February 15, 2010
Today is Presidents’ Day. My history may be rusty, but I personally think our founders were very farsighted in establishing this nifty holiday on the day after Valentine’s Day. Because in even-numbered years, you can show your love of country and love for your favorite candidates by voting.
I don’t believe you can say “I love you, Kirk” any more clearly than by marking your ballot for me. Unless it’s making a campaign contribution.
Sure, the primary election day is March 2. But if you can’t wait – and really, you shouldn’t wait – then you should vote early.
So, seriously, go vote. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’ll make you feel good. And it’ll make you feel like cupid.
Yesterday was also the day of the annual Austin Marathon and Half Marathon. I ran the Half.
That means I’ve run two half marathons in less than three weeks. By my calculations, that counts as a marathon.
It was my honor to speak last week at the annual fundraising luncheon for the Trinity Center, an organization based at St. David’s Episcopal Church downtown that serves the homeless.
This group of folks provides a vital service – not just to a few folks in tough circumstances, but for all of Central Texas. They named their luncheon after an amazing person known for service: Barbara Jordan.
In addition to her countless other contributions to our region and our nation, Ms. Jordan was a strong advocate for the homeless. She left money in her will that helped get the Trinity Center going.
As I said in the speech, providing for the homeless is one of the most important services we provide as a community. It’s something I really started focusing on when I was mayor, and I’ve felt strongly about it ever since.
Here’s an excerpt from the speech:
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You see the need every day in the faces of those you serve and the line that wraps around your corner. And you know the numbers – more than 5,000 homeless people on any given night in Austin and Travis County, 616 homeless families with children, 3,000 to 5,000 homeless AISD students, a housing shortage of at least 3,000 units …
It breaks my heart.
There’s a lot that makes Austin special. But folks like you, facilities like this, offerings like your wonderful Neighbor-To-Neighbor program, and your mission most of all – that’s what makes Austin decent.
Christ preached your mission. Matthew 25 is appropriately famous, and I’ll bet a lot of you who live verses 35 and 36 know them by heart:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
The Psalmist understood your mission, too. In Psalm 9, David wrote, “But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.”
And Barbara Jordan knew your mission.
It’s another inspiration, but not a surprise, that she left money in her will for those who feed and serve people with little more than their dignity and humanity. And it’s an enormous credit to your organization and your service that the bounty went to the Trinity Center.
Service such as yours should be rewarded. It should be inspiring, because it’s something everyone can do. It offers fulfillment that’s literally infinite. …
This room is full of servants. And you’ve all achieved greatness in your service to others.
But, again, it’s not enough.
Quite simply, we need more people like you. We need more people doing the work you do. Beyond that, we need more people like you at the Texas Capitol, Austin City Hall, and everywhere else where powerful people set priorities and spend money.
We need folks who know the numbers and the faces, who will stand up for the humanity and dignity of our brothers and sisters in the streets, and who will demand not only fair laws, but fair budgets.
And we must evangelize. We’ve got to take the folks in this room and add to our numbers. We’ve got to make sure that more of our friends, our family and our neighbors have the opportunity to achieve the level of spirituality set out in scripture and the standard of greatness articulated so clearly by Dr. King.
In short, we need to follow the path Barbara Jordan set before us. As she said in her Democratic National Convention speech 34 years ago:
“We are attempting to fulfill our national purpose, to create and sustain a society in which all of us are equal.”
On behalf of this region, thank you – so very much – for doing so much to make sure that standard also applies to the least among us.
God bless you.
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