In Solidarity

Posted by Tony Vargas · June 05, 2020

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When I was growing up, I never, ever thought I would be a politician, or even politically engaged. As an immigrant family in America, there weren’t many leaders that I could look to as an example for what could be possible for me later in life. My parents often felt unseen and unheard, like their voice didn’t matter — the same way that so many feel right now. It wasn’t until I became a teacher in Brooklyn, NY that I began to understand how politics and civic engagement affected everything in our society. And once I understood that, there was no escaping the responsibility I felt to do more in my community.

Not long after Lauren and I moved to Omaha so she could attend law school, a seat on the Omaha Public Schools Board was vacated and they asked for applications. As a very new resident, I didn’t think I had a chance at the appointment, but I applied anyway. When I was seated as the new representative for Subdistrict 9, I was the only Latino, Spanish speaking representative for a school district whose students are 40% Latino. I had come full circle — from not seeing or knowing of virtually any Latino public officials to becoming one myself. In my visits to schools, at community events, and at school board meetings, I felt the way students and their families placed trust in me to advocate for them.

My three years on the school board was such a valuable introduction to what public service is, but I knew it could be more. I joined the school board as a former science teacher with a passion for creating educational equity and I learned that while much can be done at the local level — and so much progress that I’m so proud of has been made — the place to truly address the systemic and institutional issues for every student in Nebraska is in the legislature.

So, I decided to run, and for the last nearly four years as your representative in Lincoln, I’ve done just that. I’ve kept my campaign’s policy promises to you to fight for greater access to high quality, affordable health care, strong public schools, and opportunities for innovators, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. But the biggest part of my campaign and of my work as a senator, was and is to improve the civic health of our neighborhoods and create trust in government again through building relationships with voters and stakeholders in our community. From frequent events in the district where people can seek me out to consistent organizing work that puts me on your doorstep (or more recently, at the other end of your phone) that has begun to happen. That’s what I’m most proud of.

My neighbors, my constituents know they can count on me to show up for them. Knowing what is happening in my community and feeling that sense of responsibility to all of you — fellow seekers of justice, business owners, workers, families, students — is why I left my home and walked down the street to join peaceful protestors at a demonstration downtown last weekend. It’s why I joined the community to clean up the next morning. And it’s why I’ll join you peacefully again this weekend.

We must reject violence and destruction in our call for justice. We can be bold and demand accountability and systemic and institutional change, but must do that lawfully, by treating others with peace and respect, without harming others, and by leading with integrity, love and compassion.

This weekend, I support your peaceful participation in the many community activities and demonstrations. Please remember to do so within the curfew imposed by Mayor Stothert (10pm-6am on Friday and Saturday).

See you out there.

-- In solidarity --

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