Tester is the appropriate choice

Written by Melody Wall
Oct. 17

I don’t consider myself a political person. I’m a kindergarten teacher. I’m happily married, and I’m a proud mom of two. But when I was young, joy and fulfillment in my life were never certain. Then I met Jon Tester, my dad.

Jon is not my real father. But he opened his home when I needed a home. He showed me the opportunities that come with a good education. He put me on a path to success. And he taught me confidence, kindness, generosity and grace.

This election is filled with ugly and untrue attacks on Jon. I feel it’s important to share my very personal story about the kind of man Jon Tester really is, because he is a man who truly represents Montana in the United States Senate.

After a challenging childhood that involved a lot of moving around the country, I ended up in Big Sandy as a young teenager. Lost and lonely, my life started unraveling. My relationship with my real mother was suffering. Although she tried her best as a single mom, I spent most of my childhood acting like the grown-up. I cared for my younger sister and baby brother, worked my own job, and paid rent to sleep on the floor of our living room.

In school I became friends with Christine Tester — Jon’s daughter. She was — and still is — the best friend I needed to get through each day. She helped me find faith.

I spent a lot of time at the Tester farm, where Jon and Sharla made me feel welcome. They saw right away that I was alone and empty. When my own parents made unhealthy decisions, the Testers were there to hold on to me, to make sure I didn’t drift away or fall apart.

Then I made the most difficult decision of my life. I left the pain of my home. The minute I walked away from my family, Jon and Sharla welcomed me into theirs. They’ve called me their daughter ever since.

Jon and Sharla Tester supported and encouraged me. Jon reminded me that we live in a country where any future is possible if you work hard for it.

Because of him, I started believing in myself and strived for a positive future.

With newfound strength I went to college. While there, one terrible night, I got a phone call — my younger sister had died in a car accident. Friends drove me through the night to Big Sandy, and when I arrived, Jon was waiting for me.

I’ll never forget what happened next. Jon wrapped me up in a big hug and told me that whatever I needed, he and Sharla were there for me. They sat behind me during my sister’s funeral and they cried with me. I had never experienced that kind of love before.

After college, Jon was truly concerned about me finding a job and cheered me on when I did. He and Sharla helped whenever it was needed. When I got married and had children, they were delighted for me. They’ve shared in all of the joys and struggles, birthdays and anniversaries, hopes and dreams.

Like Jon, I became a teacher. Jon showed me that good role models can make all the difference in the lives of young people. And that’s what I strive for every day. It is my honor to pay forward those values, which Jon helped instill in me.

Sometimes Jon stops by to read to the students in my class. I introduce him as my dad, hoping they too will understand all of the future possibilities our country has to offer.

This is the real Jon Tester — a good, loving and honest man who lives by the values we share as Montanans. I should know. Thanks to Jon, I’ve been blessed by these values.

They are the values Montana deserves in any candidate seeking public service, and they are truly the values we have in Jon Tester, our U.S. senator.

I’ll be supporting Jon again this November because I know he is right for Montana, and right for our country. I hope you will too.