Dear Friends and Neighbors,
My entire life has been characterized by struggle and hard work, and I have never given up. I was born in southern Maryland to a tobacco-farmer-turned-union-iron-worker, but when I was 9 years old my parents divorced. Being raised by a single mother was my first introduction to how hard life in America can be for the less fortunate.
In high school, I married my childhood best friend, and life didn't get any easier. Navigating society as a young, biracial family was difficult, but we made it work for as long as we could. Eventually youth and poverty took its toll, and I found myself a single mother, often depending on Medicaid, WIC, and food stamps for survival. These personal challenges have given me a profound appreciation for the uniquely American struggle so many of us face.
Eventually, through a combination of determination and public assistance, I was able to put myself through college, re-marry, become an executive level accountant, and finally give my family the life I'd always hoped for. You might think of my life as a classic example of "bootstrapping," but I see it differently. Two years ago, I learned just how fragile success can be, when I lost my daughter, Shalynne, to our barbaric, profit-driven healthcare system. I thought I had finally achieved the American Dream, but it was all a facade.
To me, this story simply illustrates how necessary public assistance is while also demonstrating how deeply inadequate and alienating our current system and policies are. We must stop thinking of vital social programs as a "safety net" to catch us when we fall. Policies that meet everyone's basic needs – a guaranteed livable wage, access to free public education and healthcare, affordable housing – need to be seen as the concrete foundation upon which our society is built that allows us all to grow, thrive, and reach our full potential as people, with equity and dignity.
Although my life has been full of struggle – and, more recently, tragedy – I have not given up on the pursuit of happiness and justice. I wholeheartedly believe that this is possible, and that together we can transform America into the land of opportunity that it has always promised to be.
I've been married to my husband, David, an immigrant and US Air Force Officer, for 9 years. Together we are raising four beautiful children, instilling in them the very values that I plan to run my campaign on, and which I intend to bring to Congress. We look forward to getting to know everyone here in CD-4, hearing your hopes and dreams, and working together to achieve the supposedly impossible.
Amy Vilela, for the People