Women’s March 2.0 Speech

It was a big weekend for the Olsen for Congress campaign. I had the wonderful experience of speaking at the Women’s March in Johnson City, then I had the pleasure of answering questions at a successful meet and greet in Jonesborough Sunday afternoon. We have another big weekend coming up with our campaign headquarters open house and petition signing party Saturday. I realize many people haven’t had a chance to meet me yet, so for this newsletter I thought I would share a written version of the Women’s March Speech. Here it is……

We are all here today to celebrate the importance of women in our lives, in our communities, and in our country. I’m sure that Democrats, Independents, and Republicans are all represented here. Everyone who recognizes the important contributions of women, and who recognizes that women’s rights are human rights, is welcome to this celebration.

Last year’s event in Jonesborough was an important part of my development. That event started me thinking. It started me thinking about how we, as citizens, CAN make a difference. It started me thinking about what I COULD do to make a difference. And, a few months later, those thoughts led me to the conclusion that the best way for me to take a stand against Trumpism was to run for elected office.

So, let me thank the organizers: Thank you for inspiring me, and thank you for inspiring us!

And now let us remember what it is that truly Makes America Great. It is the voice of the people. It is free and fair elections. In the past, many offices in our region were uncontested; there was only one name on the ballot. That’s called one party rule. We need to change that. I hope today’s event will inspire some of you to consider elected service, or to help the candidates of your choice raise their voices. If we are going to make change, we have to change the type of people we elect.

And, we are going to have to change minds. So let me tell you a story.

A few weeks ago, I was on my way to visit family in Ohio. As we know, southern Ohio is a part of Appalachia. They are us. We are them. While passing through Portsmouth, Ohio, I was in a car wreck. Just imagine: It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s late at night—but the other driver was just as concerned that I was on making sure no one was hurt. The police officer admirably did his job, then drove me to a hotel. In the morning, the body shop owner generously spent time reviewing options to get my car repaired, and a tow truck operator dropped everything he was doing to deliver my car to a location 100 miles away. These were very kind people.

Now, the community I visited is a lot like many of our communities in Upper East Tennessee. There is an opioid epidemic. If you drive through the downtown area you see vacant storefronts. People are having trouble finding the jobs that help them achieve their goals. And about two-thirds of the 2016 votes in the region were for Donald Trump. So yes, it’s much like what we find here.

This experience made me contemplate the genuine kindness of the Appalachian people. These kind, generous people who in so many cases voted for Mr. Trump. As we talk to our neighbors and friends and relatives, we need to recognize this innate kindness is a direct contrast to the meanness and the malice of Trumpism.

Malice: that’s a tough word, I know. It is not a word I chose lightly. But consider this: The malice of a policy to remove 22 million Americans from their healthcare coverage.

The malice of passing an overwhelming and crushing debt burden onto the nation’s children and grandchildren.

The malice of plans to expel young people who consider themselves Americans to countries where these folks don’t even speak the language.

The malice of a political climate which has allowed hate groups to spew their hatred even more loudly than they did in the past.

The malice of a President who has never apologized for openly bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.

I know these things can make us angry. These are hurtful, mean policies that mortgage our future. And some might say it is a hard sell for me to stand here and say that we need to put aside our anger and reflect on human kindness.

But that is exactly what I think we need to do.

We do need to rebuke the enablers of Mr. Trump. We do need to confront the elected officials who lack the moral courage to stand up to Mr. Trump’s divisiveness and recklessness. But, at the same time, we must respect the pain of many everyday good people—our friends, our neighbors, our relatives—who voted for him. Many of our friends, our neighbors, and our relatives have lost hope that the American Dream works for them.

We have to, with kindness in our hearts, begin conversations in our communities to bring that Dream back. Let’s talk about how everyday Republicans have had their party hijacked by Mr. Trump and his billionaire supporters. Let’s recognize that the needs of our communities have been left behind by a national Republican leadership that cares more about themselves and their rich donors than they do about everyday Americans.

Let’s point out that the party that used to be the party of Lincoln is now the party of Trump.

Our Country faces a stark choice in 2018. Are we going to continue the path of Trumpism with its negativity and divisiveness? Or are we going to take the path toward what truly makes America Great?

A path of hope.
A path of freedom.
A path of justice.
A path of opportunity for every American, no matter race, religion, sexual orientation or gender.
A path lit by the American beacon of light that has shown brightly for over two centuries!

Let us now supplement our voices with action. Let us choose hope over despair. Let us go forth in the spirit of Lincoln with malice toward none and with charity toward all. Let us go forth down a path where the American beacon of light shines brightly for us, for our children, and for the world.