It's Time for a New Generation!

Thank you for coming out tonight and supporting me in this important decision. And thank you to my team for putting this event together and to Carol Surveyor and Dan Cairo for the powerful stories they have shared with us.

Their stories have shaped who they are, but are also indicative of the society in which we live in today.

My story is founded as much upon the choices that individuals have made as it is about the history of the country and social forces at play: 

My grandparents still live on the Navajo Nation, descendants of Diné ancestors from time immemorial. My grandparents worked hard in Utah and Arizona. My grandfather in uranium mines. My grandmother stripping bed sheets and cleaning guest rooms in the hospitality industry. My dad grew up with the Grand Canyon in his backyard. He survived boarding school and lived in California in the LDS Indian Placement Program. He served an LDS Mission on the Navajo Nation and then after his mission, made it to Salt Lake City where he has continued to work to provide for his family. He came with 55 cents in his pocket and the hope for a better life.

My other grandparents come from a long line of immigrants back to Europe: England, Germany, Sweden. They were some of the first settlers in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. My grandfather fought in World War II and saw the horror of the concentration camps. The images of the war left a scar on his life. My grandmother told me that sometimes he would awake at night thinking he was back over there. His life was short, he died when my mother was only 8 years old. The night before he passed, my mom had asked him if she could call him “pop” and he agreed. A sweet memory. From what I’m told, he was a good man who worked hard.

Grandma worked at Firestone and never remarried, but continued to provide for her family the best she could.

Around 18, my mom met LDS missionaries, converted to the church and eventually made it to Salt Lake City. My parents met on Temple Square. Their story is so cute it makes me sick.

Raising us four children, my parents decided to take the best from their cultures and focus on that. It was a loving home. We laughed, a lot. My parents instilled in me the importance of being kind, sensible, smart, serviceable, and determined. They taught me to find balance, or harmony — a central Navajo philosophical concept.

I was the first in my family to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree, to get a master’s degree, and now working on a doctorate degree. It has taken nearly three generations for our family to rise into “higher social ranks.” And my story is one of beating overwhelming odds.

But that dream of social mobility is becoming increasing more difficult for more and more people. I will finish college with over $50,000 in student loans. And given that sociology is not the most wealth-filled discipline, I can expect to be paying off those loans for most of my working life. This will make simple things, like saving for retirement, much more difficult. And it is not even guaranteed that a job is waiting for me either. 

I may have a better chance at winning a Senate seat than obtaining a tenure track job. 

Right now, I teach on a semester-by-semester basis. Nothing is guaranteed. It’s at the whims of larger social factors beyond my control. It’s a precarious situation. And it’s work the universities get at a discounted price.

My story of insecurity is an all too common experience for many Americans. Full-time work becoming more scarce as part-time and temporary work becomes more prevalent. Wages are lower. Benefits, non-existent. Getting a college education is beyond the reach of many who have to make a decision to pay for rent or pay for tuition.

At the other end, those at the top continue pull further away in terms of wealth from the rest of us. Their taxes are lowered. They are the recipients of government handouts and subsidies. And though economic prosperity was promised to all Americans, the divide between those who have and those who don’t has expanded. 

The myth they’ve sold us since the early 1980s, from both sides of the aisle, has led to the greatest transfer of wealth to the least amount of people possible. Nearly all the gains from productivity have gone to those at the top. The bottom 90 percent, Republicans and Democrats alike, have waited patiently for the benefits to trickle down, but received only a few drops. 

Instead the privatization of our public assets, the financialization of the economy, the off-shoring, the deregulation, the retrenchment of the social safety net, and the focus on hyperindividualism, has left a burnt out shell of once prosperous working and middle classes. 

Our country’s history is also burdened by deep racial divides. While individually many Americans claim to not harbor racist attitudes, the foundations of our society are littered with racism and, subsequently, racialized institutions. Many of our systems of laws and policies have tended to reward people of European descent, while punishing or holding back people of color. And no matter how innovative and hard-working these people can be, only once in a while do we see the success story. And that is because so much is working against them.

One of problems is that people in positions of power claim to not “see race.” They claim they are color-blind. That the consequences of misery and poverty are due to the lack of work of the individual. 

Not only is that a naive way of understanding social life, but it is also very dangerous. Because denying the systems of power and systems of oppression that work behind the scenes in our lives, means that our line of thinking will only address the problem at an individual level. When in fact, we need to be stepping back and viewing our problems from a much grander scale. 

Acknowledging our racialized history and racialized social systems is the first step towards remedying the divides in our country. These systemic issues pop up in people’s personal stories, but tell a bigger picture of mass incarceration, settler-colonialism, or the criminalization of immigrants. It may not be the most comfortable subject in polite conversation, but we have moved beyond polite conversation. We must deal with the continuing legacy of racism.

I come from a family of strong, resilient, independent women. In Navajo society, women have a much more prominent role than has been traditionally been expressed in Western societies. My grandmother is the matriarch. My aunts and women cousins lead. It is the same in my family growing up. 

Because my mom grew up primarily with only her mother, she had an example of a strong, resilient, independent woman. And she was that kind of mother. My sisters are strong, resilient, independent women today. And it is no coincidence that my wife is strong, resilient, and independent.

At 18 years old, she left Venezuela to the United States. She was prescient enough to see that the political situation there would become untenable and dangerous. She wanted a better opportunity for her life. She eventually made it to Utah where she found work and started attending school despite the fact that she did not have the legal documents needed to do so. Normally a confident woman, the status of “immigrant” with an “illegal” status, began to wear on her. In fact, when we were first dating, she felt the need to disclose that information and gave me an “out” from the relationship if I wanted it.

Well, I didn’t. We got married and she got her papers. In this story, love conquered the insanely stupid immigration system. Now we have a daughter who is 11 months old. She is my life. 

So, living in a society that devalues women, their work, their contributions, their ideas, and motherhood, is infuriating to me. 

bell hooks said that “feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”

I do not want my daughter to have to grow up in a world where she is devalued simply because she is female. To have her ideas brushed aside because she is female. To be paid less for the same work because she is female. To be pressured to withdraw from her career to raise a family because she is female. To be criticized and punished for being a mother. Of course, if she so chooses.

I also don’t know who she will end up loving. I will always love her, no matter what. I believe it is against our moral decency as human beings to treat others with malice, to write laws that discriminate, to marginalize and persecute, based simply on how a person naturally loves.

Echoing Carol’s story, there is an epidemic of murdered and missing indigenous women. Indigenous women are at the highest risk to endure sexual violence. Those are my sisters, my aunts, and now my daughter. 

We must work to bring down the system of male superiority and recognize the injustices our society has burdened women with. We must provide free high-quality women’s healthcare to all who live within our borders. We must provide at least 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. We must enforce anti-discrimination measures against people who unjustly treat women and people who identify as LGBTQIA+. Simply put, we demand equality! Everyone benefits in that situation. 

Finally, the debate about climate change should be one about how we should solve it, not whether it exists or not. As a society, we are wasting so much time and energy to maintain an economic system that is rendering our planet unsuitable for human life just so a few wealthy people remain so, that history will look back at this moment and collectively judge us for our inaction. The moment climate change and the environment become the number one thing Americans are most concerned about, it may be too late to do anything about it.

We have the capacity, right now, to run completely off of renewable energy. We have simply lacked the political will to put it in place and do it. We must elect leaders who will stand against the destruction of our planet and reject the dirty money from fossil fuel industries. We need leaders to build for our future, rather than sell out today. 

A major theme, weaving through the tapestry of these problems is the insidious reach of corporate money in our politics. Politics has become an inaccessible sport in which the rich are the only ones who get to play. The rest of us have become spectators, which is why so many people feel apathetic towards our democracy today. Money has undermined the very foundations of democracy.

Instead of civic engagement, corporations have stepped into people’s lives to define what gives us meaning. Mega-businesses model the desires we should have, the goals we should set, the things we should buy, and the actions we must do. They increasingly have control over our lives and the decisions we make. In essence, our very agency to choose is limited by the power businesses exert over us. We may find their methods time-saving, but the result is that instead of participating in communities, expanding our knowledge, and spending time with families, we find ourselves working more to buy things we don’t need and end up making a few people very rich.

Money shouldn’t equal freedom. Freedom is an inherent right. A human right. A God-given right.

If this is the state of our society, we must demand for something more than just the “anti-candidate.” It is not good enough for me to claim that you should vote for me, or join the campaign, simply because I am not Orrin Hatch…or Mitt Romney, or whoever else the capitalist class decides to throw at me. We need to provide the alternative. And that is where the new generation steps in.

As young people we want to live in a world that is more equitable, that prepares for what lies ahead instead of reacting in the heat of the moment. And while we rallied behind a call of “hope and change” not too long ago, our hope vanished away when we saw that the systems of oppression I outlined remained in place. And we learn an important lesson: Hope alone cannot bring about change. 

In the book of James, in the Holy Bible, it says that “faith without works is dead.” Or in today’s speak, “hope without action is meaningless”

And so we must work! We must organize in families and groups, in neighborhoods and communities. We must organize to oppose the manufactured reality that brings despair and organize together to construct a new social reality. The one where leaders past have envisioned for us:

A dream where we’re all treated as equals regardless of our skin color. 

Of self-evident truths that we’re all created equal.

That we tear down walls, not build up new ones.

Of freedom and courage to write exactly what we think.

That we can look up and out, into our sisters’ eyes and brothers’ faces, and say simply, with hope: Good morning.

This is a worthy cause! And one worth fighting for. 

It may appear to be an upward battle, here in Utah. And I know there are allies and friends who in their minds have already accepted defeat in the 2018 election. Smart, motivated people.

I am tired of the defeatist attitude of my allies that tell me our struggle is worthy but worthless. We share too much in common with our supposed enemies to not be able to make them our friends.

I am tired of waiting for change.

I am tired of hearing and seeing people persecuted for the people they love, or the way that they feel.

I am tired of hearing about a few rich men changing rules and laws so they can tear into Mother Earth, leave her for dead, and revel in the profits.

I am tired of a politics that keeps the common person out, of political family dynasties, and a politics that is full of vitriol and hatred.

I am tired of hearing about the criminalization of black bodies and brown bodies and red bodies. Of hearing about the epidemic of murdered and missing Indigenous women. Of seeing poverty when we have the means to eliminate it. 

I am tired of hearing that greed rules over charity, that selfishness overtakes compassion, that hate beats love, and fear kills hope.

I’m tired of people in power not giving a damn!

We wait no longer. The judgment is here. And it’s here at the ballot box! 

It’s the marches in the streets. The rallies for change. The organizing in apartments and in schools. If the ears do not hear, then we will find ears that will. 

If there is one thing I have learned in sociology — is that change cannot come by one person alone. I will not be able to move mountains or change the hearts and minds of people. I will not be able to create a society that values human life. That only comes with you. Together. The power comes from our ability to unite. To work together everyday. To fight together for the changes. To cry together. To laugh together. To suffer together. And to rejoice together. Our nation is only as strong as the strength of unity we can forge together.

So, therefore, our campaign cannot be solely a political campaign. It must depart from the business as usual. Instead, this campaign is a social one. A social campaign to transform lives, to build communities, and lay the foundations for the tomorrow that WE want to see.

Our message is simple. Our rallying cry is strong: We want equality and prosperity for all Utahns and all Americans.

It’s time, right now, for a new generation!

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