My name is Tom K. Pappas, and I am running for Congress to protect and expand the opportunities I was afforded growing up in Indiana to have a better life than my parents and grandparents. My family’s story in the 20th century is the story of America, and it is a journey that is increasingly harder to achieve anymore. In three generations, my family has gone from broke immigrants and farmhands to graduate school and the middle class. We need a representative who can be effective on Day 1 with 21st century thinking and proven leadership to fight for economic justice, an expanded middle class, workers’ rights, affordable healthcare available to everyone, a strong public education system, and a government that works for all of us, not just the wealthiest few among us.
My father’s parents emigrated from Greece to chase the American Dream and escape the horrors of Nazism. They worked different jobs from New York to Kansas over two decades to save up for the restaurant they always wanted to open in Huntington, Indiana. When my grandfather died, my 13-year-old father took over running the business for the family, eventually earning a degree from the local community college in education to fulfill his dream – public school teacher.
My mother’s family moved to Indiana in the 19th century from Kentucky, spreading the gospel from horseback and working whatever jobs they could find. My mother, the last of eight children, was the first one in her family to go to college, and despite coming from a rural school system in Monrovia that did not fully prepare her for Ball State University, she graduated with honors and became an elementary school teacher back in her hometown. My family’s history is one of hard work and giving back to the community, and I want to continue that tradition in Washington.
Born in 1987 in Martinsville, I grew up in the small town of Plainfield, where community meant neighbors pulling together to help one another. When I was 2 years old, my father suffered from a devastating MS attack that forever changed my trajectory for the American Dream. My family’s ability to reach the middle class evaporated as my father’s disability progressed. To be able to afford to go to college, I needed to work harder than my peers to earn scholarships to pay for college. Having grown up in a family and community that taught public service, I became an Eagle Scout, President of National Honor Society, and dedicated myself to making Plainfield better. Fortunately for me, Democratic Governor Evan Bayh’s 21st Century Scholarship Program was the lifeline my sister and I needed to continue the work that my grandparents and parents had done to provide a better life for their children than they themselves had. Governor Bayh’s scholarship program was the opportunity I needed to be able to make a better life for myself, my family, and my community.
Relying on Pell Grants and working multiple jobs while attending the University of Notre Dame, I studied Classics and Political Science to ground myself in what democracy meant to its creators and how democracy operates now for its citizens. I interned for then-Congressman Joe Donnelly and worked on other congressional campaigns during my undergraduate time to learn how representatives are supposed to serve. The opportunity afforded to me to learn what it means to be a good public steward has provided me with the foundation necessary to be an effective representative for our district on day one.
After my time at Notre Dame, I married my college sweetheart, started a family, became a foster parent, and split my time between teaching Ancient Greek and Latin at Indiana University and parenting four young children. Last year, the Indiana Democratic Party gave me the opportunity to learn from the best and brightest public servants in our state about what it means to be a responsible representative. The time has come for new leadership from a new generation, and I have the training, passion, and experience to be the representative we deserve here in Indiana. A lifelong Hoosier, I have resided in Bloomington for the last six years with my wife Lindsay, sons Mac and Gus, and two foster daughters.