Thursday, November 17, 2011

Time to Play Big

A Teaching for the 2011 COPA Delegates' Assembly
Madonna del Sasso Catholic Church, Salinas, California
Wednesday Night, November 16


We’ve heard a lot this fall about the 1% and the 99%.  And I guess those numbers tell a story that has troubled most of us for a long, long while.  It’s a story about a divided economy.  It’s a story about 99% struggling to pay the bills and make the mortgage and raise the kids—while 1% are living the dream and spinning their wheels on easy street.  We’ve heard a good bit about the 1 and the 99 this fall.  And we’re disturbed by numbers like that.  We know what they mean.  

But let’s be honest tonight.  We’re up against so much more than numbers, so much more than statistics, a market index, a housing trend.  We the people, we the 99%, have lost control of our economy.  We see it every day.  We see extreme partisanship ripping the heart out of our political institutions.  We see crazy money buying influence in electoral politics.  We see years of regressive tax policy weakening education and slicing up the social safety net.  However it’s happened, this much is clear, on the Central Coast and around California: a privileged few have taken control of our economy.  And that’s not going work anymore.  Tonight, we’re taking responsibility not only for COPA, not only for our beloved institutions and cities, but for our economy.  We want it to work for all of us: not just the 1%, not just the 10%, but for all of us.

Because you know what?  It’s not their economy.  It’s not Washington’s economy.  It’s not Wall Street’s economy.  We’re talking about our economy, about the people’s economy.  And friends, it’s so much more than numbers and trends.  It’s the way we feed and care for one another; it’s the way we honor our elders; and it’s the way we pass on values and opportunities to our kids.  We’re not satisfied with a divided economy.  We’re not satisfied with the dismantling of social safety nets and public education.  We’re not satisfied with a privileged few calling all the shots.  It’s our economy—and we want it to work for all of us.

Now listen, we’re not interested in demonizing the 1%.  That’s not how we roll in COPA.  We’re not interested in going to war with the 1%.  But you’d better believe we’re interested in knowing how they work.  And you’d better believe we’re determined to be a powerful force in the politics of our community.  So yes, we want to know who that 1% is—and we want them to know us.  And how very serious we are.

But nothing’s going to change unless we take charge.  Right here in Salinas.  Right here in Central California.  Because fundamentally, this is not a crisis about the GNP or the Fortune 500.  This is not a crisis about American competitiveness or the greening of the economy.  Fundamentally, this is a crisis about us: about you and me, about our politics, about the ways we practice politics in our generation.  Maybe we’ve been too passive.  Maybe we given away too much power to that 1%.

And if that’s so, then it’s time to take backour economy, the people’s economy.  So that things work for everybody.  For all our families.  And that begins right here.  That begins right now.  That begins with us. 

Now you didn’t have to be here tonight.  You could have stayed home with your families.  You could have graded papers or worked on tomorrow’s lesson plan.  But you made a sacrifice to be here tonight.  You made a choice.  You chose COPA.  Because you know what we’re up against in California.  And you know we have to do this work together. 

Years ago, Nelson Mandela addressed his people in South Africa with these cautionary words.  They seem the right way to begin tonight: “Your playing small does not serve the world,” he said.  “There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.  It is not just in some; it is in everyone.”  Let’s begin right there.  Our playing small does not serve the world.  Our playing small does not serve California or California’s families.  It’s time to play big, COPA.  It’s time to play big.