Member Spotlight: Rear Admiral (Ret.) Joel R. Whitehead, USCG
RADM Whitehead shares highlights from his extensive military and civilian career and advocates for increased investments in young people
This month, the United States Coast Guard will celebrate its 231st birthday. I was proud to serve in the Coast Guard for 34 years, with assignments across the country in New York, Alaska, New Orleans, Boston, and Washington, DC. Today, I am still active in my civilian career, both as the Executive Vice President of the International Propeller Club of the United States and as a maritime industry consultant.
I concluded my military career as Commander of the 8th Coast Guard District in New Orleans. In this role, I led over 10,000 personnel across 26 states. This experience of serving with so many hardworking men and women is one of the main reasons I strongly believe in doing everything we can to support the next generation of leaders. Whether a young person wants to grow up to serve in the Coast Guard or take an entirely different career path, a strong foundation of high-quality education, nutrition, and physical activity can help them achieve their goals.
Throughout my career, I also gained extensive experience working with policymakers. I served as the Assistant Commandant for Governmental and Public Affairs and the Chief of Congressional Affairs for the Coast Guard. My work in these roles helped me understand just how critical consistent outreach and effective communication are when trying to persuade lawmakers to invest in worthwhile programs. These conversations are often complicated when lawmakers consider so many important priorities, especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s why I am so encouraged that members of Mission: Readiness continue to impact policies that affect young people. In my state of Louisiana, Mission: Readiness members were active during the legislative session advocating for investments in early childhood education and care programs. Members sent letters to legislators about the links between high-quality early childhood programs and national security and met with key committee members to increase these programs’ investments. At the end of the legislative session, legislators approved a proposal to dedicate 25% of future sports betting revenues to the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Fund. This additional revenue stream will help provide more Louisiana children with sustainable resources to access high-quality education and care.
The next few months will include many more opportunities for Mission: Readiness members to have their voices heard. As Congress continues to debate federal appropriations for fiscal year 2022 and legislation that could impact early childhood education and nutrition programs, we can continue to work together to highlight why investments in the next generation are a vital component of national security. At the state level, we’re already planning how to best engage lawmakers in Louisiana and many other states during the 2022 legislative sessions. I hope you will continue to lend your voices and unique perspectives to our work as we do our best to support the next generation.