I initially spoke with Tom Guild, the Oklahoma challenger for the United States Congressional seat from District 5, through his Facebook page. When he mentioned a meeting of the Brennan Society, which nominates and endorses Progressive candidates to political offices, I made a point of attending.
We met at Johnnies on 33rd Street in Edmond, Oklahoma one sunny midafternoon. I sauntered in and sat down, not knowing anyone in the room, and then Tom began to speak to the group. The members of the group were warm and gracious. I noticed that they treated everyone respectfully, regardless of whether they were dressed in a suit or wore only blue jeans and a t-shirt.
Some weeks later, I attended a rally for Tom at the historic Blue Belle Saloon in Guthrie, Oklahoma. I sipped on an old fashioned root beer float while enjoying a live band performing oldies that brought back memories of my teenage years. Tom was seated at my table and jumped up periodically to welcome each person as they entered the room before he gave a short speech. When one of the guests mentioned the homemade cookies sitting on a table, Tom lifted up the platter and began to serve the people himself even though there were attendants available.
Throughout the discussions that I’ve had with him, I’ve discovered a man who rose from a childhood filled with hardships, but instead of feeling bitter or making excuses, utilized these experiences to benefit others.
As a young boy of six, Tom and his brother were abandoned by their parents. He was moved around between a number of foster homes until finally being adopted. His new mother was appalled to discover that he had been beaten with a bullwhip in his foster home for minor things such as not eating all the food on his plate.
His adoptive parents, Dr and Mrs. Carl Guild, were devoted and kindhearted. They were also very conservative Republicans. Dr Guild, his new father, stressed the significance of a college education, so Tom studied hard in school for several years until he earned a Juris Doctorate in Political Science and passed the Bar Exam. He then make use of his training to both teach and help others to obtain their goals.
Not only was Tom a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City University, but he established “Tommy’s Fund” to assist disadvantaged children at the Payne Elementary School in Wichita, Kansas where he went to Kindergarten and first grade, the Freda Meyer Guild Scholarship at OU which is for women seeking a career in Engineering, and the “Dr. Carl H. Guild, Jr. and Dr. Thomas E. Guild Scholarship” at UCO which assists college students who are working towards a vocation in Law and Public Service.
Tom agrees with the majority of Americans that it is wrong to privatize Social Security and to change Medicare into a voucher system. He believes that the government needs to preserve the programs that permit seniors to retain their dignity in what he terms their “golden years”. He told me that, “There is a dedicated trust fund for Social Security. Since it has a separate trust fund and has sufficient assets in the trust fund and in anticipated revenues to fund all anticipated benefits until 2033, it does not increase or decrease the federal budget deficit. Medicare has a dedicated tax to fund the program and is solvent through 2022. It does not affect to federal budget deficit each year one way or the other.”
He questions why those who talk about wanting small government pass large quantities of legislation that intrude on a person’s ability to make their own decisions on such private issues as birth control, marriage or religion. He would rather work towards promoting a country that promotes the public interest.
Programs such as Head Start, Meals on Wheels and Financial Aid for college are central to him because after having arisen from hardship himself, Tom recognizes that there are times in people’s lives where they require support. He believes that education is a vital step in attaining the American dream and without sufficient Financial Aid, we are leaving some of the brightest young minds behind. Education also has economic value because it preserves America’s competitiveness in a global marketplace.
Tom speaks fluent Spanish and is well respected in the Latino community because of his sincere and convivial presence and the close friendships that he has nurtured throughout the years, not only with Latinos, but with members of other religions, races and ideologies.
I asked him one time what his goals would be if he were elected other than protecting Social Security, Medicare and Pell Grants. He answered that he would work on job creation by restoring the nation’s infrastructure. After the I-5 bridge collapse that occurred recently, we are becoming aware that this is necessary.
He said that, “Supporting public education would create an educated and effective workforce and help create fulfilling careers and good paying jobs. Repairing our national infrastructure, that has been long neglected, would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and prepare our country for this and the next century.”
One of the final issues that we discussed was the campaign finance system. Tom agrees with most voters that the Citizens United decision and the quantity of campaign funds coming from corporate and other interests is gradually eroding Americans’ confidence in our Democracy.
In the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to not only interview Tom, but have begun to know him personally. I will say without hesitation, that he’s a dedicated man with an open mind and a compassionate heart who has a desire and goal of creating a country where everyone has the ability to achieve their American dream.