Gov. Greg Abbott, I write this open letter to you from one concerned father to another, in the hopes that we can have an open conversation regarding your decision to not allow communities to require face masks in our schools. As one of the constituents you took an oath to protect, I do not understand this decision that puts millions of families at risk of being broken apart. 

We have lost over 59,000 Texans, all of whom I consider members of my family. You and I have a responsibility to protect and show compassion to other Texans. As a fellow Catholic, I know you should believe in this.

I am lucky enough to have received the COVID-19 vaccine, but my 5-year-old daughters, who I love more than anything, are not yet eligible for the incredible life-saving vaccines that our scientific community worked tirelessly to develop. For them and all young children, we must rely on social distancing, good personal hygiene and sanitation practices, and most importantly a gentle little fabric barrier across their innocent faces. 

Your decision has removed one of the most important protective measures from my daughters and millions of other Texans I consider part of my family. I don’t know about you, but when someone physically or emotionally puts my children at risk, I look them straight in the eyes and have a conversation with them. Just like we require our children to wear seatbelts to protect them in that off chance their vehicle does not make it home, we should do the same with face masks. Our scientific community and medical experts overwhelmingly state that wearing a face mask is one of the best preventative measures against COVID-19 aside from getting vaccinated. But vaccines and social distancing are not options for most children currently. This is based on scientific facts, not political exploitations. 

While I have knowledge across multiple disciplines, I also understand my limitations. I wouldn’t provide legal advice or try to wire an electrical outlet instead of consulting the appropriate professionals. Simply put, be our governor and listen to your scientific and medical advisors and follow their fact-based recommendation for children to wear face masks inside the classroom. Having been a leader and responsible for other people’s lives, one of the best things we can do is be humble and listen to those awesome team members around us to lay out the best plan we can. Remember, hubris is one of the original sins and we must not pretend to know it all. 

I’m tired of standing by as our elected leaders step on the people I love for their own political gains. I’m tired of standing by as these leaders exploit the pandemic and the many challenges we share by creating false extremes for us to cling to for a sense of purpose. Exhausted from these internal battles, I have made the choice to own these thoughts, no longer wanting to place the blame on others. I now awaken my pen with the hope that if I commit my energy to sharing these thoughts that we can have an open conversation regarding our shared challenges and values, propelling our children into a united future where we are all stronger. Simply put, I believe we all have more in common than we do not and only when we focus our energy to our shared values will we turn challenges into fantastic opportunities.

Gov. Abbott, I hope we can have a conversation and discuss the shared values we have in common so that we can better address this challenging pandemic and rise stronger on the other side. I ask you as a father to please help me keep my daughters and our Texas family safe by reconsidering your decision to not allow local school districts to mandate face masks in high-risk environments. Let’s stop wasting our time debating facemasks and instead focus our energy on fighting the pandemic and preventing this from happening again.

Chris Ashcraft is a former U.S. Army medical officer, who transitioned to regional public affairs and grew into executive leadership. He's currently Development Product Owner Senior at USAA.