Send David Back to Richmond Event
January 8, 2015
The Space Downtown
Thank you, Creigh Deeds, for that wonderful introduction. Creigh is such an ally and a tireless advocate for the values we support.
Thank you, Carmen, Lauren, Kevin, Jarrod, Lauren for working on this event.
Thank you Tim and Vincent, The SPACE is certainly the place.
Thank you, String Theory Quartet from Charlottesville High School: Margie Manto, David and Eliza Cohn, and Eve Allen. They are all seniors in an orchestra which continues to win awards around the world. One thing I really like about the Charlottesville orchestra is that it has students from both the city and county together and it shows that city and county can really “make beautiful music together.”
Thank you, Shawn Cossette from Beehive, for the place settings and décor.
Thank you, Nancy and Matthew, for sticking with me through thick and thin, always quick with a smile and supportive word. Going off for 46 or 60 days is not easy.
And thank you to all you sponsors and supporters here tonight. You have been so great for so many years. I am so lucky to have you on our side as we go down to Richmond to do the peoples business.
I recently sent out an email with a little preview of what we are facing this session: a tough budget (again); attacks on immigrants and gay rights and same sex couples (we have already seen the bills); more efforts to reduce the ability to vote; the push of a conservative political agenda. I won’t spend a lot of time reviewing this email —- it would take a lot of time and I know ALL of you have read it already.
But despite all of our political challenges, I remain optimistic that we can accomplish some very good things-and that we are on the right side of history. To be sure, it is always a struggle; the forces of reaction never go down without a fight, but I believe, as I think you do, that the arc of history bends toward justice, and that ultimately, we will prevail.
Two wonderful elected officials who shared that view just passed away this month. And as we go forward, perhaps we can take a lesson or two from them.
The first was, like me, an adopted Virginian, Jim Murray. He served, like me, in the House of Delegates, and like me, he was influenced by his Catholic upbringing in an ethnic household. Not exactly Toscano, but my mother was part Irish so I will assume this mantle.
The second was Mario Cuomo, again Catholic, again ethnic but this time with an “o”. He always reminded me of my thoroughly Italian grandfather, who served in elected office while running a small, men’s clothing store in my hometown of Syracuse, NY many years ago. From my family, I learned those ethnic and religious values of hard work, social justice, and support to those in need. They have always been very important to me and I believe affected how I view the world and how I represent you in Richmond.
Both Murray and Cuomo were public servants in the finest sense of the word, and Democrats to their core. They stood for values that we consider so important today — fairness, opportunity, and diversity. Sure, like all of us, they had their weakness — but these were overshadowed by their willingness to fight for the little guy and to advocate for the voiceless. It is people like these who serve as inspirations to those who followed them.
In so many of Cuomo’s speeches, including his stirring “Tale of Two Cities” address to the 1984 Democratic National Convention, he argued that we Americans rise and fall together, and stressed the risk that if we didn’t watch out for our neighbor and provide opportunities to all Americans independent of wealth and power, we would eventually lose our way. We needed to see others problems as ours as well.
Creigh and I believe that this is what you want us to do in Richmond.
So when we hear of a father in Southwest Virginia who faces the choice of sending his sick child to the doctor or putting food on the table, that becomes OUR choice and OUR problem.
And that is why we have been fighting so hard to expand Medicaid, to bring our Virginia tax dollars back home to help 400,000 citizens get insurance that they do not presently have, to help create jobs, and to assist our hospitals as they struggle in an uncertain economic environment.
And when we meet the home health nurse in Fairfax, who joins with other workers to fight for a higher living wage, we make it OUR fight. And that is why Democrats in the House will be pushing to increase the minimum wage in Virginia this year. When families in Central Virginia-black and white-feel the sorrow of losing their daughters to senseless attacks by sexual predators, that is OUR sorrow… and OUR anger.
And that is why we are pushing bills to make this less likely, from my bill to require DNA samples be taken from all convicted of serious misdemeanors to a measure that require greater reporting of rape on college campuses.
And more and more, when we meet students and young people who argue for a future free from the dangers of climate change, we know that this is OUR argument — AND IT IS OUR FUTURE.
That is why I have several bills to promote greater use of solar, and will oppose efforts by the utilities to” tax the sun” by imposing unreasonable “standby charges” on citizens who generate energy that is sold back to the grid, and will work to repeal the special tax breaks given to the coal industry, preferences which do not work, and take money away from education and public safety.
Yes, we believe in the idea of the Commonwealth, that we are bound to each other and that we fail or succeed together. So how do we succeed together?
We succeed together when high school students from our poorer neighborhoods have access to resources that allow them to compete with their counterparts in the wealthiest parts of our Commonwealth .
We succeed together when we stand firmly behind the law in supporting same sex marriage and ensuring that women health centers can remain open to provide the widest array of reproductive services.
We succeed together when we can reduce the high incidence of teenage pregnancy in Charlottesville and make sure that reproductive health services and contraception are available to all who need them.
We succeed together by supporting Bright Stars preschool in Albemarle while extending pre-K options in Charlottesville.
And we succeed together — as a Region and as a Commonwealth — when we harness the intellect and skills at the UVA medical school and make them available-through telemedicine and other initiatives — to enhance health care in our area and in poorest areas of the state.
This has been a difficult year for this community. Hannah Graham, Sage Smith, Alexis Murphy, RollingStone. But throughout it all, we stuck together, marshaled our resources, and made changes.
Again, I am reminded of Cuomo. In that ’84 speech, he challenged us to “remember how futures are made”. He could just have easily said that “futures just don’t happen; they are made — by you, by your neighbors, and by the elected leaders you choose.” I am so honored to be one of those elected leaders and to fight for those values Murray and Cuomo epitomized, and that we embrace. Thank you again for your support, and rest assured, I will never stop fighting for the causes that we hold so dear.