Thank you for fulfilling your civic duty to serve as a delegate or an alternate in this year’s local election.
I am a proud lifelong Saint Paulite asking for YOUR support to be the next DFL-endorsed State Representative for the East Side of Saint Paul.
My story is the story of the East Side. It is the story of our great city’s ever-changing face, a city that has welcomed the Germans, Finns, Lutherans, Catholics, Somali, Oromo, Muslims, Karennis, and Hmong. Forty years ago, my parents fled persecution in war-torn Laos because they stood with America in the fight against communism. When they arrived to Saint Paul, they hoped that one day my siblings and I, born of refugee parents, would one day succeed, achieve the American dream, and give back to the community that opened their arms to us.
That journey was not always easy. After graduating high school, I could not afford to go straight to college. Instead, I worked hard in a factory for two years to save up enough money to enroll at Saint
Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. I am still proud that a poor, first-generation college student like me could enter and graduate from one of the finest colleges in our state. I did not do it alone; I had great teachers and counselors at Como High School who helped inspire and guide me along the way.
Education is the bedrock of our democracy. If we cannot arm ourselves with knowledge, anyone may dupe us into voting for them even if their interests contrast our most sacred values. As a former educator and proud product of the Saint Paul public schools, I know firsthand the struggles our teachers experience in the face of diminishing resources and I know we need to do better by our children.
This is why education is such a high priority for me and why I support free college tuition for our students. Our schools require a larger variety of skills, labor, and educational training options in order keep our students and our nation competent in today’s fast-changing world. I will work hard with policymakers at all levels to ensure our kids have equal opportunities, from cradle to career, to attain the skills, education, and tools necessary to move upwards.
I understand well what our communities’ working class struggle with. My refugee parents did the best they could to raise our family. We have been in public and subsidized housing and on the receiving end of public assistance. A few years ago, my father suffered a severe stroke that forced him into early retirement and forced our family to endure many hardships. We struggled with the loss of our home as our old neighbors also lost theirs during the recession. When you grow up poor, you have limited options for where you may live and how or where you may work because of various constraints, such as public transit routes for those who can’t afford a car or work shifts for those who can’t afford childcare providers.
No family or any hardworking person should ever have to decide between feeding their family, housing their family, or paying a medical bill. We should have the ability to help the most vulnerable in our communities. There is no excuse as to why, in the richest nation in the history of the world, we could accept that 45 million Americans are uninsured. After all, we already pay for every individual’s hospital visit with our premiums. We need healthcare reform that makes sense. For these reasons, I strongly stand for universal healthcare and, in particular, for single payer.
The long arch of justice in this country stretches across a cruel and winding road. Liberals have been fighting for healthcare reform for over 100 years, and Minnesota needs to take the lead. It is no surprise that the statistics often state that physical health is easily predicted based on zip code.
Our health is tied to our housing options. It is tied to our transportation options and our workforce options. Everything is interconnected. If we don’t maintain our housing stock and invest in new infrastructure, we will feel the after effects only when it is far too late. Our demographics are quickly changing here on the East Side as many more boomers retire. We need more housing options for single people, both young and old, and more creative housing configurations that allow everyone to live in housing they can afford. The new housing crisis is not one of an economic bust, but one of inadequate housing itself. Our solutions must be bold and innovative. This is why affordable housing is one of my top priorities.
Our great East Side is a nice, quiet community. Yet, I have been doing grassroots organization in the community for a decade and I know well that we are also a proud and active lot who will put our stakes into the ground. Today, I put my stakes before you, and I hope we can walk this path together and achieve an even more energized and better East Side.
I look forward to speaking more with you on our shared vision for the future this Saturday, March 10th at the Senate District 67 DFL Convention.
Thank you for your time, and thank you for this opportunity.