By SARAH HOLLENHORST

Arcadian Correspondent

“Stop, wait, you won,” the caller yelled as I started to hang up while politely telling him that I do support Jay Inslee. But I had just got home and was trying to walk the dogs.

I paused. The caller, Travis, explained that my donation (which was $5) to Washington governor and presidential candidate Jay Inslee’s climate-change based campaign had entered me in a nationwide drawing for airfare, a hotel room, and tickets to the first night of Democrat debates in Miami.

“You have one hour to find someone for the other ticket,” he said.

I told him that I loved that Gov. Inslee was bringing climate change awareness to the discussion, and that I believed that Hurricane Charley, which destroyed my home, was global warming related.

My husband Al would be stuck caring for my dogs and cats and their complicated medication schedules — sorry about that, so I called my friend Vicki.

Travis called an hour later, and the Inslees had decided to invite us to the reception and we would stay an extra night. Travel plans got complicated, so Travis arranged for a car service to pick us up. The driver, Adam, was as nice as can be, even bringing homemade chocolate-chip cookies. He made that long drive down Alligator Alley fun with his entertaining stories.

The Airbnb we stayed in was a luxury condo on the 34th floor, with a balcony overlooking downtown Miami, and an Olympic-sized pool on the 10th floor.

The reception was small, less than 30 people. Trudi Inslee was extremely nice. For 45 minutes she listened to us about the negative impacts of phosphate mining on rural communities and the Gulf estuaries, on the impacts of toxic waste gypsum stacks to low-income communities without the resources to fight them, and the impact of red tide on health and economies. She explained the impact of climate change on Washington state, current and projected. Salmon were on the decline, one result, endangering orcas, now starving. The indigenous population was dependent on salmon too.

Gov. Inslee joined us in a discussion about worldwide impacts. The refugees from Guatemala and other South American countries seeking asylum were forced to leave their beloved countries because of drought, crop failure, mining, forest logging, and the connected violence in exploiting their resources. Our own government’s history of interference and the ties to American interests behind this seems to be forgotten or ignored as the refugees are abused and denied at the border. Many of the guests were representatives for climate impacted populations. We talked to a Native American representative, along with a former refugee from Somalia. The Inslees are fighting for environmental justice, and have my great admiration. It was a pleasure talking to people for a change that understand the role our country is playing in the current humanitarian crisis, who had solutions rather than racist rhetoric and stereotyping to offer.

I found the same thoughtful analysis expressed by the other candidates the next night among the debating candidates. I heard decent people willing to represent all Americans, not just the wealthy. They spoke of solutions for racial injustice, women’s rights, including in the workplace, and the right to make their own decisions about their bodies without the government controlling them. They stood together for the right of all Americans to choose who they love without discrimination, the LGBT community should have the same freedom and rights as all Americans, including the right to serve our country. They stood for the freedom of religious choice for all, not the few, and educational opportunities for all, not the lucky. They named jobs that addressing rather than ignoring climate change offered. Affordable health care for all, affordable education and other ways of helping the working class recover were all supported.

The most important value I heard from all the candidates was empathy. They all cared about the daily struggles of people, were sincerely listening and working towards solutions, instead of dishonestly throwing blame at ethnic or culturally different groups.

It was exciting on the floor after the debates. I was able to personally thank and give my support to the Inslees. I met Elizabeth Warren, as nice and brilliant as she seems. She carefully listened to one person at a time (I hope my babble made sense), and she cheerfully posed for pictures, as did Beto O’Rouke.

The next day I took one last swim before saying goodbye to Miami and headed back to my ordinary life after three extraordinary days. Riding through the Everglades, I felt optimistic about the Democratic Party. The candidates all believe that every individual deserves the opportunity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, no matter their socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender, whether they are LBGT or straight. We are all created equal.

Like Marianne Williamson said, “we choose love.”

Sarah Hollenhorst lives in DeSoto County.

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