Stacey Abrams for Governor— Campaign Kick-Off Speech
June 3, 2017
As prepared for delivery
I grew up in a town a lot like Albany. Rather than a riverfront, we were on the Gulf of Mexico. But we had the same perpetual summer and the humidity, the gnats and the trees. And like Albany, my hometown existed a hundred miles south of the state capital – and sometimes, a lifetime away.
In Gulfport, like Albany, like Dawson and Lumpkin, families and communities carved their own paths. Some never doubted their legacy – their success. They never questioned their right to excellent schools. To an effective government. To jobs that created wealth and opportunity.
But that’s not the part of town where I grew up. We were raised on the working class street on the edge of the middle class side of town. Where street names got better as the houses got nicer. In our house on South Street, I grew up with parents who refused to believe that our street or our zip code would dictate who we would become.
Instead, they raised us to prize education, to live our faith and to treasure our family. My parents worked hard, raised their six children right and taught us to believe that we could be anything we dreamed. They scrimped and saved to make ends meet – sometimes they did and sometimes, the rope couldn’t stretch far enough.
Like parts of Albany, like parts of Georgia, my parents learned to make do – but they refused to ever give up. Their sacrifices, their persistence worked. In a single generation, my family’s story changed. From a mom who was the only one of her seven siblings to finish high school and a father who was the first man in his family to go to college. To parents who raised six children who all attended college, and they produced 2 Ph. Ds, 2 lawyers, and a social worker.
My parents did an excellent job, but for one of my siblings, my youngest brother, their love and care wasn’t enough. My brother Walter is brilliant. He is also a drug addict serving time in a Mississippi prison. He has made terrible choices – some driven by his addition, and others by his search for a quick solution to hard problems. Yet, my parents and my family have not given up on Walter. We know that he has the capacity for more, and we will stand with him to help him find his way.
I am here in Albany today, not by chance but because it is the place that embodies my dreams for Georgia. Yes, I have a brother who will likely miss the whole of this campaign while he serves the balance of his sentence and prepares himself for a return to civil society. And I have a sister, Judge Leslie Abrams, who lives here in Albany. The first black woman to be a federal judge in Georgia.
My vision for Georgia isn’t one where Leslie is the star and Walter is just a cautionary tale. My vision sees my brother and my sister as the promise of what our state can and must become. A state of extraordinary success that transcends barriers and a state of redemption and hope that defies the cynicism and lack of ambition we hold for too many of Georgians.
Walter may live in Mississippi, but Georgia is filled with men and women like my brother. With places we’ve given up on and lives we ignore. I am running for Governor because every Georgian deserves the freedom and opportunity to thrive, but too many are left behind or left out.
But we can do more. We can be more.
Educating Bold, Ambitious Children: A Georgia where every child believes the future should be limitless.
- We are ready to imagine more for our children than simply an adequate education. They deserve excellence. Georgia must invest in addressing the needs of the whole child from cradle to career – and that investment must extend beyond the walls of a classroom to serve their needs and prepare them for success.
- We will boost the literacy rates of our first graders in Albany, the graduation rates of our high schools and the ambition of our higher education.
Empowering Engaged Citizens: A Georgia where we are all active partners in ensuring government serves everyone.
- If we begin by believing every vote matters and always demand that our leaders work for us, then we can expand what is possible in Georgia. A good government should be a tool that helps where it can and gets out of the way when it should.
- It must work for everyone, protect taxpayer investments, and defends the civil rights of all. A state that is powered by every Georgian will have the potential to expand access to educational opportunity and economic security for all communities.
- Albany understands the need for good government, for a responsive government that can show up not only when tornadoes strike but when the recession refuses to recede for everyone.
Building a Thriving, Diverse Economy: A state where the economy works in every county, for every Georgian.
- Our new economy will create good jobs and build strong family incomes in a state that is not only business-friendly, but also worker-friendly. Our Georgia will refuse to be satisfied with poverty in our communities, and we will not accept stagnant wages and working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
- We will produce a diverse economy that improves the lives of Georgia’s families by helping build small businesses, being the best state for entrepreneurs of every industry, protecting working families and investing in a robust infrastructure for a 22nd Century Georgia.
- Here in Southwest Georgia, we have to lift up farmers and teachers and nurses, and we have to train our youth to lead the world in biotech and agritech and expand Medicaid to restore hospitals like Stewart-Webster and Calhoun Memorial, creating more than 7,000 new jobs.
I am running for Governor because I know Georgia – its promise and its path forward. Because I am proof of what this state can produce. I am grateful to have become the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American to lead in the House of Representatives. I got there because I understand difference is not a barrier to achievement.
I have the experience and the ability to lead Georgia forward. I co-founded a company that has already helped create more than 2,000 new jobs and fund small businesses. I founded an organization that has registered more than 200,000 new voters. I fought and beat the Republican tax plan that would have raised taxes on 80% of Georgia’s families to give a $150 million tax cut to the wealthiest in our state. And I worked with the Republican governor to save HOPE for our youngest residents, our technical colleges and our college students.
To win this election, we have to build a coalition of voters who reflect the diversity of our state — people who are too often left out of the conversation about its future. I plan to run a campaign that begins with growing the civic power of Georgians, a power I will ask all of us to use to help me lead this state.
My mission is that by working to become governor of Georgia – the first African American woman to do so here or anywhere else in the country – I will not only have the ability to uplift all families in my state, but to redefine our belief in who can lead.
But this campaign isn’t about me — it’s about serving the people of Georgia. It’s about educating bold, ambitious children, empowering citizens to believe and participate in their government again, and building a strong thriving economy in every county of our state.
It’s about ending the scourge of generational poverty and the lack of imagination about what we can accomplish. It’s about dismantling the structural barriers to economic and educational opportunities that continue to be out of reach for too families and too many children. Lowering our incarceration rate and increasing our graduation rates. Not fighting for basic wages but building wealth for our families and the next generation.
As governor, I would work to expand access to employment, address inequities in criminal justice like bail, private probation and oversight, and engage the full complement of Georgia’s citizens in participation in its prosperity.
Georgia has tremendous promise, but we’ve been too afraid to take chances. To dare to do more. To believe every Georgian is capable of greatness. We are a state blessed with remarkable people. But we are not living up to our full potential because we’re ignoring too many of our neighborhoods and counties.
Families want more than a basic education for our children. We want a path to independence that can last a lifetime. We want more than entry level jobs that pay the lowest wages. We want work that can nourish a family and grow a community. We all want a state that does more than survive – doing okay by some, and not so great by too many of us.
I want to be Georgia’s next governor because I know we can create new jobs and build an economy that is the best in the nation. We can have world-class students in 21st century schools who do more than we can imagine. We can be the home of civil rights and of religious liberty without sacrificing either one. We can be an incubator for innovation and protect the heritage of our natural resources and lead the world in agriculture and action on climate change. We can be the place that restores the promise of men and women like my brother Walter – with continued criminal justice reform that brings every citizen to their fullest lives.
I will spend the next few months traveling our state and having conversations with Georgians, learning your vision for Georgia’s promise and its potential. Because I have a vision for Georgia where equality fosters prosperity, where everyone has the opportunity to succeed – not just survive.
I know first-hand that our beginnings do not have to dictate who we will become. I have a boundless belief in Georgians’ ability to prosper. I have the commitment to service and the experience to make this vision a reality.
Join with me as we move forward – to a brighter, stronger Georgia for everyone.