I’m looking forward to telling you about my work over the course of this campaign. But first, I want to tell you how it all started for me. I grew up in a family, in public schools, and in a faith community that taught me that building a more just society that works for everyone is the highest work a person can do. These values have guided everything I have done, as an activist, as a lawyer, and especially as a parent.
I grew up in the Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul, with my parents and three siblings. My dad worked for our church, and our family didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid, but my siblings and I grew up with the blessings of a tight knit family and community, playing baseball at the rec center, gardening with our neighbors, and making lifelong friends with the other neighborhood kids. We had a strong faith community, St. Frances Cabrini, a church steeped in Catholic social justice and liberation theology. And I got a great public school education, first at J.J. Hill and then Central High School.
It was a great childhood. But the 1980s were also a tough time for our community and other communities like it. Businesses were closing. Many people who could afford to move out of the city were doing so, to distant, car-dependent suburbs. In our diverse neighborhood and at the schools I attended, the disparities between white people and people of color were clear for even a child to see. My parents and my fierce, passionate public school teachers taught me not to ignore these challenges, but rather to see them in moral terms--as problems we could solve, if only we would work together.
I still see the world that way. I refuse to accept that the 1% in our country have so much while the rest of us work harder and harder and fail to get ahead. I refuse to accept the racial disparities in our justice system or that we deny voting rights to Minnesotans with criminal records. And I refuse to accept that my kids might grow up in a Minnesota that doesn’t get snow in the winter because we’ve failed to change our destructive transportation and energy systems.
I hope that you refuse to accept this, too. And I hope that you’ll join me.
For more information on my campaign, please check out my website at BenforHouse.org.