I want to take a moment to tell you why I’m voting for you.
All of us are given choices.
None of us chose to be born. We did not get to choose to be descended from slaves. We did not choose to be descended from colonialism. We did not choose to be descended from people, cultures, tribes who were wiped from the face of the Earth. We did not choose to be descended from immigrants. We did not choose, yet we, these descendants, are the fabric of America.
Me, here, now - I choose this. I could have left here, years ago. I could have started a new life in another land far away. I could have chosen a new path. I am so acutely aware of what a privilege this is.
My mother left the Philippines and landed in Honolulu, Hawaii in February 1980, with $20 in her pocket and a dream. Her mother, my grandmother was forbidden by her father - my great grandfather - to go to school. Why, after all, should she and her sisters need an education? My grandmother was resilient. She moved south to Mindanao, to a small town called Tampakan. She purchased land and farmed it. She raised seven kids, without her husband. He died when my mother was 9. And yet, she carried on. She instilled in my mother the same resilience and planted in her the same seed that would someday grow into a grand dream.
My mother did not choose to be descended from farmers. But my mother, resilient as she was, chose to live. She chose to be alive.
So, she left the Philippines, she left the only place she’d known, in search of something better. And she came here, because this was where “something better” could really be. A dream could be real here. $20 and a dream. A dream of something better, a dream of a better life, a dream to be alive.
Seven years later, in November of 1987, I was born. I grew up believing the American Dream was real. Anyone could have it, if you wanted it bad enough. If you were willing to work hard, do well in school, if you were willing to try your best, there was nothing you couldn’t do.
So, I did. I graduated college in 2009, one year early, with my Bachelor’s degree, three internships under my belt, and writing as a freelance editor for a fashion blog in San Francisco. As you know, the Spring of 2009 was probably not a great time to enter the job market. I was unemployed for nine months, and took a job - a contracted position - across the country for the equivalent of $18,000 a year. Minus taxes, I was expected to live on the equivalent of $12,000 in a vibrant metropolis. I was overworked and underpaid, and quit. I was so unhappy, it almost killed me.
And still, I believed.
I learned a vocational trade and was successful. I could support myself and I enjoyed what I did.
But this job did not afford me health insurance. Neither did my last job. In fact, I had been without health insurance - save for a few months when I took a job at the mall to make ends meet - since 2009. Because of a lack of insurance, I like many Americans left illnesses untreated. It was a choice between food and treatment, and I, like many others, chose food. Only now, am I aware that I had severe mental illness left undiagnosed and untreated, for what I can only approximate to be 15 years.
I only now have health insurance because I found a wonderful man who would become my husband. I love him. He makes me happy.
Together, we are navigating the complicated maze that is our healthcare system, in an effort to continue the lifesaving treatment given to me at a local hospital just less than one month ago.
And still one thing remains.
I am several tens of thousands of dollars in debt having pursued education in the belief that it would lead to gainful employment. I now have hospital bills to treat mental illness that perhaps would not have reached the severity it has, had it been diagnosed at its first onset 10-15 years ago. I live with a stigma everyday from those who don’t believe mental illness is real. We are working middle class Americans, my husband and I. We are educated, employed, insured. I still have yet to find a psychiatric facility that will evaluate my condition in order to continue lifesaving treatment.
Mr. Sanders, this was not my American Dream.
And yet, I still believe.
We do not choose to be born. I did not choose to be descended from two resilient women. Women who carried on, in search of a better life, because they believed they could. Two women who believed they could really live someday. Two women who believed they could really feel alive.
One of those women, came here, gave birth to me in Chicago, Illinois and instilled in me the same resilience, instilled in me a new dream, an American one, one that could only be real, here.
I think there is only really one of you, one candidate, who still believes in the same dream I do.
I think you believe that we all deserve to dream. I think you believe we all can achieve our dreams, if encouraged and supported. I think you believe in us, so I believe in you.
What matters to me is not whether or not every idea you have, every proposal you make, every change you believe in - it does not matter to me if all of them can come true. What matters to me is that you are the only candidate, the only person I’ve heard that seems also to hear me.
You believe in public education.
You believe in health care for all.
You believe in improving infrastructure.
You believe in reducing corruption.
You believe in reducing debt.
You believe in making us stronger.
You believe in our dream.
I have spent many years feeling like the life I long for will never come true. I have fought an uphill battle, and bought into a system that promised me that I could have the life that fulfills me. I took out your loans, and I went to your schools, and I worked at your jobs, and I crumpled in defeat. And still, I still believe. I still want to attend your schools, pursue another degree. I want to spend my life researching, to save lives, to help people like me.
You see, you are the only one that knows that this system has failed me. You are the only one that knows that I am not the only one. You are the only one that looks at us, all of us, and recognizes that we are here, trying to dream and trying to live, too. You are the only one who believes in our American Dream. You are the only one who believes that dream belongs to all of us.
Mr. Sanders. I am descended from resilient dreamers, whose only wish was to feel alive. My grandmother farmed to raise seven kids, including my mother. My mother spent 25 years at the Department of Agriculture to raise my sister and me. My uncles served in the United States Navy to raise my cousins. I am descended from people who believed in a dream. They believed so much it could be real. They left the only lives they knew, in a land across the world, to come here, because they believed here was where that dream could be alive.
I believe that too. And I think you believe it also.
You ask me to believe in the future. The only future I can believe in is one where we all can dream. The only future I can believe in is one where we all can make those dreams come true. The only future I can believe in is one where we all can feel alive. What is a life without passion? What is a life without dreams? What is a life without love? What is a life, without anything to live for?
So, Mr. Sanders, I’m voting for you, because I believe in you.
Please don’t stop believing in us.
Sincerely, and forever dreaming,