By Joaquin Castro
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D) TEXAS
One year ago I was sworn in as a United States congressman. Representing Texas’s Twentieth District, I was the successor to a South Texas legacy and part of the most diverse freshman class in American history. We came to Washington to change things, certain that we could do better than the do-nothing Congress that preceded us. We would take on big issues and finally find agreement on things like immigration reform, which had been stuck in partisan gridlock for a generation. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way. By the end of the year, the 113th Congress was one of the most unpopular in history. But through the frenzy of tough votes, committee hearings, media hoopla, policy stalemates, and lots and lots of talking, I learned a great deal about our legislative branch. I learned that Congress is a place with more heart than courage; there are more good souls in Washington than brave ones. I learned that the whole is not always the sum of its parts, that what you put in doesn’t always match what you get out. All 535 of us can be individually busy—we routinely work twelve-hour days—yet together we often wind up producing very little. That’s because gridlock isn’t just a result of a bunch of people who can’t agree on anything, it’s a result of the customs and traditions that enable those people to cause dysfunction. And yet despite all that, I learned that when it comes to finding meaning in that kind of mix, hope and faith lean on each other, and there’s a reason to keep going. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let me start at the beginning, which actually comes before the beginning.