An Inaugural Celebration

On Monday, President Barack Obama will be inaugurated into his second term. As one of the 29 Florida electors who cast Florida’s Electoral College votes for President Obama, I received a special invitation from the Joint Congressional Committee for the inauguration, and – along with other electors from across the country — will have a prime seat, right behind Congress.

I have this special opportunity to witness the fruits of our Democratic victory because of all the hard work of volunteers and voters in Sarasota County, in Florida and across the nation. There is still work to be done – Republicans in Congress seem dead set on holding America hostage; and in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott and his supporters continue to work against the interests of Florida’s middle class – but this weekend will be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the inauguration of President Obama.

I’ll be sharing more from Washington, DC about all the excitement of this weekend – and then  getting back to work making Florida a better state and America a better nation.

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One of 29 Votes

In Tallahassee this week I had the great honor of casting one of Florida’s 29 Electoral College votes to re-elect Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Casting one of Florida's 29 electoral college votes

Casting one of Florida’s 29 electoral college votes

It was a simple procedure – almost mundane – as we signed our names to the ballots. But my thoughts were not mundane, and they echoed what others said that day.

“As I cast my vote for the president of the United States of America, I do so with memories of many Floridians waiting in long lines to cast their vote during early voting and on Election Day,” Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee said in his statement.

I too, thought with gratitude of the many thousands of committed voters who had made my electoral vote for Barack Obama possible.

Another elector, Florida Democratic Party Chair Rod Smith, said, “There is a certain solemnity to this occasion — an affirmation of the great traditions of our people. [One purpose of this ceremony is to] remind ourselves that there are people who have stood up, sat in and laid down their lives to make sure this continues.”

He is right that even this simple ceremony must not be taken for granted because it symbolizes the smooth transition of power that defines our democracy and that so many countries envy. The experience of casting an electoral vote is just one of many that I will treasure from the excitement of the 2012 election.

The Gateway to Opportunity

Every morning when I drop my 13 year-old son at school, I am reminded of the value of a good public education. It is his future. Protecting our public education system is one of the things that drove me into Florida politics years ago. Many of us are appalled at the policies Governor Scott and Republicans in Tallahassee are pursuing — cuts in funding, teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and more.

These are the same kind of policies Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would pursue across the nation. According to them, education is the responsibility of each individual family, and each family should get whatever education they can afford for their kids. Once again, “you’re on your own.” If your family can’t afford much, that’s too bad. Romney and his supporters would abandon those millions of young Americans and their futures.

President Obama understands this is wrong and that a quality public education must be available to all students – not just the few who can afford it. He has said:

“You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have. Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. It was the gateway for Michelle. It was the gateway for most of you. And now more than ever, it is the gateway to a middle-class life.

“And now you have a choice — we can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don’t have the money. No company should have to look for workers overseas because they couldn’t find any with the right skills here at home. That’s not our future. That is not our future.”

Education is the foundation for a stronger economy and better jobs for Americans, and it is the gateway to opportunity for all. America can not afford to go back on education. That is why I believe we must re-elect the President and elect Democrats to Congress and our Florida Legislature if we hope to keep our economy and our middle class strong. (Note: This post also appeared last week on SarasotaPatch.com.)

Courage to Speak Out

With Sandra Fluke, reproductive rights activist, scheduled to be in the Sarasota area this Saturday, September 29 for a rally supporting Congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald (more details here), I wanted to share more of my impressions of this remarkable young lady, both here and on Sarasota Patch. When I saw Sandra Fluke speak at the Democratic National Convention, I was so proud to be a Democrat! This young woman stood up for what she believes, and even after ridicule and hateful slurs from the far right, she stood up again and delivered her message loud and clear to the world.  Here is some of what she said about “two profoundly different futures” that await women:

“[In one America], you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms. An America in which states humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds we don’t want and our doctors say we don’t need. An America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don’t. …it’s not the America we should be. It’s not who we are.

“We’ve also seen another future we could choose. First of all, we’d have the right to choose. It’s an America in which no one can charge us more than men for the exact same health insurance; in which no one can deny us affordable access to the cancer screenings that could save our lives; in which we decide when to start our families. An America in which our president, when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters—not his delegates or donors—and stands with all women.”

Among so many important issues, this election is about the right of women to decide their own futures, decide about their own bodies, and their right to health care when they need it. Watch the full video of her speech and you, too, will be moved – moved to choose the future “where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom, [not] one where that freedom doesn’t apply to our bodies and our voices.”

 

DNC Wrap-Up: A Vote for Life

One of the most inspiring moments for me at the Democratic National Convention – a moment that set the tone for the entire event — happened the very first morning. I mentioned it briefly in my first post from the DNC, but it made such an impression on me that I wanted to share more below (and on Sarasota Patch):

Rod Smith, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party stood up in front of the Florida delegation and told us that his 25-year-old son, Dillon, was recently diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that usually strikes children. He has undergone his first round of chemotherapy, and the family is optimistic.

The inspiration came when Rod described how the health care reform passed by President Obama may end up saving Dillon’s life. Continue reading

DNC Dispatch – Day Two

As we anticipate the President’s speech yet tonight, here are the highlights I took away from all of yesterday’s excitement:

Rita and Sister Simone Campbell

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (and daughter of the late, legendary Texas governor Ann Richards) gave an emotional speech.  We listened with tears in our eyes, as she had tears in hers: “President Obama understands women. He trusts women. And on every issue that matters to us, he has stood with women… We’ve come way too far to ever turn back. And we won’t.”

Elizabeth Warren, running for Senate in Massachusetts, also gave a rousing speech: “I believe in President Obama and his vision for the future. Not just for folks who call themselves Democrats — but for everyone who believes that when you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve a chance to succeed. For decades now, the dreams of millions of kids have moved further out of reach. Middle-class families have gotten hammered, while the rich and powerful have gotten richer and more powerful. This election truly is the fork in the road. It will decide who we are as a people and what kind of country we want to be.” Continue reading

DNC Dispatch – Night One

The energy here at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte is so incredible, and Michelle Obama’s speech Tuesday night just electrified the crowd. Here one of the many gems from her speech:

“I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are… And as president, you are going to get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as president, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.”

That is something to think about when we know so little about who Mitt Romney really is – the man who hides his past and whose values and positions seem to change with the wind. But about Barack Obama’s values and experiences, Michelle Obama said:

“Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it, and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love. He believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

And: “For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the differences you make in people’s lives.”

This makes me proud to be a Democrat and proud to support President Obama! It expresses in personal terms our values of hard work, inclusiveness, fairness, opportunity, and giving others a hand up. A great opening night for this exciting gathering – and I’ll be sharing more as I can!