On Oct. 2, I stood with nearly 175,000 people on the Mall in our nation's capital — the Mall that links the Lincoln Monument, Washington Monument, the Capitol building and countless memorials. I stood proudly supporting the theme of "One Nation Working Together."
Civil rights leaders, labor leaders, educators, peace activists and tens of thousands of others representing more than 400 progressive groups organized around a simple, yet profound, mission: to advocate for one nation working together to provide all people a just and fair opportunity — regardless of race, class, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or heritage — to achieve the American Dream.
The organizers said it best: One nation working together to "chart a bold, pragmatic path toward a more unified, sustainable, prosperous future by building support for … core principles and policy ideals."
These principles include providing immediate relief for those who are currently unemployed; extending jobless benefits and insurance coverage and providing mortgage assistance and other initiatives for those currently out of work; and targeting help for populations and communities in the greatest need.
And they include support for improvements in health care; a greater investment in education, pre-K through post-graduate; and protecting and advancing the civil and human rights of every individual.
As I walked around listening to speakers and studying the faces of those all across the Mall, I couldn't help but sense their conviction, steadfast resolve and peaceful determination. Yes, peaceful determination.
Now, some would argue that what is needed is not calm determination, but anger — anger at what still hasn't been achieved and anger to match those voices that, by spewing hate and fear and pitting one group against another, would lead us backward as a nation.
They would argue that, just like those voices of anger, we must achieve our goals by any means necessary, matching insult with insult and intimidation with intimidation.
But the One Nation organizers differed. Tracing the path of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous 1963 March on Washington, they advocated for inclusion, not exclusion; for a common good, not survival of the fittest. With Election Day now at our doorstep, all this provides a stark contrast to the "hate-speak" and derogatory inferences associated with too many candidates and their supporters.
Indeed, the One Nation Working Together movement provides an alternative; an alternative to the inaction exhibited by many elected officials on critically important issues facing Congress and local legislatures across the country, and an alternative to policies being promoted that would reward greed over equity and excess over necessity.
Perhaps more importantly, One Nation offers an alternative to those who would divide us — preying on those who have suffered most in this recession — as a means to their own political ends.
It offers an alternative to those who seek to capitalize on the hardships of the unemployed and the anguish of those who have lost their homes and fear losing everything — escalating their fears to garner votes.
And it offers an alternative to those who find it politically expedient to use educators, health care workers and other public employees as scapegoats for their own failings.
One Nation Working Together provides an alternative and, if one chooses wisely, so do many candidates this Election Day — yes, even some incumbents!
On Nov. 2, we will all have an opportunity to seek an alternative. I urge you to be sure that you exercise your choice and that your choice is not simply an alternative, but an alternative that will lead to what we all need: One Nation Working Together.
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