The unexpectedly inspiring weekend started for me with a hockey game. Two friends and I watched as the Ice Bears found their playoff stride. After a lackluster regular season, the team looked sharper. Crisp passes hit colleagues in stride. Sharp goaltending kept the Louisiana Ice Gators in check; and the Ice Bears enthusiastically put together a 3-0 win.
The following morning my wife Becky was hard at work with a dedicated group of volunteers helping local people get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. That same morning I secured signatures so that our tenacious and talented state representative, Gloria Johnson, would be on the ballot.
That afternoon was a fish fry event for State Senate candidate Cheri Siler. As I entered, Cheri was speaking. She talked about the importance of good jobs at good wages. She opposed stripping funds from public schools, and thought it wrong to pressure kids by threatening the loss of parental public aid. She spoke of these as moral issues, and they are.
As she spoke so forcefully, I could not help reflect on how well this math teacher and mother of six has risen to the challenge of taking on Stacey Campfield and the Republican-dominated legislature. Later I chatted with her husband Stanley, owner of a paving company. He was pleased that five of their six kids were there, and told me how he had grown to appreciate the importance of local politics and was changed for the better by that understanding. Clearly he also was justifiably proud of what Cheri and her campaign team had put together.
The event drew more than just the usual faces. Young people were there in good number, and several political newcomers. A band performed. Damp weather forced some corn hole games inside, but people still played and laughed. Judicial candidates George Underwood, Daniel Kidd, and Leland Price mingled with those munching on catfish, fries, hush puppies and cole slaw.
Gloria Johnson was there, alternating between conversations and phone messages about the current legislative session. U. S. Senate candidate Terry Adams even joined the band, strummed guitar, and belted out a quite impressive version of “Walking in Memphis.” It’s good to know a candidate who can speak forcefully on increasing the minimum wage and care for veterans, and who also can sing with equal fervor.
Those who think politics is drudgery clearly are doing it wrong. That afternoon wasn’t about calculation or connivance. These sincere folks care about public policy, have faith in people to better their own lives, and have the hope and gumption to take on the task.
I believe a political party builds an identity by being itself, not a pale imitation of anything else. The Democratic Party is building its identity and its bench with happy warrior candidates like these.
Though every person present at this event could and would speak glowingly about the value of individual strength and the importance of individual rights, it also is clear that we are at our best when we realize we all are in this together. I wish every voter could have been there to see this relaxed moment of team building and clear moral purpose.
As the evening drew to a close, Becky and her team had helped a large number of people secure coverage, and had plans for even more events. Oh, and the Ice Bears that night won another game and advanced in the playoffs. Sometimes underdogs win, and it all starts with having the courage to try.
The next day I read of the death of Rikki Hall, a friend and hero. Our friendship went all the way back to the early days of Jim Andrews’ run for sheriff. Rikki fought valiantly for all of us to appreciate and to care for our natural world. He was the personification of all that is upbeat, and moral, and courageous. We will miss him greatly, but even those who never knew him are carrying on in his stead.
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