Today we celebrate the founding of the Virginia General Assembly in 1619. While I understand the protocol of inviting the President to historic ceremonies and respect the office of the presidency, I am still profoundly disappointed that he accepted and will be addressing the assemblage.
I have great respect for the fundamental American right to dissent -- whether by not attending or otherwise. For me, it was a difficult decision, but I choose to participate in a uniquely Virginian celebration of diversity and progress-- even if the guest speaker is antithetical to these ideals. I will not let a would-be despot drive us from the room on a day to honor democracy. I will not follow the chaos or buy into his divisiveness.
The House of Burgesses, now the General Assembly, was founded in a Jamestown church. It was the first English-speaking democratic legislature in the new world. The history of our ever-evolving republic is much more complicated than just that. While it was white male settlers who governed at first, it was enslaved African immigrants who did the back-breaking labor under horrible circumstances to make our ever evolving democracy what it is today. The same institution that promised representative democracy at first denied non-land owners, other Europeans and, for hundreds of years, racial minorities and women, a seat at the table in the American experiment.
But today we celebrate not just an important anniversary for representative democracy, but also the diverse, inclusive society our nation has become and the aspirational ideals we continue to move towards. We must not allow any one individual to stop our evolution.
I will continue to honor and respect immigrants, people of color, and women who have, both then and now, contributed so much to our Commonwealth and nation.