What was your life like growing up?
Three words describe my earliest years: simple, tough, and always-changing. The one constant in my early life was my loving mother. She grew up in the Ozarks—in Texas County, Missouri, on the farm my grandfather built after coming home from World War II. Today, we tend to romanticize the simple and tough life my mom experienced on the farm—and that she passed down to me. Mom was educated in a one-room schoolhouse until high school. She left the farm for a civilian job at Fort Leonard Wood during the Vietnam War.
I learned the value of hard work at a young age. Life’s basics were provided, but if I wanted anything extra from stylish clothes to electronic games, then I had to work for them. My parents could have bought me the ten-speed bicycle I wanted when I was eleven, but dad insisted there was nothing wrong with the bike I had. If I wanted a better one, he said, I could figure out how to pay for it. So, I did. I started a lawn-mowing business that spring, and soon had my new bike. When I turned sixteen, my first car was already waiting for me—because I had bought it two months earlier with my own money.
“The one constant in my early life was my loving mother.”
“I was young, but I remember experiencing genuine poverty first hand.”
Most of my friends had it a little easier, but I learned many of life’s necessary lessons early. Dad taught me to be observant, persistent, and practical—things he learned from his father and from his Air Force service during the Vietnam War. They don’t teach common sense and street smarts in school. I was fortunate to have a tough, simple family to train me from an early age.
I was born in Springfield, Missouri—the Queen City of the Ozarks. My family moved to the Chicago area when I was eight years old. My dad had a good job in the steel mill until the Carter recession. When the holidays came that year, people brought us groceries that we desperately needed. I was young, but I remember experiencing genuine poverty first hand. I then watched my dad work his way from an entry level sales position to the district manager over several stores. Neither of my parents went to college, but their hard work and natural genius were rewarded.
“I started a lawn-mowing business that spring, and soon had my new bike.”
“Dad taught me to be observant, persistent, and practical.”
Why didn’t you go to college right after high school?
A few months prior to my high school graduation, dad walked out on us. The financial gains of my parents’ hard work were wiped out, and mom and I had to depend on each other. Working for money today became a necessity that outranked an education for the future. After working for a contractor in the construction industry, I went out on my own. Ironically, perhaps, I helped a buddy get through college by providing him a summer job.
I experienced various levels of success over the next decade, and I am glad that I learned how to start and run a small business, how to negotiate deals, and—most important—how to work with people. As a result of working this decade right out of high school, I learned the value of hard work, and I have many useful skills. These were formative years that made me who I am today.
“I helped a buddy get through college by providing him a summer job.”
What happened to make you decide to start over?
After a decade of working, I determined to go to college. I always had a little regret over not going to college, but I never worried about it too much. Yet another set of tumultuous circumstances, however, refocused my attention. Mom had remarried, but was suddenly widowed when her wonderful husband suffered a heart condition. While helping her through this tragedy, I began attending church with her.
As a teenager, I wanted to work in a Christian ministry. After a short time back in church, I enrolled in Baptist Bible College. This meant moving to the city of my birth—Springfield, Missouri. As an adult student, I took college most seriously. I took twenty-six credit hours one semester—the normal is twelve to fifteen.
I graduated magna cum laude, earning a bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Ministry and Bible. I began to read deeply and to think well. I learned the importance of theology for all of life. Equally as important, I learned a whole lot about myself. More important, I met my wife Tonya in Springfield. We married in the summer before my final year of college, and we made plans to move to Dallas for me to begin graduate school at Criswell College.
“I learned how to start and run a small business, how to negotiate deals, and—most important—how to work with people.”
“I began to read deeply and to think well.”
How did you choose to become a professor?
I had never studied philosophy, and when I did for the first time in college, my mind leapt to life. Around the same time, I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs personality test. It soon became apparent to me that I was quite suited to become a college professor. After much consideration and council, I decided to pursue an M.A. in philosophical theology at Criswell College in Dallas. I knew I would see my education through to the Ph.D. level, but the only question was whether it would be in theology or philosophy.
Criswell College was the most natural fit of my life—professionally speaking. I graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA and was honored with the W.A. Criswell Award as the outstanding master’s graduate. At our graduation luncheon my career choice was confirmed when I was asked to come back next year—as a professor to teach philosophy and humanities.
The following year I continued my education at Dallas Theological Seminary, studying historical theology and methods of higher education, while teaching part-time at Criswell. I had attended the Seminary in the summers while at Criswell to complete my Greek and Hebrew studies, and now I was there full-time. I quickly determined, for many long-developing reasons, that for my Ph.D. I would study political philosophy.
The next year, I continued to teach at Criswell, while taking two more courses to earn a second M.A. from Criswell—this time in historical theology, while also beginning the graduate program at the University of Dallas. The University of Dallas only accepts three people a year into its doctoral program in politics. After earning a master’s degree in politics at the University of Dallas, I was invited into their Ph.D. program. Since it was fully funded and offered generous financial support, I gave up my job at Criswell after three years of teaching to focus on the doctoral program in politics full-time.
“It soon became apparent to me that I was quite suited to become a college professor.”
“I graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA and was honored with the W.A. Criswell Award as the outstanding master’s graduate.”
“I was asked to come back next year—as a professor to teach philosophy and humanities.”
“The University of Dallas only accepts three people a year into its doctoral program in politics.”
Why were you drawn to political philosophy?
My interest in academic politics began at Criswell College, and was furthered at Dallas Theological Seminary. The two subjects that aroused my interest in politics were moral philosophy, which often relates to politics, and historical theology, because the history of the church and the state are closely united until the modern era. The realization that I wanted to study political philosophy at the doctoral level therefore grew over time. When I searched for a program, I learned that one of the best in the country is right here in Dallas.
The University of Dallas is a truly unique school. It offers a Great Books program focusing on the great texts of the Western tradition. This means reading closely some of the best and most difficult texts ever written. Thinkers from Plato and Aristotle, to Augustine and Aquinas, to Locke and Montesquieu became my teachers. The work was far more difficult than anything I had ever done—and I thrived on it.
"The two subjects that aroused my interest in politics were moral philosophy and historical theology."
“Thinkers from Plato and Aristotle, to Augustine and Aquinas, to Locke and Montesquieu became my teachers.”
Political philosophy at the University of Dallas is broad and inclusive. While mastering the entire Western tradition, I focused on American political philosophy, which allowed me to study both the American Founders and their modern enemies. By studying political philosophy broadly, I read what generations of thinkers—including the American Founders—have read. By studying the American Founders, I came to appreciate the unprecedented brilliance of our Constitution. By studying their modern enemies, I came to understand the methods of those who wish to undo our Constitution—and how to combat those efforts.
“By studying political philosophy broadly, I read what generations of thinkers—including the American Founders—have read.”
What made you want to pursue public service?
Two things occurred while earning a Ph.D. in politics at the University of Dallas that led me to want to serve in Congress. These are the extracurricular activities provided by two foundations that supported my studies, and my in-depth study of our Constitution—and the principles behind it.
Besides receiving a full-tuition scholarship and a stipend from the University of Dallas, I also received financial support from the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation and the Rumsfeld Foundation. Sumners lived in Garland and was a U.S. Congressman who served from Woodrow Wilson’s first term to the end of World War II. His foundation promotes self-government through scholarships to politics students at select schools. Rumsfeld also was a U.S. Congressman, although he is of course better known as the two-time Secretary of Defense. His foundation seeks to build a network of well-educated public servants. Both foundations also sponsor seminars that introduce distinguished statesmen to students. I met Lt. Col. Allen West at my first event, and he later became a friend and occasional mentor. My experiences with West and other prominent statesmen led me to consider the possibility of my own public service.
“Two things occurred while earning a Ph.D. in politics at the University of Dallas that led me to want to serve in Congress.”
“My experiences with Lt. Col. Allen West and other prominent statesmen led me to consider the possibility of my own public service.”
The other factor that led me to consider public service was my in-depth study of the U.S. Constitution at the University of Dallas. As I came to understand the philosophy of the American Founders—and the philosophy of their enemies who seek to reinterpret our Constitution, I began to consider the possibility that, in addition to teaching these principles to others, perhaps I might actually go to Washington to fight for their survival.
“I began to consider the possibility that, in addition to teaching these principles to others, perhaps I might actually go to Washington to fight for their survival.”
What do you hope to accomplish through public service?
The next American Revolution must take place within the walls of the United States Congress. We cannot continue down the current path in which the nature of our country changes with each new President. From 2009-2016, America looked to the rest of the world like Barak Obama. From 2017 to at least 2020, America looks to the rest of the world like Donald Trump. Meanwhile, few Americans look exactly like either one of these men. This is further demonstrated by the fact that under Obama’s presidency, states like Texas wished for greater federalism—while under Trump’s presidency, states like California wish for greater federalism. The fundamental nature of our nation cannot suffer a dramatic shift every four to eight years. We need a Congress that works.
“The fundamental nature of our nation cannot suffer a dramatic shift every four to eight years.”
The solution is to establish a stable Congress that writes laws that the President executes and the Courts interpret. The Constitution establishes this simple system, but we have replaced it with an expansive government that too greatly empowers the President and the Court. A mere glance to Washington reveals that Congress is the weak link. I am pursuing public service because I believe the only way to save our country is from within the walls of Congress. Policies matter, which is why my issues section is full of policy solutions—but our fundamental problem is that Congress isn’t working. We need Congresspersons who understand the institutions given us in the Constitution, and who are determined to return to normal order as practiced for most of the life of our republic.
"I am pursuing public service because I believe the only way to save our country is from within the walls of Congress."
Congress overwhelms itself by trying to do too much. The solution is to return much power to the states. Also, Congress does not do well that which it is obligated by the Constitution to do. The solution is to return power to the individual members through the committee system. Everything Congress does now comes from the few who are in leadership. They depend on lobbyists and bureaucrats for expertise, while most members of Congress pass their days with busy work that they gladly perform to keep their jobs.
“They depend on lobbyists and bureaucrats for expertise, while most members of Congress pass their days with busy work that they gladly perform to keep their jobs.”
How are you different than anyone else we might send to Washington?
We need a greater variety of public servants in Washington. The majority of Congresspersons—from both parties—are lawyers, business people, and former military personnel. We certainly need lawyers in Congress—their job, after all, is to write laws. We also need business people in Congress who understand the economy—especially how the free market truly works when left alone. And we benefit from having military veterans in Congress—although there are currently 102 veterans in Congress—which is 20%, yet the Department of Veterans Affairs is a disaster. By contrast, only 13 current members of Congress hold a Ph.D., which is 2%—and of these, only 4 hold a Ph.D. in politics. I am not arguing for a Congress full of Ph.D.s, but surely we need a greater variety within the membership of Congress—and certainly more people who have invested several years in the study of politics should be part of the political process at the highest levels.
“By contrast, only 13 current members of Congress hold a Ph.D., which is 2%—and of these, only 4 hold a Ph.D. in politics.”
“There are currently 102 veterans in Congress—which is 20%, yet the Department of Veterans Affairs is a disaster.”
Are you pursuing a political career?
No, I am not pursuing a political career. I am of course pursuing a public service job by running for Congress, but I’m not looking for a life-long career in Congress—nor do I see public service as a career path to something greater and more profitable. The ideal course of my life is to serve in the U.S. House for a season, and then to return to teaching politics. I’m eager to serve because I recognize the need, and I feel prepared to accomplish what must be done.
"The ideal course of my life is to serve in the U.S. House for a season, and then to return to teaching politics."
Have you always been a Republican?
My commitment to the Republican Party is as simple as reading the platforms of the two major parties. I agree with the principles of the Republican Party, and I agree with most of its policy positions. I have been a Republican my entire adult life, and I have no intention of changing.
I have also—for my entire adult life—labelled myself a disgruntled Republican. We have two problems, one old and one new. Our long-term problem is that we continually acquiesce to those who want to move our country away from our Founding principles. Republicans often sound like Democrats because we have surrendered to the notion that government has a primary role to play in our everyday lives. Our more recent problem is that several years of opposition have left us unable to govern. It is natural for the minority party to become the party of opposition, because this is all that a united minority can do against a united majority. Now that it controls Washington, though, the Republican Party must learn how to govern a divided nation. When we accomplish this, we will return America to its former greatness.
"The Republican Party must learn how to govern a divided nation. When we accomplish this, we will return America to its former greatness."
"My commitment to the Republican Party is as simple as reading the platforms of the two major parties."
Who are your political heroes?
Few politicians impress me. Most politicians speak in platitudes, seldom saying anything of consequence. Those who occasionally say something worth hearing, too often fail to match their rhetoric to their deeds. However, there are a few statesmen truly worthy of reasonable admiration.
I’ve already mentioned my relationship with Lt. Col. Allen West, so he’s a given. Additionally, I’ll mention three others, each for different reasons. First, I respect Nikki Haley because we both come from simple, tough backgrounds. I admire her firm stance at the United Nations, and her success on the national stage. Second, the lone voice of reason in Congress often is that of Rand Paul. He understands the constitutional role of government better than almost anyone.
Third, my real hero is Dave Brat. He’s the U.S. Congressman from Virginia who defeated Eric Cantor in 2014. Brat was a college professor, who holds a Ph.D., and who never held political office prior to becoming a member of the U.S. House. We potentially have much in common. In his Republican primary upset, Brat spent $200,000—while Cantor spent $5 million. Brat proves that so long as money can’t literally buy votes, principles and ideas still win the day in American politics.
"Few politicians impress me."
"I admire Nikki Haley’s firm stance at the United Nations."
"Rand Paul understands the constitutional role of government better than almost anyone."
"Dave Brat proves that so long as money can’t literally buy votes, principles and ideas still win the day in American politics."
Why did you move to Richardson?
My wife Tonya and I have lived in the Collin County section of Richardson for nearly a decade, and we are glad to call the Canyon Creek neighborhood home. When we first moved to Texas, we chose to live near Criswell College for my graduate studies. We thoroughly enjoyed living in Dallas’ Uptown neighborhood for about two years before moving to Richardson.
Our initial draw to Richardson was our work with a local church where we started and ran a ministry for addicts called Reformers Unanimous. Between this commitment, Tonya’s singing in the choir, my occasional teaching and preaching, and regular church attendance, we knew we needed to move to Richardson. We now attend First Baptist Richardson, where we have been members for over five years. Tonya sings in the choir and on the praise team, and I have taught two different Bible study classes, one for college students of the University of Texas at Dallas and one for middle-aged adults.
Richardson has become our home, and we have grown to love our neighbors and our community. We can’t imagine living anywhere else. We committed to Richardson when we bought our home, and we joyfully look forward to living here here for a long time.