As friends and family learned that I am running for Congress over the past few months, they have asked many questions with the most common being: “Why are you running?” Some ask out of curiosity, others ask as voters wanting to gain information, and yet a few asked out of genuine concern. “Why, Gabe? Why delve into politics, why put yourself and your family through such an ordeal?”
Of all the questions raised, the tone and emphasis of the last one always gave me pause. Why do I want my past to be under a microscope? Why would I want to be a politician? In response, I would always see a moment from my past which was clear as a sunrise on a cloudless morning sky.
It was a month after the 2012 election. I had recently returned to the 6pm-6am shift at Bridgestone Firestone AG Tire Factory in Des Moines. I had returned to the factory from an eight month leave of absence working as the United Steel Workers Political Coordinator for the state of Iowa. I was sitting in a break room watching the digital clock and waiting for my shift to start, when I overheard a conversation that I will never forget.
It was not the words which struck me; rather, it was the raw feelings and emotion behind what was said. I overheard a coworker recant a story which carried such sadness and pain that I can still hear the defeat in her voice; she was explaining how her family was losing their home to foreclosure.
In her telling, I learned what the death of an American dream sounds like.
Tears began to flow from her eyes as she told her friend how an unexpected medical complication took her family income from two household pay checks to only one. Next came medical bills whose balances were beyond redemption. Finally she explained how the bank would not work with her during her family’s financial setback. This was the final straw which led to the tears now on her face.
These events drove a proud American woman to weep in public. Her tears came at a trickle, and then sobs would cut in-between words, until finally the dam broke and the river of despair flooded the room.
This first hand telling, of the death of an American dream, left an oppressive weight in the air. The room felt as though it had been enveloped by sudden humidity. I began to feel sick to my stomach, every movement becomes more pronounced and the clothes on my body take on a strangling heaviness.
I REAFFIRMED right then and there that I would not be an American who turns his back on the suffering of those around him. I would give voice to those who are not heard and to those who could not speak through the tears and sobs of we who have been oppressed for merely being born in the wrong neighborhood or wrong tax bracket.
I am running for Congress because I have seen first hand how the policies of Tom Latham and Washington politicians like him have caused hardship for ALL HIS CONSTITUENTS. These policies have shaped the current environment where the working class lives in constant fear of having their American Dream die before their eyes.
I am running for Congress because the voices of those drowned out by the rivers of corporate and special interest money must be heard if this beautiful American experiment is to once again flourish and succeed.
I am Gabriel De La Cerda and as long as I draw breath, I will fight every day to keep the promise of a hard days work being rewarded with a better tomorrow. With your help we can be the resurrection of the American Dream and become the flame which burned bright enough to make us the envy of the world not so long ago.
Gabriel De La Cerda – Democratic Candidate for the third Congressional District of Iowa