HOLLAND, MICH. - Who says politicians don't reach across the aisle anymore?
Two former foes should be congratulated for working together to give the state of Michigan a seat at the table.
Newly-confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Netherlands Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican member of Congress and West Michigan resident, tweeted out a thank you to current Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. The U.S. Senate approved Hoekstra's ambassadorship Thursday and Sen. Stabenow led the charge to get him through.
Sen. Stabenow tweeted back "Congratulations, Mr. Ambassador! I know you will make Michigan and our nation proud."
It wasn't long ago Stabenow and Hoekstra were political competitors, running for the same office in an, at times, controversial 2012 U.S. Senate election campaign. Hoekstra's campaign put together an advertisement some called racist, featuring an Asian-American woman calling Sen. Stabenow, "Debbie Spend-it-now." Hoekstra called himself "Pete Spend-it-not."
The advertisement did not help the Hoekstra campaign and it ultimately was a catalyst for a 20-point defeat.
But, times have changed and this is a good example of putting the right person in the right position despite a very divided political culture.
Hoekstra was born in Netherlands and came to the United States with his parents as immigrants when he was three years of age. He settled in West Michigan and lived the majority of his life in Holland, a city that has long-celebrated Dutch heritage.
Hoekstra was an influential member of Congress over nearly two decades in office and became the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
He told us on Friday in Ottawa County he was happy his parents got to see him be sworn into Congress in 1992 but very sad both have passed on and won't be able to see him sworn in as ambassador to Netherlands
"Now going back as an ambassador it's certain in 1956 they made the right decision (to come to the U.S.)," Hoekstra said.
Hoekstra says it's his job now to maintain a solid relationship between the two countries.
"Most importantly, what we're looking at is a relationship that is 400 years old," Hoekstra said. "We've never fired a shot at each other in anger and we've had a strong relationship. I've now been entrusted with that relationship for the next three years."
His two biggest goals as ambassador will be to help continue to strengthen the countries relatively strong economies and also deal with national security issues.
"That's one of the things we'll be working on is identifying their number one priority," Hoekstra said. "It is two issues - how do we continue to develop a strong economy and how do we deal with national security."
Hoekstra says he's hoping to have a special swearing-in ceremony here in West Michigan relatively soon.
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