Carol Kim: Through Politics We Shape Policy

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Carol Kim delivers rousing speech at the Women's March in North County.

Transcript of Political Director Kim’s memorable speech at the North County Women’s March

 

Carol Kim delivers rousing speech at the Women’s March in North County.

Hi everyone! My name is Carol Kim and I’m the Political Director for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council. Most of you don’t know me, and have never heard of me which is totally fine, but I ran for City Council in San Diego in 2014. And, I lost. However, I learned a lot of things during that process and I’m here to share some of that with you today.
So, you’ve been standing through all of these speakers and you might be asking yourself, how does someone get chosen to speak at an event like this? And here’s the secret – you find your voice
and you use it for good. That’s how this happens.

I’m really involved in local politics now, but before I ran for office, I wasn’t. I was very ordinary person – I’m a married mother of two, worked my full time job. Volunteered at my kids’ school when I had time. And when it came to politics, I would read the news and I would worry and I would fume to my husband and I would talk to my close friends about it, and that was about it. Because I never really felt that talking about politics outside of that small circle was very polite. It was too controversial. It made everyone a little uncomfortable.

But here’s the thing, politics – as uncomfortable as they can be – matter. It’s through POLITICS that we shape our POLICIES. And these are the policies that affect our homes, they affect our neighborhoods, and they affect our communities.
We are compelled to get involved in politics, because we care. We care about people having healthcare, we care about them being able to earn a living wage, being able to send their kids to good schools, having safe neighborhoods, having law enforcement who will treat you with dignity and respect, having trains and buses that run on time – or having trains and buses at all – having clean air and water. We get involved, not just to decide the rules of how we live together, but to make sure we don’t leave the most vulnerable among us behind.

So for all the voices out there that are telling us, “Look, you lost. Get over it! Cooperate,” we loudly reply, “NO!” The stakes are just too high.
This new president is unprecedented in recent American history in his open disrespect for women, racism towards people of color, xenophobia toward immigrants, and discrimination toward our Muslim community members. Winning an election shouldn’t mean that those who cast votes for the “losing” side then stand down, get quiet, and fall in line. We should, we MUST, continue to fight for the things we believe in, the things we hope for, and the future that we all seek for our families and communities.

In the end, this is the big message – WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE. We are all responsible for the success of our political process and that means that we have to be willing to be IN IT. Do you understand? So sorry Brother Max, you just said earlier, “Don’t get political.” I’m telling you right now, GET POLITICAL. Okay? Get political!
We are here today because we believe in holding our leaders accountable and giving them notice that we are watching. And we are working. That’s what Lincoln meant when he talked about a government that was “Of the people, by the people, for the people.”
And here’s the thing – as women, and as people of color, it’s really crazy to imagine that something as big as moving politics and policy could be up to us. But despite all the messages that we’ve been bombarded with all our lives that have been diminishing us as people and as human beings, it really is up to us. It is time for us to stop playing small; it is time for us to rise up and speak truth to power; it is time for us to rock the boat, it is time to ask the tough questions, and to talk back and to stand up to those who would harm us and our neighbors.

We have a responsibility, but we also have permission. We have permission to say yes when we are asked to serve.

So here’s what I’m going to do right now. For all of you women and men of color – just so you know, it takes something like seven to ten times for a woman or a man of color to be asked to run for office before they actually say yes. We don’t just wake up in the morning and look at ourselves and go, “Hey, I’d be a great elected official!” It doesn’t happen apparently. So, I’m going to start by asking all of you women who are still here and you men of color who are still here, to think about running for office someday. Don’t say no. Just think about it. And for those of you who just need to hear it – I’m giving you permission to get political. It is not just a fantasy. You, or the person next to you, could become the next City Council member in your town – you could become the next school board trustee, – or maybe you’ll be the person that helps someone else get there.

Do what you did this morning, when you got up and got dressed and came out. Do what you did this morning – stand up and step out. You don’t need to go so far as to run for office – though it you decide to, that’s awesome! You may be deciding to make phone calls to our lawmakers, you may decide to volunteer to register voters, you may advocate with other activists at congressional offices, you may be phone banking or door-knocking for good local candidates, or you may be helping our sisters walk the gauntlet in safety and support as a patient escort for women’s health clinics. Whatever it is you decide you need to do, beat back the discomfort and the fear, because it’s scary. It’s scary to step outside of your comfortable space. Beat it back, and remember me standing here and looking you right in the eye and saying, “You deserve to be there. And we need you.”

The future is unwritten, but I promise you that when you get involved, your life will change. That is our privilege as Americans: our ability to control our own destinies by value and virtue of the freedoms granted to us.

Let’s also be clear though – those freedoms must be protected. There are people who want politics in America to roll back to a darker time – rigging the system for the one percent on the backs of working families; further entrenching systemic racism; demonizing specific religions; stripping women and our LGBT sisters and brothers of their rights; tearing apart the families of our immigrant neighbors; denying and exacerbating the existential threat of climate change. There will be forces that want us to believe that the fight is over and done, and that we should be willing to settle for what they give us and accept their version of reality. But at the end of the day, that’s not what politics is. In the words of the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, “Politics is not predictions and politics is not observations. Politics is what we DO. Politics is what we do, politics is what we create, by what we work for, by what we hope for, and what we dare to imagine.”

So dare to imagine with me, a better America. Dare to imagine with me, an America that values every one of us, no matter where we’re from, no matter who we are, no matter what our financial portfolios are worth. Dare to imagine an American that gives us each a fair shake and a fighting chance, whether we’re from Solana Beach or El Cajon, whether we’re from National City or Fallbrook, whether we’re from San Diego, or Escondido, whether we were born on American soil or outside our nation’s borders. Dare to imagine an America that never questions that women’s rights are human rights.

Dare to imagine, that we can create that country, together. And then stand up and step out and start doing it. Thank you!

Carol Kim is the Director of Community Engagement at San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council.

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