Fmr Major Jonathan Morgenstein - Virginia

“I have always viewed service as central to my life. I am cognizant of the extraordinary and unique opportunities my family and I have been given by virtue of my grandparents and great grandparents immigrating to the United States a century ago. I am also very aware that if the United States hadn’t given us refuge, my family would have been wiped out in Europe. I am profoundly grateful to my country for this, and see it as a debt I owe my country, both to serve it and to provide similar opportunities to others.

“Part of that service has been teaching in a low-income school district; part has been working as a civilian in both the Pentagon and U.S. Senate; and part has taken the form of more than 26 years in the Marine Corps Reserves—11 years enlisted, and more than 15 as a commissioned officer. This included one tour in Bosnia and two in Iraq.

“During my first tour in Iraq from 2004-2005 as a civil affairs officer, I was responsible for rebuilding one-third of the city Ramadi. In November 2004, insurgents severed the power lines that provided 100 percent of Ramadi’s electricity. Amid proliferating black markets—and resulting violence—for generators, fuel, and potable water (all Ramadi’s water pumps were run by electricity), I witnessed first-hand how energy is the foundation of all modern economic activity and therefore societal stability.

“For the next ten years, I studied on my own how distributed solar electricity could underpin development, particularly in the Middle East. I learned how solar could foster energy independence and economic prosperity, and consequently combat the drivers of social and political unrest. So in 2014, I launched Empowerment Solar, a solar development startup servicing Palestinian West Bank businesses, as an entry-point for building a more prosperous and peaceful Middle East. In doing so, I’d be making America more secure as well.”

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