By Tammy Baldwin
Each Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Americans across the country commemorate the life and work of Dr. King, a pillar of our civil rights movement and one of the greatest Americans. Dr. King showed us that peaceful action can ignite powerful, lasting change and that public service is one of the greatest tools to achieve progress in our communities.
Like so many Americans, I have looked to Dr. King as an inspiration. A true public servant who dedicated his life toward combating injustice, inequality, poverty, and violence, his legacy is felt just as powerfully today as it was when he was alive. Today serves as a reminder of all the progress we’ve accomplished toward reaching equality, but it’s also a reminder of the work we have left and the increasing attacks on all that progress.
Working Toward Equality Today
60 years ago, Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to nearly 250,000 people in our nation’s capital. While calling for equality and freedom, he shared his dreams of a nation that lived up to its founding creed that all men are created equal, a nation where his children were not judged by the color of their skin but rather by their character.
Dr. King’s words are not dreams but they are not quite reality yet, nevertheless they are goals for what our country should strive to achieve. I know that racial disparities continue to persist within our institutions and society reminding us that the work of Dr. King and all those who partook in the civil rights movement remains unfinished.
In the spirit of today, I want to talk about some of the ways we’re working hard to make Wisconsin a better and more equitable place to raise your family.
Closing the Racial Wealth Gap
When Dr. King called for racial justice, he also fervently championed economic justice because of the inseparable relationship between the two. While we know that everything starts with a good paying job, it’s important to acknowledge the racial wealth gap and the systemic barriers Black communities have too often faced toward reaching economic mobility. I believe that in order to achieve racial equity, we need to do all that we can to close this gap and invest in our minority owned businesses and communities of color. That’s why when we were working on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, I didn’t just add my Buy America rules to create more good paying American jobs, I also included my Minority Business Development Act. Through this legislation we secured $550 million in new funds for minority-owned businesses and we were able to open Wisconsin’s first minority-owned business development center right here in Milwaukee.
Expanding Opportunities for All
Education is a powerful tool that opens doors to opportunities, passions, good paying jobs, and socioeconomic mobility. But I know these doors have often been closed on students who can’t afford the high price tags or have been historically marginalized from higher education.
Right now, I’m working across the aisle to strengthen federal programs that will support first-generation, low income students that are seeking higher education. This bipartisan legislation will work to tear down some of the barriers historically marginalized students face and have deterred their ability to attend college. Additionally, I recently reintroduced my America’s College Promise Act, which waives tuition and fees for two years of community and technical college so every Wisconsin student can get ahead.
Providing Relief from Rising Costs
But I know a good paying job can only go so far for families when costs keep rising and checks aren’t stretching as far as they used to.
Right now, I’m leading national efforts to fix the housing crisis and bring child care costs down so every Wisconsin family can afford to live in their community. Recently, I was proud to secure funds for Milwaukee County to increase affordable housing opportunities for Milwaukee families. I’m also working to make it easier for Wisconsin families to buy Wisconsin homes while making it harder for national corporations to buy up our houses and raise rent and mortgage prices. At the same time, I know the price of gas and electricity keeps going up, so I’m continuing to bring home funds to help families cut their energy costs. I promise that I’m going to keep working hard to provide some financial relief to help Wisconsin families get ahead.
Making Health Care Affordable & Accessible
Another top priority for families is health care access. I was proud to champion the Affordable Care Act to make sure no one is denied care because of a pre-existing condition. And just last year, we took on the health care industry again and beat Big Pharma, passing a law to lower drug prices and cap insulin costs at $35 a month for our seniors.
This year, I’m working across the aisle to pass legislation that brings the cost of even more prescription drugs down and holds Big Pharma accountable for their price gouging schemes. But I understand that in the fight for affordable health care we need to recognize the systemic health disparities our communities of color face. That’s why right now I’m working hard alongside my Democrat colleagues to pass the Momnibus Act, which will save the lives of Black mothers and end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes.
Fighting for Our Freedoms
Today as we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and the progress we’ve made, it’s critical that we continue the fight toward equality and against efforts to roll back our freedoms.
This starts with standing up against right wing extremism that is coming for our freedom to vote and make our own health care decisions. Voting rights are the foundation of our democracy, and we know just how powerful our vote is here in Wisconsin. Time and again the right-wing has tried to suppress the vote, gerrymander district lines, and prevent communities of color from having a say. That’s why I’m fighting to pass legislation that will stop these right-wing suppression efforts and remove barriers to the constitutionally protected right to vote. And this year, I’m going to remain a proud advocate for women’s freedoms and will continue to fight against the 1849 abortion ban until every Wisconsinite can make their own health care decisions without the government getting involved.
Today and every day, I feel inspired by Dr. King to live by his words and continue his actions toward a more equal, just, and unified world. We’ve got some work ahead of us, but you have my word that I will keep working hard for you, for your family, and for Wisconsin.