Party leaders calling the issues critical for human rights and economic benefits.
By Sheryl Estrada
Pat Spearman (D-Nev.)
Diversity, inclusiveness and equality were the central themes during the opening night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday in Philadelphia, with party leaders and other guests making the case that these areas are critical when it comes to advancing human rights, racial wealth gaps and the economy in general.
Multiple speakers emphasized that diversity and inclusion not only improve people’s lives, but being diverse and inclusive benefits business and increases investment.
During the Ensuring Equality segment, Raleigh entrepreneur Jesse Lipson discussed how discrimination laws hamper business.
Publicly addressing Trump, Lipson said, “It’s clear you don’t understand something simple about business: Nothing scares away investment like hate. Disgusting laws like North Carolina’s attack on LGBT Americans are costing my state hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s cost us the NBA All-Star Game, and it’s costing us talented programmers who are ready to build the future.”
Lipson, who founded a tech start-up that was acquired by Citrix, added, “Republicans may think they’re telling people which bathroom to go into, but they’re actually telling people which market to stay out of.”
State Sen. Pat Spearman (Nev.), who said she’s gay, Black, a U.S. veteran and also a pastor, spoke of Republican Vice Presidential Nominee IndianaGov. Mike Pence’s religious freedom bill and how it stunted business growth in Indiana.
“But [Donald Trump’s] worst attack was his vice presidential pick,” Spearman said. “Governor Pence used religion as a weapon to discriminate. As a lesbian, that hurts me, as a person of faith, that offends me, as a legislator working hard to create jobs, that baffles me.”
Pence was responsible for the most anti-LGBT bill in recent history and only retracted it after intense backlash from Indiana companies on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, including Cummins(No. 19) and Eli Lilly and Company(No. 26).
She added, “[Trump and Pence] fear diversity. We celebrate it.”
Speaker Anastasia Somoza has been an advocate for people with disabilities since the 1990s. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia at birth and uses a wheelchair. Somoza, who interned in Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate office, said Clinton invested in her career.
“Over the past 23 years, she has continued to serve as a friend and mentor, championing my inclusion and access to classrooms, higher education and the workforce,” she said.
“She has invested in me. She believes in me. And in a country where 56 million Americans with disabilities so often feel invisible, Hillary Clinton sees me.”
Somoza said she is seen not as a person with disabilities, but “as a hard worker, as a young professional.”
Many of the speeches were in line with the Democratic Party’s platform, which includes a strong embrace of minority and LGBT rights, with sections focusing on ending systemic racism as well as reforming the criminal justice system.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), chairman of the DNC platform drafting committee, said the party “pushed open the doors of opportunity” for him and is still championing voting rights and civil rights.
“Our party understands that Black Lives Matter,” he said. “We also recognize our community and law enforcement work best when they work together.”
First Lady Michelle Obama said this election will determine the lives of children for the next four to eight years.
“This election every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of our lives,” Obama said.
Without addressing Trump by name, she inferred that his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan is invalid.
“Don’t let anyone tell you this country isn’t great because, right now, it’s the greatest country on Earth,” Obama said.
Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) emphasized that the foundation of the U.S. is based on diversity.
“Our country wasn’t founded because we all looked alike or because we all prayed alike,” he said.