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The change that will shape the future of Alabama and America was never going to come from Washington; it was never going to descend from a great leader who would make our struggle disappear.

Change is always going to come from the union worker in a right to work state that didn’t see the law as something that changed their right to a livable wage, fair benefits and workplace protections. Change is always going to come from the nurses and home care providers, who know their patients are more important than the costs of treating them. Change is always going to come from the seniors on Medicare who are tired of the threat that it will be cut; and from the worker who finds that working 50 hour weeks in multiple jobs will not pay their bills; and from the student who sees their debt piling up sooner than they can see their job prospects. Change is always going to come from you.

As we languish and labor in a political environment where the wealthy seems as hostile to our interests as they are to the poor and the sick that Jesus called “the least of these,” we must remember that the rich and the forces of regression don’t have the final say over what America becomes – we do. Politics is not only formed in the backrooms where the elites operate; it’s fashioned on the streets and in your communities, where your ethnicity, your citizenship status, your gender or your partner matters less than your willingness to create an America that’s equal to its promise, and that sees all people as equally deserving to share in that promise.

We can no longer afford to let the challenges of the era limit the freedom and justice promised in our founding creed. This moment demands of us a vision that sees beyond what’s possible, and focuses on organizing to secure what’s necessary. We must look to the horizon and see both the universal healthcare that is our right and the thankless canvassing and party-building that must be done to make it a reality. We must see through the suspicion that is our habit, and see in those we hold in suspicion the partners who will strengthen our communities and our country in kind. We must commit ourselves to walking the steps between where we stand and where we need to be; ensuring that we knock on doors, register, vote and meet while never forgetting the gaps in racial justice, income inequality and gender inequities that should motivate every step toward their end. 

I am running for congress not as a dreamer, but as a leader who thinks that part of leadership is to outline the undone and do it. Because this is not just the Alabama of the Klan and Jim Crow, this is also the Alabama of the Civil Rights Movement that challenged them both. It’s the Alabama my mentor, Amelia Boynton Robinson, saw and organized to create, even after she was beaten on Bloody Sunday. And even in the face of an Attorney General Sessions, a possible Senator Roy Moore and a President Trump, it’s the Alabama I see now. 

It’s an Alabama where the right to vote can be sacrosanct and the right to power and dignity aren’t removed by a conviction. It’s an Alabama where rich and poor alike can have access to the same resources in public education. It’s an Alabama where public unions and teachers unions can benefit from a national guarantee of collective bargaining rights. It’s an Alabama where businesses don’t make paying less to Alabama workers the price of relocating here. It’s an Alabama that can see our standing as the fourth poorest state as a problem addressed by a livable wage instead of just a fact to be ignored. It’s the Alabama that can only come to pass through collective efforts to become and create the change we need to see. The challenges have never outweighed the possibilities in Alabama, and so long as we remember that, they never will. 

In my global efforts to end religiously motivated violence with the United Religions Initiative, I’ve seen the toll that political stagnancy and despair can take on a state that lets enduring divides fester. I’ve seen the way that division can ravage citizens and transform neighborhoods into mass graves. As we stand here on the backdrop of a national eruption, we must never forget that it’s our choices and our actions that will determine how that eruption will look. It is our efforts that will either awaken a beloved community, or force communities out of the American project. As agents of change, we are burdened and blessed with the moral responsibility to see in our neighbors and peers the engine of a new Alabama; one that looks on at our empty storefronts, our crumbling schools and our weathered roads and sees an obligation to build that overrules the penchant to stand idle. 

The enemy of our nation and our district isn’t the Republican Party. It isn’t Democrats who are too far to the right or left. It isn’t the false ideology that erects barriers between races and people of different religions who share the same needs. The enemy of our nation is complacency. It is silence in the face of injustice; it is inaction in the face of oppression; it’s paralysis in the face of destitution. The enemy of our nation is the understanding that we deserve better while we live disconnected from the motivation to channel that understanding into our empty county state parties, into our under-supported organizations, into the voices and leaders you heard today, and into the streets we walk down and the neighborhoods we live in. We are the change is not just a slogan; it’s a reflection of the fact that the politics of today and tomorrow is no more and no less than what we make of it. 

As we leave here today and return to the families and communities who hold a stake in the outcome of this election, we should ask ourselves what work has gone undone to create the Alabama our communities deserve. We should ask ourselves whose voices are excluded from mainstream politics, and we should remember that there is no strong America if we cannot secure a place for them. There is no strong America that sees the poor and unemployed as less deserving than the rich and successful. There is no strong America that calls itself a democracy while denying the franchise to the black citizens who fought hardest for it. There is no strong America that looks at the sick and the poor as the problem while turning around and taxing them to increase the incomes of the rich. There is no strong America that limits foreign policy to war, while disengaging from the treatment of our veterans, or the trade policies that let corporations threaten collective bargaining nationally and internationally. There is no strong America if only the few have a say in what that America will be. 

I am Audri Scott Williams, and I hereby declare my candidacy to be your representative in the U.S. Congress for Alabama District 2. I declare it with my promise to keep my actions rooted in your needs, and my feet tethered to our communities. I declare it with the understanding that we are the change, and that together, we have the power to guarantee good jobs with livable wages, universal healthcare, expanded Social Security and Medicare, and the equality and recognition of civil rights that I will fight tirelessly to enact when we turn this district blue. 

I am Audri Scott Williams a progressive Democrat running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Alabama District 2. 

God bless you. And God bless the United States of America!

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