In the Arena

James Waters

This post was written by James Waters.

James is the Chairman of the Serve America Movement, Inc. He is the Chief of Staff of Compass Partners Advisors, a former United States Navy SEAL, and a former White House staffer.

November 18, 2017 // Article

Twelve years ago, I made a life-changing decision to pursue the near impossible.

At the time, I had served four years as a White House staffer for President Bush, who was fresh into his second term. I essentially had my pick of opportunities in the new administration. It would have been easy to stay the course and build my career in Washington, DC.

But, as a supporter of the controversial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I felt that I needed to do more than just speak my mind. Though it was a huge personal and professional risk, I decided to change my life completely, take action and serve in the military…as a United States Navy SEAL officer.

When I started Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL (BUD/S) Training a year later, the odds of making it were extremely long. Many close friends said I made a bad decision and wouldn’t succeed. There was significant evidence they were correct – over 80% of wannabe frogmen fail to complete BUD/S.

Despite the long odds, I stepped into the arena. Achieving something much greater than myself was extremely rewarding – I still consider it the best career decision of my life.

I share this story because we all face some tough decisions today regarding our political system. The safe, conventional option is to watch it play out from the sidelines, even while taking a vocal role in opposing / supporting what we see happening in Washington, DC. Let’s face it: these are easy steps, as many of us on social media can attest. They’re also short-term and won’t meaningfully affect a political system that gets worse every year.

A more difficult route is to forge a new path and build something to truly reshape our political system. I, along with a number of concerned and committed people from varying backgrounds, have decided to take action and form a new movement to break the gridlock in Washington. We are calling this movement SAM, the Serve America Movement. SAM’s idea is simple: to put people before party.

We’ve heard it before: “It’ll never happen. America’s two party system is too strong and too ingrained to change. Efforts to disrupt it always fail.” SAM likes that challenge and embraces skeptics because we know putting people before party is a battle worth fighting. And SAM doesn’t intend just to fight the battle, but to win. Here’s why we like our chances:

Americans are tired of the status quo. SAM took shape in early 2017 through hundreds of conversations with Americans across the political spectrum. Everyone that we talked to – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike – is upset with where our country is heading and feels poorly represented by their parties.

When you bring together people from different political stripes, they’re shocked at the common ground they share. SAM arose from a daylong meeting this January in Philadelphia when this was just an idea. The 55 people who attended emerged with a firm sense of collective purpose. We believe we’re onto something unique that Americans around the country can unite behind.

We’re assembling teams of experts and everyday Americans to develop bold ideas that move us all forward. SAM won’t be bound by traditional ideological labels but it will give people a voice in solving our nation’s problems while our political parties pursue wedge agendas.

In the months ahead, SAM will unveil a differentiated tactical plan to achieve our mission. Previous efforts to change the status quo have lacked solid tactics. Ideas are great but there’s no substitute for wins to truly initiate disruption.

The team of everyday Americans that founded SAM knows a thing or two about overcoming daunting challenges – as well as the problems facing millions of Americans. We’re excited to introduce our team to you over the next few weeks.

Despite SAM’s optimism, numerous hurdles, obstacles, and challenges await. That’s why SAM needs you! As President Theodore Roosevelt said in 1910:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Let’s make history.

— James

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SAM is building a new political party for a new majority. Our goal is to break the self-interested stranglehold of the two entrenched parties and give back power and voice over our future, and our country, to the people.

We can’t do it without you.