Seeking Unity on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy has been on my heart, especially coming out of such a tense election cycle and as we enter the first African-American President’s final days in office. The American people have given us a moment to think big, to reimagine government, and to be legendary. As I reflect on this moment, the word I keep coming back to is ‘unity.’

We have so much to be thankful for as a country — for the values upon which our nation was founded; for the voices of the men and women across this country who trust us to represent them; for the range of ages, races, genders, and backgrounds in our conference; and for the passion of our Democrat colleagues.

We may not always agree, but that doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable with one another.

Dr. King taught us to dream of a better tomorrow, to respect our neighbors, and to choose love over hate. It isn’t always easy, especially when every issue threatens to tear us apart.

For a nation to unify, it starts from within. I have challenged my team to step up and change the culture on Capitol Hill – to live by example, and be part of the solution, not the problem.

To achieve this end, my team established a system of values, a motto, called “Have Fun While We SERVE.”

                Seek Excellence

                Everybody Matters

                Responsibly Own It

                Vigilant Integrity

                Embrace Change

At our team meetings, we talk about how we are living these values, because when it comes to changing culture, it starts with us. It’s up to our neighborhoods, our blocks, and our communities to embrace the values that tie us together.

Because at the end of the day, political persuasions and personal creeds shouldn’t divide us – we are all part of this great experiment called America. We are the greatest experiment in self-governance the world has ever known. The words “liberty,” “justice,” and “equality” adorn buildings all over our nation’s capital, and in courts and government buildings across the country.

Are they just words? Are they phrases relegated to a time long past?

No. They are a daily reminder of our responsibilities as children of God and citizens of America. They are our shared values, and they are stronger than any campaign or controversy.

When we are united, we can achieve the remarkable. We ventured West. We invented. We put a man on the moon. Our nation can accomplish anything. We are a people of hope, who constantly drive for liberty, equality and independence. But we can’t do it alone.

Every person in this country should be treated with dignity and respect, no matter their background or walk of life.

Unfortunately, more needs to be done to address racial division in America. What we have is an erosion of trust; an erosion between the people and those elected to serve them. Human dignity is often the casualty of this erosion.

We need to have honest discussions about the American experience of the poor and of minorities, because everybody matters and should feel empowered to pursue their own unique version of the American Dream.

We can move mountains and come together to find common ground. We can pledge to be better neighbors and to build up our communities when anger and fear threaten to divide us and tear us down. And we can learn to understand the frustrations and struggles of those around us, even if they don’t match our own.

Though we come from different backgrounds, we are all united under one flag, one Constitution, and a core belief in freedom.

If we are going to preserve the blessings of liberty for generations to come, I challenge you to join me in listening to others and, even when it seems impossible, to seek unity.