by Pramila Jayapal
Washington's 7th Congressional District
The following speech was delivered at Representative Pramila Jayapal's State of OUR Union event on January 30.
Good evening, powerful, unstoppable women! I am Pramila Jayapal and I am so proud to represent Washington state's 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and to be the FIRST Indian American woman elected to the House! And, particularly in this moment, I'm also so proud to be an IMMIGRANT - one of just a dozen or so members in the entire Congress born outside the United States - and someone who has spent my life as an immigrant, civil and human rights organizer, and activist.
I want to give a special thank you to the courageous and inspiring women who made this state of OUR union possible. My dear friends Ai-jen Poo and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner; the inspiring Tarana Burke, Cecile Richards, Monica Ramirez and Arisha Hatch. They, and women like them across this country, are standing up for a different kind of world - sisters, the future is FEMALE!
I have chosen to boycott the State of the Union because I refuse to normalize a president who foments racism and hatred simply to play to a shrinking part of his base.
As an immigrant myself, I am tired of being called the worst of the worst; I am fed up with hearing Muslims called terrorists and Mexicans called rapists; I am infuriated by the scapegoating of immigrants and the vulgarities used to describe entire African nations, all for political gain. I am outraged by the white supremacist, anti-immigrant and racist policies that seek to make America white again.
But I am also more determined than ever.
I'm done listening to more lies about standing up for working people, when every move of this administration has been to transfer wealth from workers to the top 1% in the country, strip health care from tens of millions of Americans, roll-back women's CONSTITUTIONAL right to abortion and decimate our planet for future generations.
And I am increasingly convinced that this president is obstructing justice, violating the Constitution every day, benefiting from his financial interests. And every day he is enabled by the complicity of congressional Republicans, even those who KNOW that what is happening is wrong...and yet they do not speak out.
I am here with you tonight, sisters, because when Donald Trump says that the state of the union is strong, I want people to know it is strong DESPITE everything he does to tear us down. It is STRONG because of you in this room and the thousands across the country who are watching and re-committing to a union that gets its strength from its diversity, a union that embraces those in need instead of mocking them, a union that believes in the common good, a union that seeks every day to be more perfect, a union rooted in love and not hate.
I am here because people across our country - all of us - deserve So. Much. Better.
People like Shannon, a steelworker at a plant in Indianapolis, who supports her family through her job but has watched it move away because corporations seek cheaper labor and more profits. This, despite the narrative that the president will push tonight.
People like Graciela, a Dreamer who is now deportable because Donald Trump terminated the DACA program and MADE her deportable. Here in the U.S. since the age of 7, Graciela holds out hope every single day that she and 1.5 million other Dreamers will stop being used as political footballs.
People like Stephanie, who learned at 19 weeks that her pregnancy could not be brought to term and had to have an abortion - and as difficult as that was, she holds a deep belief that all women must be able to make the choices that are right for themselves.
Or like Shanda, a veteran who was disabled through a horrific accident, and who nonetheless brings a deep sense of hopefulness that this country she fought for will fight for her.
I am here because we know that when we stand strong, link arms in love, organize and VOTE - we are POWERFUL.
And let me tell you - they know that too! Have you seen the list of Republicans who are retiring from Congress now and the seats that we are going to take back in November? With women candidates, black and brown, young, transgender and immigrant - we are ON THE MOVE!
We are creating OUR union, a union that respects everyone for who we are, rural or urban, red or blue, immigrant or native-born, and gives us the tools we need to thrive: good jobs so people can take care of their families, government funded health care, a free education without mountains of debt, retirement with dignity - and RESPECT.
In OUR union, women get EQUAL PAY, paid safe and sick days and a $15 minimum wage with NO tip penalty; sexual assault and harassment is not tolerated and workers' rights are protected.
That's OUR UNION - say it with me - That's...Our...Union.
In OUR union, we fight for clean air and clean water and human health. We take sustenance from our oceans and rivers, and inspiration from our mountains and plains. We hear bird song and whale whistles and we follow our Native elders' wisdom that water truly is LIFE.
That's OUR UNION.
In OUR union, we know that immigrants and Dreamers make our country stronger with new energy and creativity - THAT is the foundation story of OUR union.
That's OUR UNION.
In OUR union, women MARCH by the millions, VOTE with our power, LISTEN, SHARE and AMPLIFY our stories to build movements like MeToo and Black Lives Matter, where the tidal waves of anger crest with the waves of truth telling and we have a watershed that finally brings justice across our country.
That's OUR UNION.
In OUR union, we reject the killing of black women and men and we honor the mothers and fathers who seek nothing more than to know their child will return safe when they leave home on any evening they choose.
THAT's OUR UNION.
In OUR union, we honor our transgender soldiers and veterans of all kinds - we don't exclude them with discriminatory bans or cut their care; we encourage all to be who they are and love who they choose.
That's OUR UNION.
In OUR union, racial, gender, economic and social justice are inextricably tied - because I am not a woman on Monday, an immigrant on Tuesday, a worker on Wednesday and a mom on Thursday - I am all of those things all of the time.
That's OUR union.
The state of OUR union is strong when fearless people stand up against tyrannical policies and do not confuse xenophobia with patriotism, or vitriol for values.
We are strong when we call people IN even as we call them OUT, and recognize that it is generosity and abundance, not scarcity and fear, that always wins.
We are strong when we recognize that, as a minority party, we are an opposition party, but to build our movement, we must also be a proposition party, putting forward our vision.
We are strong when we organize and build our power, when we refuse to be intimidated or patronized, and when we give gratitude for those whose shoulders we stand on and allow others to stand on our shoulders.
So tonight, take the hands of the people standing on either side of you and reach those arms up into the air, sink your feet firmly into the ground beneath you, and stretch yourselves toward that more perfect union that we are creating every day.
Sisters, the State of OUR union is strong because of YOU. This democracy is OURS and we are taking it back!
My name is Pramila Jayapal. I believe in the power of OUR union. And in 2018 (and always), I pledge to FIGHT. FOR. US.
Courtesy of U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal's Congressional Office
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