Tom Weiler: From Ukraine to Minnesota, leadership is required

Whenever the United States and Russia, owners of 99% of the world’s nuclear weapons, have a standoff, smart, pragmatic leadership is required.

Tom Weiler, a retired nuclear-trained submarine officer, announced his candidacy for the Third Congressional District in October. (Photo courtesy of Tom Weiler)

As a recently retired nuclear-trained submarine officer, I have a unique understanding of how delicate and dangerous the situation in Ukraine is today. Whenever the United States and Russia, owners of 99% of the world’s nuclear weapons, have a standoff, smart, pragmatic leadership is required.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article discussing the situation in Ukraine, Peggy Noonan wrote, “None of our political leaders are thinking seriously, or at least thinking aloud in a serious way.” I share Ms. Noonan’s concerns. Congressman Dean Phillips exemplified this sentiment in a recent comment.

I am unsure what Congressman Phillips was attempting to do with this tweet, but appearing to pick a fight on behalf of Ukrainians against a lethal military force is not “thinking seriously.” This lack of serious thought, understanding, and leadership illustrates the “why” for me — why I decided to run for Congress.

I made the decision to run to become a representative as I stood on the bridge of the USS Eisenhower sailing in the north Arabian Sea. Our Aircraft Carrier Strike Group was deployed to the Middle East conducting air operations. During a rare moment of rest onboard, my mind reeled. Since I had deployed in January 2020, an unknown virus had overtaken the world and Minneapolis streets near my hometown were burning. Despite those crises, strong, pragmatic government leadership was not to be found.

I decided at that moment, if my Parkinson’s disease ended my military service early, I would continue to serve my country by running to represent my fellow Minnesotans in the United States Congress. I retired from the Navy after 20 years of service on Sept. 30, 2021, and declared my candidacy on Oct. 22, 2021.

I believe the developing situation in Ukraine reveals a real need for experienced, thoughtful leaders in our government. The situation continues to deteriorate as Russia senses weakness and a lack of competence among American leaders.

At first, I thought little of the Ukraine headlines, thinking this news does not matter to Minnesotans, nor many Americans. It is so distant from our everyday lives, so removed from local and national issues, that Minnesotans, and most Americans, don’t really care. But then I realized that this news embodies why I am running to represent my fellow citizens in Congress — because Minnesotans, and most Americans, do care. Good and evil exist in this world, and most Minnesotans, like most Americans, are good people who respect one another and long to be united. We are the United States of America. Minnesotans, and all Americans, need leaders who unite citizens and who represent citizens’ needs.

Minnesotans need a representative, not a politician, to be a strong, present leader to unite us as Minnesotans and as Americans, not to divide us as factions of people who happen to live in America. The way of life cherished by Minnesotans, and by all American citizens, relies heavily upon the character of our elected leaders and their ability to balance and protect liberty and the common good. If my deployment on the USS Eisenhower and my numerous deployments on submarines throughout the world taught me one thing, it is that our American democracy is precious. We need leaders who understand the difference between right and wrong, and who will do something to make things right. Allowing tyrants to take over countries, allowing crimes to increase unchecked, allowing borders to be ignored, allowing bureaucrats to choose which laws to enforce, and allowing school boards to take away a parent’s influence in her child’s education are all ways of failing to do the right thing — failing for Minnesota and for our country.

I am running for Congress because I have the character, the real-world leadership experience, and the moral compass to be a strong, pragmatic leader who will represent my fellow citizens and do the right thing. I will be a representative of the people, not a politician above the people.  I will say to Minnesotans and all Americans — do not be afraid; expect, and demand, the very best from your representatives.