I have had the privilege of growing up in both a poor Cambodian-Chinese immigrant family and later in a white working class family. Long story short, yes, I'm adopted. But my story is less about my adoption and more about my two moms.
My biological mother sought refuge in America from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1980's. Like many refugees and immigrants, she sought equal opportunity and a better life. While her life wasn't easy as a single mom raising four children and dealing with a number of abusive men, the State of Maine stepped up to the plate, offering her food stamps to help her feed four hungry children, or mostly to feed me, and help with housing so that she could provide a roof over our heads. She might not have known it at the age of 18 when I was born or when We were given up for adoption later on, but in seeking refuge in America and in giving us up for adoption, she gave us a better life.
My adoptive mother grew up in Aroostook county where she was raised by my Grammy Anita, who was herself a single mom. My mom currently works two jobs but when I was still in the house I alone was a full time job. On top of that, she cared for my three younger siblings, managed our family finances, Woke us up early and drove us to school, doctor appointments, piano lessons and soccer practice. I remember her reminders to turn the lights off, to clean my room and do laundry and her consistently having to do all three after I "forgot" to - She always warned me that when I'm on my own, that "forgetting" doesn't always get fixed by someone else... And now that I'm on my own, and living with four male roommates, I found out she was right.
I think many of you here might relate to both my moms or maybe have had similar experiences. Many of us know women in our lives and many of you here now have made hard decisions. Have sacrificed. Have worked as hard if not more so than men.
With that said, if our halls of power became halls of reason and a reflection of reality, the reality that over 50% of this nation are women - If women are afforded equal representation, - there is hope. Hope for fair wages and equal pay; hope for struggling single moms and hungry children; Hope for healthcare that doesn't discriminate based on how much you can pay; hope for education that not only teaches us the values of hard work but the values of lending a helping hand. And the most important issue of our time, breaking down the barriers of income inequality.
It is organizations like Emerge Maine and those like Jill and Ashley and the graduates here who are leading the charge toward equal representation and a women-led progressive era. The next few years are exciting years with many graduates here running for office, with Emily Cain running for congress andShenna Bellows running for senate and Hillary Clinton teasing us with a 2016 run for president. Regardless, it is looking to be a pretty exciting year for the progressive movement and women are leading the charge. And it is important that it happens here in our state because, "As Maine goes, so goes the nation." Thank you.