In just a few short days, Florida will decide its next governor. Over the last 20 months, I’ve been applying for the job.
During this campaign, I’ve traveled just about everywhere in Florida and met with people from all walks of life to share my vision for Florida’s future. It’s a vision that simply says we believe in making this state work for everyday people once again –– because we all deserve a shot at the American Dream.
My mother was a school bus driver and my father was a construction worker. When work slowed down for my father, you could find him selling fruits or vegetables on a street corner to help make ends meet.
My parents struggled at times. Our experience as a family wasn’t too different from the everyday lived experiences of people across our state. But with the support of a great public education, my community and my faith, I became the first in my family to graduate from high school and college.
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For the people I’ve met across Florida, the American Dream means appreciating the dignity of work. It means you can have a good job with a decent wage, affordable healthcare, the ability to send your kids to good schools, to take a family vacation, and retire with dignity.
It’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t disagree more with my opponent Ron DeSantis and his plans for our state. Electing him would be a threat to the American Dream that so many of us have looked for.
I believe in quality, affordable healthcare because I can still remember waiting for the mobile dental clinic to come to town so we could get our teeth cleaned. Mr. DeSantis believes in cutting Medicaid and Medicare and allowing big insurance companies to deny coverage to people based on their pre-existing conditions.
I believe in a great public education for every child. Mr. DeSantis voted for cuts to Pell Grants and voted to make education more expensive.
I believe in taking on the housing crisis and investing in affordable housing. He has no plans.
In fact, Mr. DeSantis has been criticized all over the state for having very few ideas for Florida. Instead of laying out his plans, he and his allies like President Trump have gone after me with negative and false attacks.
Lately, their favorite lie is to call me a “socialist.” When Mr. DeSantis uses that term to deceive and divide us, he is insulting the countless people in Florida who came here after fleeing socialist dictatorships and brutal regimes. It is fear mongering at its worst.
Let me be perfectly clear: I’m a Democrat, a Floridian and an American.
I believe in the power of entrepreneurs and small businesses to lift up our state. As Mayor of Tallahassee, we eliminated our business tax and earned the Obama administration’s “TechHire” designation to prepare workers for the jobs of the future.
People should have the opportunity to start and grow their own ideas –– from a lawn company, to a food truck, to a hotel, to designing the next new smartphone app.
I have achieved the American Dream in my own life, starting out in Miami, going off to college, purchasing my first home, and working my way to become mayor of Florida’s capital city.
For my wife and our three beautiful young children, we believe in the possibilities our country has to offer. Ron DeSantis only believes in Donald Trump.
While running for governor, I’ve often found myself relying on the wisdom of my grandmother.
Growing up, she would take out her bottle of “blessing oil,” which was really a bottle of olive oil, and every morning before school she would put a cross on my forehead to send me out into the day with a blessing and a covering.
She would tell me to mind my teachers, get my lesson, and one day bring that education home; not only for me, but also for my mother, father, siblings, and even the boy down the street.
It was a reminder that we were all in this together. Finding success was never just about me: I was my brother’s keeper, too.
I believe we all deserve that same chance to achieve success. For as diverse a state as Florida is, that’s something that can unite all of us –– regardless of where we came from, when we got here or who our parents were.
I know what the American Dream is because I’ve seen it for myself. Let’s keep it going for everyone in our state.
Andrew Gillum is the Democratic candidate for Florida governor.