Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Importance of Voting

Election season is quickly approaching and during this time I am asked on a regular basis why it is important to vote. First, we should ask what does it mean to vote. If we look at it from this perspective, the value of your vote will be better understood. Voting can be a very effective way for the public to communicate with governing bodies. This right provides all citizens the opportunity to let governing officials know what their opinions are on specific issues and laws that affect them personally or as a community. As a result of strong voting communities, elected officials respond more to people who get out and vot. Remember, voting does not guarantee your preferences will win; however, choosing not to exercise your right to vote puts you in a situation where you simply must accept the decisions of those who govern your life. The future is dependent upon whether or not you cast your vote even if your personal values are not represented by those in public offices. Your right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy.

Some people may not know who or what to vote for. This mentality is not an excuse. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves on the candidates, issues, and propositions. Individuals should make their own decisions while casting a vote rather than on the advice of others. Information on issues and candidates is readily available and it would be unwise for voters not to take the time to educate themselves.

If you have not registered to vote yet, please visit and fill out the Voter Registration Form. The last day to register is October 11, 2011. Remember the future of this country relies on your vote!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 10th Year Anniversary Speech in Clarkston

I would like to take a moment and say thank-you to the Mayor and the Council for hosting the Memorial service today. I would like to say thank you to everyone that also came out today to remember all of those that have passed on before us.

I am honored to be here today to share with you my reflections and my hopes for our world. All of us here today and across our Nation will never forget where we were and what we were doing the day the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 exploded, collapsed and thousands of US citizens died within moments. 

In fact let’s pause for a moment and reflect briefly about where you were, what you were doing and how you felt when you witnessed the atrocities that replayed for hours and days as we as a nation watched with horror and sadness as innocent people died.

My grandmother use to talk to me about something she called “cemetery time” and for those of you that don’t know what that means. It’s where you go literally to the cemetery and spend some time sitting by the headstone of your loved one and think about the person who has died. She uses to encourage me to go on a regular basis and spend some time with my father. I never really understood why going to the cemetery was such a big deal to her.  

Until, I realized that today and every year post September, the 11th we as nation pause and spend some time at the cemetery.

We pause and remember the stories of bravery, of courage, of determination; of how our firefighters, our police officers and ordinary citizens selflessly went into the eye of the storm to assist complete strangers.

We think about how men and women sacrificed themselves for the lives of others displaying uncommon courage in the face of certain peril. These men and women, that we think about are the foundation of our country, these men and women were called upon that day to exhibit courage that, I am sure that they did not know they possessed until the situation called upon them to risk their lives for a greater save someone else…to say good bye to loved one…to die trying to bring a plane down. 

Ten years later we are all at this moment at our nation’s cemetery. We are here to honor those that made history; those that died that day did not do so in vain. They did not die in vain because as we stand here today, reflecting on their passing and our losses we know in all of our hearts that we as a nation have changed, that we as a nation are stronger and that we as nation will never forget.

In closing, that is really what my grandmother meant when she sent me to the cemetery she wanted me never to forget. As we are gathered here today all of us will never forget where we were that fateful day in September.  That day has forever changed who we are as people and who we are as a nation.

Would you please bow your head in prayer?

Heavenly Father, I pray for each of the families that lost someone in this tragedy. I pray for the firefighters and police officers here today. God I ask that you guide and protect them from harm’s way and if God something were to ever happen to any of them. I trust that you will be in their stairwell of final moments, like you were with those in the World Trade Center.

It is my prayer that they will always recognize your abiding love and concern for them.

We again thank you Father for all of your blessings and although we may not understand the bad times, we know that you have bestowed on this nation many blessings. Help us all too never ever forget that because of you, your grace, your mercy, our nation has grown to become the greatest nation on earth. Bless these men and women here today. Give them strength and courage, vision and love for all mankind. Help us all lord, to always put our trust in thee.

May God continue to bless our great State and Bless America.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Too many of us—especially children—go hungry everyday

For 25 years, activists have carried the load to teach us what it means to be hungry. September is Hunger Action Month, and I believe we all should do just that—take action against hunger.

DeKalb County has a 16.7 percent Food Insecurity Rate, which refers to the availability of food and one's access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants don’t live in hunger or fear of starvation. That’s closing in on one in five families. Of the schools in my district, the percentage of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program is as high as 96 percent. Without economic recovery, those numbers will soar even higher.

Yet, even food stamps are often not enough for families to meet their basic nutritional needs. Several years ago, I accepted a challenge from the Atlanta Food Bank to live off the amount I would have qualified for in food stamps for a week. I spent seven days trying to figure out the trick to living off that. There is no trick, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

I came to a new understanding of what the poor in our country deal with day after day and what I discovered is alarming. Sure, I could buy the cheapest food in the store, but those products wouldn’t have done me much good. Too much of that kind of food is over-processed and comes in a box. When you look at the labels, it’s clear that it’s full of empty calories, which can lead to obesity and other health problems. I found that fresh fruits and vegetables were simply out of my reach. Forget about good sources of protein.

Together, we can keep decent food on the tables of the most-in-need. Please get in touch with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which taught me so much, or Hosea Feed the Hungry & Homeless, which has taught all of DeKalb County so much.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Making Memorial Drive, the entire community a better place

Community service is collaboration that includes everyone working together toward a common goal.

This weekend, I participated in a litter clean-up along the Memorial Drive corridor. Participants from churches, business associations, youth groups, schools and local governments joined me and other elected officials to make their desires for a cleaner community a reality. All were happy to volunteer their time for this important community service project event and eager to see the fruit of their labor.

In my experience, I have found that when we work together not only can we clean up trash but we can do much more to solve many of the problems that plague our neighborhoods. Through this model of collaborative governance based on community involvement, we as a society can move past our differences and start focusing our energies on creating results.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I want (no, I need) to hear from you!

I’ve decided to wade a little further into the deep waters of technology and social media!

I think that government works best when everyone talks to each other, and I want this blog to do just that—to facilitate communication between my constituents and me and my constituents and each other.

In the past, I worked for a guy whose motto was “No News Is Good News.” He meant that not hearing from him said I was doing a good job. Government, on the other hand, doesn’t work that way. As a state representative, no news doesn’t tell me you think I’m doing a good job. If I don’t hear from you, I’m concerned that you may not know who I am or you don’t know how to contact me. I wonder if you think your opinion doesn’t count. Could it also be you are so busy with your life that what’s going on in government is simply underneath your radar?

I would like to use this blog as a way to address those issues and to provide a mechanism for us to share ideas and information to make our world a better place.

Come along, and let’s help each other!