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Hill Climbers: Aide Experienced at Beating Odds

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

As an infant, Aaron Welty was left to “expire” on top of a freezer in the Michigan hospital where he was born, according to his grandmother. The doctors were convinced that the baby with cerebral palsy and breathing problems would not survive or have a high quality of life if he did.

Almost three decades later, the legislative assistant for Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) continues to prove them wrong.

Welty first considered working in politics after his friends in junior high school suggested it. “We were 13 — what did we know?” Welty said. “But I took it seriously.”

At the time, the idea fit perfectly into his aspirations, which included finding a way to show gratitude to his country, he said. “What if I had been born in Russia? ... Would I be here talking to you today?” he asked. “Probably not.”

The idea of doing “something to give back to the country” was cemented for Welty the next year when he fell ill while recovering from a surgery. Once again, doctors were unsure that he could survive the health problems, but he persevered.

“I can’t [join] the military, so maybe I ought to shoot for this whole Washington, D.C., idea,” he said.

“Welty, you are here for a reason. There is a purpose to your life,” he remembers thinking. “I’m thankful that I don’t have to spend as much time figuring that out now because a lot of that happened for me when I was younger.”

After he graduated in 2005 from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, Welty moved to the District to work at the Heritage Foundation as a media and marketing assistant. By the spring of 2006, he was interning in McCotter’s office, where he has been moving up the ranks ever since. 

As a legislative assistant for McCotter, Welty works on a number of topics but has a special interest in issues relating to the sanctity of life.

“If I was given a shot, who says that a child who was prenatally diagnosed with the possibility of having Down syndrome or another disability ... who’s to say that they shouldn’t be given one?” he asked.

For Welty, his success is largely a result of his parents’ support. Not only were they emotionally supportive, but his father built Welty a vehicle to safely maneuver around Cedarville’s campus and then around D.C. 

“He built that mainly because he knew I had a need and he had the God-given skill to meet that need,” Welty said.

The two worked on the project together, with Welty’s father frequently asking him if he needed a place to put his cellphone while driving the vehicle or if he wanted a cupholder. They named the vehicle FENX, which Welty said doesn’t stand for anything but “sounded cool.” 

“I am completely surrounded by my dad,” he said of driving the FENX. “There’s so much of my dad in that car, and there’s a lot of me in that car, as well.

“I’m a big fan of my dad,” he added, smiling.

When he was younger, Welty was sure he would stay in politics for a long time, eventually running for office. Now, the 29-year-old says he’s not so set on that. 

“I’ve seen what you have to go through on the campaign trail,” he said, and he’s not sure he would be willing to put himself and his family through that. “I won’t necessarily rule it out,” he said. “That might change, but as of right now, it’s not something that I’m looking at doing.”

Instead, Welty is hoping he can use his story to inspire others. “I would like to eventually find a way to take this story on the road,” he said, mentioning a book or public speaking as possible options. “Despite all of these challenges and all of these hurdles, I was able to go do these things.”

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