“The American dream is alive and well,” Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, says, “but only if we work at it.”
“We must continue to work,” Sears says. “We must make sure that our children understand that they must take their place in society, that their job is no less than preserving America for the next generation.”
Sears, who previously served in the Virginia House of Delegates, is author of the book “How Sweet It Is: Defending the American Dream.”
She was elected as the state’s lieutenant governor Nov. 3, 2021, becoming the first black woman to hold the position.
“So we can’t afford to baby our children. They’re the adults now, and we look to them to keep that charge,” Sears says.
America, she adds, “must remain the city on a shining hill.”
Sears joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss her book, what inspired her to get involved in politics, and how her Marine Corps service informs her work as lieutenant governor in the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Listen to the full interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast” or read a lightly edited transcript below.
Samantha Aschieris: Today I have the honor of welcoming Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears to “The Daily Signal Podcast.” Lt. Gov. Sears was first elected in November 2021 and has a brand new book out now titled “How Sweet It Is: Defending the American Dream.” Lt. Gov. Sears, thank you so much for joining us today.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears: Oh, thank you for having me. Good to be with you.
Aschieris: So, I want to just dive right in and talk about your book. I really enjoyed it. I have it here. It was super inspiring. I will certainly leave the link in the show notes for our audience members to take a look at. Tell us a little bit more about the book and why you decided to write it.
Sears: Well, the fact that you said that you were inspired by it is exactly why I wrote it. …
You never think you have a story anybody wants to read. And so here I was doing the campaigning and as you’re talking about why the people should elect you, and so you have to give snippets of your life. And people kept saying, based on what they’d heard, they would love to read my story. And so I thought, OK, well, maybe if it inspires someone, I’ll do it. And so here it is, that’s the book.
Aschieris: And one thing that I took away from your book and was very interesting to me was when you talked about your relationship with God and you write, “My relationship with God had pretty much ended when I was 12 years old.” That’s not the case today. So what inspired you to repair your relationship with God?
Sears: Well, actually, I think once you’ve come to the Lord, you don’t leave Him totally because you do know what that relationship was about, but you want to do the things that you want to do.
But then I became an adult with children, and it was really my baby daughter, we had moved from California where we had been stationed and we were now in Virginia, and the voice just said to me, “She’s going to grow up.” She was in diapers and my book talks about it in depth that she was going to grow up at a year old and, “She was going to grow up and not know me, and she’s going to blame you.”
And I thought, no, no, no, can’t have that. So I wanted to introduce our children to God and of course they have to make their own decision if this is the God that they want to serve and etc., etc., etc. So because God doesn’t have, as we say, grandchildren, he only has children.
Aschieris: For anyone who might be listening who might feel that they’re in a similar situation, what advice would you give them if they would like to repair their relationship with God?
Sears: He’s right there. And He’s actually more interested in this relationship than you are, believe it or not, because He knew you, He said, before he formed you in your mother’s womb.
And so just talk with him. Just talk. It’s that prodigal son. What I love about the story about the prodigal son is when the father, it says, saw the son coming home, he didn’t lean against one of our columns on the porch and say, “Oh, so you’ve come back now. Where are your friends at? Huh? Oh, all the money has run out? Oh, and now you want me to forgive you and just bring you back into the house as if nothing happened?”
But that’s exactly how the father is. The Bible says the father ran off the porch to the son and grabbed him. “You’re home, I’m so glad you’re here.” So yeah, he’s just a prayer away.
Aschieris: Now, I want to talk a little bit more about your journey in politics. As you mentioned in the book, you first ran for the 90th District in the Virginia House of Delegates back in the early 2000s, 2001, and you beat incumbent Billy Robinson. He had held that position for a very long time, since 1981. What inspired you to get involved in politics?
Sears: Well, I’d always wanted to be in politics, but I didn’t want to be the candidate and I didn’t want to be the politician. I figured I know how to lead organizations, I know how to serve, and so, I know how to write speeches, so I want to be the person behind the politician and push the other person forward.
But God had other plans and turns out he wanted me to be the politician, but I was still not interested. But when I realized that nobody ever knocks on my door and asks me what is my opinion about anything, how can they serve me? What are the roads like? What are my schools like?
And by the way, just because I’m black, don’t assume you know anything about me. Come and talk to me. And it seemed like we were worshiping our politicians and I didn’t like that at all. So I figured, all right, I’m going to jump in and of course I got the call and answered the call.
Aschieris: And just in terms of advice for people who might be listening to this podcast and maybe considering running or getting involved in politics, whether it’s at the local level, state level, federal level, what’s your advice to them?
Sears: I would say pray, of course, and jump in. Why not you? You are just as capable as the next person and you have ideas on how you’d like to help. Go talk to the people, offer yourself.
And if it’s not to be you, then find a candidate that you can support and support with all your heart. Because the candidate cannot win an election by themselves. They need your help, whether it’s in helping with the phone calls and helping with the mailings and knocking on doors and talking with your family and friends.
And don’t be afraid. We are getting to this point in America, we’re afraid to put bumper stickers on our cars. We’re afraid to talk with our family members at Thanksgiving because we’re in this fight. It can’t be that way. We’ve got to let each other be.
And that’s the other thing, I’m not wanting all black people to be/become Republicans. I just want us to leave each other alone. If we want to vote a certain way, vote that way. But let’s be civil with each other. I’ve always said we can disagree without being disagreeable.
Aschieris: Now, just to do a little compare and contrast from when you first ran back in 2001 to your most recent position now as lieutenant governor, how have you seen the political landscape change since your first election to when you were running back in 2021?
Sears: Now, I talk a little bit about this in my book. For me, my personal run, I mean, I had death threats 22 years ago when I first ran to the point where my mother called me from Jamaica and said, “They’re going to kill you.” And I said, “No, Mom, no, this is America. They don’t do that here.”
But once the election room was over, there was still that fight because I had to fight with Democrats who looked like me because I was a threat. But it wasn’t like it is today where we are just at each other’s throat. And it’s spilled out into the body politic itself where families are just breaking apart over politics. We can’t have that. That’s not going to work. That will tear our nation apart.
And you know who loves that? China, Russia, North Korea, all of these other countries. They want to see us in this battle, in this civil war. No, no, no. We’ve got to keep America strong.
The only way to do that is to come together, is to be civil with each other, is to allow thoughts to bubble up. And then don’t force anyone to believe what you want to believe. We vote, then we come together, we vote again, we come together. Let’s do that.
Aschieris: Absolutely. As we’ve been talking about, you first won back in November 2021 for lieutenant governor. Since taking office, it’s coming up on two years, what has been the most challenging part about the position and the most surprising part also?
Sears: I think the most challenging would be that this is a statewide office. And when I was first elected, I had a very compact district and I was responsible to the people of the 90th and the 90th alone—their views, their ideas. “I need money for my 90th District. How are you going to help?”
Well, now, I represent all of Virginia and so I have to ensure that all Virginians get a piece of the pie, and that means I need to be in their communities. “What do you need? How can the state help you? How can we come alongside the local government? What do the schools need?” It’s a bigger dynamic.
And so I’m on the road almost 24/7. People ask me, “Where do you live?” And I say, “In hotels.” The other question was, “What’s been surprising?”
Sears: Well, what I’ve discovered is, if you can run for chief dog catcher, you can run for anything. It’s just a bigger area to cover.
So nothing really has surprised me except that if I had a wish, it would be that we don’t have to tear each other down in order to put forth our ideas. Let’s provide hope. Let’s not attack each other’s character unless there is something to attack.
But generally, we’re good people and we want the best. So let’s stick to the issues, the policy.
Don’t talk about the family and how people are wicked and evil and all that, unless they’re wicked and evil. You know what I’m trying to say? Let’s just get to the business at hand. Talk about, how are you going to help the economy? Talk to us about how you’re going to help education. Tell us what you’re going to do to keep us safe.
I mean, these are bread and butter issues.
And then, don’t make policies that separate my family. That’s what we’re talking about. But leave the school ground stuff to the school ground. After all, we’re not 12 years old.
Aschieris: I also wanted to highlight that you are a Marine veteran. First and foremost, thank you so much for your service. And second, how did your experience serving in the Marines translate into being the lieutenant governor of Virginia?
Sears: Well, in addition to being in my household where I saw sacrifices being made, I saw that same type of sacrifice in the Marine Corps. And I saw that leaders eat last. And I saw that again, actually, when I was in South Dakota recently and the Marines were there for a training mission. And I saw the lieutenant colonel and the colonel and the other officers, they ate last. The troops ate first.
You see what I mean? Leadership is always about sacrifice. Otherwise, I can’t follow you. I need to know that you care more about us than about yourself.
And again, that’s why I said this politics of personal destruction, it doesn’t work. If you don’t put hope into your people, they will not follow you. And as my pastor likes to say, if you call yourself a leader and nobody’s following, then you’re just taking a walk.
We don’t need that. We need people who understand that life is more about others than themselves, who are not selfish. And I saw that in the Marines.
Aschieris: Now, education was a key issue, if not the key issue of your election back in 2021. As the school year gets underway, not only in Virginia but also throughout the country, what’s your advice to parents who are trying to be more involved in what their children are learning?
Sears: That’s just it. You have to get more involved in what your child is learning. It’s really that plain and simple.
And what does that mean? It means, of course, we’re going to make sure we’re at the PTA meetings. It means that we are now going to be regulars at school board meetings. Imagine that. It never used to be that school boards are controversial, and yet here we are because somehow they’re forgotten that this is about my child. This is not about your agenda.
And that’s another reason why I am pushing for school choice. Parents must be able to make the decision on where to send their children to school.
After all, parents are involved in every other decision of their children’s lives. Why is it that when it comes to education, no, the government makes that decision and it’s based on your ZIP code? And if you can’t afford to send your child to a private school or even homeschool, then you’re stuck in a failing school.
So that is my push for next session. It’s not something that I’ve just come to. Twenty-two years ago I put in a bill so that we could expand charter schools here in Virginia. And so we as parents, we’re going to make school boards understand who’s truly in charge, and it’s not them. It is we the people. The people are the parents.
Aschieris: Now, I just want to circle back to your book. I just wanted to show everyone, we have it here, titled “How Sweet It Is: Defending the American Dream.” Do you think the American dream is still achievable today?
Sears: Oh, absolutely. I always have hope. For me, the glass is always half full, always. How can we keep filling this glass if people don’t have hope, they don’t have anything? And our children, most of all, have to have hope.
Otherwise, what is the purpose of this life? Are we just getting up every morning and going to work and for what? Just to make the dollar and start all over again the next day? No. We have to have purpose. And to have purpose is to have hope.
And so the American dream is alive and well, but only if we work at it. We must continue to work. We must make sure that our children understand that they must take their place in society, that their job is no less than preserving America for the next generation.
So we can’t afford to baby our children. They’re the adults now, and we look to them to keep that charge. It must remain the shining city on a hill.
Aschieris: Well, Lt. Gov. Sears, thank you so much for joining us. Before we go, do you have any final thoughts?
Sears: Hooray for America. That’s what I say. Don’t lose yourself in petty politics. Force our politicians to rise to be the best of themselves. God bless you all.
Aschieris: Thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us today, and I definitely encourage everyone to get your book and read it. Thank you so much.
Sears: Thank you. Take care, everyone.
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