Earlier this year, I remembered what would have been my father’s 100th birthday. Dad passed away on July 4, 2016, but his example remains vivid for me. He was always willing to give others the benefit of the doubt, and he is still my hero.
The example that he and my mother set is the reason I entered public service. The work they did – helping vulnerable adults and children feel loved and supported – was an example of true public service at its finest. From childhood, they taught us the value of work that seeks to improve the lives of others. We lost our Mom many years ago, to breast cancer, yet I still miss her sunny smile and her fierce fighting spirit.
My father, Frank, was legally blind, but he never let that hold him back or keep him from helping others. For 43 years, he worked for the state of Ohio, overseeing programs that served children and adults with disabilities. My mother, Ruth, was a teacher and social worker. She founded Ohio’s first foster grandparent program, matching seniors with developmentally disabled children to spend time together and support each other.
As an administrator, Dad was better than anyone I know at putting himself in others’ shoes. He always sought to see the world from someone else’s point of view. He and my Mom always took an approach that brought out the best in people, helping them fulfill their potential to do their best work and achieve great things.
And I suppose that’s what inspired my deep commitment to public service. Not only because of my parents’ persistence, but seeing how they made a difference to people who had things stacked against them, and needed a little help along the way.
In his later years, my dad was a total homebody. When my work kept me traveling around the country, he often asked where I was, only to invariably say, “Get home soon.” He liked knowing that his family was all safely at home, where we belonged.
Now I’m here all the time, working to make this state a better home for everyone. Dad would have liked that, very much.