My Why & My Support
On May 28th I spoke at a "we made it through the primary" gathering of like minded candidates and supporters, sponsored by the All of Us PAC. Below is the speech I gave. I'll be returning from my little break soon (the "kid" graduates today), and am fired up and ready to go. This speech was a reflection of what made me want to run for school board, and my thanks to the All of Us volunteers who made it happen. It's also a little bit of "piss and vinegar" to get us all moving again. To think about how we can support more and better candidates in a county that where progressives are the minority.
Thank you to everyone who supported me in the primary. Onward and Upward!
My name is Sam, my pronouns are she/her, and I am a 2021 school board candidate in Warwick. I am a local business owner and a parent. My story may not be representative of all of us, but of many of us. And not just us here in Lancaster County, but in red and purple communities across the country.
I, like so many, was crushed and utterly appalled in 2016. I felt a little helpless. Like I was yelling into a void. I talked myself into believing it couldn’t really be that bad. That he will be a generic terrible president, that there are checks and balances built in. That the citizenry won’t continue to be bamboozled. We all know what happened. How our country is still being torn apart by hate and fear.
In 2016, I wasn’t in a place to do much. My bookstore increased its focus on books that spoke the truth. For the first time, we put political books front and center. We draped a display in black fabrics and called it our “resistance table”. We populated it with books like On Tyranny and 1984, essays by Roxanne Gay, Chimamanda Adiche, Naomi Wolf. Biographies of RBG and Gloria Steinem. That display was empty at the end of each week because so many people were seeking answers, comfort, and understanding of the world we found ourselves in. We in the shop had found our community, but more importantly our community found us. As a business we became a place for those who didn’t feel safe in their own town, county, country. I knew then that that wasn’t enough, but I didn’t quite yet know what more I could do. In 2018, I saw the crowds and passion that Jess King’s campaign drew, my own family included. But I didn’t become involved, much to my regret. I watched from afar as our community found a voice, and my own child embraced his passion for politics and human rights. That was also the year I watched our school board not doing their job, not caring about their young charges. A dear young friend of our family lost her battle with depression. She committed suicide on school grounds. It devastated a group of children that already struggled in our conservative school. At the memorial service the band kids, the drama kids, the queer kids, the misfits all came together to celebrate their friend. And sitting in the family section were three school board members, there not to support a grieving community, but to be seen. They only talked to administrators and spent more time looking at their phones than the grieving children they were elected to serve. It disgusted me. I knew then that when I was ready to enter local politics, it would be to help disrupt this school board that was nothing more than an appointment of their friends by the Warwick Republican Committee. It does not represent the families, the changing demographics of our community. They do not have the best interest of our minority, non-christian, and LGBTQ students. They are not open to discussion and other ideas. The children that poured out their hearts and souls that night need adults that respect and listen to them, and I decided I was the one to do it. To get their voices heard. For Gracie.
So much of life in Warwick, not just the school board, can be summarized as “If it’s been done this way for 50 years, why change a thing?” There is a sense of complacency, and a lack of desire for any new leadership or ideas. There’s a fear of change, wanting to keep Lititz in a quaint 1950’s time capsule. The powers that be in so many places in Lititz aren’t budging. Aren’t working to reflect the changing town. But the last few years have taught me that there are more voices in our community who are speaking out. More diverse voices that embrace change. Voices that struggle to be heard. Voices that can add ideas and solutions but are often silenced. So, in 2019 I decided I would run for local office, and 2021 was the perfect year to give it a go. Our business is in a good place thanks to the immense support of strangers and friends alike during the pandemic, and my son is graduating and doesn’t need “mom” hovering around him. I have the time, and the energy, and the fire.
I admit I knew nothing about what I was doing when I announced my candidacy. Getting connected to All of Us has made a huge difference. So many people out there would be great local leaders, but they are afraid of the unknown. Unsure of the hurdles required. Don’t have the connections they think they need. It’s through the help All of Us that those hurdles are leapt over, those connections are being made. We need to keep working to make the process easier and less daunting. We need to get those interested voices participating, to find those new candidates. For more people to become engaged in local politics we need more groups like All of Us, more local democratic committees working to help their candidates. As a newbie to all of this, I want to thank you all for building this community of candidates and volunteers. Thank you for the hours, sweat, tears, and maybe even a little blood that have gotten us through the Primary. We’re not done yet, though. We all have five more months to get those voices heard this year. To share our messages of transparency, of rational discussion, of looking out for all citizens, of communities that truly reflect their demographics. We need to work together and stronger now to get our fellow concerned neighbors to the polls on November 2nd, to show those “things should stay the same” leaders that times are changing. Thank you.