As Robert F. Kennedy expressed in his 1968 presidential candidacy announcement, “I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I’m obliged to do all that I can.”
Growing up in Hanover, York County, my family experienced the hardships that often face hardworking Americans across rural Pennsylvania — things like little access to affordable child care, lack of accessibility to adequate health insurance and care, and severely limited opportunities for equitable familial growth, education, housing and advancement.
I understand what it’s like to grow up in a small family that built a modest income through hard work, and for it to be completely wiped away due to economic collapse. My family’s livelihood in the lumber industry was completely decimated in the 2008 economic crash. I’ve also witnessed firsthand the difficulties that face our aging workers who have been forced out of their livelihoods, struggling to find decent jobs and employers who will hire them.
As a young adult, I understand what it’s like to have to figure out how to keep a roof over your head and food on the table, with little to spare. I’ve been in a position where I’ve had to make the decision to pay my monthly bills or struggle to pay for an emergency health expense because my insurance did not cover what was needed. Too many of you face the same realities I have.
We simply cannot break the cycle of poverty and financial struggles in our communities without acknowledging and addressing the inequitable barriers that are perpetuating it.
Our people deserve to earn a living wage increase that is indexed to inflation and is able to meet the cost of living for someone working full time. We deserve a universal health care option that is not tied to employment and ensures that no person is without coverage when they need it most. We have the ability to create good-paying, long-lasting jobs that can be both economically and environmentally sustainable in our agriculturally dominated congressional district for generations to come.
I could talk to you about my experiences in nonprofit community development, municipal government, and as a factory laborer throughout our district. I could share what I’ve learned through my political, organizing and advocacy experiences at the local and state levels. I could tell you about our tireless organizing alongside community leaders this year, or even the vitriolic harassment that I (and others) have received.
But the hard truth is this: The defining experiences that qualify me to represent our people here in Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District are a direct reflection of the experiences that so many of our people are facing today as we are forced to navigate through the global health and economic crises that face us.
I know how important it is to be proactive in making ends meet and creating whatever savings you can. And yet how flawed our system is for those of us living paycheck to paycheck — continually taking financial hits that make it virtually impossible to invest in anything equitable. This is particularly true of our millennials, those who are forced to work (multiple) lower-wage jobs and those who are struggling to live off of Social Security. And I see the toll on our families all across the district that our current leadership has refused to address over this past year.
I understand these flaws within our system because I’ve lived through the consequences that result from them for the lower middle class and the impoverished — and I still am. As a sexual assault survivor, as a first-generation college student and as a young woman who has lost too many friends to the opioid crisis, I see your struggles.
And as your Democratic nominee, I’ve worked hard alongside my team and our volunteers to call and listen to as many people across Lancaster and southern York counties as we can, often connecting our constituents to the resources they need throughout this pandemic.
I started my candidacy out of a moral obligation to stand up and fight for what’s right, and I’ll end this election cycle doing the same — using my voice and my experiences to create a platform that amplifies the plights of our people. Together, we will continue to fight for the policy-based solutions that can create a more equal, equitable and just future for more of our families to prosper. Let’s win this fight — together.
Sarah Hammond is the Democratic Party nominee for the 11th Congressional District.