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My fellow Texans,

Today we remember the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work to further civil and equal rights among Americans. We march in the streets and pray in our churches and pause, each in our own way to pay honor to those, like Dr. King who sacrificed so much so that others might not feel the oppression of man, state and their corporate influencers. We as citizens of this “shining city on a hill” come together to recognize just how far we have come and still, how much further we have to go.

America is said to be the greatest country on earth, and in many ways we are. But in so many ways we fail to live up to that charge of being a global example and we fail miserably at showing the world how great we can really be.

In our country today, many Americans find themselves struggling to find access to healthcare and the aftercare that is often needed following an accident or illness. Millions of Americans find themselves burdened with the decision to pay for a perscription or buy their next meal–as meger as it might be.

In this “great society” healthcare workers are battling with the complex dilemma of balancing their Hippocratic oath to “Do No Harm” and fulfilling insurance company demands. They know, like many of us that the outcome for their patient is not totally controlled by the doctor and the patient, but the insurance companies and financial managers that ultimately control the healthcare industry.

In our own state, many Texans still live with tarps on their homes some 2 ½ years after one of the most devastating natural disasters in American history. Many have fought to find money to make repairs because our insurance lobby in Texas was more worried about profits than people. Many Texans have even taken their own lives because the storms of life and insurance companies have left them in deep financial peril and depression. And even if those that did end their lives had brought it to the attention of their loved ones, access to mental health services in Texas are still far below that of the rest of this nation.

On this day of remembering I ask you this question: are we any better today than we were before?

I, like many Texans believe that we are not and that we must stand and fight for the rights of all men and women, created equally under a righteous and loving God.

My fellow Texans, I say that while in some ways we are better, in other ways we are not.

When a judgement is passed upon the poor and hate is spewed from our hearts, we show just how backwards we really are. Why do we not recognize that poverty is not always a condition of laziness and that mental health care is serious and often not easily accessible?

I would like to tell you the story of Josephine Willis, an 87 year old from Houston whom I met some years back. Her husband was a factory worker and she was a homemaker. Their children graduated from the University of Houston and practice social work in the inner city areas of the 4th largest city in the nation.

When Josephine’s husband became diabetic he could not afford medications that he needed regularly to keep him healthy. Many of their meals came from local food pantries offering bread and starches because healthier options were not readily available.

Josephine’s husband required kidney dialysis and suffered in pain for more days than not. Together, they lived off of only $1,185 per month in Social Security benefits–hardly enough to survive.

But those who “knew the system” encouraged them to buy a Medicare supplement plan but the additional money for such an insurance was not available. In the end, while waiting on a response from Social Security Administration for additional medical disability, Josephine’s husband would die a near pauper.

“Sad,” society said. “But that is one less person that we have to pay for.”

They once said that education was the great equalizer of society. I say it is not. Money and wealth is and until we learn to properly live by the idea that we are one for all and all for one, we will never truly experience fair equality among our society.

Until we can say that all men are not in fear of the insurance company and financial managers here in America. Until we can say that no child is ever truly left behind. Until we can say that “Yes, I am my brothers brother,” we will never recognize the importance of the work of Dr. King.

Today, and everyday let us commit to equality among all men and see to it that despite race, gender identity, socioeconomic status or religious leaning–the we are all equal to the God who gives us all life and opportunity.

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