Monday, November 24, 2014

It's time for Americans to embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving

This week, families across the country will come together to give thanks around the dinner table. Thanksgiving has come to be opening day of the holiday season, marking the start of shopping and decorating. However, Thanksgiving should mean so much more than a quick dinner before the Black Friday sales.

Not only is it a time for all of us to take a step back and appreciate the blessings in our lives, it's also a time to remember how we came to be a nation, a melting pot of cultures and nationalities looking for a home.

We typically associate the first Thanksgiving with the pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe at Plymouth Plantation. The pilgrims were struggling to survive in the New World, so Squanto and Massasoit donated food and helped teach them to farm and hunt to survive the winter.   I can imagine that some in the Wampanoag tribe weren't excited about helping the pilgrims, but they came together and offered a helping hand.

Without their help, the pilgrims would have likely died and America may look very different than how we know it today.

Nearly 400 years later, Americans are divided over this same issue.

Just like Squanto and his tribe had to decide how to handle the new pilgrims, Americans today have to decide how to handle the millions of individuals still seeking out our shores for safety.

Last week, President Obama announced an executive order that will prevent deportation of undocumented immigrants and challenged Congress to take further action to fix our broken immigration system.

While Congress seems to forget that policy is more than words on paper--it's families and communities and lives at stake--Americans themselves seem to be equally divided on the issue.

While many have opened their churches, their homes and their hearts to the next generation of Americans, others have been quick to advocate for locking the door and taking down the Statue of Liberty.

The nation of "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" is now saying "no mas."

But many of those same individuals identify America as a Christian nation and call themselves Christians.

But the Bible tells us, "Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt."

It's our story from all nationalities. Whether we are native-born or American by choice, sons of pilgrims or daughters of slaves: the story of America is one of inclusion and diversity, from sea to shining sea.

Because the Wampanoag tribe opened their arms and gave the pilgrims an American welcome, we now owe that same courtesy to the next generation of immigrants.

We show a greater love for humanity by extending our arms and not closing our hearts. That's the spirit we should all embrace this Thanksgiving and throughout the year.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Whitewash is Hogwash: Alabama Democrats are ready to build a better Alabama

Written with Representative Craig Ford (D-Gadsden), Alabama House Minority Leader

Last week, a journalist wrote an article claiming that the Alabama Democrats are making "phony" attempts to "whitewash diversity" in an attempt to keep white voters from leaving the party and taking their money with them.

We'll ignore the ridiculous assumption that Black Democrats don't donate and that Black leadership can't fundraise. We'll even look past the Republican Party's lack of diversity and failed attempts to appeal to anyone who isn't a wealthy white business owner.

The Democratic Party is, and hopefully will remain, a party of coalitions of people with Alabama's best values at heart: schools that give every child an opportunity to succeed, jobs that reward hard work with fair pay, elections that protect one vote for every person, and, most importantly, a government that is fair and honest with the taxpayers’ money.

Although gerrymandered districts have reduced the ability for white democrats to get elected to the state legislature, there is no shortage of Democrats of all colors, backgrounds and upbringings in Alabama.

In fact, the Alabama Democratic Party may be more diverse today than ever before in our past, and we're proud to see that our internal leadership reflects that.

The House members elected Representative Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) to serve another term as House Minority Leader because he knows the legislative process and campaigning from his years in the legislature and from a lifetime of watching and learning from his father, the late Representative Joe Ford.

The House also chose to elect Representative Darrio Melton as caucus chair because of his fresh ideas and willingness to move the Party forward. His experience as a preacher helps him inspire and bring people together.

The caucus also elected two women as caucus whips, Representative Patricia Todd and Representative Adline Clark, giving women an opportunity to shape policy and have a greater voice in the process.

We're looking forward to working with Senator Figures and her fellow Senators, the State Party and staff, and a range of constituency groups to grow the Party and look towards the future.

This isn't about white and Black- it's about moving Alabama forward and growing the Party with the most qualified leaders available.

With such a great team of qualified, confident individuals, the Democrats are ready to share our plan for building a bigger and stronger Alabama.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Republicans are going to be bolder, and so are we

Last week, the Republicans won huge races and picked up historic gains across America. They gained seats in the United States House of Representatives and took control of the US Senate. They elected governors in traditionally blue states and took a stronger hold on the state and local levels, around the country and here in Alabama.

In our own elections, the Alabama Republicans strengthened their supermajority in both chambers of the legislature, unseating several Democrats without losing any Republican seats.

Despite his 23 felony ethics indictments, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was reelected to his House seat in Lee County and will remain Speaker of the House, even while he's on trial.

Tuesday night was bad. It was bad for Alabama Democrats, and it was bad for the people of Alabama.

Speaker Hubbard said that the Republicans were going to be "bolder" about their legislation if they were reelected in a supermajority.

We can't combat their "bold" new legislation on the floor of the legislature--they have the ability to tell us to sit down and be quiet if we voice our dissent. In fact, they shut down debate more times in the last four years than in all of Alabama history combined--and I think we can expect that number to double in the next four years.

The only way we can combat their "bold" new plans is for you, the voters, to be bolder, too.

Last week, the Republicans won because the Democratic base didn't show up at the polls. We have to be bolder by casting our ballots every time we have an opportunity.

The Republicans are going to push through legislation that cripples our public schools, undermines our economic foundation and closes the door on healthcare for hundreds of thousands of Alabamians. We have to be bolder by speaking out and showing that we will not be silenced.

The Republicans are going to march through Montgomery for four more years before there's an opportunity to vote again--but we can march to Montgomery and demand they listen to all constituents, not just big businesses and high-powered lobbyists.

They say they're going to be bolder--and I'm going to be bolder, too. I need you to be bolder with me. We have to stand together for these next four years and demand a legislature that represents all Alabamians, not just the GOP base.

Together, we can still have an impact, even when the odds are stacked against us. We can't give up and sit back. Be bolder. Be stronger. Be heard.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Encourage young people to go to the polls

It's time for young people to wake up and realize that their votes can change the world.

Our parents and grandparents took to the ballot box to shape America into a country they could be proud to pass on to the next generation.

As we turn back through history, we can see a footprint left by each generation--a footprint made by the young people of that time. The young Americans 50 years ago lead protests to end the war in Vietnam. They burned their bras, staged sit-ins, marched on Washington and signed up voters to guarantee equality for all Americans.

Their protests and commitment to change led to the passage of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age across America from 21 to 18, expanding the number of young people eligible to cast a ballot.

Thanks to their hard work, 50 years later, an estimated 22-23 million young people voted in 2012, almost half of the eligible youth voting population.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy understood the impact of preparing the next generation.
"Every generation inherits a world it never made; and, as it does so, it automatically becomes the trustee of that world for those who come after," Kennedy said. "In due course, each generation makes its own accounting to its children.  When our time comes, we want to make sure that we bequeath to our descendants a better and safer world than the one in which we live today--a world in which people will be free from the terrors of war and oppression, free from the handicaps of ignorance and poverty, free to realize their own talents and fulfill their own destiny."

Senator Kennedy got it right--its time for young people everywhere to step up to the plate and advocate for the next wave of change for our children and grandchildren.

Because of the voices of young people before us, we now have Medicare, Medicaid, workplace safety and standards, environmental protection, clean air and clean water, the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Acts.

African Americans are moving beyond a hurtful past, standing up for quality education and fair pay and have excelled to the nation's highest offices.  

Women have broken through the glass ceiling and hold record numbers of seats in the Senate, three US Supreme Court seats, and hold the top spot for the next President of the United States.

We have inherited a legacy of progress started by the young Americans of 50 years ago.  What will young people 50 years from now say about our generation?

I want them to say that we voted to ensure equal rights for All Americans. I want to vote to give them guaranteed education starting with Pre-K and affordable college and career training.  I want to give the next generation health care, high-speed rail and clean and independent energy.

I want to give them a country that's moving forward. And it's young people who must take the lead.

We owe everything we are and everything we will become to the generation before us who took the lead and set the stage for change--what difference will your vote make?