My speech at the "Jobs Not Cuts" rally
in Olympia, WA on October 15, 2011
My name is Gabi Clayton and Iím a self-employed person and a lifelong activist.
The only photo taken of me at the rally that I know of. Thanks, Joe!
People always love that shirt, which can be purchased from www.labornotes.org.
I was asked to talk about a part of my personal story and how it connects to why we are here today.
I was lucky that a couple of years ago one of the amazing non-profit organizations I do web design work for got a grant and was able to bump me up to a 20 hour a week contract including health insurance.
That was really good because Iím getting older and I have diabetes and epilepsy, so Iíve got lots of medical bills.
The grant didnít get renewed last year, so I lost the insurance when my hours were cut in half.
I applied for the Washington Health Plan insurance which is for residents who are not eligible for Medicare, but I was turned down because I have too many illnesses. What?!
Now Iím ďluckyĒ to be on COBRA health insurance Ė for which I pay $548 a month. I can do that through March if I can pay for it, but then Iíll be left without health insurance Ė again.
Iíve been self-employed most of my life. That means I donít count. I donít mean Iím not significant, I mean I donít count Ė I mean Iím not tallied when politicians and media folks talk about unemployment numbers at over nine percent. That doesnít include people like me because as a self-employed person I canít file for unemployment.
Itís insane that this country doesnít have universal health insurance.
We have a lot of things to be here for today and itís important because the alternative is hopelessness and silence.
Leonard Peltier said:
ďSilence, they say, is the voice of complicity.
But silence is impossible.
Silence is a message,
just as doing nothing is an act.Ē
I say we wonít all agree all the time, and we donít all focus on the same issues in our lives, but we can support each other in that journey to make things better for us as the 99% because we are a community that is willing to stand together.
I know the changes we are here for are not going to come fast and easy. This place we find ourselves in now is very frustrating and I worry about some of us deciding that the way to make change is to do acts of violence.
Iím a pacifist and I believe in non-violence as powerful action.
John Lennon said:
ďWhen it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system's game. The establishment will irritate you - pull your beard, flick your face - to make you fight.
Because once they've got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don't know how to handle is non-violence and humour.Ē
Jobs Not Cuts. Occupy Olympia.
It is powerful to speak the truth and be visible. I am grateful for the abundance of amazing people who are working for change here in Olympia, in my hometown of New York City, around our country and around our world.
I give you each the verbal gifts I wish for myself today Ė hope, humor, patience, and courage.
© 2011 Gabi Clayton
Download this speech in pdf format for printing.