In my first political campaign I ran successfully as a Republican for the Indiana House of Representatives.
I believed strongly in the concept of self-reliance. I firmly believed anyone could “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” Most of that self-confidence was instilled by Paul J. Meyer’s Success Motivation Institute and the likes of Zig Ziglar, Dr. Normal Vincent Peale and other motivational speakers. I consider much of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth too to be motivational speeches. I was hooked and thought nothing was impossible to achieve for those who could conceive and believe. I attended every Positive Mental Attitude seminar I could. I thought I too could be a motivational speaker. I considered myself to be a “conservative” — I believed in conservation of finite natural resources.
I never looked for a handout, just a hand-up. This was during the Civil Rights movement years (they continue today). Pride in heritage was stronger than perhaps ever before and I took pride in myself and the accomplishments of people from my ancestry. Equal opportunities at last were a possibility.
I studied Dr. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. I had achieved base level food and shelter and was seeking self-actualization.
As a Republican office holder in the ’70s I went to the White House along with other black Republicans to dissuade the president and the GOP from pursuing a “Southern Strategy,” code words for lax civil rights enforcement and thwarting equal opportunity. I always felt it better to change the party from within rather than from the outside. It took courage to go against the grain and be considered an “Uncle Tom” by some. (Fortunately, no one ever called me that).
Still a registered Republican, I migrated to Lake County. I was secretary of the South Lake Republican Club. I found out about Willis McCall. I found “conservative” meant something different in Lake County (intolerance) than in Indianapolis or Pittsburgh.
I found the Republicans had morphed from the Southern Dixiecrats. (There always were a few on the fringes of the party in Indiana).
After we invaded and occupied Iraq, a country not involved in the radicalized Islamic attack on our country on September 11, 2001, I began to question the GOP.
The party had begun its descent into hatred and despite its draw for the Christian right, it was nothing like the teachings of Jesus. And now, morally bankrupt Donald J. Trump and the “alternative right” have resurrected the Southern Strategy and stolen the party away. Trump has been unleashing a torrent of latent hate speech and hostility.
I watched video of refugees all over the world and began to question whether or not we all could achieve whatever we wanted. I watched families fleeing their houses, jobs, schools and even their countries. I saw human beings lucky to just be moving from one no place to another no place. Their only possessions the clothes and whatever they could carry. They not only had no bootstraps, they had no boots — many were barefoot. Not every human, just like some animals, can determine his or her destiny. Slaves could not and can not, indigenous Americans could not, Syrian refugees can not.
I also ran successfully for a nonpartisan public office: the School Board. Thinking on that refreshing nonpartisan experience, and the fact that the Republican Party had left me, I changed my voter registration to no party affiliated. I am proud to call myself a progressive. Progress is what we all should want. Regression is like being stuck in reverse — you cannot move forward. Like all else, we are either moving forward or backward, there is no status quo.
Nonpartisan means working to stop gerrymandering and the write-in candidate fiasco and opening the taxpayer-paid primaries to all voters.
Despite the odds, ours is still a nation of opportunity, but we all don’t have bootstraps — or boots — some of us are barefoot. Let us, together, embrace progress and provide a helping hand-up to all.

Choice Edwards