I recently watched a very good interview with Michael Lewis, author and former Wall Street trader, regarding the unusual message he neatly tucked within the Princeton commencement address he gave a few weeks ago. Click here to watch it. His point is something that's at the core of all the social justice work I've been doing and the reason I'm running for congress - luck and random chance have a lot to do with success and failure – as I’ve learned the hard way over the past few years.
Luck and chance all start with what family, what race, what culture, what location, what genetic advantages and disadvantages we're all born with - accidents of birth. This democratic experiment we call the United States, was started with the idea that all men are created equal. The truth is that more than half of us are born disadvantaged in either native intelligence; physical abilities; or the position in society that the families we are born into hold either socially, culturally, geographically, or financially. It's just plain ignorant to say that some kid born to a teenage mother, as the tenth generation of ongoing poverty in the backwoods of South Carolina, is "created equal" to some kid born as the tenth generation of a family living “South of Broad” in Charleston.
The Founding Father’s vision was of a class-less society where people were valued for their abilities, not their starting point in life. As one of my heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. said “…a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I want to replace the words “color of their skin” with “accidents of birth” to broaden the American dream to capture EVERYONE regardless of their family, their race, their culture, their gender, their sexual orientation, where they grew up, or what genetic advantages and disadvantages they were born with.
As any biologist will state, diversity only makes an ecosystem stronger, more resilient, more adaptable. A decade ago I spent a lot of time in a number of Asian countries. After spending weeks with people of mostly a single race, arriving back in the US would bring tears to my eyes. It’s a beautiful experience I wish every American could have. No other country has the diversity of race, cultures, and ideas that we have in America. That diversity IS our strength. The variety of accidents-of-birth – our diversity - is what makes America great. Unfortunately, the inability of all of our people to become all they can, regardless of their accidents-of-birth, will destroy America, as it has many societies before us.
We MUST make changes to our society and our current game of capitalism to ensure our country will never divide into a relative handful of “elites” and 300 million of the rest of us “commoners”. I think my five legislative actions will ensure that we WILL become a nation where no one will be judged by the accidents of their birth, but only by the content of their character.