Last night I was able to attend my first Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, which is apparently a big deal event put on annually by the Howard County Democrats. Until very recently, my idea of supporting the Democratic Party consisted of voting. Thanks to friends like Abby Hendrix, Marcia White, Dylan Goldberg, among others, I now know there's much, much more.
To be clear, the best part of the event for me was getting to hear my husband play along with his friends from the "Stolen Moments" guitar duo. I guess it's no surprise that if you see me at a big event, I'm probably with the band. I may not know all the movers and shakers in local politics, but I know all the good tunes. It was rather restful that I didn't know all that many folks last night. I chatted with people I knew, then I sat a while and just enjoyed the music.
Last night was a reminder of who I am as a Democrat, and I enjoyed that. Thanks to the Howard County Democratic Central Committee for a chance to reconnect with some great people and ideas.
I wasn't able to stay for the entire event, but I want to comment on the keynote speech by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. He was a great choice for this event, especially with its focus of "Why I am a Democrat." He had plenty to say, and his delivery was exhilarating. But it was one of the quieter things he said, almost in passing, that moved me the most.
Blowing out your neighbor's candle isn't going to make yours burn any brighter.
It flies in the face of so many pronouncements we hear these days, which pretty much boil down to,
It's not enough that I be rewarded, others must be punished. It's not enough that I succeed, others must fail.
We had an interesting discussion at my table over dinner about the complete breakdown of bipartisan politics. We thought about large infrastructure projects, built in the past, which very likely could not happen today. "What's in it for me?" has replaced "What can we do, as a nation, to help Americans thrive?"
Sharing the light would be a start. And not just sharing the light with your friends, or the people who look like you, or think like you. Sharing the light means allowing others to be human, to have value, to be connected to your existence. It means focusing on the connections rather than the "otherness."
Is this solely a Democratic aspiration? In my heart I think not. And if it were purely a goal of one group of people in our society, it wouldn't be enough. No matter who you are, you can't win this one alone. You'll need help. Getting together in a room full of like-minded people is fun, reassuring, and inspiring. The real work of progress, though, will be a good deal messier.