It was at the historic Mother Bethel AME church in Philadelphia where I heard Hillary Clinton discuss human trafficking with a depth and decency that moved me.
Any candidate for office, myself included, prepares for the questions we get asked repeatedly throughout a campaign. Clinton, while undoubtedly talented, experienced, and knowledgeable, is no different. In a freewheeling and frank discussion with 40 African-American clergy and faith leaders, Clinton was prepared to provide details on her plans to address issues ranging from income inequality to gun violence to student debt.
But it was in her answer to a question from a Detroit minister on human trafficking that crystallized for me why I am enthusiastically endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.
America is not a single-issue country. While I have tremendous respect for and support US Sen. Bernie Sanders’s call for campaign finance reform, I cannot think of one instance in my time as a Boston City Councillor when a constituent implored me to make repealing Citizens United a top priority.
There are very real barriers for too many of my Dorchester neighbors and people throughout Boston that keep them from accessing high quality public schools, well-paying and fulfilling professional opportunities, and affordable housing in healthy and safe communities. Campaign finance reform, though important, does nothing to address these issues.
Martin Luther King, who is forever remembered for his soaring rhetoric, is consequently somewhat forgotten as an adept political strategist who understood the importance of not forsaking progress for the sake of perfection, saying “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.”
For those on the right side of history, progress never comes fast enough. In a diverse country where politics is polarized and polarizing, progress can be achingly slow. But progress in governing and policy is not theoretical. Its impact, however imperfect, is very real in the lives of people. While our goals might be ultimately loftier, we must protect the progress we’ve made, for it is precious, hard fought and hard won.
The challenges faced by my friends, neighbors, and constituents require bold, inspired, and innovative solutions. And, ultimately, what’s most important to them and to me is that those challenges are solved. Hillary Clinton understands that to strengthen our communities we must break down barriers of economic, social, political, and racial inequities. She has offered a vision and a real plan with real solutions. Her commitment to community will focus on policies that invest in job creation, combat redlining, ensure equal pay for women, and finally put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline by investing billions in reentry programs.
When asked about human trafficking, Hillary Clinton provided a nuanced, smart, humane, and compassionate answer, which confirmed for me that beyond being my president, she would be my partner. In that moment, responding to a question few if any candidates have been asked, she didn’t rely on rhetoric. She didn’t pivot or regurgitate talking points. She had an answer. She had a plan. She had a solution. That’s why I’m with her, and I hope you will be, too.
Ayanna Pressley is a Boston City Councillor-at-Large who lives in Dorchester.