As a sophomore in college, Kinzinger beat a three-term incumbent for a seat on the McLean County, Illinois, board of supervisors. Now, after a stint in Iraq with the Air Force, the 32-year-old Republican is taking on another Democratic incumbent, in the state's 11th Congressional District.
Who is your political hero/inspiration?
I consider both Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan to be amazing political figures. During times of great national distress, both men saw beyond the current difficulties the Union was facing and knew that the American spirit would prevail. When I toured the Lincoln Library in Springfield, IL, I noticed something never before pointed out to me the rapid aging of President Lincoln during his time in office, and the great stress his eyes showed during the height of the war. He made the difficult decision of leading a nation to unity, when he could have instead ended the war in quickly by simply accepting a divided Union. Similarly, President Reagan took over a nation overwhelmed by malaise, a stagnant economy, and an imposing Soviet power. He would not accept the status quo, and instead led the nation with a clear vision of where America could once again return.
If you weren't working in politics, what would you be doing?
Flying planes for the Air Force. I still fly as a reservist, but had I not been running for Congress, I would be flying full time. It's quite a job!
What's the most overlooked issue facing America these days?
Education. As we have seen, students are turning less and less to STEM areas of study (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). While it is good to have a wide variety of educated students, those core proficiencies are essential for us to maintain our technological edge and our manufacturing superpower status. America has the strongest economy in the world bar none, but we must continue investing in our future in order to maintain that.
Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
That is not an easy question to answer. I hope to earn the trust of voters in November and am passionate about serving my District in Congress for a period of time but only as long as that passion stays alive. I am committed to public service in some form, and whether that means holding elected office or not remains to be seen.