Why We Need a Navajo Voice in Washington

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These are challenging times for political leaders across the United States, including tribal leaders in Arizona. With a persistently weak national economy, high health care costs, and trouble overseas it is imperative to have a tested leader in Congress who understands these challenges. 

Arizona’s tribal communities continue to suffer high unemployment, rampant poverty, and diminished opportunity. While political differences divide us, one common goal we should all have is to expand opportunity for our youth by improving their access to a quality education.

Born and raised on the Navajo Nation, I witnessed first-hand the many problems facing Native people. Despite our communities’ challenges, the value of education was instilled in me. After graduating from high school I went to the University of Arizona which opened many doors for me, intellectually and professionally.

I studied cellular and molecular biology, with aspirations to become a medical doctor, but soon developed a thirst for serving my community. I believe serving others is the best way to help other Native Americans succeed in Arizona and across this great country.

We all know the substandard social and economic statistics when it comes to Indian country and housing, health care and education.

Even by those standards, two statistics released by the Arizona Department of Education are eye-popping: in Apache and Navajo Counties alone there are 23 failing schools. And on average, less than 10 percent of students on the Navajo Nation complete an undergraduate degree.

A wise person once observed that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Clearly, there is a need for some creative --- even unorthodox --- thinking when it comes to educating the children on the Navajo Nation and the kids of tribal communities in the State of Arizona.

Our kids deserve quality facilities, ample resources, bright and innovative teachers, and an environment that equips them for the 21st century economy. If they are to compete with not just other American young adults, but with people around the world, nothing less than this will be practically effective or acceptable to me.

All of this is why I am running for the open seat in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. I believe that education reforms need to be centered around parental choice and local control. We need to have higher and achievable expectations for our children, teachers, and administrators. This starts with understanding our challenges and offering real solutions.

Carlyle Begay is a candidate for Arizona Congressional District One and an Arizona state senator (LD 7).