Guest op-ed from Mary Jo Riesberg and Vernon Windsor, chair/vice chair of the Lee County Democrats
Mary Jo Riesberg
My faith is the driving force in my life. It is my guide on how I should treat others, especially the vulnerable, poor, and marginalized.
I don’t discuss my faith with everyone and tend to be wary of those who do. However, I am the Lay Leader at the church to which I belong. I’m proud of the Wesleyan origins of my denomination that serve as a call of obligation for me to serve others.
I sometimes wonder if I’m a Democrat because of my faith. Both are so much a part of me; it’s difficult to determine where one begins and the other ends.
So, although I don’t judge a candidate by their faith, I do by those values that are so instinctual to me. I recognize those values in Secretary Julián Castro.
I always believed these ideals were intrinsic to the Democratic Party. I still do, but I voted in my first presidential election as an idealistic teenager in 1980. With every election since then, I’ve seen the Democratic Party slowly abdicate its position as the defenders of the poor and vulnerable, sacrificing the rights and protections of people of color, the LGBTQI community, immigrants, the impoverished, and other marginalized people, while focusing on the middle class.
The party was failing me and my children. Life was hard and we struggled, but I always knew the bones of the party remained. We need a leader to guide us back to the issues and values that were the root of the Democratic Party. Secretary Castro is the candidate who can do so.
In America today we have homelessness, hunger, and unsafe drinking water for millions. The poor and oppressed are vilified with no voice and there is complete disregard for their basic needs and safety. There is a humanitarian crisis on our border, but also in every country and refugee camp where hope is being crushed. Economic inequality has destroyed any hope of the American dream for millions, but still we’re talking only about the middle class.
Secretary Castro’s message resonates for me, both personally and as a Democrat. His message reflects my faith and its origins of social justice, and my foundation as a Democrat who believes that raising up those at the bottom and the margins should be our priority.
Secretary Julián Castro is inviting us to all join in working to create a stronger America in which all of us may prosper. He is offering Democrats the opportunity to take back our purpose as the champions for the poor, to be the party of what is right and just. To be proud again that the American dream will be available for everyone to grasp, regardless of our origins, our parents, our language, our race, our ability, or who we love.
We’ve always claimed that’s the American dream, but we need a leader who can help us make it reality. We have that candidate in Julián Castro. I urge everyone to join me in supporting Secretary Castro to elevate these important and overlooked voices.
On June 5, 2019, my young friend, Evelyn Marie Schmidt, began her earthly journey in this world. As her parents shared her image online, I silently promised to try to make the world she comes into a better place.
She joins many others to whom we owe our best efforts. We all need our friends, neighbors, schools, communities, states, and nation to live up to their potential, not down to the lowest common denominator.
Now we have an opportunity to choose the best person to lead the nation in that effort. For me, the American dream is not a selfish or individual dream, it is a collective one. It is a dream that inspires pride and patriotism, not coerces or demands it.
My dream is a shared decision of a nation of immigrants to form a more perfect union based on shared values, equal treatment, and unlimited creative spark and potential. It is a dream long sought, but also and most importantly, one that can be made real. It is a place where our nation lives up to its ideals and its people can live up to their promise — a promised land. A place where Evelyn can find support for her dreams, her footing, and her voice.
We need a president worthy of my Promised Land. I want a president who knows about hard times and what it means to struggle in life. Such a person will fight hard in a general election and won’t take anything for granted.
A sincere, authentic candidate will resonate with most voters. A president with a similar background to many regular citizens will push for policies grounded in reality that will improve the lives of most Americans, from the bottom on up.
We are tasked with selecting a candidate worthy of the promise of this nation. As for getting them elected, that is on us, the voters. Last time the voters fell short. We need to be better.
We need depth, understanding, historical context, and vision — exactly the same things we should require in our president. That’s why I’m supporting Secretary Julian Castro for president.
He caught my attention early, and though I thought I would be supporting a woman for president at this point, Castro’s appeal has just increased over time as I’ve followed his campaign.
As I compare Julian Castro to the other Democrats vying for the nomination of the party, he just looks better and better. He is putting serious thought into issues to really address them, not just check a box, or prepare for a debate. He may not be the most popular candidate in Iowa at the moment, but my job is not to choose the most popular candidate, or the one with the biggest campaign fund, or the flashiest or loudest. My job is to choose the very best. I feel quite strongly that person is Julian Castro.
National figures that I respect have also identified Castro as someone worthy of serious consideration. I can only hope the rest of Iowa will figure it out before the February caucus. I’m very comfortable at this point that I have identified the best president to both lead, and restore our country after the Trump era.
By Mary Jo Riesberg and Vernon Windsor, chair/vice chair of the Lee County Democrats