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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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.)

President Obama and Israel

Rita and Sen. Ben Cardin at the August 2012 event

I am no foreign policy expert, but I am proud that President Obama’s steady hand on foreign policy has restored America’s influence and respect around the world.

Just how important this is became clearer last week when Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland addressed a packed house of Jewish and other Democrats, sharing his unique personal insights about Obama’s foreign policy and especially his work with Israel.

Senator Cardin first became friendly with Obama when they served together in the Senate. Since then, he has had a unique first-hand view of the President’s efforts in support of the people and state of Israel.

In addition to numerous private conversations with the President, Cardin played a key role as one of the US politicians and diplomats the Administration tapped to contact UN member nations in the successful effort to hold off the Palestinian attempt to gain recognition. Cardin firmly believes – and I agree — that the international influence and respect America has gained under President Obama’s leadership is part of what made this success possible.

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A Choice for Our Families

With the conventions just around the corner, I’ll be back to sharing the latest news from on the ground, particularly as a delegate in Charlotte.  Today, here’s another piece that ran earlier this month on the Sarasota Patch site:

Most of the women I know have experienced a time when they were treated as “less than equal.”

Many have had to pay more for health insurance because they are a woman. A few, like my friend who had a heart attack, have been denied coverage. Others are like my colleague Carol, who was paid less than a man we worked with for the same work. And worse for some women, but luckily no one I know, it happens at home where they suffer abuse.

So what do these issues affecting women all have in common? They are all issues that President Obama has fought to address. They are also problems that Mitt Romney and many other Republicans have worked to make worse.

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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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Upholding Peace of Mind

With the dust starting to settle from the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare, depending on your perspective), I shared my thoughts as mother on the legislation in an op-ed for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. My son, Christopher, has a heart murmur and although he’s thriving, the idea that he could be denied coverage because of this pre-existing condition was always hanging over me in the back of my mind. So certainly, beyond my political beliefs, the Supreme Court’s upholding of the law came as a huge relief to me, and to the millions of those people and parents facing similar circumstances. Of course, the ruling was not hailed across the board, with Mitt Romney and others vowing to repeal the act if given the chance.

The misinformation spread far and wide about the act has also led to concerns from small business owners, but it’s important to realize that, for instance, businesses with fewer than 25 full time employees are not required to provide health insurance and there is no penalty if they don’t. Moreover, new tax credits could help out businesses that do provide insurance. With this ruling and Republican vows to dismantle the ACA, this fall’s election has taken on even greater importance – particularly if you believe, like me, that investing in access to health care services and insurance coverage is as crucial to our children’s future as is investing in their education and economic opportunities.

A Daughter of Immigrants

Happy (belated) Mother’s Day! This holiday and Father’s Day always remind me of the sacrifices my parents – immigrants from Italy – made in coming to America to build a life and a home here in the United States. Whether you also have parents or grandparents that came from other countries, or you have to look back a bit further, nearly all Americans can point to the immigrant experience somewhere in their family trees. We all come from families who came to America to make a better life for themselves, and through their hard work they made a stronger America.

As has happened in the past, however, a strong anti-immigration strain has made headway in our nation, and will be a factor in this coming election. Here in Sarasota, the local Republican Party has initiated several anti-immigrant petition drives – one that would make English the official language of the United States (making life more difficult for all immigrants, including those here legally), and another petition supporting passage of laws similar to the strident anti-immigrant law passed in Arizona in 2010, SB 1070, which encourages racial profiling and harassment of Hispanics and other minorities, regardless of their legal immigration status. At the national level, Mitt Romney has said that America should make it so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they will “deport themselves.” That sounds like support for the Arizona-style laws to me.

In a nation where greatness was built on a foundation of immigrant mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, these harsh and punitive proposals are neither appropriate nor beneficial for America. Instead, like President Obama, I believe that comprehensive immigration reform is needed to protect the interests of Americans while at the same time creating responsible optionsfor those who want to start a life in the United States. The DREAM Act – a bipartisan legislative proposal that would provide a path toward citizenship for young people eager to get an education, work hard, and make a contribution to America’s future – is a key part of his solution.

As President Obama said earlier this month, “we’regoing to keep fighting for this common-sense reform — not just because hundredsof thousands of talented young students depend on it, but because ultimately America depends on it.” Legislation like the DREAM Act allows our nation to continue our proud “melting pot” tradition, while improving our economy by harnessing the talents of young people who want to work hard and make our future brighter. The contrast between the two parties on this critical issue is clear, and as a daughter of immigrants, I hope that we will all remember what is needed to help American families succeed.