Growing up, my grandmother always told us to go to school, mind our teachers, get our lesson, and bring that education home – for our brothers, our baby sister, and the kids in our neighborhood.
She wanted us to know we were responsible for more than ourselves — we are also responsible for our family and our neighborhood, and everyone around us.
My grandmother knew then what I know now — that if we were going to get anywhere, we would get there together. And that’s why I’m coming to you today, with a humble heart and a whole lot of hope, as we launch this campaign for Governor of Florida. Because I know that our only path to victory is one we’re willing to travel together.
Like so many of you, I am here today because of the very policies Republicans say are “destroying” our great state of Florida. I grew up on food stamps in Miami and Gainesville. My parents weren’t college educated, but they both worked hard: my mother as a bus driver and my father as a construction worker. As Governor, I will work to create jobs that pay a living wage on every rung of the income ladder.
Our family struggled with being cash poor, but I still grew up rich in opportunity. Though the public schools I attended weren’t always in the best part of town, they were always filled with the best teachers. I wouldn’t be writing you today as a candidate for Governor of Florida had it not been for the encouragement and help I received from Ms. Alexandria at Westwood Middle School and Mrs. Awbrey at Gainesville High School. They went above and beyond the requirements of their job, like so many teachers do, to ensure that I became the first person in my family to graduate college.
But I knew it wasn’t enough for me to become the first in my family to go to college — it was my duty to make sure I wasn’t the last. The Democratic Party and progressive philosophy created a way up and a way out for even families like mine, and so when I began my career in public service at just 23 years old, I did so as a progressive Democrat. My experiences reflected those of average, everyday Floridians. And I knew those people deserved a champion.
For me, being a Democrat has always been about welcoming folks just as they are. This was the party that advocated for my parents growing up, that didn’t demonize them or label them as lazy. Instead, they fought for progress for all of us. And that’s what I’ve worked to do in my time on the Tallahassee City Council and as Mayor of Tallahassee.
When marriage equality was won at the Federal level and we had Florida county after county after county saying that they would no longer issue marriage licenses to anybody, just so they didn’t have to do it for gay couples. So I welcomed couples to our great city of Tallahassee to celebrate their love and commitment to one another with marriage.
When President Trump’s executive order targeted immigrants in our cities, I protested loudly and proudly, and fought to stop him from tearing these families apart. This concept of having to choose between security and compassion is absolutely false. We can have both, and we must fight for both.
In fact, I have worked tirelessly to make Tallahassee a safe haven for all — and I have done so without resorting to irrational discrimination. When I refused to repeal ordinances that prevent shooting guns in a public park, the gun lobby sued me. They thought they could intimidate me with threats of personal fines, with two years of litigation, and with attacks from right-wing interest groups. They were wrong. Just last month, we won the battle to keep our parks safe.
My pastor talks about it in the terms of being the thermostat versus the thermometer. There are enough people who are prepared to take the temperature. There are not enough people who are willing to set it. I think I’ve demonstrated up to this point that I’ve never had to take the temperature in order to do the right thing.
I believe we are at a time in our state and our nation’s history that requires not just people who quietly agree on these critical issues we are facing, but people who are going to be champions, who will get out and lead on them.
That’s why I’m asking you to join together with us from the very beginning, to help us prove that we have that power, that hope, and that determination to rebuild this state into one that works for all of us, no matter what we look like, where we come from, what we believe, or whom we love.
Thank you for being a part of this journey. I look forward to traveling the state and meeting with you and the rest of the team in the coming weeks.
Bring it home,
Mayor Andrew Gillum
Candidate for Florida Governor