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.”

 

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Two Visions for America

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been away from the blog for the last couple of weeks, but with the GOP ticket now set and the conventions just around the corner, I’ll be posting frequently again soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share a piece I did for Sarasota Patch on the contrasting visions that the two presidential candidates have for our country. You can visit the original post or read it all below:

Many of us have a vision for America where with hard work and a little luck everyone has the opportunity to succeed, live a middle class life, and maybe even become wealthy.

That’s also President Obama’s vision. He has lived the American Dream, rising from humble beginnings, the son of a single parent, to become President of the United States. He is both a champion and a poster child for the American Dream!

So it took my breath away to see our President called “the anti-American President” and a “Marxist” and a “third world socialist, anti-capitalist despot.” These words and the “call to arms” used in a recent Observer editorial are so offensive and contrary to what President Obama stands for that they seem designed only to generate fear and anger, rather than contribute to a debate.

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DC Support for Sarasota Races

Ellen Moran, Chief of Staff at the US Department of Commerce under Secretary Gary Locke was in Sarasota on April 19th in support of U.S. Congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald.  Ellen Moran previously held the position of White House Communications Director and prior to her post at the White House, she was executive director of EMILY’s List.

So why would the former EMILY’s List director come to fundraise for Keith Fitzgerald, with so many female progressive candidates to support? Because Fitzgerald has a significant chance to defeat incumbent Vern Buchanan, who is engulfed in legal investigations, including those being conducted by the Justice Department and the IRS.  With the House in play, Sarasota represents a chance for a Democratic pick-up from a GOP incumbent known for his fundraising abilities, and because of this, we can expect to see many more heavy hitters coming to fundraise in Sarasota.

EMILY’s List and the 2012 Election

Women will be the deciding voters in 2012, and EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schirock believes that 2012 is also poised to be a historic year for women candidates.  As Republicans have all but declared a “War on Women,” Stephanie and her competent team of professionals are recruiting strong candidates and raising money to support those candidates, because, of course, Early Money Is Like Yeast (it helps raise the dough). With a record-breaking 15 women running for U.S. Senate (with 33 seats up for election in 2012), EMILY’s List has endorsed 11 of those female candidates.

Stephanie was in Sarasota for private meetings with donors and candidates.  She talked about how EMILY’s List helped to add three more pro-choice Democratic women to the House of Representatives through recent special elections, and how EMILY’s List plans to continue to increase those numbers in the Senate and the House, come this November.

Jerry Springer

We all know Jerry Springer as the host of the tawdry daytime talk show, and some of us remember him from as a finalist on Dancing with the Stars, but many do know not him as a progressive political activist and elected official.

Jerry majored in political science at Tulane and received a law degree from Northwestern. Not long after graduating law school, Jerry met Robert Kennedy at a dinner party and signed on to work on his presidential campaign. After Kennedy’s assassination, Jerry led the movement in Ohio to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, which resulted in resulted in his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony supporting ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. Springer served five terms on Cincinnati City Council and became mayor at age 33.

We were delighted when Jerry Springer hosted a special evening of Wine, Cheese & Politics as a fundraiser for the Sarasota Democratic Club. Jerry spoke eloquently on our need to be vigilant in support of our middle class, Medicare, Social Security, and cornerstone values of the Democratic Party: “There is a reason we are all Democrats. We believe in America everyone deserves a shot at the American dream….not just the wealthy.”

We are planning a few more Jerry Springer events before November. So plan on coming down to Sarasota for our next event with Jerry!

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards

Planned Parenthood national CEO Cecile Richards came through Sarasota in early March, when I had the opportunity to meet with her and discuss the importance of reproductive rights.  Ms. Richards visited Sarasota in the aftermath of the Komen Foundation controversy, as the country’s leading breast cancer charity had threatened to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings at its health clinics.

After significant backlash, the Komen Foundation reversed course and announced that Planned Parenthood would still be eligible for its grants, maintaining Planned Parenthood’s ability to offer vital breast cancer screenings to low-income women.  The controversy, ignited in part by a right-wing Komen vice president, fell into a pattern of right-wing attacks on women’s reproductive health, including Rush Limbaugh’s infamous verbal assault on law student Sandra Fluke for using birth control.

Ms. Richards emphasized the importance of maintaining women’s reproductive freedoms as part of a broader commitment to personal freedoms and women’s equality, and noted that these issues are sure to be an important part of the upcoming campaign, particularly when the two parties have exhibited such clear differences in their policy approaches on this front.

First Lady Michelle Obama

2012 got off to an exciting start in Sarasota, with First Lady Michelle Obama dropping by for a visit on January 26.

I served as a member of the host committee and had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Obama at the event, which took place at a private home in Sarasota.  Her Sarasota visit highlights this area’s importance in November.

Mrs. Obama focused on her efforts to promote children’s health and wellness programs, as well as discussing the President’s key accomplishments over his first three years in office, including healthcare reform, financial industry reform, small business tax incentives, fair wage legislation and educational programs such as Race to the Top.

She also discussed the upcoming election, underscoring the President’s philosophy: “the President believes there are no second-class citizens in America. Every night he reads letters from citizens across the country and he feels strongly that everyone deserves the opportunity to make a better life.” Her visit was a great kick-off to 2012, invigorating locals and showing that Sarasota will be a key campaign destination between now and November.