I will never forget the night just before the 2008 election, when my wife Connie and I had the honor of standing backstage with three generations of civil rights leaders, including Congressman Lou Stokes, watching as then-Senator Barack Obama took the stage. We made history that night and despite the odds, we made history in the years since.
But sometimes the hope we felt in that moment feels distant.
It’s disheartening that in the United States of America, in the year 2018, there is still a need to defend the affirmation that black lives matter.
In too many communities, the trust between our citizens and the officers who have sworn to protect them is strained on both sides and must be rebuilt from the ground up.
Too often, those same communities of color are the ones most likely to face lead poisoning at home or discrimination when applying for a loan.
President Obama helped us get out of the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, but black Americans haven’t shared equally in the gains.
Black Americans in Ohio are more likely to be targeted by payday lenders and predatory banks, more likely to have their homes foreclosed on, more likely to work low-wage jobs that don’t pay off no matter how many hours you put in.
It’s unacceptable that women and men working the same job still see a disparity on their paycheck, and even more so that this pay gap grows when you’re talking about black women.
In the Senate, I have made it my mission to make sure that all work pays off equally for all Ohioans.
That goal is made harder by the fact that Washington Republicans would rather answer to their special interest allies than to the people they’re supposed to serve.
Even as we have fought to make progress, Republicans in Washington and Columbus have worked to further stack the deck for the privileged and the powerful.
They passed a tax bill that serves Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans while leaving working people behind. They have tried, and will continue to try, to roll back the Affordable Care Act and strip millions of their healthcare.
The current crowd in Washington and Columbus doesn’t respect the dignity of a hard day’s work. I do.
That’s why every day, I wake up and ask myself what I can do to help Ohioans -- whether you punch a clock, earn tips, or make a salary.
I’m here to fight for you -- to stand up to drug companies and for-profit charter schools and the gun lobby. I’m here to stand up for your right to vote, a right that has too often been under attack in order to disenfranchise people of color, seniors, and low-income Ohioans.
That is what’s at stake in this election. It’s time for Ohioans who’ve been marching and protesting and making calls to take that activism to the ballot box and vote.
When you do, young people and people who’ve never voted before -- people who got involved for the first time this year -- will see that their vote counts and their activism matters and they have the power to bend the arc of history a little further toward justice.