As I was officially sworn in this month as a U.S. senator representing the great state of Kansas, I couldn't help but reflect on the voices of Kansans from the recent election.

November left many victorious candidates claiming mandates, and many political pundits judging the previous Congress and predicting the direction of the next. One thing is certain: Now is the time for my colleagues in Washington, D.C., to get out of campaign mode and really start listening.

Unfortunately, Washington is a town that prefers talking to listening, and much of the talk I'm hearing continues to be divisive and greatly partisan.

Not surprisingly, this is the exact opposite of what I hear from Kansans as I travel the state. I've been listening, and I hear you telling me, "Jerry, lead with Kansas common sense and reject the business-as-usual politicking of Capitol Hill — it got us into this mess in the first place."

Candidly, our country is facing a number of challenges, one of the greatest being our staggering national debt caused by decades of overspending and government growth. Today the national debt has surpassed $14 trillion, and each American's share is more than $45,000. Over the past two years, 40 cents of every dollar we've spent has been borrowed from countries such as China.

It doesn't take an economist to realize that our fiscal course is unsustainable.

When Kansans find themselves in tough financial circumstances, they sit around the kitchen table and figure out a way to tighten their belts, make the needed sacrifices, and work their way out of debt. Unfortunately, when members of Congress back themselves into a corner, they simply borrow and spend even more.

This is intellectually and ethically dishonest; we cannot pay for the present by mortgaging the future. This out-of-control spending and borrowing jeopardize the prosperity of future generations who will have to pay for our irresponsibility.

In Kansas, we lead a special way of life that is worth fighting to preserve for our children and grandchildren. That fight has been my focus throughout my time in public service, and I will bring this spirit of personal responsibility and living within our means to the U.S. Senate.

Congress can and should do what Kansans do every day: make decisions based on good values and accountability. How we work together in Washington to tackle our fiscal crisis will determine the future of our country. The first step toward working together successfully is listening — both to one another and to Americans.

In order to stay connected with Kansans, I have returned home each weekend, holding annual town halls in all 69 counties of the "Big First" district. In the years ahead, I will continue to return home to Kansas and travel throughout all 105 counties of our state to hear from Kansans directly.

We have a responsibility to the next generation to be good stewards of America's bounty. As I humbly begin my new responsibilities in the 112th Congress, I remain committed to leading with Kansas common sense, and to making the tough choices necessary today so tomorrow — and every day thereafter — our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities we have been blessed with.