I have maybe fifteen minutes before my training gets underway as a volunteer here at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. And as I sit here, I’m reminding myself not of politics and policies, or even our ideas and plans for the future.
Instead, I’m thinking about my values, my faith, and the things that I believe. I’m thinking about when Mitt Romney talked about a “united America [that] will care for the poor and the sick, will honor and respect the elderly, and will give a helping hand to those in need.” And I’m thinking about how there were no cheers. No claps. No honor and respect given to the idea of honor and respect. And I know, without even having been at the Republican National Convention, I know, that those are not my people.
Those are not my people. My people do not sit by while the least among us struggles. My people do not believe they have moral superiority, and the right to dictate how others should live their lives. My people do not resort to lies and manipulation when truth and honesty do not work. My people do not step on others to climb the ladder of success, and my people do not begrudge that ladder to others who think, feel, talk, act, or look different from how they do.
My people recognize that we are all more than our wealth, and that people are more than entities. My people know that our nation is flawed, but that humanity is more powerful than we sometimes know how to handle. That sometimes, we get overwhelmed by our power – our power to build a world that can be equal parts protection and freedom, justice and opportunity.
My people know that everyone can contribute something – that life is precious and valuable. And that everyone deserves the chance to participate in something greater than themselves – to be a part of humanity and our progress, to share in our challenges and our successes.
My people know that together, our power is strong. Together, our power can achieve greatness. Together, we can all rise. My people know that a perfect world is within our reach, but that it means embracing our humanity. We all feel pain, we all feel loss. We all celebrate successes and we all love fiercely. We love. We breathe. We rejoice. We suffer. But we all do it.
I remember reading about Kenneth Feinberg, who headed up the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund, the group that determined how to compensate the families of the 9/11 victims. How do you quantify life? Families were paid an amount of money derived from the salaries of the victim, multiplied by a lifetime of earnings. So the family of a janitor at the World Trade Center would receive an amount far less than the family of one of the trade executives.
Later, he said he regretted this delineation. He regretted the implication that a person’s value can somehow be judged by their earnings alone. That one person’s life was worth more or less than another person’s.
And so that’s what I think of as I sit here, the day before the Democratic National Convention. I think of values, of the value of life and how we are all the same. How we all deserve peace and freedom, justice and opportunity.
As I watch the preparation unfold around me, I feel a sense of belonging – a sense of pride. Marriage equality, social justice, growth and entrepreneurship, stewardship of the land, public education, reproductive freedom. These are our values. The values of the Democratic Party.
I look around me, and I think: these are my people.