Kay Hagan | U.S. Senator for North Carolina
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Carolina Connection: Faith guides my decisions as your U.S. Senator
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Faith guides my decisions as your U.S. Senator
Earlier this week, I was honored to address attendees at the All Baptist Assembly's 2012 Convention during the opening ceremony in Raleigh. I have encountered few groups in my life more tireless, more passionate, more dedicated than our congregations. I have always felt that strong churches lead to strong families, strong schools and strong communities. As a public servant, and as your United States Senator, I turn to my faith to guide the decisions that I make each and every day as a Senator representing the people of North Carolina.
If you were not able to attend the opening ceremony on Monday, you can read my remarks below.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Thank you so much, and good morning! What an honor it is to be with you in Raleigh at the All Baptist Assembly. Thank you Dr. (Howard) Parker for your distinguished leadership of the General Baptist State Convention and thank you to Dr. Haywood Gray and all of the executive council members for allowing me to come and speak to you today.
"I had the honor of speaking at the General Baptist State Convention Annual Session in Charlotte last October and I received such a gracious welcome from Dr. Leonzo Lynch. It is a privilege to see Dr. Lynch and so many familiar faces again here today.
"I have been in the U.S. Senate for about three and a half years now, and it is an honor each and every day to fight to give North Carolinians a seat at the table.
"During my time as a Senator so far there have been several memorable experiences --I've played basketball with President Obama, I've voted in the middle of the night, during a snowstorm, the week before Christmas, and I've hosted constituent meetings I call "Conversations with Kay" in 65 different counties across North Carolina.
"But one of the most memorable experiences took place just a few weeks ago. Many of you are familiar with the Montford Point Marines, the first African-Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. Although they served our country with honor and distinction in World War II, they were not even allowed on base at Camp Lejeune without a white Marine escorting them. They trained nearby at Camp Montford Point. These men served during a time when their sacrifices were enormous, but were not yet appreciated.
"Well, just last month, the Montford Point Marines finally received the recognition they deserve. Several hundred of these men, including 32 from North Carolina, traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress. The need to recognize these men was urgent -- of the more than 19,000 men who trained at Montford Point, only about 400 are alive today. I am proud to have led the successful effort to pass this bill, and it was truly one of the greatest honors of my career to participate in this ceremony and thank some of the most historic and courageous veterans in our nation's history.
"Veterans like Francis Packingham of Graham and Roland Eubanks from Siler City.
"And before the ceremony, several families of Marines who have already passed away came to visit me in my office. Among them was the family of James Patterson, who was one of the very first African Americans to enlist in the Corps.
"The Pattersons are members of the General Baptist State Convention.
"Mr. Patterson's son Richard came to my office with his wife and children and his mother in law -- who knitted an afghan for me that I treasure.
"What struck me about the visit with the Pattersons was the immense faith this family carried with them. Faith that this day would come, faith that their father -- and grandfather -- would receive the recognition he deserved. A faith, I've noticed, that is shared by so many of these families and Marines alike. Marines like Glenn White, whose daughter Gina has said that despite the hardships of war and racism, her dad never lost his faith in God, his family or his country.
"I believe all of us need something in our lives to give us that same clarity. And throughout my life, that "something" for me has also been my faith.
"Growing up, our church was the center of our universe. I was actually raised in the same church my grandparents had attended, and we never, ever, missed a service, a Sunday school or a youth group.
"One of the most important things I was taught is the imperative to give back - of those to whom much is given, much shall be required. And for me, that calling has manifested itself through acareer in public service.
"As a public servant, and as your United States Senator, I turn to my faith to guide the decisions that I make each and every day as a Senator representing the people of North Carolina.
"A lot has changed in North Carolina, and in America, since the Montford Point Marines entered our armed forces in the 1940s. But the struggle for equal rights, and for equal opportunities continues.
"I don't have to tell any of you that the people of our state are hurting. Our unemployment rate stands at about 9.5%. More than 400,000 North Carolinians are out of work. In the African American community, the situation is even more dire -- the statewide unemployment rate for African Americans averages at about 19%.
"I've said repeatedly that the people of North Carolina cannot wait for Congress to take action on jobs. Our friends, our family members, members of our congregations, cannot wait until next year or even until November. They need action right now.
"That's why in January I launched what I've been calling my North Carolina Back to Work Jobs Tour. My jobs tour has taken me across the state -- to community colleges, manufacturing plants, small businesses and workforce development offices -- to gather ideas from North Carolinians and take them back to Washington.
"I hosted a minority-owned small business roundtable just down the road at A10 Clinical Solutions in Cary. A10 is headed by a truly amazing small business owner, Leah Brown. Leah started her company to connect clinical research and clinical care professionals to traditionally underserved areas.
"I was able to hear firsthand from Leah and other minority business owners about the ways the federal government can better serve the minority small business community. Our discussion ranged from how we can help small businesses build capitol to how we can reduce the barriers they face when interacting with the federal government.
"My jobs tour has also taken me to a Jobs Fair for veterans and, a couple of weeks ago, to a minority-owned farm, Larry Shaw Farms in Wallace, North Carolina. And this past Friday, I hosted a Jobs Summit with our state's leaders in commerce, workforce development, education and small businesses to take a comprehensive look at how we can create jobs in North Carolina now and into the future.
"Our churches are involved in the effort to get North Carolina Back to Work as well.
"Take Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, for example. Cornerstone, a member church of the General Baptist State Convention, truly embodies chapter 10 of Hebrews -- "consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another."
"The church reached out to the community and launched a workforce initiative called STRIVE (Support and Training Result in Valuable Employees), which teaches community members how to land a job and succeed in the workforce.
"The program has helped people like Natoya Bullock, who after graduating from the STRIVE Employment Training program, landed a job as a Detention Officer in Pitt County. Natoya has since participated in the City of Greenville's Affordable Housing Loan Program, and is a proud homeowner in the area.
"I also know that there is nothing more important to individual economic opportunity and sustained American prosperity than a quality education.
"So be assured, that as a member of the Senate Committee that oversees education, I will continue to fight for federal investments in our state's 10 outstanding HBCUs and all of our public universities. I have spoken directly to Senator Harkin, Chair of the Committee, about the importance of HBCUs -- which are educating our future generation of African American leaders.
"As we work to set our students, our families and our state on a path to a brighter future, I ask that you, our church congregations stay active and involved in the process. I have encountered few groups in my life more tireless, more passionate, more dedicated, than our congregations. And I have always felt that strong churches lead to strong families, strong schools, and strong communities.
"Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you today. It's an honor to serve you in the Senate, and know that my door is always open. I have five offices across the state -- in Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville and Greenville -- and a top-notch staff that is dedicated to assisting you. In the last three and a half years, they have helped resolve more than 17,700 cases for North Carolinians -- from bringing down high mortgage rates to processing claims with the VA.
"You can find contact information for all of my offices in your registration packets. And if you don't know the fabulous Joyce Mitchell who serves as my Community Outreach Director, be sure and introduce yourself today.
"Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you all again in North Carolina soon. God Bless North Carolina, and God Bless the United States of America."