The First Five Days of the Next Four Years

This is a letter I am planning to send to my representatives in Congress tomorrow, but I wanted to share it here in case it’s helpful to anyone else in their own generation of letters.

 

Dear Senators Roberts & Moran and Representative Jenkins,

I would like to take a moment to thank you for your service as a member of Congress.  I am a constituent in the 2nd Congressional District of Kansas who has voted in each and every national, state, and local election since I turned 18. I find it incredibly difficult to even begin to express my feelings about all of the actions that have been taken since Donald Trump was inaugurated just 5 days ago. Every new Breaking News alert I receive makes me cringe just a little bit more and makes me want to stop paying attention to the news, all together. But that’s what he seems to want and I’m not going to stop being informed. Because most of this country chose to do that, we ended up electing a President who cares very little about the people he is representing and who only cares to advance his own agenda, make the rich richer, and leave behind all those who were not born with the same opportunities as he happens to have been.

I believe in basic human decency. I believe in genuinely caring about the people around you and that we’re all human beings. We all have people who love us and would be devastated if those people’s’ lives were put in jeopardy. I believe in the values that this country has always stood for. Freedom and Equality for ALL, not just those who were born into the right families or have connections to the right people. I believe in compassion and concern for the well-being of others and just being NICE to one another.

What is happening in Washington, DC right now, goes against everything I believe in. Allow me to explain:

Affordable Care Act Repeal

This country is significantly behind other first world countries across the globe on this issue. What started as a plan to make sure that all Americans could receive the medical care they needed was so bastardized through compromises in Congress that it’s no wonder it has flaws in its current state. Although there are flaws, its existence means that millions of Americans now have the ability to go to the doctor when they are ill and get the care they need before a common cold turns into something much, much worse, and requires significantly more money and resources to treat.

I’m sure that most people in power in Washington have never had to worry about how they would pay to go to the doctor, but many in this country are not as fortunate. People put off going to the doctor for years because they can’t afford treatment, only to find out that they have stage 4 cancer that could have been cured or avoided if they’d gone to the doctor sooner.

None of this accounts for those who had no other choice. Take my own mother, for example. She and my father have been happily married for 35 years. Before I was born, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis. These two diseases can be completely debilitating when not treated. When I was 8, my mother quit working to take care of her health and take care of my sister and I. She was fortunate to have that opportunity because my father had a corporate job with good benefits and made enough that we would be able to survive on his salary, alone.

My parents happen to have a 5-year gap in their ages, so when my father was ready to retire from his Executive Vice President position at an aviation consulting firm, my mother still had 5 years before she would have qualified for Medicare. Fortunately, COBRA covered them for a while, until the Affordable Care Act went into place and she was able to purchase acceptable insurance from the Health Insurance Marketplace. Previously, because of these pre-existing conditions, she would not have been able to qualify for health insurance.

Fast forward to today. . . my mother doesn’t turn 65 until August, so she still has 7 and a half months without Medicare. The medication that she has been taking for the last 35 years to keep her MS and UC at bay has caused the devastating side effect of cirrhosis of the liver (in a woman who has had maybe one beer in her life) and her 2016 Marketplace plan didn’t cover the liver specialists at the University of Kansas Medical Center, just 40 minutes from her house, even though they are the only specialists in the area who had the ability to treat her. Luckily, I was able to help my parents navigate the system to find a plan for 2017 that covers the doctors she needs to get treatment, but if Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act with no replacement and with no clause for pre-existing conditions, there’s a chance my mother will not make it to her 65th birthday. I’m not ready to lose my mother, especially to something that can be treated.

I urge you to think about the millions of stories, similar to my mom’s before you vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If you’re going to repeal it, have something better to replace it with, and please, please, please, make sure there is some kind of clause that doesn’t make  a pre-existing condition a death sentence.

De-funding of Planned Parenthood

While I realize that many people in this country have never been in a position to need the services that Planned Parenthood provides, myself included, that doesn’t mean those services aren’t needed by our fellow Americans. Some people believe that Planned Parenthood does nothing more than serve as a revolving door for those looking to have an abortion, but that’s not true, nor has it ever been.

Planned Parenthood started as a birth control clinic in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. In 1921, it became The American Birth Control League and changed its name to Planned Parenthood in 1942. Planned Parenthood is the largest supplier of reproductive health services in the United States. Allow me to elaborate on what “reproductive health services” include:

  • birth control
  • long-acting reversible contraception
  • emergency contraception
  • clinical breast examinations
  • cervical cancer screening
  • pregnancy testing
  • pregnancy options counseling
  • testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections
  • sex education
  • vasectomies
  • LGBT services
  • abortion

While many proclaim that abortion is the only thing that Planned Parenthood does, they refuse to acknowledge all of the other positive things the organization provides for its clients. By removing options like the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood, we’re just setting people up to fail. Without appropriate reproductive health services available, people do not get treatment that they need, year after year.

99% of abortions provided by Planned Parenthood require that no Federal funds be used to perform them. “Passed by Congress in 1976, the Hyde Amendment excludes abortion from the comprehensive health care services provided to low-income people by the federal government through Medicaid. Congress has made some exceptions to the funding ban, which have varied over the years. At present, the federal Medicaid program mandates abortion funding in cases of rape or incest, as well as when a pregnant woman’s life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury.” (from the ACLU website)

While lawmakers sit in Washington with Federal health insurance, those who can not afford their own coverage will be left without any options for care if Planned Parenthood is de-funded. The ramifications of this will be many and serious.

I urge you to fully fund Planned Parenthood, so that thousands of women across the country can continue to receive the reproductive health care they deserve.

Betsy DeVos

President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education has no experience with public education or with managing a student loan. She has a degree in business administration and political science from a Liberal Arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has no graduate degree and no experience with any kind of public schooling in her entire life. She believes that there are instances where guns belong in schools, even after seeing how devastating school shootings can be to a community. Mrs. DeVos is not qualified to be nominated or confirmed for this position.

I urge you to reject the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Censorship of Researchers and Government Agencies

The United States of America was founded on the principles of religious freedom and freedom of speech. Censoring government agencies and researchers goes against everything that this country stands for. Transparency is key to building solid relationships in any aspect of business or life. Restricting communications by government employees in positions such as National Parks and the USDA makes absolutely no sense and is just confirming the notion that President Trump wants to push the United States into a dictatorship.

I urge you to insist that all gag orders and censorship be removed from non-national security related government agencies and researchers.

Voter Fraud

The claims that President Trump has made about voter fraud are unfounded and blatantly untrue. The only examples he can give are hearsay from people who shouldn’t have even been voting in the first place (German citizens) and who claim to have never shared the story that the President is feeding to his staff, Congress, and the American people. This should not be tolerated, as it undermines the entire voting system that runs our country. If there was voter fraud, who is to say that it didn’t benefit him, when the only truly reported cases that have been disclosed involved his supporters and not any other candidates?

I urge you to put an end to voter fraud investigations and spend that money in a place that will do some good for humanity.

Building the Wall

The US Border with Mexico is 1,954 miles long. Building a wall along that border will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to taxpayers, pushing the US deficit higher and higher. This is an unacceptable use of taxpayer money. Building a wall along the US/Mexico border will not stop anyone from entering the country illegally. We have borders along the Pacific Ocean (7,623 miles), Atlantic Ocean (2,069 miles), Gulf of Mexico (1,631 miles), Alaska (1,060 miles)  and between the US and Canada (4,000 miles). Building a wall along the US/Mexico border will just waste taxpayer money, as people who want to get into the country illegally have over 16,000 miles of other opportunity that won’t have a wall.

I urge you to block the building of a wall along the US/Mexico border to preserve precious taxpayer dollars.

Immigration

The United States is a nation largely populated by immigrants. How many of us can say that someone in our family did not immigrate here?  Personally, my great grandfather and his brothers immigrated here from Ireland in the early 1900s. They built lives and families in Northeast Kansas and, for the most part, our extended family still remains within 100 miles of the original homestead. Millions of Americans share similar stories. Some arrived earlier than others, and some were already here when new people started arriving.

The United States is supposed to be a melting pot of cultures. We boast some of the greatest museums in the world, filled with pieces that display the diversity that makes this country so great. Restricting immigration means that people of the current generation won’t have the same opportunity to come to America and build their own American dream, as our ancestors did. If the Native Americans had turned away our ancestors, none of us would be here today, engaging in the political process.

I urge you to reject the restriction of immigration to the United States.

Torture

Torture is a strict violation of the Geneva Convention and should never be brought up as an option in the discussion of how to handle criminals, no matter the crime. The brave men and women of our Armed Forces have fought to keep America free from torture. Your colleague, Senator John McCain, says it best:

“I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do. We will not waterboard. We will not torture people … It doesn’t work.”

I urge you to immediately stand against President Trump’s calls for torture of prisoners, no matter their crime.

Dakota Access Pipeline

It seems as though there is a new report about a pipeline leak every day. Allowing for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Missouri River stands to contaminate the water supply for millions of Americans in the heart of the country. If the water supply is compromised, that puts all of the best agricultural land in the country in jeopardy.

This doesn’t even take into account the blatant disregard for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who is being forced to give up the land that they were forced onto by generations that came before us. We’ve done enough damage to Native culture in this country. Taking even more land to continue a pipeline, rather than investing in clean, renewable energy is irresponsible and disrespectful to the generations that will come after us.

I urge you to take action to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from continuing construction on the currently laid-out path.

Blatantly Lying to the American People

Probably the most unsettling aspect of the 5 days since the inauguration of President Trump has been the complete disregard for the intelligence of the American people. From lying about voter fraud to lying about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, President Trump has made it clear that he will spread rumors faster than a middle school girl and has no intention of ever fact-checking a single piece of information he shares publicly. This can not continue. The American people have to be smarter than this. Congress has to be smarter than this.

The United States Constitution allows for a three-branch system to perform checks and balances so that things do not fall apart. At what point do executive orders stop being a “normal” part of everyday life and start to raise some concerns?  Taking advantage of an uneducated population who has become complacent with believing anything they hear from President Trump and his staff is unacceptable.

I urge you to stand up and say something about the lies that are being told to the American people. Saying nothing makes many of us believe that we are beginning to know what the Germans felt like as Hitler rose to power in the 1930s. Some may say this is hyperbole, but if President Trump’s first 5 days are any indication of what the next 4 years will hold, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Respectfully,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kansas 2nd Congressional District

 

The Last Day with President Obama

On this day, the last day of the Presidency of Barack Obama, I want to reflect on what the last eight years have meant to someone who lives in a bright blue dot in the middle of a sea of red in the State of Kansas.  I love where I live and I love the people I choose to surround myself with, but I know that I would feel very differently if I were living in a more conservative part of Kansas.  I got lucky because my parents, who are not from Lawrence, chose to raise their family here.  They recognized that, not only did Lawrence make sense for a mother and father who were working in different cities, one in Topeka and one in Kansas City, but that Lawrence was a great place to make memories and to raise children who would grow up to care about those around them and have empathy for people and situations that some may not otherwise.

In 2008, I was an avid supporter of everything Barack Obama stood for.  Seven years prior, I was a sophomore in college when the attacks of September 11th happened and I was tired of seeing friends and former schoolmates come home from a war that never should have happened, broken and battered, and even a few in flag-draped coffins.  This wasn’t what I wanted for my future and wasn’t how I’d envisioned things turning out for my peers.  I was ready for a change and to have hope again and Barack Obama was the answer to those needs.

(Via Business Insider)

(Via Business Insider)

(Via Business Insider)

Affordable Care Act

Several years ago, my dad retired from his career of 40+ years.  Upon his retirement, he was old enough to qualify for Medicare, but my mom, who had been a stay-at-home mom since I was 8, when she took a buy-out from Santa Fe Railroad, won’t be 65 until this August.  Once the COBRA insurance from his company ran out, my mom was able to get a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace.  After all of the compromises and blockades, it still wasn’t the best plan, but it was something.

About a year ago, after months and months of my mom’s health continually deteriorating and of her abdomen growing for no known reason, we convinced her that she needed to say something to her doctor.  Her primary doctor brushed it off as nothing, but when she was able to see her gastroenterologist, she was immediately sent to the hospital.  Something was clearly wrong and we assumed it was some kind of cancer.  It was actually cirrhosis of the liver, which was a side effect of over 30 years of medication for her Multiple Sclerosis and Ulcerative Colitis.  This medication was the only thing that has made her day-to-day activities tolerable, but the consequence of that was that a woman who I have seen drink only one sip of beer her entire life, now faces an eventual liver transplant, but her liver counts aren’t “bad enough” to be put on that list yet.

Since that diagnosis, my parents have had to jump through hoop after hoop to get my mom the medical care she needed.  The specialists at KU Medical Center were not covered by her original Marketplace plan, so she has been bounced back and forth with phone call after phone call trying to get an exception to be seen by the doctors who could actually help her condition.  I was able to navigate the Marketplace and get her signed up for an insurance plan for 2017 that will actually cover the doctors she needs, but that doesn’t come without a price tag.  Her monthly premium and annual deductible are astronomical, but at least she has the ability to see her specialist when she needs to now.

We are lucky in one sense. . . she only has to be covered through August.  They couldn’t possibly kill the Affordable Care Act before then, right?  But, as I’ve listened to what Congress is trying to do to the existing system by taking away guarantees for pre-existing conditions, it makes my stomach turn.

Like millions of other Americans, I have pre-existing conditions that would prevent me from being able to obtain my own health insurance if I didn’t work for a company that provided the benefit to their employees  in the future.  Josh is a contractor and receives no health insurance benefits through his company.  I’m not the only one in this boat if the proposed changes are made to the Affordable Care Act.

If the Affordable Care Act is removed, thousands of Americans, just like my mother, could die because they have no other insurance options.  Medical insurance companies have always been in the game to make money, not to actually help make people better.  If people get the treatment they need, long term, the companies could go out of business.  What reason do they actually have to help people?

That’s what made the Affordable Care Act so great.  It’s not perfect. . . I don’t proclaim that, at all.  But, it’s better than nothing and it’s certainly better than removing the pre-existing condition clause that allowed many Americans to get health insurance for the first time in their lives.

Without President Obama pushing for this change to the American landscape, this would not have happened, and I am forever grateful that he was able to champion this cause.

Gay Marriage

I would also like to take a moment to reflect on the changes that have happened in the LGBTQIA community over the last 8 years.  I have several very close friends who identify with this community and have always supported equality and equity for every human being.  Without the leadership of President Obama, it is very unlikely (especially if we had elected John McCain or Mitt Romney) that any advancement would have been made for Gay Rights over the last 8 years.

One of my favorite moments of the past 4 years was seeing photos of the White House lit up with rainbow colors on the day the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states and all U.S. territories.  On that day, I joined friends in sharing happy tears for something that was far too long in the making.

Moving Forward

I’m certain there are other defining factors that people will take away from Barack Obama’s Presidency.  There are far too many positives to get into in a single writing.  But today, I implore others to take a moment to reflect on how the country has changed in the last 8 years and encourage everyone not to allow positive forward movement to stop with the inauguration of a new President.

The things we have accomplished in the last 8 years do not have to stop here.  Millions of Americans voted for a candidate who would have made it a priority to continue moving forward.  Millions of other Americans did not.  Today is the last day we have to be comfortable.  Tomorrow, if you’re not already fighting for what’s right, I encourage you to pick up the baton and continue fighting for what you believe in to make the world around you a kinder, and gentler place.

But for today, remember how amazing this man has been and be grateful for the time we had this “once in a lifetime” President.  Thank you, Mr. President!

 

 

 

 

P.S. The Daily Beast did a great job of putting together a selection of Pete Souza’s photos from the last 8 years.

 

 

Kansas Presidential Caucus – Saturday, March 5th, 2016


Dear Fellow Kansas Millennials,

I know our generation as a whole isn’t a fan of using calendars or committing to activities or events ahead of time and FOMO (fear of missing out) runs rampant in our minds, but this is IMPORTANT.  Living in Kansas, our vote in the general election may mean very little, but that’s not the case this weekend, at the Kansas Caucus events.

Wherever you live, whatever your political affiliation may be, please, please, please don’t skip the caucus on Saturday.  Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers and it’s time to make our voice heard and stop making excuses for why we’re not.  Nothing is going to change unless we speak up and take control of the future that we and our children are going to be living through.

Yes, if you’re a Democrat in Kansas, the caucus is probably going to take up a good portion of your Saturday afternoon.  Is one afternoon of your time worth avoiding 4-8 years under a President who makes you want to leave the country?  I hope it is.

Yes, both KU and K-State have basketball games on Saturday afternoon and if you go to the caucus, you’re probably going to miss seeing those games live.  That’s why we have smart phones and DVRs.

I hope you will choose to attend the caucus and spend the afternoon with people from your community who have the same values and beliefs.  Who knows, you may make a new friend or run into someone you haven’t seen in a while.  No matter what happens, if you’re there, making your choice heard, you’re doing the right thing.

Don’t know what the caucus is?  Democrats find out HERE.  Republicans find out HERE.

Don’t know who to caucus for?  Find out HERE.

Don’t know which Kansas Senate District you live in?  Find out HERE.

Don’t know where to caucus?  Find out HERE.

Don’t know if you’re registered to vote or what party affiliation you’re registered under?  Find out HERE.

Need to register to vote?  Find out how HERE.

Sincerely,

A Kansas Millennial who has voted in every local, state and national election since 2000