by Kesha Ram, January 8th, 2021.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It is hard to adequately speak to the historic times we're living through, but I am reminded that it was following President Kennedy's assassination, riots in at least six American cities, and the murder of three civil rights workers that Dr. King famously said, "The time is always right to do what's right."
In the same speech, just before the 1964 election, he went on to say: "It is true that behavior cannot be legislated, and legislation cannot make you love me, but legislation can restrain you from lynching me, and I think that is kind of important." I reflect on this as we return to our shared values and principles in this transition of power and moment of great grief and loss in American history. So let us enter into another period of reconstruction, but this time with redemption and reconciliation at the heart of our worthy experiment building a multicultural democracy.
In this historic year, I was proud to be one of Vermont's three electors, casting a historic vote on your behalf in the Electoral College. President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be sworn in on the West front of the U.S. Capitol building on January 20 - at a time yet to be determined and announced with their safety in mind. After they take their oaths of office, President-elect Biden will deliver an inaugural address laying out his vision to defeat the pandemic, build back better, and unify and heal the nation. More information about Inaugural Ceremonies and streaming of events can be found at bideninaugural.org.
As you may know, our legislative session is underway and we are entering our second full week of work. This biennium, I am grateful to have received my top choices. I am serving as Clerk of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing & General Affairs and Clerk of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. I am also beyond honored to co-chair the joint legislative Social Equity Caucus.
The Senate Economic Development & Housing Committee has jurisdiction over labor issues, unemployment, support for working families like paid family leave and access to child care, access to capital, affordable housing, homeownership, and supporting small businesses and their employees through the pandemic. As someone raised in my Indian immigrant father and Jewish American mother's Irish pub, I recognized the importance of access to capital and affordable housing as a major determinant of our family's health and stability. In a pandemic especially, economic well-being is health care, and I am excited to get to work rebuilding and improving the economy for all Vermonters.
There are key reasons I chose the Senate Committee on Government Operations, as well, especially in a pandemic that is leaving BIPOC and New American Vermonters behind. This committee has jurisdiction over elections, voting, political redistricting (a once-a-decade process happening this biennium), and oversight of state and local government, including law enforcement and policing. We have already begun our work in earnest to ensure safe Town Meeting Day elections across the state and we will then be looking at the state of policing, including training and limiting use of force. Another issue of great importance to me I plan to focus on is language access in state government. I will look to advance a comprehensive Language Access Plan for Vermont this year.
As the first woman of color to serve in the State Senate, I am honored to join Rep. Kevin "Coach" Christie of Hartford in co-chairing the joint Social Equity Caucus. Our first order of business is the vaccine rollout and ensuring necessary trust and rapport is built with BIPOC Vermonters in our vaccine delivery system. We are working to dismantle systems of oppression in our legislative work to ensure more BIPOC Vermonters can access the halls of power and advance systemic change.
Thank you for the faith you have placed in me. I am grateful to be serving you at this critical time in our state and nation's history. Please stay in touch.
Sen. Kesha Ram