Mom taps me on the shoulder and whispers, “Arik, you’ve fallen asleep at your desk again.”
“Living wage,” words uttered through my slumber. “Healthcare, human right.”
She taps me again. “Son, wake up.”
I open my eyes. My elbow is resting on the keyboard, and my upcoming presentation draft has become a screen filled with ZZZZZZZZZZZZZs.
Time to catch a few of those Zzzs. Big day tomorrow. Working a double shift. I’m running for Congress in South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District, plus I still have a full-time day job as a public librarian.
To be honest, it surprises me when political leaders act frustrated that I have to work while running for office. They seem to forget that the only other candidate is someone they themselves have labeled a Fake Democrat—a stooge who is just as conservative as my ultimate Republican opponent, Joe “You Lie!” Wilson.
But I know that You the Voter understand why I have to keep working. Odds are, you’re not a wealthy lawyer, like so many members of Congress. Neither am I.
Odds are, you know the value and impact of a living wage. Odds are, you know what debt-free higher education would mean to your children and the struggling adult learners in your life. Odds are, someone you know was crushed by the financial collapse—by the virulent greed of Wall Street and negligent industry. Odds are, you or a loved one are still struggling to recover from the 1,000-Year Flood that recently devastated our state.
I could go on, but I know I’m stumping to the working class choir.
Last August, I attended one of Bernie Sanders early Town Hall meetings just down the street from my home in Columbia, South Carolina. I’ve never seen so many people in a room. He concluded his rousing presentation with the following words:
“There is nothing, nothing that together we cannot accomplish.”
Many people have asked me what inspired me to run for U.S. Congress against “Status Quo” Joe Wilson—that shameful legislative henchman of the One Percent.
In these closing moments of Senator Sanders’ presentation, I realized I had a moral imperative to take a stand for South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.
I realized: “There’s a Better Way!” But I also realized we cannot find that way if there are empty Democratic Party slots on 2016 election ballots.
I will support as my President whoever emerges as the Democratic Party nominee. But I will always give credit to Bernie Sanders for inspiring me to run.
So there it is. While campaigning to represent the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina, I still work my day job. But the two positions are interconnected.
I’m a public librarian. Every day, I serve the critical information needs of our community. Every day, public librarians and librarians in public schools and public colleges all across our nation serve you and provide an exemplar of Good Government.
And when Government does its job—which is to link and protect individuals, communities, and industry—Government is a powerful, positive force.
Elected office is no less a call to public service. As a Congressman, I will consider myself the Representative Foot Washer of my District community of nearly 700,000 neighbors.
I know your working class needs. Because they’re my needs. I’m a single father. I care-take my mother, a retired nurse who knows what it’s like to fall into the Medicare “doughnut hole.” I know what a paycheck-to-paycheck existence feels like. I know what it’s like to squirrel away dollars and cents for holiday presents and summer vacations.
I also know how to lead us into the knowledge-based economy future. Before I became a public librarian, I managed a $2 billion economic development program for our state, the SmartState Program, that the former director of technology at Microsoft called “the envy of all other states.” The SmartState Program has rewritten the book on academic-industry research partnerships and has resulted in thousands of well-paying jobs throughout our state.
I know your daily struggle. I know what it’s like to burn the midnight oil. And I see the light at the end of the tunnel for us and for future generations: it’s innovation, it’s education, it’s security and opportunities for the betterment of all.
“There’s a Better Way!”
And it begins by kicking the rot out of Washington. “Status Quo” Joe has to go!
I’ll be your elected foot washer in Congress. I will work above and beyond to create an open, civic partnership with my District voting community.
Let’s get started. Join me at the June 14 South Carolina Primary election booth, and let’s clock in together.
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