In a political environment where civil discourse seems to be headed into the sewer, one congressman is making a difference both in his district and in Washington to fight for policies that promote upward mobility and compromise.
Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) is not your typical congressman. He represented the 10th Congressional District of Illinois from 2010-2012, then lost in 2012 to Democrat Brad Schneider by just 3,000 votes. But in 2014, Dold was able to win a rematch against Schneider and again represents the 10th District. In his time in Congress, Dold has quickly developed a reputation for bipartisanship, compromise, and strong leadership.
“It’s absolutely critical that you lead by example,” Dold said to Opportunity Lives. He stressed the importance of visiting people and organizations in the community that are succeeding in solving social problems in order to share those best practices with other organizations.
An example Dold references often is YouthBuild in Lake County. YouthBuild provides an opportunity for as many as 100 disadvantaged young people per year to build a better future through education opportunities and job training. Even though YouthBuild estimates that 80 percent of participants were involved with gangs before the program (many were high-school dropouts), the turnaround opportunity is transformational — 78 percent of participants graduate from the program and are placed into jobs.
“Local resources — people who have credibility within the community — they have to be part of the program, they have to be part of the turnaround agenda,” Dold said.
Another organization Dold highlights is the Former Inmates Striving Together (FIST) program that helps former inmates reintegrate to the community through job search, transportation, and housing assistance. A major key to effective criminal justice reform is reducing recidivism rates, and FIST has done that through a comprehensive 12-step ex-offender program.
On the federal level, Dold recognizes that there are things to be done to increase opportunity. He said the Every Student Succeeds Act that was recently passed does just that. Dold is also continuing to fight for an additional change to federal education policy that will remove a 36 percent tax from being imposed on Illinois schools that use federal money to hire teachers instead of buying books or iPads.
“We know a one-size fits all does not work,” said Dold. “We want to encourage those schools to continue to innovate and continue to do things that they know are working for them.”
Dold was also recently named to the Social Security Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee and has been exploring ways to make the country’s retirement program solvent. “I’m not here because I want to be a politician; I’m here because we need to solve problems,” he said. He continues to push for an honest, bipartisan discussion that considers all possible solutions, both those favored by Republicans and Democrats.
Dold encourages everyone to not give up hope in civil discourse. Despite a year of tense political arguments, he has been able to find ways to achieve compromise with people on both sides. “I don’t care who you are. The chances are, if we sit down together, we can find things we agree on,” Dold said.
“If we focus on areas of agreement, we have a chance to actually get some things done.”