“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
- Nelson Mandela.
Education is not childcare. Education is building the foundation that allows our citizens to grow and become informed, active, engaged members of our society.
Education is the development of a person into an individual and equipping them with the tools needed to critically assess and interact successfully with the world around them.
Arkansas currently ranks 40th in quality of education for Pre-K-12th grades and in higher education. Decades of gradual reduction in funding for our educational programs and school consolidation have left our educators overburdened, underpaid, and under-equipped for the work that they do. There should be NO reason for educators to have to pay out of their own pockets for students to have the materials they need in class. Neither should ANY child be denied nutritious food, safety, and a sense of inclusion while in the care of our public school systems. We have to address the shortcomings of our budgetary practices that have de-prioritized spending on education to repair this egregious failure and dereliction of duties.
Education is not about how well a person scores on an exam. Education is about how well a person is prepared to live the best life possible for themselves, whether that be through higher education, trade school, or other programs. As Governor, it would be my priority to work with our industries and educational institutions to build programs designed specifically to give our citizens the tools they need to lead Arkansas into the future in fields like Green Energy, technology, sustainable agriculture, and many more.
"It’s the economy, stupid!"
- James Carville
The economy is not the stock market. The economy can’t be easily defined by any single metric. For most people, the economy is a practical matter of how much money they have on-hand, in the bank, and in savings. Thus, it is better defined as “How much economic freedom do you have?” Arkansas has among the highest rates of poverty in the country and growing economic inequality – inequality that has only been compounded in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also have a gender wage gap that has been allowed to endure for far too long. We must address the underlying systemic problems that perpetuate these issues. Restoring and protecting collective bargaining power for employees, ensuring protection for renters, and protecting our citizens from predatory business practices are just a few of the ways in which we can begin addressing these issues.
We must also ensure that everyone has good, comprehensive healthcare insurance so that no one in our state faces financial ruin over medical expenses. I believe that we can look to the success of programs like AR Works and build upon them to provide our citizens with the healthcare coverage they deserve at a lower cost, while at the same time freeing them from dependence upon employers for providing or denying insurance coverage. Doing this means both more money in everyone’s pocket and better healthcare simultaneously. Does this sound like a fantasy? Then how during the pandemic, when we were faced with record numbers of unemployment and economic hardship, were insurance companies simultaneously able to both remove restrictions like copays and post record gains on profits?
The numbers don’t lie – we CAN have better.
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr, PhD
Our nation was founded on the principle that all people were created equal. Even if our forebearers were blind to the inherent inequities of their original language, it falls to us to continue the pursuit of the more perfect union they envisioned and established for us all. Ensuring the rights, opportunities, and protections of all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender identity, conditions of birth, or other factors is our sworn duty. We must constantly recommit ourselves to this task each day and seek always to have a better understanding of our differences rather than condemning one another for them. It is only through such understanding that we can address those differences with compassion and overcome them with bold and fearless diligence.
To this end, we must first be willing to speak the truth. Truth about our history. Truth about our shared experiences. Truth about ourselves. And when speaking those truths makes us uncomfortable, we must face them together as a unified people. A family. Only then can we ensure the freedom, liberty, and justice for all that we stand for.
“Lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination.”
- Alan Watts
We call ourselves “The Natural State”. We are rich in natural resources and biodiversity. We rely on the environment for the largest portion of our economic power through agriculture. We must take steps to protect these gifts and ensure they are protected for future generations as well as bringing our industries in-line with the best practices recommended by data-driven, scientific research. Sustainable agriculture, investment in multi-faceted clean energy initiatives, improved fuel economy goals, maintaining high air quality standards – all these and more are the responsibility of us all. We must return to the notion of stewardship rather than ownership; always with an eye to the legacy we leave for those that follow.
We are not apart from the earth; we are a part of the Earth. As our environment suffers, so too do we. We are inextricably linked to it and, through it, to one another. We now have the knowledge to decide whether or not to continue making our world more hostile for our children. Let us have the courage and foresight to make the right choice to reduce suffering for future generations and ease their burden in our wake. To do so can only benefit us by extension and to do otherwise would be to perpetuate a cycle of cruelty that must end.
“You are never too small to make a difference.”
- Greta Thunberg
These things, the 4Es, are NOT separate issues.
Better education leads to better understanding, which leads to more equity and the opportunity for economic empowerment.
An economy based on sustainable environmental practices leads to a healthier economy and environment.
A stronger economy means more revenue available for education program development.
More social equity means a more robust economy as additional opportunities arise for all.
These ideas and goals are as interconnected as we are to one another. We must overcome our differences and indifference in order to reassert our will to act.
We are both many and one. Massive and miniscule… and never too small to make a difference.