Troy Jackson for Congress Addresses 2014 Maine Democratic Convention (Video, Transcript)
Troy Jackson for Congress Addresses 2014 Maine Democratic Convention (as prepared)
Troy Jackson’s Speech
Hello fellow Democrats! My name is Troy Jackson and I’m running for Congress because I believe the middle class needs a voice. I’m running for Congress because I don’t hear enough people in Washington saying things that need to be said.
Like so many, I grew up in a place in Maine where people work unimaginably hard their entire lives only to scrape by and have little to show for it. Too many times, I watched families pack up and leave despite their best efforts. The vast wealth that was made off of Maine’s natural resources was hoarded by industrial landowners from far away who saw us as a tool and the forests of our home as a commodity.
I really started questioning this when I had a family of my own. Most of you don’t need me to tell you this, but when you have children you stop thinking about yourself and start to see the world around you in an entirely different way. You start to realize you have to do better because your family’s future depends on it.
In order to do the best I could for my family, I was willing to take any logging job to keep a roof over our heads. Within a few years’ time that meant leaving Allagash every week for jobsites far away from home while Canadian companies cut wood all around our little town. As most of us that live paycheck to paycheck do, I tried to accept it as just the way things are.
But I knew something wasn’t right, especially on Sunday nights. You see, Sunday nights I would pack my lunchbox and some clothes for the week, preparing for my long drive early in the morning to places on the Golden Road. And Sunday nights, my son, who was three or four by then, would ask me not go. He would tell me that he was going stay awake, holding my hand all night so when morning came I would still be there.
I used to watch him fight to stay awake with his little hand wrapped around my thumb, as if, by strength of will alone, he could keep me home. As if all the strength he had in his little hand could counter generations of corporate greed that was keeping other young children in the St. John Valley from their parents. It was during those long Sunday nights that would turn into early Monday mornings that I stopped accepting things for the way they were and started thinking about the way they should be.
Those days took me back to being 12 years old, standing behind my father and his fellow loggers when all they were asking for were decent wages for their hard work. I remember my fear as the rich landowners told them to take what they were being offered or they’d get nothing at all. The fear I felt then was probably nothing compared to the desperation my father must have felt as he stood with his son in front of the man that held his livelihood in his hands. I knew then, just as I knew as a young man with a growing family, and just as I know now, that there was no compromise to be had with people that use their power to keep others down. Instead, you have to make a stand, whether it’s blocking the Canadian border and forcing their hand, or standing up to a tea party Governor when too few are willing to do it. I’ve known people like those land owners and people like Paul LePage all my life. They may think its okay to abuse us and tell us we’re stupid and should go back to the woods. Let me tell you something; when they say I have a black heart, I wear their insult as a badge of honor, because it means that I’m standing up for men and women that have been forgotten and left behind for far too long.
You’re gonna hear a lot about compromise in this campaign. That’s not why I’m running. I am running for Congress for every family who has laid their heads down at night with the ache of being powerless to change their situation. I am running for every child that watched their parent pack up and go to work away from home for the week, and for every parent who had to let go of their child’s hand to do it. I am running for every person whose story ever went untold while the lobbyists with offices around capitol buildings made damn sure the corporate story was told by passing off things like trickledown economics and free trade as the only option for our future.
I stand before you today because I put more faith in the proud loggers of Allagash than in the foreign companies who play them like chess pieces. I put more faith in the lobstermen in Jonesport that literally fly the flag of their union and their right to organize than in the Koch brothers that fly the flag of corporate greed. I put more faith in the folks reviving Lewiston’s downtown than in big box stores like Wal-Mart that are killing downtowns across America. I put more faith in Rumford’s millworkers than in the corporations that want to outsource every single good paying job we have. I put more faith in the nurses in Bangor than in the insurance companies who watered down healthcare reform and prevented us from having a single-payer, universal healthcare system. And I put more faith in our state employees whose pensions were taken out from under them in a “compromise” than I do in the rich who got a 400 million dollar tax cut in exchange.
My mother is one of the strongest people I have ever known. When I was growing up, she taught me that once you’ve worked hard for your family the best thing you can do is help others.
She dropped out of school at 15 when she became pregnant with me. She didn’t go back to finish her high school diploma until I was five. When I got a little bit older she found a way to go to college to become a teacher. She was able to take care of me, go to her classes, and get her schoolwork done, all while keeping our home together. When she started teaching, she was making $14,000 a year.
For a little more than half of that first year we lived in small home on the St. John River. I remember playing with Matchbox cars down by the river and thinking it was a fun place to live.
But for my mother, it was nothing more than a shack without heat or running water. To her, it was the embodiment of failure.
When the summer waned and fall came to Maine I remember the cold. And this is why I don’t like to tell this story: Because Mum would remind me how lucky we were, because we weren’t the only family living just like this, and right around us and all over the world people had it much worse. They were colder and more scared than we were, maybe right up the road.
I think back to those cold nights when I would hear my mother cry. I didn’t know teachers are some of the most poorly paid professionals in this country. And while I knew we were poor, I didn’t know what the term “income inequality” meant.
I’m not running for Congress because I’ve wanted to for a long time or because I can use it as springboard to bigger and better things.
I’m running because of income inequality, poverty, unfairness, corporate greed and political cowardice. I have known these things my entire life and I have watched them wreck communities and tear people’s lives and families apart. And during those cold nights in that small shack along the river I never would have thought I would one day have the opportunity to do something about it. If you’re going to run for Congress, you have to know in your heart – in your soul – why you’re running. I run for all those cold nights all across America and all those crying mothers and all those aching families of the middle class I damn sure intend to!
I won’t back down when Wall Street wants yet another bank and CEO bailout and hedge fund managers don’t want to be regulated. I won’t back down when some, even in our own party, want to hold hands with the Tea Party to extend tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. I won’t back down when the GOP tries to go after social security and Medicare. I won’t back down when corporate politicians on both sides of the aisle try to pass more free trade agreements. And when the privileged elite tries to keep me quiet with their checkbooks and their political machine, whether it’s at the Canadian border in 1998 or on the campaign trail today, I sure as hell won’t back down.
We have been told to sit down and shut up for too long, and all it’s got us is less and less while it’s given the wealthy and the privileged more and more, and it’s time we stood up and changed the conversation.
When the Tea Party goes after the powerless, I will be their power. When Congress forgets the words of the middle class, I will be their voice. When Republicans target the downtrodden, I will be their shield. And when they try to pull the ladder of success up behind them, I will grab it and be there holding it in place, because that ladder is supposed to be there for everyone. Because, damn it, we built that ladder. It’s ours. And no one gets left behind. That is what being a Democrat is about, and that’s what you’ll get from me. I ask you to rise up and stand shoulder to shoulder with me – with your support and with your vote. I won’t let you down. Thank you, Democrats.