Indivisible Rhode Island hosted its second “Better Know a Rhode Island Candidate” event at Westminster Unitarian Church in East Greenwich. Five candidates for office were given time to address the audience and take some questions.
I’m trying an experiment here in that I’m doing five posts, one for each candidate.
Can we please ask a favor?
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Mel DuPont is running for Rhode Island Senate District 22. Mel DuPont is a writing consultant and activist. She founded the Committee to Pass RHCA (the Reproductive Health Care Act), and was instrumental in banning conversion therapy in Rhode Island. As a state senator, she vows to fight for single-payer healthcare and a $15 minimum wage. She will also support renewable energy projects and secure funding to repair our state’s schools, roads, and bridges.
DuPont delivered one of the best progressive political speeches I’ve heard in Rhode Island. Strong, open and at times funny, she hit all the right notes. Her words were not just about Senate District 22, but about the state of Rhode Island and the entire United States.
Well worth watching and the highlight of the evening.
Mel DuPont was kind enough to supply me with the text of her comments, minus the ad libs, so you can read her words here:
Hello, Indivisible RI! Thank you for coming tonight, and thank you for the work you do to resist trump. I ask you to consider me for your endorsement.
My name is Melanie DuPont. I am a progressive Democrat running for State Senate in District 22, so I can make my community and our entire state a better place.
My District is all of Smithfield, a little bit of North Providence, and a little bit of Johnston. Much of it is green and beautiful. We’re doing a lot right. And we can do more. I want to make my District and my State a place where we can all live our lives as we choose, because we are safe from abuse, and free from anxiety .
My roots go deep into District 22. I grew up in Smithfield, around the corner from William Winsor School (where I also went).
I built my life’s foundation on the knowledge, skills, and space to practice granted to me by Smithfield’s awesome teachers, K through 12, inside warm, safe, dry, well-maintained schools. Publicly-funded education was my springboard to becoming a responsible, hardworking adult, able to think critically and contribute to society. All Rhode Island children deserve that same opportunity: to learn and grow in freedom and safety. And we have to acknowledge that many Rhode Island schools are not as well-maintained as they need to be. That is why I support bonds that will fund the maintenance, rehabilitation, and construction of Rhode Island public schools. That’s why as State Senator, I will be a loud and proud advocate for public schools.
Many folks move to my district for the schools, just like mine did back in the 70s. For twenty-seven years, my Mom was an excellent waitress at the Newport Creamery Greenville. If you ate at that Creamery, my mom fed you: her name’s Anita.
Mom loved the Creamery, but it didn’t pay much. Could she have found better-paying work elsewhere? Maybe. But she was afraid to take that chance. She kept that job so she could reliably provide medical insurance for our whole family. How do you leave a low-paying sure thing, when you have three children at home? Without insurance, any medical disaster could have wiped out what little savings my parents had. And that’s not fair. Any of us should be able to leave a job that underpays. But many Rhode Islanders simply can’t take the chance.
Now, my Dad, Pete, he worked too. After high school, he served in the Navy on a supply ship, where he learned cabinetry. And back on shore, he became a pattern maker and a model maker. He worked at Brown and Sharpe, and then at Hasbro. And like so many men, he got laid off from both places. Why? Owners prioritized shareholder profits over working families’ stability. That’s irresponsible.
To this day, families all over Rhode Island face these same challenges that mine did, and that’s not right. How do we pay for healthcare and save for retirement in an underpaying and uncertain job market? For families of color, the challenge is even worse. And that’s not right. Rich CEOs make hundreds of times more than their lowest-paid workers. Managers lay off parents, with no regard for the damage they’re doing to family stability or income security. Just to make another buck? It’s wrong.
For those of you that are retired, think back to your working days, when every day, you would give your all, for eight hours, maybe more, and at the end of that day, all you wanted to do was relax. Today, many Rhode Island parents come home, change into a different uniform, and go to their second job — or their third. That’s not right. No one should have to work a full-time job and still be struggling to make ends meet. As your next State Senator, I will fight for Rhode Island to adopt a $15 minimum wage. And I will sit down with workers and families to listen to your stories and your families’ needs. I will work with you to secure just treatment on the job, along with fair compensation that your families can depend on.
Let’s talk about my mom’s health. She’s in her seventies now, and when she walks to the mailbox, she runs out of breath. Her breathing problems will get worse if a new, fracked-oil-burning power plant gets built thirteen miles west of her house. And that’s not fair to her. She’s worked her whole life to retire in Smithfield. And if that plant gets built, what are her choices: move, or die? That’s not fair. No retiree should have to make that choice. Because I believe the Burrillville power plant will harm the health of retirees, infants, and everyone in between, I, and the residents of Burrillville, oppose the construction of that power plant. Not in my backyard, not in anyone’s backyard. As your new State Senator, I will oppose the construction of any fossil-fuel-burning plant, in any part of our state.
We have such great, zero-emission technologies available to us for power generation. Wind, solar, water, and geothermal are what’s best for us, the people we love, and our planet. We’re smart. We know better, so let’s do better. Rhode Islanders have a reputation for being environmentalists. As Senator, I promise to support renewable energy and vote for strong protections for our shared environment.
Now I want to talk with you about hate. Behaviors like name-calling, dehumanizing, discriminating, assaulting, separating children from parents… We know this ugliness is not new, and we know this hate doesn’t begin and end with trump. But it’s fair and correct to blame trump for legitimizing hateful policies, hateful discourse, and hateful politics in a pervasive and horrific way. I believe his goal is to erode our trust in each other. To divide us and to conquer us. But we won’t let him win.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with several Indivisible RI board members, about what I’ve learned about race. As a white, cis, hetero Gen-Xer, I know it’s crucial to use my power and privilege to speak out against hatred and oppression, and to pass along what I learn to people who will make change. I listen to my friends tell me about being harassed, intimidated, excluded. It isn’t right. It’s the very definition of injustice. And Trump’s mockery of our Mexican friends and our Canadian friends, our Muslim friends, our differently-abled friends, and basically everyone we love, has emboldened haters to hate openly — I was going to say “like never before,” but we have seen this before.
These haters feel entitled to harass and abuse humans who are older, or browner, or “gay-er”, or differently abled, or just different. I have zero tolerance for this kind of hatred, and I will continue my zero-tolerance practice as Senator of District 22.
Our “big Democratic tent” is not big enough for racism. Sexism. Misogyny. Homophobia. Transmisia. Discrimination. Violence. Or abuse. We in this room have standards of behavior that exceed those of the current president of the United States. If he is making America great again in any way, it’s because his election helped us find each other. And now, we can do the powerful work of healing in a thoughtful, intentional, organized manner, together.
It’s my belief, that we need to see each other, and know each other, and protect each other. As a community, we need to keep each other safe from abuse.
It’s my belief, that we must work in the Rhode Island State House to protect all Rhode Islanders from abuse. Abuses like, politicians telling women “access to critical health care isn’t important,” when we have been telling them the exact opposite for over 40 years. Abuses like, working an underpaid 40 hours a week, and still find yourself staring eviction in the face. Abuses like, a kid from South Providence being denied the same opportunities as a kid from Smithfield, just because of what they look like and where they came from.
We’ve heard some say that Democrats like us need to leave the party. Well I’m not leaving, I’m staying. We’re staying. We’re finally having the difficult conversations, we can finally do the rest of the work. As Senator, I can promise you that my voice will always be three things: kind, candid, and honest. These change-making conversations we’ll have will be tense, and I’m not afraid. As a middle kid, with an older sister and a younger brother, I’m a natural-born negotiator and a referee. I’ve been mediating difficult conversations for as long as I can remember. But, we need to more than just talk up on Smith Hill. We need to be listening to you, we need to be speaking up for what’s right, we need to act on it and vote on it. Because we fight for nothing less than our shared safety, our community health, our financial well-being, our equality, our equity, our humanity, and our right to live in a state, and in a country, where people live their lives as they choose because we all are safe from abuse, and free from anxiety .
If you live in Senate District 22, please vote for me on Wednesday, September 12th. My name is Melanie DuPont. I’m a hard worker with a big heart who will get the job done. If you would like to support my campaign, my team and I would be honored to work side by side with you. Visit MelForRI.com to sign up, and please, feel free to talk with me tonight!
Indivisible RI, I ask that you grant me your endorsement. Thank you for providing this opportunity to speak with you tonight, and to know you all better. I’m happy to take any questions you may have.
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