Editor’s note: To read the closing argument of Rep. Ben McAdams, Democratic candidate for Utah’s 4th Congressional District, click here.

My family traces our American roots back to the days of slavery. 

My parents left Texas to escape Jim Crow laws that limited education for Black Americans.

I grew up in the Deep South during the tumultuous 1960s. 

Today, I am running for Congress to represent Utah. What a difference a generation makes in this great country. Only in America can my family’s story occur. Through family, education, faith, success and failure, the possibilities afforded to each of us are endless. 

I am living proof. 

Throughout my life, I have overcome challenges that sank those around me. In 1969, I was the third Black American offered a football scholarship to the University of Miami, a fact that is unthinkable with today’s eyes. But when I went to college and graduated with a degree in biology/chemistry, it was groundbreaking. Football gave me an education, a career in the NFL and a Super Bowl ring. 

Football taught me success and failure go hand in hand, that when you are at your very highest, the next play could bring you crashing back down to earth. These lessons drive me to this day and prepared me for a life after football. 

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After 10 seasons, I left the NFL. A couple of years prior to retirement, I had started a business I was confident would give me the financial resources and business network to, within a relatively short period of time, pursue my life’s ultimate mission: to change the downward trajectory of the once proud community in which I had been raised. 

It would take me an additional 35 years to begin that mission. During the decades of preparation, I had multiple opportunities to experience personally the blessing of starting anew. I would experience two chapters of bankruptcy to then work myself back to the middle class. During this time period, I also joined the ranks of prostate cancer survivors.

It was during these difficult chapters where life’s most important lessons were learned. Among them was this: As long as we’re willing to do our part, our nation has within its DNA an unlimited offering of second chances. Seven years after my NFL retirement and business failure, I experienced a long summer during which I worked a series of jobs necessary to support my family and start my journey out of poverty. That included a day job as a chimney sweep followed by a midnight shift as a security guard. 

My journey back into the ranks of the American middle class has been humbling. But what a great country we live in — a country that rewards the risk-takers and allows us to get back up when we are knocked down. 

My life story is now the subject of millions of dollars worth of attack ads from dark money organizations. I find it hard to understand anyone who would bless and embrace such tactics. I find it even harder to understand why they would attack the American dream. 

This brand of the politics of personal destruction is distasteful and has been soundly rejected by Utah voters in the past; I am confident it will be rejected again in November. After all, we Utahns know what it is like to be attacked for who we are. 

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Instead of focusing on these increasing negative and gross mischaracterizations of my record, I want to focus on what my missteps have led to me to found: Second Chance 4 Youth, a community-based program to give once-incarcerated juveniles a second chance to reach their American dream just like me. 

I know about second chances and many Utahns do, too. We know that our failures do not damn us. They do not define us but rather they can push us to great heights. Washington politicians, focused on preserving their own power, really don’t share Utahns’ shared belief in America’s redemption story. They will spend millions more in an attempt to keep me and people like me from getting to Congress where I will fight for all Utahns, especially those in need of a hope-filled second chance at the American dream. 

Negativity never works in Utah. Our positive vision of what is possible in America will win in November. Our work is too important, our faith is too strong and we deserve to have our values represented in Congress.

Burgess Owens is the Republican candidate to represent Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

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