Monday, May 26, 2014

Remember those who protect this great nation

Memorial Day is a special day for Americans. It's the day we celebrate our freedom and remember those who fought and died to protect it.
We say, "freedom isn't free" and we know America is the "land of the free and home of the brave," but how often do we stop and think about what it means to have the rights and freedoms we hold so dear?
In America, we have the right to cast our ballots however we so choose. We have the right to assemble, practice religion openly, and share dissenting views. We have the right to live free from institutionalized discrimination and oppression. We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
All of these freedoms, we owe to the brave men and women who have served at home and abroad--both to obtain these freedoms from our nation's genesis and to defend those freedoms whenever they have been in danger.
To everyone who has served, and to the families who sacrificed alongside them: Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To those who have lost loved ones in service to our country: No words I could write would ever ease your pain, but I hope you will find comfort and strength in knowing that this country is a safer, better place thanks to the dedication and bravery your family shows.
But on this day of remembrance, we must also not forget the brave men and women who served our country and those who still do.
Yet in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, suicide rates for veterans are among the nation's highest. More veterans are homeless and lack access to quick and efficient health care. 
In Alabama, 17 veterans service centers have closed over the past four years due to budget cuts. The VA hospitals are running the risk of closure around the state.
We can say thank you on Memorial Day, or we can show our gratitude by calling on Congress and the state legislature to fully fund veterans' programs.
No man or woman should risk life and limb to protect this country, only to come home and experience anything less than the full benefits of what they are: a hero.
On Memorial Day and every day, thank our service men and women when you pass them on the street. Hold your elected officials accountable to providing the benefits we owe. Because only by fully honoring the men and women who have protected us can we truly be proud to be an American.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Entrepreneurs are the heart of the American Dream

The American Dream is built on the principles of hard work and ingenuity.  In today's economy, though, these virtues are paying off less and less as more people are unable or unwilling to pursue their dreams.

The ability to create your own path--to start a business, to develop an idea, to capitalize on an invention--is a key part of what it means to be an American. We have the freedom to forge our own paths and create our own outcomes. 

We tell our children to work hard, get an education and they will surely succeed. Yet we live in a nation where the odds are stacked against small business owners and entrepreneurs. 

Let's look at the example of a small-town pharmacy owner. The pharmacist worked his way through pharmacy school and returned home to open a small business. Opening a pharmacy meant that he would have to take out a huge loan for start-up, so he used his own home as collateral. He worked hard for years, taking on a huge risk for the opportunity to build a successful business and offer a valuable service for our community.

Then a large, corporate pharmacy wants to come to town. They promise new jobs, so the government rolls out the red carpet, offering tax incentives and infrastructure development.

So the community builds a new, large corporate pharmacy. Nobody puts their house on the line. The company has to pay very little for start-up. And they're able to offer the same products at a lower price, making life much harder for our small-town pharmacist. 

This pharmacist played by the rules. He worked hard and built a life, but the cards were stacked against him. So we have to shuffle the deck.

If we want our children to still have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream, we must shuffle the deck that makes competition difficult for small business. We must give them the ability to turn their dreams into reality and pursue their goals. We must give everyone a fair shot. We must make it worth the risk.

Everyone deserves the right to charter his or her own path. Everyone has an unlimited amount of untapped potential, which we must allow them to pursue through ingenuity and innovation. We must make the American Dream more than just a dream. 

We must reward our entrepreneurs for taking the risk--for stepping out and reaching for their goals. Nobody likes to play a rigged game--We must unstack the deck and shuffle the cards to revive our small businesses and rebuild the American Dream. 

Obama isn't running in an Alabama primary

The midterm elections are heating up and the primary elections are right around the corner. Here in Alabama, most voters pay little or no attention to the midterm elections. After all, there are no presidential debates or high-profile races to follow.

But here in Alabama, the midterm elections are probably more important than the years we elect a president. The midterms are our opportunity to choose our state government--the whole state government--for the next four years.

We will go to the polls to choose our governor and lieutenant governor. We will choose our secretary of state, who will handle our elections. But most importantly, we will choose our representatives to the state house and the state senate.

I've seen the ads across the state showing Republican hopefuls are running against President Obama. They say they will fight Obamacare and the "liberal special interests." 

I hate to break it to them, but Obama and the "liberal special interests" gave up on Alabama a long time ago.

These campaigns are using the President as a symbol of everything they think is wrong with America. But to me, the President stands for what is right about America. He stands for equal opportunity and the American Dream. He stands for a new generation that is removed from the oppressive ways of the past. He stands for the hope of a nation that works for all Americans, not just a privileged few.

So while these candidates are running against President Obama, ask them what they are running for.  Are they running to secure a brighter future for children across the state? Are they running to improve education for all children, not just the ones who can use tax dollars to go to private schools? Are they running for well-paying, safe jobs or are they selling us out to big business?

When we go to the polls on June 3, we will choose the nominees to face off in the election in November. We must choose wisely. We must be smarter than they think we are.

Look at the candidates and what they value. Vote for the person who will represent your family's best interests.

Decisions are made by those who show up. You can go to the polls and cast your ballot or you can stay home and allow someone else to speak for you.

The deadline to register to vote in the primary election is Friday, May 23. If you need to vote absentee, the deadline to request a ballot is May 29. Be sure to double check your registration status and polling location before Election Day. 

Choose the Alabama your family deserves. Vote on June 3.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Celebrate the gift of a mother this week

This week, families will come together to honor our mothers, our matriarchs, and the women who made the biggest impacts on our lives as we grew into adults. 

I was raised by a single mom with the assistance of my grandmother. I watched both of them work and sacrifice to give me all the things I would need to be successful in life. Words could never express the gratitude I have for my mother and grandmother--without them, I would not be the man I am today.

Now, my mother and grandmother continue their work as they help me and my wife raise our two children. I've watched Christi become a stronger woman every day as she has carried and raised our children, giving them the lessons, values and skills they need to become smart, confident adults. I can only pray that our daughter is as wonderful as her mother.

Love and respect for our mothers is something that crosses all divides. Regardless of whether you're black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, we all owe a debt to our mothers that we can never repay.

But as Christi and I have raised our two children, becoming a parent has put the world into a new perspective.

A mother will always do everything in her power to provide for her children, but sometimes the deck is unfairly stacked against moms in our own communities.

On average, working women still only make 77-cents for every dollar a man makes. The pay is even lower for African-American women, who make 67-cents on the dollar, and Latinas, who make only 58-cents on the dollar.

Many women in the workforce are doing everything in their power to provide for their families, yet they have a disadvantage simply for being a woman.

Mothers across Alabama are having to choose between groceries and health care for their families because Governor Bentley is refusing to expand Medicaid. Nearly half of all childbirths in Alabama are covered by Medicaid, yet the mother loses her coverage once the baby is born. 

Without an expanded Medicaid program, many women fall into an income gap, where they earn too much money for Medicaid, yet not enough to cover private health insurance.  

Being a mother is probably the hardest job on this earth, and it's time we reward it with fair pay and benefits. 

The mothers in Alabama are just like my mother. They're just like my wife. They're just like your mother.  They're regular women doing everything they can to raise strong, confident children.  

It's time we say thank you by giving them the respect and treatment they deserve.