Posted by: Deb Henry | 12/10/2011

My speech for Vice Chair

Back in June, I ran for Vice Chair of the Democratic Party here in Utah because I support a diversity of tactics working within and outside of the system. I am quite proud of this speech and wanted to share it. (If you’re not a Democrat, replace the word Democrat with American or Human and all of the sentiments still apply.)

———

Almost five years ago, I packed up the trunk of my rear-wheel drive sedan and moved across the country to a new place that many told me I would never be able to call home. I smiled and told them that maybe they were right, but I needed to discover that for myself. The wild west was beckoning and I could not resist the call of a fresh start even if family and familiarity would be thousands of miles away. I insisted I was looking forward to the challenge.I am not going to lie to you; my first year in Utah was a big adjustment, especially considering I had to start from scratch making friends. But the real issue with my first year here was that I let those naysayers echo in the back of my head. I was so focused on how Utah was not New Jersey…that I could not enjoy Utah for what it is.The beauty of that realization was that I then recognized my role in making Utah my home. I bought a house. I got a job that I was passionate about. I stopped talking about moving back to New Jersey and I began calling Utah home. I sought out causes in which to invest my time and effort long-term. I committed to making Utah my home. By taking ownership of my frustration, I also took ownership of my ability to explore solutions and be a part of that change.In exploring this newfangled state, I threw myself into the lion’s den and sought out a job in Governor Huntsman’s office. I was invited to and attended the wedding receptions for several of our LDS interns. I took those same interns out to the lawn for the Prop 8 demonstrations and we discussed how it was important to recognize and protect the people’s right to ask for redress of their grievances.  What I found in these experiences was more curiosity rather than condemnation.

But honestly, this election really does not really have anything to do with me. I ran for office because I wanted to offer you a choice. I wanted to remind you that you always have a choice. The reason I am running for Vice Chair of the Democratic Party is that I recognize that my voice is stronger when it is combined with your voice. We as Democrats need to empower each other to explore creative solutions in our communities. We need to encourage those who are participating with us in the fight even if we do not always agree on their approach. It is going to take those individuals who are ready to step outside their comfort zone to lead that fight — and I have a feeling many of you here today are ready to do just that.  I will not pretend that I know your communities better than you do. What I will promise you is that I am ready to listen and ready to have the difficult yet productive conversations that will help us elect Democrats in all 29 counties.

Right now, our state and our nation sit at a pivotal crossroad. Voters, especially in Utah, believe their voices do not matter. Let me assure you that the banks who pillaged your retirement accounts and the CEOs who deny personal responsibility for the Red Butte oil spills want you to believe that you do not have a choice.  They have driven a wedge between us. They tell us we have to choose Medicare or Social Security. Education or roads — but all of this is a distraction. They have us pointing the finger at each other instead of putting aside our differences and looking outward together.

I know these conversations will be difficult, but if there is one thing you can say about someone from New Jersey, it is that we are used to people not agreeing with us. Today I am here to promise you that I am not going anywhere. I will be here with you as we fight for our values.  Utah is my home.  Utah is our home.

In the months leading up to this election, many of us from different backgrounds have already come together to form committees that have explored and detailed our strategies for fundraising, communications and recruitment. I am Co-Chairing a committee specifically tasked with electing more women into office.

Our job as the people is to cultivate a common consensus that makes it impossible for our voice not to be heard. If we want clean water and clean air, If we want well-funded schools, If we want prohibitions against discrimination — we the people are responsible for making those decisions inevitable. We cannot let our participation in our government stop at the ballot box. The time has come to move beyond the tired bitterness of being Democrats in one of the reddest states in the nation. We must choose unity over divisions and send a clear message to those who are frustrated with the status quo that the Democrats are the ones with the solutions and the Democrats have the organizational skills to design solutions.

We have a responsibility and commitment to the next generation to build upon the work gifted to us by previous generations: those who decided to be teachers even though they would never be rich and those who taught through their example by putting their bodies calmly in the way of injustice through civil disobedience.

I am asking you to elect me as the next Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Utah.  I am asking for your vote because of the respect I feel I have earned from so many of you on several issues.  I am asking for your vote because of my commitment to the Democratic Party. I am not just an activist, I am not just a woman, I am not just a union supporter. I am a Democrat that fundamentally understands that we need to all work together to elect more Democrats and that means empowering women and men of all ethnicities, youth and seniors, gays and straights, centrists and progressives.

I am asking you – all of the above – for your vote today.  Thank You.

My name is Deb Henry and I am running to be your next Vice Chair.

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