Front Porch Blog

Congressman Kennedy Compares Appalachian Movement to Civil Rights Organizing

Congressman Kennedy said these words earlier this year when speaking to a group of Appalachian citizens, and I hope we can all keep them close to heart:

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that places a value on human beings according to how much money they have. If you happen to be wealthy, you must have done a great job and you deserve everything you get. That’s what our culture tells us. And you know what? After a while, you start to believe it.

And if our culture tells people who are poor in this country that they are worthless enough times, it’s not surprising that after awhile people begin to believe it. They start to internalize that they don’t deserve a voice, and they shouldn’t fight the big corporations who are destroying their land and taking all of their natural resources. They start to accept that companies are making all this money at their expense and dumping all the refuse in their backyard.

It’s quite extraordinary to see it happen. Frankly, it’s the part of our society and its culture that needs to change the most. We’ve got to pass laws. But moreover we’ve got to change the culture.

That’s what Dr. King created in the civil rights movement. He understood very fundamentally that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. Dr. King understood that we were all worth something. And then he said, “We need everybody to be part of this in order for this to work.” Dr. King didn’t just go to the preachers. He reached beyond the powerful few and enlisted every person in America who believed the time for justice and equality was now. Everybody had a role to play. People weren’t waiting for someone else to do the job.

There are people out there who fought and died to make this country a better place. They did it because they knew this was about making our country a land of opportunity where everybody could live.

Right now this isn’t a land of opportunity if our most basic natural resources, which belong to everybody, are being polluted and torn apart. Instead of being stewards of our future and preserving our natural commons, we are absolutely despoiling them for future generations. We need to do better than that. And we have an opportunity to pass on a much better future to our children.

I’d like to thank all of you for what you are doing to make this movement so much deeper in meaning. It’s a great effort that you’re undertaking. It’s much more than legislating. It’s about educating people that we learn who we are as a people through nature. It is part of our whole culture as a country.

It is impossible to overstate the support the Kennedys have given to the people of Appalachia over many many generations, and our thoughts and prayers are certainly with Congressman Kennedy and his family during this turbulent time for them. He remains one of my heroes and a true advocate for change in Washington, DC and we wish them all the best.





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