All I was able to remember about that night was the strange feeling of cold waterchurning below my neck.
The rest of what I know I owe to my parents.
Dad was leading us across the Mekong River, secured together with a rope, bamboo pieces, inflated plastic bags tied to our clothes. We were fleeing the atrocities in Laos, paddling our way toward the distant lights, what dad said was the light of freedom across on the side of Thailand.
Leaving behind his land, his farm, his livestock, nearly every one of his earthly possessions, my father had led us on a 19-day nighttime journey through dense mountain jungles. We were escaping the communist revolutionaries who were executing anyone and everyone who had sided with America during the Vietnam War aka the Secret War in Southeast Asia.
For my father, it was a choice between a perilous journey fraught with danger and certain death.
I am here today because of the choice he made when I was 2 years old.
After the escape to Thailand, for seven years we lived in a camp with 60,000 Hmong refugees, until my parents were finally offered the chance to come to America.
I need no help remembering my first day in the United States. First time seeing a toilet flush. My first taste of Coca-Cola. First time seeing snow and feel the cold blast of winter wind. First ride in an automobile. First time throwing up on mom in the back seat of a car.
Everything I have. Everything I am. Every breath I take. Every freedom I enjoy I owe to the United States of America.
A country that helped me earn a degree at Michigan State University, enjoy a successful career in business, raise a family, buy a home, put my kids through school and start my own company.
I love Wisconsin. I love America. I will never be ashamed to say that.
I am running for the U. S. Senate because I fear that the greatest democracy in the world and this citadel of freedom is about to crumble, ripped apart by tribal warfare, identity politics and never-ending conflict.
Democracies work only when people want them to. More than a million American soldiers have died to defend ours. The least we can do is fight to preserve it.
America deserves better than a political class consumed with petty grievance. All of us deserve a Senator unafraid to lead.