Authors: Green For All
10.2.10 - Thousands of people determined to build a more united country with good jobs, equal justice, and quality public education for all -- are gathering today at the National Mall in
Washington, D.C. for the "One Nation Working Together"
A transcript of Green For All's CEO, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkin's speech at this historic event appears below:
My name is Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, and I am pleased and proud to be able to address you.
I stand here today on the shoulders of my Nana. Two years ago, I stood with my Nana on this Mall as – through tears - she watched the first black president be sworn in. The power of that day didn’t stem from race, it flowed from its bold acknowledgment that this country belongs to every citizen. That January day meant it was possible for our children to be anything they wanted to be. That day meant that there were no longer two American dreams.
For some people – for some reason – that’s a scary thought; the fear that if opportunities exist for others it means that opportunities don’t exist for yourself. They’d rather have us all in darkness than have us all see the light.
See, it used to be that those who opposed us made us feel as though we’re fumbling alone in a darkened room, in an unfamiliar environment in our own country. We were made to feel alone and isolated. Every once in a while, they would pick a few of us to share their light – and they’d take pictures and show the rest of us that their American dream might someday be ours.
But it almost never was.
Today, we say no one should feel that they’re in the dark. Today once again feels like I’m seeing the lights turn on. Today feels like someone else, fumbling in that darkness, found the light switch.
Today, before this crowd – I am blinded.
I am here today because there are two ways for the United States to face its challenges. We can pull together – or we can pull apart. When we pull apart - that is when the heavy darkness seeps in, as we drift from our neighbors.
And it’s hard not to be pulled apart. It takes confidence in ourselves and in the resiliency of our nation to ignore the many reasons we could distrust or fear those who don’t share our beliefs or who look different from us.
To keep from being pulled apart, we have to remember that after the serious, brutal blows America has taken over the past five years, after we’ve been knocked to our knees - we have two choices: we can give up, or we can get up.
And giving up is not an option.
By our presence here today, we say that we are ready to get back on our feet - and that we’ll extend a hand to whoever around us needs help rising.
Think about the last time America faced an economic crisis of this magnitude: the Great Depression, a crisis that, didn’t destroy this country but left it stronger.
That’s the vision we must emulate – not some imaginary past in which every American hid behind their doors and looked out only for himself, but the real American tradition of working together to build community and national institutions that join us together. Not isolated patches of dim glow in a dark landscape, but a brilliant unified beacon symbolized by the Statue of Liberty’s torch.
Brothers and sisters – I know what that divisive darkness feels like. I know what it feels like to not feel at home in my own country. I have watched as some of our fellow citizens, with roots in this country no deeper than mine or yours, judge me without knowing me.
So America, here I am. I’m the granddaughter of an Irish-Catholic man from Boston. I am the sister of a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. I am an African-American woman who was born in San Francisco, California, to a white, Jewish mother and a black Christian father.
I am a woman who is the proud product of my mother struggles – whose struggles to move us out of the city to a small, quiet town were rewarded by my getting sick from the toxins in the air.
That’s why I now lead an organization called Green For All, a non-profit committed to building a new economy, where green companies build enormous markets while reducing pollution and providing opportunity to every American. No parent of any child should be made to feel like a bad parent - as my mom did - because the only home they can afford is polluted by the area’s only employers.
I do this work because of my own experience, yes, but I also do this work because I believe it will build a stronger, safer, better America. I do this work because I am an American. And I will no longer allow people who disagree with my politics make me into something disagreeable. I will not be pulled away from my country. I will not allow darkness to seep in.
No longer - will I allow anyone to say that I am less of an American because of the color of my skin or the state I was born in or the work that I do. No longer, standing in the light of this brilliant crowd that is a true portrait of America, no longer will I let anyone, no matter how many viewers or readers he or she has, tell me that my family isn’t an American family, that my views are dangerous, that I don’t have my country’s best interests at heart.
If you undermine my patriotism, diminish my American story – you diminish the American story of millions of others. Of my Nana who stood on this Mall and cried; my grandfather; my mother. And you diminish your own American story. Because every story of every American is what makes our country what it is – a land that welcomes anyone, cares for everyone, and works together for all of our children.
I am here today to stand with this crowd and say proudly: I am the face of America as much as you are the face of America. And from this moment onward, we will never again accept anyone telling us differently – and we will never be pulled apart.