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Column

GUEST COLUMN: JFK continues to guide local Democrats

Joan Padilla
Joan Padilla

I had the privilege to gather with fellow Democrats on June 6, to celebrate our 35th president, John F. Kennedy. This event has become an honored tradition for the area, and I was grateful to be able to speak that evening. As I was preparing for the night, I reflected on the guiding principles of the Whiteside County Democrats. So many of these priorities were weaved throughout JFK’s service as president.

I would like to share them.

The guiding principles of the Whiteside County Democrats are: champions for civil rights; champions for the common good in the interest of all Americans; champions for the environment; champions for equal rights; champions for worker’s rights; champions for education, champions of women’s rights; and supporters of universal health care. The guiding principles are simple, obvious, and achievable with hard work.

Here are highlights of what I shared that evening:
Democrats are champions for civil rights, and so was JFK. In June 1963, he stated: “Race has no place in American life or law.” President Kennedy took the steps to send Congress a comprehensive bill that would guarantee all citizens the right to be served in hotels, restaurants, stores and other public places. Reports show he had no support from his advisers, but he went ahead anyway.

That was 1963, and 56 years later, we are still having to fight for the rights of those individuals and groups that feel silenced and disregarded. We as Democrats (Americans) must continue to engage and walk with our family and friends that have been labeled as “other.” I hope that together Democratic policies can erase racism, homophobia and religious intolerance.

Democrats are champions for public education. JFK understood the importance of education - from early education, educating those with special needs, and creating vocational training programs to looking out for those seeking higher education.

In July 1961, Kennedy said “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities because in each of us there is a private hope and dream, which fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation.”

It is imperative that we continue to support and fight for public education. We see in the current discussions that somehow our teachers and our institutions of learning are the enemies. We must take back the narrative and fight so future generations have the best educational facilities and resources available here in our communities, our state and our nation. When we invest in education, we invest in our future.

Democrats are champions for worker’s rights. We know when we have a strong union presence in our communities, we have solid opportunities for livable wages, health care, and so many other benefits. Our communities are stronger because of the hard work of our labor brothers and sisters. And as JFK said, “The American labor movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for America.”

I have highlighted just a few of the guiding values Democrats work to preserve. I leave you with these words from JFK, “We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sane future.”

I believe no truer words can be said today.

Joan Padilla is a resident of Sterling.

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