S02 E04 (Part 1): For the People – Meet Your Representatives

Interview Guests

Headshot of Representative Pramila Jayapal Pramila Jayapal U.S. Rep. (D-WA7)
US Representative Barbara Lee Barbara Lee U.S. Rep. (D-CA 13th District)
US Rep Sheila Jackson Lee Sheila Jackson Lee U.S. Rep. (D-TX 18th District)
US Rep Maxine Waters Maxine Waters U.S. Rep. (D-CA 43rd District)

Our Host

Ashley Allison Executive vice president of campaigns and programs The Leadership Conference

Contact the Team

For all inquiries related to Pod For The Cause, please contact Brittany Johnson at [email protected] and Kenny Yi at [email protected].

Episode Transcript

[Music 00:00 – 00:22]

Ashley: Welcome to Pod for the Cause, the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Leadership Conference Education Fund at civilrights.org, where we expand the conversation on the critical civil and human rights challenges of our day. I’m your host, Ashley Allison, coming to you from Washington, D.C., Capitol Hill.

We’re here with Pod for the Cause the night of the State of the Union. I am with one of the most dynamic, fierce, progressive leaders of our time, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Thank you for being on the show.

Rep. Jayapal: I am so happy to be with you.

Ashley: Okay, let’s get right to it. First, we have a special guest here with us today.

Rep. Jayapal: I do.

Ashley: Every member gets to invite someone. Why don’t you tell me about your guest, and I’d love to hear what you’re looking forward to tonight?

Rep. Jayapal: Yeah, I’m super excited and honored to have with me an incredible patriot, a veteran, somebody who did everything right. Joey Massa is a constituent of mine. He’s a terminal cancer survivor; he was diagnosed when he was 25. I’m gonna let him tell the story, but the reason I brought him is because he really does exemplify everything we ask people to do.

He signed up for the National Guard, and we should be taking care of people. In this country, we have a healthcare system that puts profits over patients, and so people like Joey, while they’re dealing with a terminal illness, are also trying to figure out how to come up with the $10,000 a year that they have to pay in costs, and how to get the care that they need. I’m just so honored that Joey was willing to come and make the trip, and talk about not only why we need to stop Republicans from stripping away the Affordable Care Act, but also why we need to have Medicare for All, which of course is my bill that I’ve been pushing relentlessly –

Ashley: Yes.

Rep. Jayapal: – and I believe is the right thing to do. So Joey Massa – I’ll let him tell you his own story.

Ashley: Joey, thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to hear from you. I’d love to hear your story, and if you had a chance to look President Trump in the eye, what would you tell him about why you felt like it was important for you to be here today? This is also – I always say – my mom listens to this, so we try and keep in PG-13. Just FYI.

Joey: Understandable. I appreciate that. It’s a honor, obviously, to join Congresswoman Jayapal here. As she said briefly, I was diagnosed with, eventually, Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and given 18 months to live only four months after I left the National Guard. Through that journey, I had three-ish major surgeries, over a year of chemotherapy and radiation. I’ve taken an incredible toll on my body and my wellbeing, and I’m really so excited to be here to advocate for chronic illness patients and for everyone who needs a development like Medicare for All.

The situation we have, where the people who need access to healthcare most, who are facing the most serious illnesses – unless they have so many advantages, we put them in a situation where they’re gonna be paying more than you could ever expect someone to pay. As the Congresswoman says, there were many years, $10,000 or more of medical debt just trying to stay alive. Being in the richest country in the world, it’s truly shocking to me that this is the type of situation we put our citizens in.

On that subject, if I had the chance to look our president in the eye, I would ask why his administration is pushing forward a court case to try and break down the Affordable Care Act, and essentially would make it very hard for myself or people like me to literally stay alive, and how he can justify that type of action while also telling the American public that he is supporting and trying to make healthcare changes for their benefit –

Ashley: Yeah.

Joey: – when there’s been no action, there is no plan, and none of that has been represented. It’s beyond frustrating.

Ashley: Yeah. Congresswoman, a lotta people – Medicare for All seems like a no-brainer from some folks, but some people feel like it’s just too much.

Rep Jayapal: Yeah.

Ashley: What do you say to those people who say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down. Keep your hands off my healthcare?”

Rep. Jayapal: Yeah. All of the polling shows that it’s incredibly popular across the country, even in swing districts. Eighty-five percent of Democrats support it. A substantial number of Republicans support it, and Independents as well. I think the opposition is coming from those who have the most to lose by changing the status quo, and that’s the big pharmaceutical companies, the big private insurance companies.

If you look even at people who have employer healthcare – and Joey’s a perfect example of this – people who have employer healthcare, some of those companies are saying, “No, no, you’re not gonna have choice if you go to Medicare for All.” I would just say, what choice do you have? When you work for an employer, the employer chooses your healthcare plan, the insurance company decides which benefits you do or don’t get. The insurance company also decides which hospitals or doctors you can see.

Ashley: You can go – yes.

Rep. Jayapal: That’s why there’s so many out-of-pocket, out-of-network doctors and hospitals, and you get these surprise bills for $15,000, $20,000 sometimes, and if you are sick, as Joey has been, and as so many of my constituents are, and you actually can’t go to work, but you also can’t stay home to take care of yourself because if you don’t go to work, you lose your job, and if you don’t have a job you don’t have insurance. That is not what the richest country in the world should be.

What I say to people who are nervous, I say, “Remember that we deserve this. This is a human right. We don’t have to accept what’s given to us. We have to fight for what we deserve,” and so that’s why I think the movement for Medicare for All has been really successful. So many people across the country actually do believe in it. The thing we’ve gotta fight are the people who have a for-profit interest in maintaining the status quo.

Ashley: Yeah. One more question – this is probably the most important election of our lifetime.

Rep. Jayapal: Yeah.

Ashley: I feel like my life is literally at stake this election cycle. What do you tell a voter that says, “I’m not really sure who to vote for or I should vote?”

Rep. Jayapal: I’ve spent a lotta my time trying to get people engaged who have given up on government, who have given up on democracy, think their voices and their votes don’t matter. What I tell people is, we have a choice. It’s true that democracy has left too many people behind, that our government has left too many people behind, but the choice is either you sit back and you continue to watch it slide, or you get involved, and you bring your voice to the table, and you demand change.

I’ve been an organizer my whole life. I never thought I would run for elected office, but I got involved because I actually believe that we need to take government over, and we need to make it work for working people, for people of color, for young people. I think just reminding people that they have power, and they just need to use it. It’s not that it’s gonna come overnight, but no great battle in the history of our country has ever happened overnight, and it came because people in the face of deep, deep discrimination, exclusion, still fought, and still had resilience, and took on battles for the rest of us. We have to do that for everybody else.

I would just say, look for bold structural change in the next candidate. Don’t look for people who are biting around the edges because the problems in this country are systemic, and we need people who have the courage to take on the status quo and the special interests, and actually transform the country so it works for everyone.

Ashley: That’s right. Thank you so much. I would say enjoy the State of the Union, but just keep the president accountable.

Rep. Jayapal: We’re just gonna stare him down.

Ashley: That’s right.

[Music 08:16 – 08:54]

Ashley: We’re here tonight on Capitol Hill for the State of the Union. I am so lucky to be joined by a dynamic leader from the great state of California, Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Thank you for being on Pod for the Cause.

I know this is an important night. The country is waiting to hear what the president is going to say, but I have a question for you that, if you got the opportunity to say something to him before he was about to start his speech, what would you tell him tonight?

Rep. Lee: I would tell him that he should announce that he’s withdrawing his lawsuit that would repeal the Affordable Care Act because this is a matter of life and death for so many people.

Ashley: Yes, and your guest here – members are able to bring a guest, so I’m gonna let you introduce her, and explain why you had her come here with you tonight.

Rep. Lee: Sure. I’m really honored that Sherry Hirota came. Sherry is from Oakland, CA. She has been the director of a community health center for over 40 years – the Asian Health Services – and they provide culturally relevant and appropriate, and linguistically relevant and appropriate, healthcare services specifically to the immigrant communities and to others in Oakland, CA. They do a phenomenal job, and even before the Affordable Care Act was passed, Sherry knew how to put together a healthcare center where no one went without healthcare who needed it. She’s here to be in Donald Trumps’s face tonight.

Ashley: I know that’s right. Y’all got your suffragette white on too, ready that you didn’t come to play. Community health centers are so important. They are a backbone of communities that – I remember I went when I was a teacher in Brooklyn, NY. I went to a community health center.

Rep. Lee: Yes, yes.

Ashley: Can you tell me why you think the services you provide are so important, particularly for immigrant communities under this administration?

Sherry: Our providers at Asian Health Services are very important to the immigrant community, most who speak English as a second language because they speak the language of the patient, but also they empower them to understand that they have a right to healthcare just as everybody else. Our clinic has enrolled people into the ACA only to find that the administration is trying to undo the Affordable Care Act. What would happen when 90 percent of our clients are currently insured? If the ACA goes away, how many of them will be making the hard decision between food, shelter, and their healthcare?

We are very concerned that he not undo the ACA, and now he’s also come forward with public charge, which is that attack on legal immigrants. February 24th, 2020, they will make it a penalty for legal immigrants to have gotten support in their healthcare, housing, and food. That is a backward trend in our community. Asians need to step up and get aware that their basic right to be in this country is being threatened by a divisive administration.

Ashley: Yes. Okay, I wanna pivot a little bit. You’re a member of the Cannabis Caucus, and I think there is a great conversation happening in our country right now about the use of cannabis for medical treatment, but if you could give our listeners a understanding about what the Cannabis Caucus does, and what some of the advocacy that you’d like to see around cannabis reform, particularly as it relates to the racial discriminatory practices that we’re seeing for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Rep. Lee: Sure. I am actually the Co-Chair of the Cannabis Caucus. We have four co-chairs – two Republicans and two Democrats. They’ve never had a woman of color, let alone an African-American woman co-chair in the Cannabis Caucus, and what we agreed to is I would do that if, in fact, that they would look at marijuana justice as an issue as it relates to the whole issues around mass incarceration, the expungement of records, and making sure that we have a restorative justice fund for those who were unfairly and unjustly convicted of marijuana charges.

I have legislation that would do – one bill which would expunge all the records, and would create a $500 million restorative justice fund, and would deschedule it from the list of controlled substances. I also have another bill that would provide for equity in the industry because this is a trillion dollar industry, and less than one percent of the licenses right now go to people of color. This bill would set a roadmap out on how to provide for equity in the business.

Then the third piece is that if states have passed recreational or medicinal marijuana, and if the federal government hasn’t descheduled it, we want – and I’m an appropriator – won’t fund any agency that’s [inaudible] on states that have already passed it. I will deny the funding. These bills – as part of the Cannabis Caucus, I’m getting others to embrace our issues. At the same time, the financial issues – the SAFE Banking Act, the Safe Harbor Act, all the bills around financial transactions are extremely important to people of color also, but they’re moving pretty fast, those bills. Our bills are beginning to move. We’re forming coalitions to get everything done.

Ashley: I think we are facing, in 2020, one of the most important elections of our lifetime, and yet there are still some voters out there that haven’t been reached. Communities of color are gonna be such an important demographic that need to be persuaded to vote for a specific candidate and to vote. What do you think people need to be saying to – we’re at Millennial Row – Millennials of color – and this podcast is for Millennials of color – to ensure that, in November, they show up to the polls, and they vote?

Rep. Lee: Believe you me, had Millennials and people of color voted in this last election, Donald Trump would not be the occupant of the White House. We have to understand that there is a heck of a lot still to lose. We’ve lost a generation of policies to repair the damage, especially from the Middle Passage. We were fighting really hard for equity, and the education, and the criminal justice system, and healthcare, housing – Donald Trump has turned all that backwards.

A lot is at stake. The census – we’re coming up with now, the distribution of tax dollars and resources. If we don’t participate in the census, we’re not counted, so if you’re not counted in, you’re counted out. Voter suppression – if you don’t get engaged in voter registration, and be vigilant, and stay woke around what they’re trying to do, we’re gonna lose. We have to really understand that our lives and the future is at stake, and we have the luxury of staying home because if you care about your neighbor, if you care about kids, your grandkids, the future – we have an obligation to get engaged and to vote.

Ashley: If you care about yourself, you’re gonna vote because things are getting real real. Thank you so much for all you do. Thank you for joining us today on Pod for the Cause.

Rep. Lee: Thank you. Nice being with you.

[Music 15:52 – 16:33]

Ashley: I am so lucky to be here with, I think, someone that many people know and admire, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, from the great state of Texas. I just wanna know – you have been such a strong voice, before the Trump era, but definitely in the Trump era, around what true criminal justice reform should look like. Can you talk to me about what you would tell the president about his efforts around criminal justice reform, and really what criminal justice reform would look like?

Rep. Jackson Lee: Criminal justice reform needs to be embedded in your heart for it to be a action that you can take credit for. It means it is not a photo op or it’s not a one-time legislative initiative. Certainly we are very appreciative for the signature on a bill that included work that had been going on for at least a decade, and that is to reform the federal prison system in terms of the impact of previous crime bills that had people incarcerated under mandatory minimums. Not only under mandatory minimums, but sentencing, of course, that was extensive – 20, 30, 40 years.

Ashley: Life, sometimes.

Rep. Jackson Lee: Life. There are many bills that were introduced. The first effort that we made that was successful beyond the crime bill was to bring down the crack-cocaine. I introduced bills – a number of us – ultimately under President Obama – with the Senate we were able to get it reduced for eight to one. That made a sizeable difference. We’d all want one to one, but we’re able to get eight to one, and sign that bill with President Obama.

Then we immediately began on the question of attacking the mandatory minimums in terms of getting rid of them, but more importantly, trying to address those that were incarcerated. Criminal justice reform is comprehensive. It is to deal with the already incarcerated, it is to be able to look at their sentencing and actually reduce the sentencing, and the bill that is called First Step is combination first step and the sentencing reduction bill, but we’re not finished.

We need bail reform. We need to address the question of the wraparound services for released individuals who come out of federal and state prison, and then one of the things that we need to look at is the seeding of criminal issues. That is the schoolhouse-to-prison pipeline and the national juvenile justice system. It is my vision and goal to totally upheave the juvenile justice system because there are pockets of success around states. Federal government does not, in its mind, deal with juvenile justice, but it deals with funding.

Ashley: Yeah.

Rep. Jackson Lee: It needs to be the policy leader on how do you deal with the question of juvenile justice. Do you send a child to a detention center with no sentence? Bail reform, and then the other thing that I would say in addition to the wraparound services is women incarcerated.

We’ve got to begin to give them a pathway – many times their incarceration is through a man’s action, refusing to be a witness, drugs, and so they need a special pathway to be addressed. I would add, if I might, the umbrella of disparity that shoves most people of color into that system comes from centuries of discrimination.

Ashley: That’s right.

Rep. Jackson Lee: One of my goals is to pass my legislation, H.R.40.

Ashley: I was going there next! You beat me to it. Talking about centuries of discrimination –

Rep. Jackson Lee: I’m gonna pause.

Ashley: Growing up, the word “reparations” – you would’ve thought was a curse word the way people cringed to hear it, and literally this primary season, you have presidential candidates talking about reparations in Democratic debates. You introduced it this past fall – H.R.40. There was a Congressional hearing on reparations. Can you talk about why it’s so important, what reparations would do for our black community, and also what your bill actually does ‘cause I think’s some confusion on what is actually in that legislation?

Rep. Jackson Lee: Let the people listen. You are absolutely right. I spoke this morning at the summit of the Congressional Black Caucus – the call to action – and I started out by saying, it’s a clarion call. It’s more than a call to action. There is no reason to have our head down or to cringe. In 1964, or before, when the civil rights activists and all of the foot soldiers marched – the ’64 Civil Rights Act – people cringed. They were afraid. I don’t wanna talk about – the 1965 Voting Rights Act, they cringed.

Ashley: Yeah.

This is a significant and singular civil rights reparations act of the 21st century. It is a point where we have to have the courage to say that there are 250 years that we were enslaved. It was institutionalized. This is governmental action.

Ashley: We built this country.

Rep. Jackson Lee: We built this country, but this is state-enforced. We were three-fifths of a person in the Constitution, and our slavery was enforced by the federal government and state government. It is, by very nature of the way America acts, is when you are harmed by the federal government or the state government with a state action, you have to be compensated or responded to. This is by due a right process to go through under the law.

Ashley: Yeah.

Rep. Jackson Lee: We compensated or addressed the Japanese internment. We have addressed the Holocaust. I agree with it in totality. We are not saying what the approach will be, but what we are saying – H.R40 does this – it addresses the federal and state institution of slavery. It then has a process of looking at what should be the response, and the commission is a commission that is funded, that will have scholars and others to be able to address it long term. We leave nothing out. We leave no one out, and we are delighted that we have had in N’COBRA, and we’ve had the commission, the African-American Reparations Commission, and ACLU, and Human Rights Watch, and –

Ashley: And the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights!

Rep. Jackson Lee: Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the NAACP, and you’re right. We took it to a level where presidential candidates could say nothing but, “I am supporting H.R.40.” I think one just recently did so. The Speaker of the House supports it. The Minority Leader of the United States Senate. One-hundred and twenty diverse members of Congress, and they’re growing it, from all regions of the nation – we’ve never had that. We are not gonna shrink. We’re gonna grow, and we want this bill signed by a President of the United States of America, and we want to finally address – we wanna say to our Millennials, our children, our children’s children, that we were not afraid and not ashamed.

Ashley: That’s right.

Rep. Jackson Lee: And that we have finally found the answer, or the recognition, or the reconciling of the brutality of slavery and the long journey of disparities that have stuck their head into redlining, stuck their head into criminal justice or injustice, environmental injustice, lack of access to healthcare, unequal education – why is that? Because it started with discrimination that has actually never stopped. I look to a day when there will not be a rise in white nationalism, but there’ll be a rise in all of us collectively expressing our common humanity, and America, the great experiment, is truly great. That it is greater when the umbrella of opportunity covers all of us.

Ashley: Yes. I know you gotta get your seat. I see you wearing your suffragette white. You’re already sending a message. You have your Kente cloth around your neck so you’re sending a double whammy, but if you got a chance to look President Trump in the eye tonight before he was about to deliver the State of the Union, what would you tell him?

Rep. Jackson Lee: I’d ask him to have compassion for all of the people of this nation, not to be thinking that you have done good by the American people when poverty is at one of its highest levels, when homelessness and people without affordable housing – when young people are looking for jobs that will help them to equal what their fathers, and mothers, and grandparents were able to accumulate – I’d ask him to sign and encourage the passage of H.R.40, the Commission to Study Reparations, and to do real criminal justice reform.

Work with me to overhaul the system, and then I’d ask him to work with us on police/community relations, on engagement, so that some of the sufferings by our young, black men and law enforcement officers could heal, and end, and we could work together because all of us know that we’re a country of laws, and that everyone has a responsibility to protect the nation. Why not do it together?

Ashley: Yes.

Rep. Jackson Lee: Rather than have situations where mothers may be crying or those who are in law enforcement don’t go home to their families. Let’s find a way to walk together. He needs to speak about peace, reconciliation, loving each other, ending this divisiveness, and that he would be prepared to lead a nation which can walk in the sun together.

Ashley: Thank you so much for being on Pod for the Cause, and thank you for all you do to lead this country.

Rep. Jackson Lee: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

[Music 25:35 – 25:57]

Ashley: I am here with the one, the only, Auntie Maxine. I think I wrote a book report on you every year in grade school.

Rep. Waters: Oh my goodness.

Ashley: My soror, Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Thank you for being on Pod for the Cause. Thank you.

Rep. Waters: Absolutely.

Ashley: I’m gonna cut right to it: you led the way around impeachment, and you led it three years before other people were brave enough and bold enough to have your leadership.

Rep. Waters: That’s right. Yes.

Ashley: I wanna know – what is another issue that you are three years ahead of the curve on because you are always a trendsetter, and what should we be paying attention to tonight that is gonna affect us not just in this election cycle, but for generations to come?

Rep. Waters: As you know, I am the Chair of the Financial Services Committee, and we have a lot of important issues that we’re dealing with in that committee, but you know what’s keeping me sleepless at night? Homelessness.

Ashley: Yes.

Rep. Waters: We have a crisis in this country with people who work every day and cannot afford to rent a suitable unit for their families. We have children that are sleeping in automobiles and getting up, trying to get to school the next day. We have veterans who have fought in our wars trying to keep this country safe and secure, who are sleeping under bridges. This is unconscionable. We can do better than this.

Of course, we talk about the issues of healthcare, and education, and infrastructure, and all of that, but if people have nowhere to live, if they don’t have shelter, it is impossible to deal with these other issues.

Ashley: It’s about dignity.

Rep. Waters: I absolutely have introduced legislation for $13 billion to deal with ending homelessness in this country. We’ve got to put this at the top of our agenda. I’m not satisfied that our candidates in the debate have not talked about this issue. I know we talk about climate change and other important issues, but I think that we’ve got to be about the business of insuring that people have decent, safe living conditions, and I believe that we’re capable of doing that. We’ve got to commit the resources to it. We’ve got to be convinced that it is important enough for us to put it at the top of our agenda.

That’s what I’m focusing on, and I’m convinced that I’m going to force the Congress of the United States of America to focus on this issue, come up with the necessary resources, and get about the business of getting the job done.

Ashley: That’s why you’re Auntie Maxie! There’s a hashtag, #trustblackwomen. For this election cycle, what would it actually look like to trust black women?

Rep. Waters: Black women have already defined themselves and what we care about. I think that the average person does trust black women because they know that we will step up to the plate, we will be more confrontational, we will say what’s on our minds, and we will step up to the fight in ways that nobody else will. I think this is born out of an experience, and born out of a history where we have watched our mates and men be undermined, be slaughtered, be enslaved, on, and on, and on.

We’ve had to be right there to protect our children, and to make sure that no matter what was going on, that we embrace our children, and embracing our children, that means we had to fight for food. We had to fight for education. We had to do all of those things. It’s not always known because the civil rights movement did not show women, black women –

Ashley: Tell ‘em about it.

Rep. Waters: – who were out there, involved in these issues, in ways that was not picked up by the news media.

Ashley: That’s right.

Rep. Waters: Men who were identified as the leaders certainly were doing their part, but without the involvement and support of women, we never would’ve gotten this far. It was Rosa Parks –

Ashley: That’s right. Today’s her birthday!

Rep. Waters: – who basically said, that’s so typical of how we’re defined. People can go on being discriminated against, being undermined, but it’ll be a black woman who will tell you, I’m not gonna take it anymore. Get in your face, do whatever is necessary, not be intimidated, not back down, and it is that kind of spirit that’s born and developed in us, that causes us to be very important to the democracy. We’re the ones who can save the democracy. You think we’re afraid of Donald Trump? No way.

Ashley: No. I’m not scared.

Rep. Waters: No way. He intimidates all of those Senators, and all of those people in the Republican Party. He’s taken over. Too many of them were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and they don’t know how to deal with a dishonorable human being like Trump, but we know how to deal with it. That’s why I was able to step up early. I didn’t need permission. I didn’t need anybody to tell me what I was thinking or what I shouldn’t think, and to tell you the truth, we were late in getting to the point where we should’ve started impeachment, but we started. On December 18th, I believe it was, about 8:20 PM, the House of Representatives impeached this despicable human being.

We led the way, and in the forefront of that was Maxine Waters, and Al Green was right there. Black people who said, we have sacrificed too much, we’ve given too much, we’ve fought for civil rights, we’re the ones who supported the democracy, and we’re not gonna let this guy undermine it and tear it up. We’re gonna confront him. And because of us, we finally got to that point. I am not discouraged because of the Senate. It just means we gotta fight harder. We gotta keep confronting. We gotta keep doing what we do when we understand the danger of somebody like this man.

Ashley: You have led the way in a way no one could but you, and if anyone ever wants to know what the definition of a leader is, they’re gonna find the name Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Rep. Waters: Wow.

Ashley: Thank you for being a black woman. Thank you for being a leader. Thank you for being on Pod for the Cause. I am so grateful for all that you have done, and when history books are written, your name will be in it.

Rep. Waters: Wow, thank you so much. I’m delighted to be with you today. Thank you for being here.

[Music 32:52 – 33:02]

Ashley: Tonight is the State of the Union Address in 2020, which is, honestly, probably the most important election of our lifetime. We’ve seen the most cruel and inhumane treatment that someone could espouse as a leader and even a person, and we’ve seen him lead our country into great divide, and I know people are frustrated. I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I know people believe that the system is not really set up to work for them, but I gotta tell you, they talk about draining the swamp, but today I got to sit and talk with member of Congress in a way that I never thought I would as a little girl from Youngstown, Ohio. They are here for us. They are fighting for us every, single day.

[Music 33:42 – 33:51]

Ashley: If you’re one of those people who have actually given up hope, I ask you not to. I ask you to find time to maybe go to your Congressional office and have a conversation with the Member or their staff, and listen to them ‘cause they are in this with us. They believe in civil rights, they believe in human rights. They’re fighting, and we have to fight, too. We have to stand up, we have to register to vote. When someone is suppressed, we have to ensure that they, in the face of voter suppression, fight harder and still vote, and we have to win in 2020.

It’s not about Democrat and Republican. It’s about right and wrong. It’s about believing in human dignity and civil rights.

[Music 34:27 – 34:37]

Ashley: I have to say, I’m surprised that the night of the State of the Union is a night that I feel encouraged because I know the rhetoric that Trump will be spewing, but after sitting across these Members of Congress today, I’m feeling really inspired and hopeful for what 2020 can bring.

[Music 34:49 – 34:59]

Ashley: Thank you for listening to Pod for the Cause, the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. For more information, please visit civilrights.org, and to connect with me, hit me up on Instagram or Twitter, @podforthecause. Be sure to subscribe to our show on your favorite podcast app and leave a five star review. Until then, for Pod for the Cause, I’m Ashley Allison, and remember, a cause is nothing without the people.

[Music 35:27 – 36:08]