This speech was given by Marty at the Chavez-King Annual Dinner in Oroville on April 21st, 2017.
Good evening. I am so pleased to join you tonight at this event honoring Cesar Chavez and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I want to talk to you this evening about the ways we can relate to these two great leaders, an agricultural worker and a preacher who led us to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, who organized laborers and mothers and students to join together. How are the careers and struggles of these two great men relevant to us here in rural, Northern California?
Our Congressman often speaks about helping middle class people “who are paying all the freight” in our community. He doesn’t talk about the disabled who can’t work or those who are working more than one job with no benefits and scrambling to stretch their dollars from one week to the next. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, these folks are just as critical to our economy and society as the rice farmers and business owners and bankers. As Democrats, we have an imperative to represent all the people of our region from a place of respect, not just those middle class folks who are “paying the freight”. We need to better understand, so that we can help improve, the lives of our neighbors, family members, friends, and especially strangers who live in our mountain towns, our valley cities, our ranches and farms and cabins and suburbs. I was once one of those invisible strangers.
Thirteen years ago, I was suddenly faced with the prospect of raising my three kids by myself. Emotionally and financially devastated, I got on a plane with my young children and came to Plumas County, where my mom and my sisters and their families opened up their hearts and their homes to help us figure out what to do next. It was my first time needing a major amount of help rather than being the person helping out.
I’ll never forget the kindness of the elementary school secretary who enrolled my kids and told me about Healthy Families insurance and subsidized lunches. Or the patronizing lecture of the school superintendent who refused to help resolve a bullying situation. He suggested it might not happen if my children’s father were present. I swore that I’d hold on to those feelings forever, the inherent respect by some and the inherent disdain from others based on nothing more than the way I looked and the configuration of my family.
It took 10 months and many solitary hikes in the Plumas Forest to get back on my feet and embrace the role of mom and dad to my kids. I salvaged my education, got work, and found a place to live. And I had to do this while learning how to gracefully and gratefully accept help from a whole community of people.
I’ve had an extraordinary experience since that low point, opening myself up to erasing the sense of other and accepting help from the amazing people of Quincy, California, from retired bus driver Rose who stepped in and became a parent to my children while I traveled to Mexico for work each week, to neighbor Rob who helped my son learn to ride a bicycle, to my sister Cary who drove that same kid to the surgeon in Truckee after he broke his arm. My mom, who eventually bought a house across the street from me so that we could lean on each other. My siblings, who listened and shared all the trials and tribulations of raising kids and making ends meet. And this community that cheered when I got a coveted assignment to live and work in Japan and welcomed us home at Christmas holidays and summer breaks.
I know that environmental conservation and renewable energy can drive economic growth. I know that each and every one of us deserves healthcare at an affordable cost. I want my tax dollars to support social, health, and arts programs as equally as they pay for national security.
It’s time to pay forward all the help and support and hard work of the past 13 years, to reinvest in Northern California what Northern California invested in me. I want to show you that qualified, tenacious, tough, and empathetic women candidates are out here and ready to put our career experience and life experience to work in public service. I want to make Northern California a force in the world and bring the world’s resources back to our communities. I want to supercharge all the initiatives and efforts going on right now to transition us from a timber and resource based economy to a diversified service economy that also integrates our National Forests and forest products.
Started in 2013, the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina is a direct descendant of the nonviolent protests originated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez in the 1960s. The leaders of Moral Mondays brought the concepts of solving problems from a place of moral justice to even the most rural, white counties in North Carolina, demonstrating how we can erase the fear that comes from the sense of other. I’ve taken on this challenge of grassroots organizing over the past few years, starting a music education non-profit and an affordable, quality housing initiative for Plumas County. With all of us joining in on these engines of economic and social opportunity, I know that we can inspire and sustain a new generation driven by service, education, healthcare, and environmental conservation. My name is Marty Walters, and I want to represent you in Congress while we are making that transition.