What it means to be a Democrat. Hint: It has so do with love, tolerance, and inclusion.

Throughout the world and all generations we as individuals are all defined by birth, by fate, and by choice. It’s beyond us to choose where we’re born or who we’re born from just as we don’t get to choose the blessings and curses we are dealt by fate. In the end we are, for better or worse, defined as who we truly are by the choices we make as we grow from life experiences and the influence of those both closest to us and those from the world around us that we may never know but for their words and actions.

As a child, the seeds of politics were being planted long before I was ever aware. My earliest childhood memory that I can put a date to was when I 3 years old, sitting on the living room floor quietly watching my Mom weep as she watched JFK’s funeral procession being broadcast on TV. I had no grasp of the significance of that moment as it occurred. But the event of that morning, as I witnessed my Mom’s painful grief for this great man, remains with me today at times when I’ve mourned the loss of loved ones — even those I’ve never known but for their influence in my life.

My parents were Kennedy Democrats, but then years later became Reagan Republicans. While I blamed the likes of Evangelical Conservatives of the time for the growing political divide between me and my parents, I remained steadfast in my convictions. I doubt there are few exceptions to this family evolution and that everyone has a similar story to tell.

I disagreed with the underlying message of Evangelical Conservatives as it seemed at odds with the message unfolding before me as I was just beginning to find my own relationship with Christ. It was actually my walk in faith that reinforced my politically liberal convictions. I simply couldn’t reconcile how it was that some Christians invoked the words of Christ while implying that those words applied only to those who agreed with their conservative values.

“Turn the other cheek,” “Pray for your enemies.” I don’t hear that much from Evangelical Conservatives, even more so these days. Yet these simple words are part of a much broader Christian narrative speaking to love, tolerance and inclusion.

Love, tolerance, and inclusion are for me the truths that define what it means to be a Democrat. I would never claim to have all the answers. In fact, I may well be wrong about a great many things, but not when it comes to embracing these three simple virtues of love, tolerance and inclusion. There may never be any other time in history that these simple virtues could not hold more weight than in this current time of national division.

There’s no reason why the ambitious shouldn’t be allowed to prosper in a nation as great as America without still providing the means for the disadvantaged to secure a prosperous future of their own. It’s at the heart of the American Dream to bring out the best in everyone. No reason whatsoever other than that it’s a tougher road to take and that it requires more from all of us. There’s no reason other than to make the commitment and then move forward. Not even the failures along way are reason to not try.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”


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