What was I willing to stand for?
I arrived early, never dreaming I would be one of 8,000 people to rally on the steps of Michigan’s capitol; that I would be one of 2.5 million that would gather across the world on Saturday, January 21st, 2017. Women—and a few men—mulled about the grounds, chatting freely, quietly with complete strangers. Each braved the gray, misty air for a different reason.
“I came because I believe in democracy,” a woman told me. “And that means having the freedom to gather, to march, to protest. I’m here because I believe in our country.”
The plethora of colorful signs highlighted the issue each held closest to her heart: women’s rights, the rights of people of color and of different religious preferences, access to healthcare, the importance of public education, concerns about climate change, the rights of the LBGT communities, a woman’s right to choose, and those believing in pro-life.
This was not a march “against” as much as it was a march “for” those things people hold dear.
“One and a half years ago I was diagnosed with cancer,” a striking 22-year-old man told the audience. At the time, he had just graduated from Eastern Michigan University and did not have a job. After months of chemotherapy, bone marrow testing, and multiple hospital stays, his healthcare expenses exceeded $400,000. Fortunately, under the Affordable Care Act, he was a rider on his parent’s insurance plan. But what will he do if the act is repealed? Even though he is now cancer-free, will he be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition?
Another woman in her early twenties spoke about Planned Parenthood.
“I was 18, pregnant, and scared,” she told the group, her voice shaking with emotion. She and her boyfriend went to Planned Parenthood so she could get an abortion. And yet, once inside the facility, 100% of the focus was on her health and that of the baby’s. As a result of the care she received, she decided to keep the baby. She opted to become a mother.
Everyone had a story. What was mine?
As the rally neared its end, a streak of sun finally cut through the fog, showering its light on the dome, the flags of our country and state, and the thousands of faces below. In that moment I knew.
E pluribus unum. “Out of many, one.”
I want to add my voice to those calling for inclusion; to those insisting women and men be equal partners at the negotiating table. The diversity that defines the citizens of our country also creates a richness of thought needed for innovation. And innovation is the spark that lights the flame of sustainable success and prosperity.
I want my country to succeed, regardless of who is president. I want my state to prosper. But above all, I want the Great Lakes—these waters I consider home—to be clean and protected. That is my cause. It is not a Republican issue. It is not a Democrat issue. It is neither red nor blue. It is both. It is pink.
I am willing to stand for pink.
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