Thank you all for coming tonight. I am humbled that so many people would come out to support this campaign.
For those of you who don’t know me already, my name is Dean Sumpter and I am a candidate for the 52nd District of the House of Representatives.
I am a graduate of Wayne County High School and the University of Kentucky and am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in education so that I can become a high school social studies teacher.
While I didn’t realize it as much when I was younger, public service has always been a part of my life. My grandfathers both served in the United States Air Force, and that is actually how my parents met. Their fathers were both stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, NE at the same time.
My father was an officer in the Navy and also taught at the Naval War College in Rhode Island. After he retired we moved to Monticello. That was when my mother became a teacher with Wayne County Schools and just retired this past summer.
I also have several cousins who have served our nation’s military and aunts and uncles who have taught our youth.
So, while I didn’t realize how much public service meant to myself and my family when I was younger, I have become very aware of it over the years.
Now I find myself following in the footsteps of those who have chosen education as their profession. Education was something that was not only desired in my home, but it was something that was expected.
I remember my father, already recognizing that I had somewhat different viewpoints about the world around me, even at the age of 7 or 8, making me read syndicated columnists at the breakfast table before school. If I had a question about something, I was told that I should research it in one of the sets of encyclopedias that we had.
I never realized how valuable and rare that was until I became an adult and found that childhood wasn’t like that for everyone. But it could be.
We could live in a society where every child is given the tools to grow. If not at home, then through caring professionals who have dedicated their lives to ensuring that students have a platform from which to succeed, and that they are given the opportunities that will allow them to become the best versions of themselves.
But this is a goal that we must all strive to attain. In a country that has accumulated unimaginable wealth and power, it is inconceivable to me that we face the problems as a community, as a nation, and as a world, that we do today.
But facing these problems is not an insurmountable challenge. It takes leadership and it takes actually facing them, and working together as a community, to solve them.
This means that our representatives should take the time to speak to their constituents, to interact with them for purposes other than ribbon cuttings and patriotic events.
It means speaking to people about what their concerns are, and it means addressing them, rather than doing what is politically expedient at the time and forsaking the will of those who have elected them.
It means working with local magistrates, first responders, mayors, county judges and clerks, road workers, social workers, and teachers.
It means truly understanding the needs and figuring out, together, how we can solve them. Because the problems we face today have no easy solutions. But together, with the combined knowledge and expertise that individuals working in the trenches, day in and day out, have accumulated over their years of service, there is no problem too great that we cannot solve. There is no obstacle too large and no political valley too wide.
I am reminded of a conversation I had with someone who I hope will be a voter and a future constituent. She is a conservative. I am a Democrat. She had previously been an educator in Nebraska and had moved here within the last few years. She had also been a debate teacher at her school. Had I known that I may not have knocked on her door. But nonetheless, we had an amazing conversation about how to bridge the divides that plague our politics.
The answer that we both believed, was to talk to one another. To have conversations that do not belittle the other person’s ideas and are not condescending, or assume that we know all the answers. That has never been what our democracy is and I hope to ensure that it is not what it ever will be.
I am reminded of Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.”
There is no true debate, no true discourse, if we only have conversations that devolve into name calling and rhetorical fallacies. We need measured and reasoned perspectives, even if we do not agree with the person with whom we are debating.
We will never solve our problems by ourselves and we will never solve it through insincere and vitriolic arguments. We can only solve them through sincere and honest conversations.
I realize that Gov. Bevin has resorted to insults, name-calling, and underhanded tactics to advance an agenda that is not his own, but that of forces who would seek to alter the education system across the nation into one that benefits their industries and their own personal views.
I want to turn education into something even more magical than it already is, not a way to produce worker bees that function only to grease the wheels of corporate machines.
I think of the student that had only gone to a one room school, and just walked through the doors of Wayne County High School in the 1940s or Monticello School in the 1920s.
They must have been filled with a sense of awe at walking into such a building, full of knowledge and with access to books and other resources. I can’t imagine that feeling. But I not only want students in the future to imagine it. I want them to know it first-hand.
I want our students to have the best facilities, to have the best educators, to have the best resources, because when they do, the benefits to our society will be as great as when our economies grew as they did in the generations when those first buildings, those first great stone monuments to knowledge were created.
Our students, today and forever, deserve to receive the knowledge of previous generations and be given the resources to create a better future for subsequent generations.
They should not be limited to what legislators who only have myopic visions of the past see fit for them to experience. They should be free to explore the wonders of the world, and then recreate it in their own image.
We should not seek the day when education and social standing are determined by your birth, but we should truly make this community and this nation a place where all students have the ability to create their own new path.
In doing this we also benefit ourselves. And the first step in achieving this goal is to guarantee that there are people who are willing to teach.
But having people who are simply willing is not enough. Those that choose to educate our students should be taken care of as well. We shouldn’t have teachers who need to sell blood to make ends meet. Teaching should be a profession that can put a roof over your head and food on your plate.
But it should also do more than that. It should be a job where a person knows their paycheck will make it all the way through the month even if they have an emergency.
And this doesn’t just apply to teaching, but to all people who commit themselves to serving their communities. Providing public service is a reward unto itself, but the self-satisfaction that a person gets from serving others does not provide the most basic material needs that every human who wishes to live with dignity deserves.
We should have state and county employees that have enough money at the end of the day to take their family out to dinner without worry that they are trading one meal now for another at the end of the month. People should be able to afford to be able to work their job without having to work a second job which takes them away from their families and loved ones even more.
We shouldn’t have first responders, highway department personnel, county and city employees, and social workers, worried about whether they are going to get a pay raise this year, or a cost of living increase, or that their retirement plan is solvent, when they could be spending their time coaching their children, volunteering with their church, or supporting local businesses and events.
There are a number of reasons that we need to make sure that we provide for our public servants. If we have such a large percentage of our population worried about their finances not only throughout their careers, but during their retirement, then we will never make the economic gains we want to make in our communities. We will never be able to attract new businesses in this county and state, and the businesses that are here will suffer because of this financial instability.
Simply put, it is bad for Wayne County and it is bad for Kentucky.
But the biggest reason that we need to guarantee that our county and state employees are taken care of is because it is the right thing to do.
You have paid more than your fair share into a retirement plan and you were told it would be guaranteed. I intend to keep that promise. Not simply because it is good for our economy, but because it is a moral obligation of this Commonwealth.
If we don’t have a government that can keep its promises, then that government can’t possibly serve its citizens. And the elected officials who aren’t keeping those promises need to be voted out.
Even if they share the same party that we do. Republican or Democrat. Because these aren’t issues of party. The issues we face today don’t care what a person’s party affiliation is, and neither should we.
So, for these reasons, I hope you will consider voting for me on November 6th so that I can go to Frankfort and represent you and your interests, and together we can grow and thrive.