Notes & Noticias: Everybody Can Serve

Dear Friends,

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” I’m reminded of his words as we prepare to celebrate his birth and legacy this Monday.

In addition to participating in Austin’s annual MLK Day march, I’m also excited to join Urban Roots for their weekend of service, and invite you all to join me.

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Everybody Can Serve

The life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. teaches all of us that we can make a positive impact on our community by dedicating ourselves to the greater good.

While none of us may have the lasting impact that Dr. King had on America through advancing civil rights, we can all find a way to better our community, and together the sum total of those actions can be great indeed.

In addition to my work in the legislature, I choose to remain active with several area non-profits. One of the organizations I am the most involved with is Urban Roots, which uses agriculture to transform the lives of young Austinites and expand access to healthy local foods.

Urban Roots provides approximately thirty paid internships each year of Austin youth, and teaches them about leadership, sustainability, and giving back to the community. Many of the interns come from disadvantaged neighborhoods and may not otherwise have this opportunity for personal and professional development.

The 30,000 pounds of food the interns produce on the farm go to area soup kitchens and food pantries, and is also sold at farmers markets. Their work helps provide for a healthier community overall.

Urban Roots prepares young Austin residents to be future leaders in our community, and fosters a culture of intentionality in their work. Their work for a more equitable society echoes the guiding principles in the life of Dr. King. So it’s only fitting that Urban Roots is holding two mornings of service this weekend to honor his legacy.

Please join Urban Roots for one of these two volunteer events this weekend:

MLK Memorial Community Volunteer

Saturday January 18, 2014

9:00am – 12:00pm

MLK Day Morning of Service

Monday January 20, 2014

9:00am – 12:00pm

All events at Urban Roots Farm

7651 Delwau Lane, Austin, TX 78725

More information is available on the Urban Roots website.

Additionally, Monday marks Austin’s traditional MLK March and Festival. The event starts at 9:00 a.m. at the MLK statue on the University of Texas campus. For more details, please visit the MLK Day website created by the Austin Area Heritage Council.

MLK Day is an important reminder for all of us to rededicate ourselves to service, one which we must carry with us for the rest of the year. I look forward to this weekend’s events, and to continuing the fight for equality for all.

50 Years of LBJ’s War on Poverty

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s speech calling for a war on poverty. The occasion generated plenty of news articles and television spots about LBJ’s legacy, and how far we’ve come to fight poverty in America.

In House District 51, I am reminded every day that we’re still waging a war on economic inequality and social injustice.

Here in Austin, 21% of our residents lack health insurance, and 15% of Austin children live in extreme poverty. In fact, our city had the largest increase in the rate of extreme child poverty from 2006 of any city in Texas.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities released a report on Texas and LBJ’s War on Poverty last week, which demonstrates how far we still have to go.

In the legislature, I am proud to have sponsored and passed a measure to expand free school breakfasts for all students any school in which 80% of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

But there is still so much more we can do, from expanding Medicaid to help 1.2 million uninsured low-income Texans access quality, affordable care, to aggressively funding our public schools such that all students have an equal chance to achieve their potential.

LBJ was correct to call for a war on poverty, and I believe that in the last three decades we haven’t done enough to keep up the fight. I urge my colleagues to put more emphasis on what we can do in Texas, such that no family must live in hopeless poverty.

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