Sister Simone, Rural Participants Gather at National Press Club to Call on Policymakers to Listen to All Voices

February 25, 2020

Lee Morrow
[email protected]

Sister Simone, Rural Participants Gather at National Press Club to Call on Policymakers to Listen to All Voices

Lawrence O’Donnell Leads Discussion of Rural Strengths, Shared Challenges, and Need for Washington to Craft Rural Solutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, NETWORK hosted a gathering at the National Press Club to release their new report, Raising Rural Voices: Listening to the Hopes and Hardships of Rural Communities. Moderated by Lawrence O’Donnell, Sister Simone, four rural participants, and audience members held a robust discussion on rural life in America and what policymakers in Washington could do help rural communities.

“I invite you to embrace a culture of encounter as you read this report,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK. “The report findings are based on rural roundtables we held in every region of the United States to listen to the lived realities of more than 250 people. We learned that rural communities are proud of where they live, close to nature and in strong relationship with their neighbors. But at every roundtable – from Poetry, Texas to Wabasha, Minnesota and Davis, California to Amsterdam, New York – participants carried with them the feeling that their perspectives simply does not matter. That’s why we’re releasing this report and bringing this conversation to Washington – to raise rural voices and continue our work to create a society that promotes justice and the dignity of all people.”

“In my freshman economics class, my professor’s solution to every rural problem was to move. That’s what the economist sees. People have for 100 years been making that choice. Sister Simone has been talking to the people who say ‘No, this is where I am. This is where we want to be.’ That’s a commitment to place,” said Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

For video, photos, and additional information, click here.

“It has been a problem that industrial users, especially mining companies, have used limited water resources for their benefit at the expense of local water users – first, the depletion of our water table and second, contamination,” said Antonio Trujillo, the principal of St. Joseph Mission School in San Fidel, New Mexico. “Cibola County is ground zero to some major water contamination from uranium mining. Our school is not far from these sources of contamination.”

“I just want my community to be heard, for the representatives to meet with our people, for them to come and see how most of the community is struggling to be reemployed,” said Sr. Robbie Pentecost, a Franciscan Sister who has been serving Central and Eastern Kentucky for over 25 years. “The community wants to work, but we need better access to jobs. The work I am doing at the New Opportunity School for Women can’t solve all of our problems. We need support and real programs that address our unique challenges.”

“We do not have wide access to health care,” said Melanie Powell, Executive Director of the Tutwiler Community Education Center in Tutwiler, Mississippi. “Our community has to drive two hours for specialists. We have health and wellness programs, but that isn’t enough when people need to see a doctor.”

“Agriculture is not just a livelihood, it is a way of life,” said Kari Simpkins, owner of Ag Environmental Systems, LLC, in Connersville, Indiana. “Understanding the art and science of the land and applying those principles is a crucial part of sustainable, prosperous farming.”

About the Report

In 2019, NETWORK staff visited 17 rural communities, listening to and documenting the concerns of over 250 people. From immigration to health care to transportation, the report findings showcase how rural problems need rural solutions, and all too often, how policymakers fail to address these issues. Read the full report here.



NETWORK – advocates for justice inspired by Catholic sisters – educates, organizes, and lobbies for economic and social transformation. NETWORK has a nearly 50-year track record of lobbying for critical federal programs that support those at the margins and prioritize the common good.