January 6, 2022 -
One year ago, America and the world watched as a violent mob, whipped up by a desperate and defeated man, attacked the U.S. Capitol. The very heart of our democracy was defiled in an attempt to overturn a free and fair election. Today’s anniversary is a painful and solemn one for all who cherish democracy.
Pennsylvania is the cradle of American democracy. The debates were had and founding documents were crafted within our Commonwealth. Our forebearers bestowed on us no greater gift than that of self-governance and the principles enshrined in our Constitution. We have an obligation to our fellow citizens and future generations to not only defend but also to reinvigorate democracy and the principles upon which our nation was founded.
Democracy requires every citizen to take an active role to make it work. Democracy is not simply about individual freedoms but about our shared freedom. The last few election cycles have shown what happens when a portion of the electorate is convinced that it is only about their individual voice rather than the shared voice of the whole body politic. When the individual voice becomes stronger than the collective voice, it boils down to who's voice is loudest and who wields the most power. That is the path to authoritarianism and undermines the fundamental principles true patriots hold dear.
We have allowed extremism to flourish within our midst, twist the icons of our nation for their own purposes, and push good people away from engagement. On this day, we must stand up and reclaim our flag, our Constitution, and our body politic for all citizens and banish division and hate from our public sphere.
We must celebrate those who truly put America first and ego second. Stephen Douglas, following his loss in the 1860 presidential race to Abraham Lincoln said: "Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I'm with you, Mr. President, and God bless you." It is these moments that define our democracy and must be cherished rather than the fear-mongering and lies that have become so apparent when the words "America First" are uttered.
Safeguarding American democracy will take all of us, working across old divisions to replace the divisions in our government and communities with those who will stand by the Constitution and our principles. January 6th should be a permanent reminder that our democracy is not simply guaranteed. It demands a vigilant citizenry devoted to its preservation. It cannot be left only to our soldiers to defend democracy. Every person has a role and responsibility to play in order to preserve this greatest gift we have been given.
On this day, a day that represents the highest of tragedies for democracy, I am recommitting myself to this nation, to our shared principles, to the peaceful transfer of power, to defending voting rights, and to our Constitution, and regardless of political affiliation, I ask you to do the same.