Sunday, January 27, 2013

Brian Sims Comes to Downingtown

Last year, after the Pennsylvania primary elections, I heard a story on NPR about Brian Sims, who had just won the nomination for State Representative in his district. Because of the make-up of the district (heavily Democratic), it was pretty much a lock that he would also win the general election. Why was this race getting so much attention? Brian Sims was poised to become the first openly gay candidate elected to Pennsylvania's State Legislature.

As I heard more about Sims, I learned that he was a native of Downingtown (where I teach), and that he had been an impressive student-athlete who played football during both high school and college. I started to wonder if he would be interested in returning to his hometown to speak with the community college students here about his story. I contacted him a couple months ago, and he happily agreed. He will be speaking this Thursday at 11:00am in the cafeteria at Delaware County Community College's Downingtown Campus.

In my ENG 100 classes, I typically have my students read about contemporary social, political, economic, or environmental problems, and then write essays in which they take positions about what they think should be done about these problems. My students, in recent semesters, have shown a keen awareness of the problems in their communities and how these problems impact people's lives, but when it comes to generating ideas about how to change things, how to move towards solutions, they too easily give in to a kind of cynicism and defeatism. They feel powerless and overwhelmed by these problems, rather than motivated to make a difference.

My hope is that Brian Sims will show them that people who are not unlike them--people who are from where they are from--do grow up to change the world. Change is not easy, but as citizens, professionals, members of our communities, and even as consumers, we make decisions every day that influence how we all relate to one another.

To any of my ENG 100 students who might be reading this, here is a simple way in which you can begin. Brian Sims is currently pushing for new legislation that would help schools protect young people from the kind of bullying you read about in this week's reading assignment (It Gets Better). This legislation is called the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act. If you think such a law could help young LGBT kids--or any kids who face physical and emotional abuse at school--then find out who your representatives are in the State Legislature, and tell them to support this Act.

Also, don't forget to come see Representative Brian Sims' talk this Thursday:

  • Representative Brian Sims
  • Thursday, January 31st
  • 11:00am
  • Delaware County Community College's Downingtown Campus
  • 100 Bond Drive, Downingtown, PA
  • Free and Open to the Public

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