Why I do this

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

Why I do this

There are those moments in life that put everything into perspective. It can be a wedding, the death of a loved one, or even a good friend moving away. These moments serve as reminders of what’s really important. And for me, they are reminders of why I do what I do.

The NPRI family has grown in recent weeks. On June 18, Geoff Lawrence, our deputy policy director, and his wife, Jenna, were blessed with their first child, a baby boy. Carson Hayek Lawrence — now that’s a name for a think tank child — has been around barely two weeks, and already he has brought so much joy to his mom and dad.

Carson Hayek Lawrence

And the very next day, June 19, Karen Gray, our education researcher, welcomed her fourth grandchild and first grandson into the world. (I haven’t been able to confirm this, but I hear Parker is already preparing his first public-records request for the Clark County School District.)

Parker Gray Saunders

I spent this past weekend in Massachusetts with my parents, relaxing a bit, catching up and eating every kind of seafood you can think of, and I had some time to reflect on a whole lot of things. I thought back to the first days after Carson was born, when I had a chance to visit with Geoff and Jenna and hold their new baby boy myself. Moments like that have a unique way of crystallizing why it is that I do what I do for a living.

Those of us who work in public policy are attracted to this line of work for different reasons. Some of us love crunching numbers and poring over data. Others enjoy planning major projects and initiatives and strategizing on how to accomplish specific goals. And others are drawn to the opportunity to engage in the back and forth of the policy debates. That stuff is important and, yes, even fun.

But for me — and, I suspect, for most people who work in this field — the real motivation comes from something much deeper. What this is really about, when you get down to it, is improving lives. Or, better yet, it’s about helping to make sure people have the opportunity to improve their own lives and to pursue their own idea of happiness.

We don’t fight for better education policies just for the sake of winning political battles. We don’t try to create a sound tax structure for its own sake. We do these things because we understand that the outcomes of those policy debates have a real impact on people. We want Carson and Parker to grow up in a world full of opportunities. We want their parents to be able provide them with everything they need to get a good start on life.

We want to preserve our nation’s heritage as a land of opportunity, as a place where my parents and others like them were able to pursue their dreams and succeed or fail based on their own abilities and hard work. We want young couples like Geoff and Jenna to be able to do the same.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget all of that, when we’re caught up in the heated arguments over labor policy and pension reform. But it’s worth stopping and looking around once in a while, and remembering what — and who — really matters in life.

And remembering what it is that makes our cause such a worthy one.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day — and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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