the KIDS COUNT Data Book. Most importantly, you can also sign up to volunteer in our effort for a better Oklahoma.

It will be the work of OICA and our many partner organizations which will make a difference in educating policymakers during the upcoming legislative session, and we need you to be involved.

I might not be doing the same type of labor as my father, but the work he and my mom helped prepare me for will continue to make a difference in the lives of others.  I know my dad would be proud that the gloves he owned will be in my office reminding me of my resolution to improve our state for the children.


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