Op/Ed By Congresswoman Robin Kelly
Last week’s Presidential elections were jarring to say the least. While nearly 1.7 million more Americans voted for Secretary Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump ultimately received enough electoral college votes to become our next President.
I haven’t been shy in expressing my disappointment in the outcome of this election. In reflecting on this year’s race, I have come away assured that we cannot allow the anger, frustration, and hostility that have dominated our political discussion to drag us deeper into a chasm of division.
We must hold President-Elect Trump and Congressional Republicans accountable. We cannot allow them to undo President Obama’s remarkable legacy.
Like many Americans, my concerns with the course of the incoming Trump Administration were intensified with his decision to name Steve Bannon, an alt-right conservative associated with extremist and nationalist views, as chief strategist.
Likewise, the selecting of Senator Jeff Sessions, a man rejected from a federal judgeship because of his racially insensitive comments, to lead efforts to protect civil rights and voting rights is deeply troubling.
Trump’s discussions of a national registry of Americans based solely on their religion and his recent appointments run counter to our nation’s highest ideals. This would re-open a dark chapter in our history that has no place in 2016.
So the important question we must confront now is: “Where do we go from here? Who do we want to be as Americans?”
Civil Rights hero Ella Baker said “give light and people will find the way.”
In these dark times, we must look to the light and have faith in one another. We must trust in ourselves and in our communities because it’s on us to stand up for justice, to bridge the divides, and construct a more perfect union.
We can and must respond to the pleas of disaffected communities across the county by uniting under a commonality of optimism and presenting a plan for our future that offers a solution to that which diminishes us.
Over the last eight years, President Obama has shown us this by his example. As the First Lady remarked: “Barack never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise…he just keeps getting up and moving forward… with patience and wisdom, and courage and grace.”
Like our President, we must forge ahead. We cannot be divided or distracted, too much is at stake.
We must keep pushing until every child in America has an equal opportunity to live the American Dream.
We must keep demanding justice and action until our trust is restored in those who have sworn an oath to uphold our public safety and security.
We must keep fighting to secure the economic security, health and civil rights of our fellow Americans, regardless of who they are, where they come from, what God they pray to or who they love.
For those of us dissatisfied with the outcome of this year’s election, we have work to do. The 2018 mid-term may seem a long road to travel and the 2020 presidential election is an even longer road. But it’s a road that we must travel together.
Our ideas must inspire us; our actions must sustain us; and our values must make us credible around the world.
In an era where public servants take pride in their effort to slow progress and hold our government hostage, we need leaders willing to fight twice as hard.
People in elected office and people around the country must stand up for the future of our families and the most vulnerable.
We will not fear though the road ahead may be long or bumpy. Things that matter and change us for the better don’t have shortcuts.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott did not last a day or a week; it took 381 days for justice to take hold. With patience, grace, courage and wisdom in our hearts, and our hands united like never before, it’s a road that we will traverse as one people, one community.
We’ve simply come too far to allow the clock to be turned back.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly represents Illinois 2nd Congressional district. She’s a member of the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.