Jessica Monterey was the recipient of the Rising Star Award at the 2017 Norm Miller Dinner.
|For those who don't know me, my name is Jessica Monterey. I live in Richland with my two daughters, Leila and Kennedy. I'm an east coast transplant, a first generation American, a proud Latina, a working, single mother, and also proud democrat.|
I've always had a passion and interest in politics, but I was never as involved as I am today; growing up in the D.C. area meant I didn't really need to be, the vast majority of my peers were openly democrat or left-leaning. My recent dedication to the Democratic Party is most definitely a reaction to the devastating results of the 2016 elections, though I'm pretty sure I've always called myself a democrat.
If I remember correctly, it started sometime during the Bush/Gore campaign cycle. At the time, much of my family supported Bush. They were also Dallas Cowboys fans, so now you know what I was up against. - I don't remember why, but I do remember that I supported Al Gore. Prior, I'd supported Clinton. I was a kid and I think it was partially in rebellion to my family. I've always been a bit of a rebel.
Then came Obama. Young, inspiring, and, in my 18 year old opinion, quite handsome. And let's not forget - he speaks in complete, coherent sentences.
2008 was my first Presidential election. I volunteered for voter registration drives, wrote “Honk for Obama” on the car I drove. Put out a sign in the Yard. I was all about it. I read about him, listened to him, and watched him, always in complete admiration. As a minority who was also raised by a strong single mother, that I'm proud to have here as my guest, he was beyond inspiring to me, and his success was what I believed to be a change for minorities in America. All was good.
Fast forward about 7 years. I, like many other young democrats, was living in political utopia. America’s first Black president successfully served 2 terms without any scandals. Obviously, the republicans fought him pretty hard, but I think we all expected that. When the campaigns for the 2016 elections started picking up the pace, I was rooting hard for Bernie and I was convinced that Trump was a rouse. A seasoned politician, he drew me in with his unapologetic advocacy for what he believed in. Free tuition. Medicare for all. Immigration reform. An America that works for everyone. Today, I'm as proud of my progressive convictions as I am of my democratic ones. Thank you Bernie.
Then came November, and well, we all know what happened. Donald John Trump.
After several days of mourning and tears, I made a promise to myself that I was going to use that rebel voice of mine and fight back in every way I could. This is my America, and I will be damned if he was going to destroy it for me.
And here I am today. This fight, my fight, our fight, is about more than just party politics. It's about right and wrong. The Democratic Party is the party of the people. Democrats have historically stood for issues like social and economic justice, affordable health care, and social security. We, democrats, make decisions for the greater good, not just for the wealthy.
Even though we're obviously the better of the two parties, there is still so much work for us to do. I am deeply passionate about immigration and Latino issues, and this is one area the Democratic Party has failed, time and time again. DACA was no more than a step in the right direction and I am determined to bring more Latinos to the table so that our voices, and the voices of our parents, are heard loud and clear. It is important to remember who we are and why we do what we do. My work as an activist and a democrat isn't about the articles in the paper, the news interviews, or even the awards (though I'm truly grateful.) it's about them: the voiceless, the tired, the unheard and the unrepresented. Children, immigrants, the disabled community. We stand for them.
This is only the beginning for me and I ask you keep your eyes peeled, there's more coming soon with my name on it.
Now before I pass the mic along, I have to say that I did not do this alone. There are a few other people in this room I need to thank.
Ready? It's about to sound like an Oscar moment.
First, mom, thank you for always teaching us to do the right thing. Also, let’s thank the staff of the Shilo Inn for their hard work and service.
Now, to those of you who planned this event, those who participated in the decision to give me this award and those who have answered my countless questions, I thank you. I couldn't name everyone tonight, but I'd especially like to thank my mentors: Cedar Kennedy, Allison Dabler, Bonnie Kendall, Jay Clough, Carl Baker, and Kendall Miller - thanks for your time and support, for always keeping me grounded and for helping me up when I feel like it's time to quit. These people invest COUNTLESS hours into this party and into your young democrats, and I personally want to thank them for their efforts.
And last but most certainly not least, I want to ask Ansley Gerhard, Alexis Romero, and Carly Coburn to please stand.
I would not be standing before you today without their support and participation. These young women are intelligent, fierce, and all-around amazing activists, democrats, and friends. Ansley, Alexis, and Carly, thank you for your unwavering support and your dedication to the cause. I am proud to serve beside you and call you my friends.
Democrats of the Tri-Cities and guests of this Norm Miller Dinner, the future is female. Please give a round of applause to these young women, who are equally as deserving of this award as I am.
Thank you, again