Category Archives: Spirit Filled Network

NETWORK Strongly Supports the Equality Act

NETWORK Strongly Supports the Equality Act

Siena Ruggeri
April 26, 2019

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges a yes vote on H.R. 5, the Equality Act. NETWORK is open to all who share our passion. We are proud to raise our voices for our LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues to ensure they live free from discrimination. We know that all people have inherent dignity. No one should tolerate hate or discrimination towards any member of our human family. In our efforts to mend the gaps in our society, we will leave no one behind.

Guided by our Catholic Social Justice values and founded by women religious, we welcome and affirm all LGBTQ+ members of our human community. In the spirit of our founders, our work is guided by relationship and encounter. We have seen the pain, alienation, and violence that our society has inflicted upon members of the LGBTQ+ community. We call upon Congress to end these grave injustices.

We cannot mend the gaps of our society without changing how our nation has permitted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community live in fear of being denied a place to live, losing their job, barred from bathrooms, and refused medical care because of who they are and who they love. We must act for the common good and heal our nation. We must end the unique oppression LGBTQ+ people encounter in their daily lives.

Passing the Equality Act would offer legal protections in every aspect of the lives of members of the LGBTQ+ community. It builds upon existing federal civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations, and the use of federal funds. While many aspects of LGBTQ+ equality have been affirmed by the courts, it is important to enshrine LGBTQ+ civil rights protections into law to provide certainty for all people.

As people of faith, we are disturbed by how our beliefs have been used to deny the sacredness and dignity of members of our community. Our scripture tells us that we should walk towards everyone—no exceptions. We are called to radical acceptance and see God in all people. Guided by this prophetic vision of justice, we urge Congress to vote yes on H.R. 5 and pass the Equality Act.

“How to Lobby:” Training the Stone Ridge Sophomore Class

“How to Lobby:” Training the Stone Ridge Sophomore Class

Last week, the Grassroots Mobilization team welcomed the last of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart sophomore class to our office for a “How to Lobby” Presentation before taking them up to Capitol Hill to visit their federal legislators.  Beginning in October, we (Erin Sutherland and Alannah Boyle, Grassroots Mobilization Associates) have had the opportunity to train and accompany the entire sophomore class at Stone Ridge on dozens of lobby visits.

In each visit, we taught the sophomores about the importance of Family Friendly Workplace policies, including paid family medical and sick leave. Right now, there are two great bills going through both the House and Senate: The Healthy Families Act (H.R. 1784/S. 840) which guarantees workers the right to earn sick days to care for themselves or a family member, and the FAMILY Act (H.R. 1185/S. 463), which provides workers the opportunity to access paid sick leave.  Through Stone Ridge’s Social Action program, a group of approximately ten sophomores visited the NETWORK office every other week for the past seven months. It is only at the end of this program that we see the magnitude of our reach.

Alannah Boyle, Grassroots Mobilization Associate, presenting to Stone Ridge students.

Erin:

“I had not gone on a lobby visit until I started working at NETWORK. For me, when I had heard of lobbying in the past, the word connoted meeting of special interests, of wealthy people in suits, speaking more eloquently on issues than I could.  However, after going to my first lobby visit in coalition (and with coaching from Sr. Quincy Howard, Government Relations Advocate at NETWORK) this past fall, I realized that the only thing needed for a successful lobby visit and sincere conviction in an issue I cared about. Alannah and I tried to pass on these two important skills to our students by staging mock lobby visits with lots of contingencies (what if we need to meet in the hallway, as is common?  Or if the staffer we meet with tries to change the topic of our visit?) to help make the girls prepared and confident for whatever could come their way.  We also talked with the students about how, as women, the right to paid family and medical leave has or will affect us personally at some point in our lives, between becoming a parent, to needing to take care or a relative, or taking time off in the wake of personal trauma.

“Every few weeks, I was humbled to accompany such eloquent and diligent young women to advocate for such important policies. It made me hopeful to see the next generation already engaged in federal advocacy – years before I was!  It also reinforced my belief that lobbying can and should be accessible to all as a way to engage with our legislators on issues that matter to us.”

Alannah:

“Unlike Erin, I had been on a few lobby visits prior to beginning my work here at NETWORK. The first time I went on a lobby visit was as a college student after attending the Ignatian Family Teach-In when I myself was first trained by a NETWORK staff member on how to lobby, almost five years ago. I vividly remember how excited and equipped I felt after completing my first training and attending my first lobby visit. Realizing now that Erin and I have trained almost 100 high school students, and equipped them with these same skills, has been incredibly rewarding. We all have the ability to lobby and advocate our elected officials on issues that matter to us. As constituents, our Members of Congress work for us. NETWORK’s “How to Lobby” training helps to answer the questions that can make lobbying seem scary.”

Barmen Today: An Act of Divine Obedience

Barmen Today: An Act of Divine Obedience

Leslye Colvin
April 8, 2019

Responding to the signs of the times, people of goodwill have historically raised their voices on behalf of the common good. How the voice is raised – whether literally or figuratively, individually or collectively – is determined by a number of variables including the challenge and the desired outcome. Examples of these efforts include Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund, and Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative. NETWORK, founded by women religious to lobby for social justice at the federal level, is a living model of speaking for the common good. In each instance, the action is inspired by the transcendent truth of human dignity and is viewed as an act of conscience, faith, or divine obedience. Depending on the circumstances, speaking truth may be accompanied by the grave risk of physical harm or death. In spite of the risk, people of goodwill are duty-bound to speak.

Many Americans have observed the recent rise in blatantly hateful physical and verbal attacks against people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community. Knowing that racist and xenophobic rhetoric are attributable to America’s historic and continuing original sin, having it affirmed by those sworn to protect the Constitution of the United States is a direct threat to the common good. Seven students from the Living School of the Center for Action and Contemplation were drawn together by their shared concerns. Entering a discernment period, they agreed with the prophetic words of Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

In 1934 Germany, Bonhoeffer, theologian Karl Barth, and other Christians were greatly disturbed by the rise of Nazism, and the large number of churches who remained silent in light of the contrast between Christ’s teachings and Adolf Hitler’s agenda. These church leaders responded by raising a unitive in the Theological Declaration of Barmen that has since been embraced by a number of Christian traditions. Inspired by this historical document, the Living School students wrote and released Barmen Today: A Contemplative Contemporary Declaration with the full-support of their teachers: Rev. Richard Rohr, Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, and Dr. James Finley.

Known as the Barmen Today circle, the small collaborative group echoes Bonhoeffer by stating, “[B]ecause we want to remain faithful to both the Divine which we seek to understand and the Love which we seek to live, we choose to not be silent. We choose to speak and act.” Issued as an invitation to engage in both contemplative practice and nonviolent resistance, the text of the document speaks to common ideals and today’s challenges. Available in English and Spanish, Barmen Today has received more than 11,000 signatories since its release in August 2018.

One of the signatories is songwriter and recording artist Alana Levondoski who was so touched by Barmen Today that she volunteered her talents to write and record “Divine Obedience,” the document’s theme song. According to Levondoski’s lyrics, “There comes a time for Divine Obedience.” Thousands of others join her and the circle in declaring this to be the time for Barmen Today. Will you?

To read, sign, and share, Barmen Today, visit bit.ly/barmentoday. For information on the Living School, see www.cac.org/living-school/. To learn about Alana Levandoski and her work, visit alanalevandoski.com.

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Joe Sanberg

 

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Joe Sanberg

Joe Sanberg
April 2, 2019

Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.

I am a progressive entrepreneur and investor working to end poverty and ensure that everyone can live with financial security and afford life’s basic needs.

I co-founded Aspiration.com, an online financial institution that allows people to bank, invest, and spend in accordance with their values.

In 2015, I helped convinced California lawmakers that our state needed to pass an Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in America. It is a cash back program that rewards work and provides needed support to predominantly single mothers, people of color, and children growing up in poverty. When they agreed but failed to put any outreach money into the program, I created a non-profit organization called CalEITC4Me to ensure every eligible Californian would get the credit they’ve earned. Over the past three years, our innovative ‘surround-sound’ campaign has helped more than 2 million low-income CA families get over $4 billion in tax refunds.

In 2018, I founded Working Hero Pac a people-powered political organization to support elected leaders and candidates who champion policies that support low-income people. This year, I created a national advocacy organization called Working Hero Action.  Its goal is to elevate poverty in the 2020 presidential election while reaching hundreds of thousands of low-income workers who are not yet claiming the EITC that they’ve earned, leaving billions on the table.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Joe Sanberg at the 2018 Nuns on the Bus: Tax Justice Truth Tour kickoff event

I’m most passionate about the solving the crisis of poverty — poverty of housing; poverty of health care; poverty of education and poverty of freedom from discrimination and prejudice — that afflicts a super-majority of Americans and stymies their ability to live the fullest, most human life as I believe God intends for all of us.

My mission is nothing less than an end to poverty. This country has the tools to do it; what’s missing is the political will. That’s why I’ve been working through Working Hero PAC to support political leaders who share my mission, and Working Hero Action to advocate for policies that will help all Americans afford their basic needs.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

I am the founder of a California-based organization called CalEITC4Me that connects working families to the resources they need to claim their government refund from their EITC. Millions of EITC dollars go unclaimed every year, simply because so many of the people who are eligible and simply don’t know about it, don’t know how to claim it, or don’t earn enough to have to file taxes. For working families experiencing poverty, that amount of money — up to $6,000 — can be life-changing. So our job is to make sure that every family that’s get the money they’ve earned. In the past three years, our campaign has connected more than 2 million California families with more than $4 billion of tax credits, and this year we’ve expanded to Iowa and South Carolina as well. The movement is growing.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

My advocacy for social justice and the impact we’ve been able to create has made me more optimistic about the future, even as I see more and more suffering. My experiences have affirmed my belief that our problems are almost always the consequences of bad choices and failed democracy, where our leaders have strayed from the will of the people. I find hope in that, because that means with better choices and a healthier democracy, we can reverse course and start to solve these problems.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

My Jewish belief in the directive of “Tikkun olam” is my source of energy and inspiration every day, and especially on the hard days. Tikkun olam means that we each have a responsibility to do everything we can and make the best use our abilities to repair the world and help others.

Who is your role model?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Is there a quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

From Dr King’s “Unfulfilled Dreams” speech of 3/3/68: “One of the great agonies of life is that we are constantly trying to finish that which is unfinishable.  We are commanded to do that.”

What social movement has inspired you?

The Poor People’s Campaign

What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?

While I don’t want to call it a personal accomplishment, one of the things that I’m most proud of is the fact that our advocacy & activism in California has led to a dramatic expansion of the EITC over the last two years. In 2017, CalEITC4Me led a grassroots organizing campaign that won a massive expansion of the program to include self-reported freelance income—work, done disproportionately by women and people of color. And then last year, in response to our calls, texts, and emails, the legislature expanded eligibility once more to include workers age 18-24 and over age 65, meaning this tax season more working families now qualify for the EITC than ever. Now, as one of the signature proposals of his first term, Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing more than doubling the California EITC to $1 billion. This is an incredible validation of how successful the program has been, and a testament to the work of our community partners.

What are you looking forward to working on in the coming months?

Right now, all my focus is on tax day on April 15. For the next two weeks, Working Hero and CalETIC4Me are going to be doing everything we can to ensure that every eligible family in California, Iowa, and South Carolina files their tax return and receives the cash refunds they’ve earned. Once tax season is over, we’ll turn to our broader mission: advocating for policies to end poverty and help all Americans afford their basic needs, including expanding the EITC and passing policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

Attending the White Privilege Conference

Attending the White Privilege Conference

Alannah Boyle
March 28, 2019

This past week, my colleague Laura Peralta-Schulte and I had the opportunity to travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and represent NETWORK at the 20th annual White Privilege Conference. This conference was founded to examine the ideas of privilege and oppression and create space to work towards building strategies for a more equitable world.

For those of you participating in our Lenten reflection guide, you know that this Lent we are Recommitting to Racial Justice. The past two weeks, the reflections in the guide have been produced from our educational workshop on the racial wealth and income gap. We examine 12 federal policies and reflect on the ways in which each policy worked in order to create and perpetuate the racial wealth gap that exists today. Laura and I facilitated this workshop to over 50 other attendees. The reception was overwhelmingly positive. It is always exciting to spread the good work that NETWORK is doing to new audiences.

This was the second year that NETWORK staff have attended this conference. The presentations we attended ranged on topics from compassion as anti-oppression work, to the intersections of patriarchy and white supremacy, to embodied racial justice. Laura and I attended different presentations each session with the goal of gathering as much information in those four days as possible to bring back to the rest of our NETWORK community.

As I work to put my reactions into words for this blog, my thoughts and feelings after attending this conference, I am realizing the ways in which I am very much still processing the experience and all of the wisdom and expertise that was shared with me as a white person. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference, and the ways in which NETWORK intentionally makes space for the ongoing work of racial justice amongst staff members.

The Gifts of Intentional Community

The Gifts of Intentional Community

Erin Sutherland
March 12, 2019

In conjunction with my year as a NETWORK Associate, I have been living in intentional community at the Anne Montgomery House organized by the Religious of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ).  Our community consists of two RSCJ sisters, one RSCJ Associate working at a local university, one woman working at a public policy and research organization, and me.  The five of us bring many different gifts to our community.  The RSCJs have guided us in prayer and reflection each morning and night, we all take turns making communal meals and sharing stories over the dinner table, and we bring our expertise from our work in social justice in the many workshops and community events we’ve held.  I knew living in community with Catholic sisters would be a unique opportunity, but I didn’t realize until months after moving in just what a gift I was being offered.  The values intentional community cultivates- respect for others, putting others before oneself, and service- are extremely valuable, especially for someone like me in a transitional stage of my life.

After undergrad, I moved to Panama to teach English at a university. There, I lived with a multigenerational host family who truly welcomed me as one of their own.  Growing up in a military family, I never lived close to my extended family, but in Panama, I was around my host parents’ children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, and cousins on almost a daily basis.  My host family’s commitment to relationships was something I was really missing when I moved back to the States a year later, and that was what I was seeking most when I asked to be a part of Anne Montgomery House.

Grassroots Mobilization Associate Erin Sutherland with some of the Anne Montgomery House community.

My past few months here have truly been an answer to my prayers and have helped me grow as a woman in my faith.  It has been a joy to pray together in the quiet of each morning before I go to work.  It has meant the world to know that I have a supportive community who has my back as I go through the graduate school application process.  It has been healing to gather around the dinner table, all of us bursting with stories to tell from our days at work or distraught over the latest headline and find rapt conversation partners.  Instead of participating in the constant news cycle hysteria, my community members have helped remind me to slow down and turn my energy towards more fulfilling emotions.  But living in community is also about the choices one makes every day to live in love.  It has been challenging at times to support each other through times apart, sickness, and the busyness of our daily lives.  It is only through accepting and committing to each other on both carefree days and difficult ones that we are truly breaking open our hearts to allow the Divine to become the center of our actions.  I am so grateful to have been invited to live in community, and for the direction it has provided in living out my faith.

Finding Inspiration and Sharing Hope for the New Congress

Finding Inspiration and Sharing Hope for the New Congress

A Conversation with Representative Ayanna Pressley

Before Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) was sworn into the 116th Congress, we spoke with her about her hopes and expectations for the upcoming session. We look forward to the leadership Representative Pressley and other new members of Congress bring to Capitol Hill to advance policies that mend the gaps in our nation.

Connection: What are you looking forward to working on when the new Congress begins?

Representative Pressley: I intend to be an activist leader on all issues of consequence to the people I represent. People don’t live in checked boxes, they live in intersectionality, and are impacted by many different policies. During my campaign, I developed—in partnership with community—a wide ranging Equity Agenda, focused on addressing the persistent disparities in Massachusetts’ 7th District. One of the issues I called out was the epidemic of gun violence and trauma—I intend to make that a priority, and have already secured commitments from Democratic leadership to bring common sense gun control to the floor of the House, but I will also be a leader on issues like healthcare, environmental justice, and transportation equity—all of which are critical to my constituents.

Connection: How does your faith inspire your work as an elected official?

Rep. Pressley: I’m often asked about my political education, and while people tend to focus on the time I spent working for Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II and Senator John Kerry, the truth is that the values that have informed my work as an elected official first took root as a child, when I attended Rain or Shine Baptist Church in Chicago, where my grandfather, Rev. James Echols, was the pastor. The values of inclusive leadership, empathy, and compassion, which are a through-line of my career in elected office, were first introduced to me in the Church, and I continue to carry them with me today as a woman of abiding faith.

Connection: How have you seen policies you’ve promoted in the past positively affect your constituents and our nation?

Rep. Pressley: One story that I believe is emblematic: when I ran for the Boston City Council, I ran on a platform of elevating the voices of women and girls. Sitting in my first school budget hearing after I was elected, I asked every department head who came before us how they policies they were proposing would impact girls—their answers were sparse at best. Now, eight years later, those department heads come to our budget hearings with binders full of information on how their policies will affect female students, about teen pregnancy, and push-out, and the school to prison pipeline. This progress only happened because someone asked the question. We must continue to ask the difficult questions that will lead to real progress.

Connection: When times are difficult, what keeps you motivated to continue working for the common good?

Rep. Pressley: I often begin my days with a verse from a book called The President’s Devotionals, by Joshua DuBois, which helps motivate me during more challenging times. One of my favorite affirmations from this book is entitled “a Gentle Battle.” To paraphrase, it says that each morning we awake to a gentle battle. Of all the negotiations and decisions of our day, this gentle battle is the most important. Will we go in the direction of worry, weariness, and indifference—or in the direction of joy, of peace, of equality and justice? Even through the most difficult times, I remain committed to the latter.

Connection: Do you have any advice for advocates inspired by their faith to engage in politics?

Rep. Pressley: I would say, simply, “do it”—our Democracy needs your voices. For our government to be truly representative, we need a diversity of passionate, committed voices around the table. If we want to see values like compassion, dignity, and social justice reflected in our public policy, then we need to invest the sweat equity necessary to elect activist leaders and hold them accountable. Change can’t wait, but it also won’t happen on its own; we need to work to create it.

 

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This story originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Driving Our Democracy Forward with Conversations and Community

Driving Our Democracy Forward with Conversations and Community

Sister Simone Campbell
February 24, 2019

Reflecting on Experiences from the Road to Mar-a-Lago

As we traveled more than 5,000 miles on the 2018 Nuns on the Bus trip, I was struck by the fact that at each of our 13 lobby visits (or attempted visits) constituents told us that their member of Congress would not meet with them. The most extreme was Representative Peter Roskam (IL-06) whose office was in a private airport building in West Chicago, Illinois. The building is secured by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and no one could enter the building unless they had been screened by TSA. Additionally, groups could not hold rallies outside the building because it was a “safety issue.” So, this embattled Congressman was protected by TSA while his constituents and our bus had to hold our rally 2 blocks away from the office. I was stunned! This is not democracy!

This experience has fueled my New Year’s resolution to make democracy work. There are many new members of Congress and we need to make sure that they have opportunities to meet and listen to their constituents. Members need to hear the stories of the people in their district in order to create effective responses to the challenges that they face.

This was highlighted for me when the bus stopped in Columbia, South Carolina and we held a roundtable conversation with local service organizations. Representative Jim Clyburn (SC-06) joined us for the roundtable and we learned of the varied needs of the people in his district. In a freewheeling discussion, we learned many things, including:

  • Columbia has the sixth highest eviction rate in the nation and the state of South Carolina needs more than 4,000 new units of affordable housing, but none is being built.
  • Agriculture is the second largest industry in South Carolina and tourism is first. Both industries are highly dependent on immigrants to flourish. Yet exploitation and hostility toward immigrants is all too common. Anti-immigrant policies and attitudes are making it difficult to find employees for both industries.
  • Latino men are attacked frequently. Undocumented people are unable to use banks in South Carolina, so they must make their transactions in cash. This makes them lucrative targets for robbery. The increase in assault is terrifying the undocumented community, but they are afraid to report these crimes for fear of being deported.
  • There is basically no effective public transit for low-wage workers in South Carolina. Transportation is one of the biggest challenges that workers face.

Towards the end of the conversation, one of the participants noted that each of the agencies gathered represented is a good “charity” serving a particular need. But in that conversation they saw that the issues were complex and interrelated. She said each organization needed to keep working on their individual issue, but also needed to work systemically to improve the structures of our society.

It is by sharing our perspectives and our stories that we can find commonality. In that shared experience we can see new levels of complexity and perhaps find more effective solutions. This is what we are seeking to do at NETWORK. This year we are continuing our efforts to listen to people around our nation and learn from their experience. We need to understand the lived experience of communities in our nation if we are going to advocate for policies for the 100%. This is our goal for 2019.

As we continue in our work for justice, let us ground our advocacy in the lived reality of our communities. Let us exercise holy curiosity as we meet people with different perspectives and experiences. This effort to understand will be the way to discovering community that can make a “more perfect union.”

 

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This story originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

The Importance of In-District Lobby Visits

The Importance of In-District Lobby Visits

Alannah Boyle
February 19, 2019

Here at NETWORK as a member of the Grassroots Mobilization team, I have spent the last week excitedly working with our field and our team in preparation for February Recess meetings, which take place while Congress is out of session every February.

Before I began my Associate Year at NETWORK, I hadn’t realized the importance of in-district lobby visits, and building relationships with staff who both live and work in my community. Building relationships with in-district staff can help lead to a meeting with your Member of Congress themselves. In these meetings, you can learn about your Member of Congress’s priorities and goals, and how you can work with them in the future. We are all experts in our own lived experience, part of which involves where we live. Our Members of Congress have to split their time between living in our community and living in Washington, D.C., so our expertise and relationships in our community can be very helpful to our Member of Congress. It is important that we share our expertise, and our values, with our Member of Congress’s office.

As part of NETWORK’s February Recess preparations, members of our Grassroots Mobilization team and our Government Relations team gave a webinar. Our Grassroots Mobilization team outlined pro tips and best practices for lobbying. Our Government Relations Team then provided a policy briefing. This February Recess, NETWORK members are lobbying on Mend the Gap bills that are moving this session, including HR 1: For the People Act, Raise the Wage Act of 2019 and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

If you missed our webinar on how to conduct a lobby visit, you can watch it here. If you set up a February Recess Lobby visit, please feel free to contact the Grassroots Mobilization staff here. We’d love to help you plan your visit and hear how your visit went afterwards!

A Special Message from Nuns on the Bus

A Special Message from Nuns on the Bus

“We the People” Can Create Change!

Meg Olson
January 29, 2019

What a month it has been! As we recover from the anguish of the longest shutdown in our nation’s history, I’ve heard from activists all across the country what a whirlwind of emotions it has been. Despite the cruel insistence for wasteful spending on a border wall from Republicans in the Senate and the White House, it’s been comforting for us to remember the people we met along the road last year during our Nuns on the Bus tour.

During Nuns on the Bus, we heard from people all across the country committed to the common good. We are so inspired by you and all activists working for a more kind and generous vision for our nation and lobbying our elected officials, together. November 6, 2018 was a great day because “We the People” came together to create change.

We created the video above to renew our hope and commitment for the work ahead. Help us continue to care for the 100% in our nation, and take this message to newly elected officials by staying involved with NETWORK and sharing this video on Facebook or Twitter.