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2020 North County Stand Down

SD County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, Third District, remarks at this year's stand down, hosted by Green Oak Ranch in February:

I love being here every year to witness the hope and inspiration at this ranch and truly believe the next few days can dramatically impact your life.

We all know everyone has a unique story as to how their journey has brought them here. Unfortunately, homelessness is not one singular issue, it’s a result of many different root causes.  

Matt, you have done an outstanding job with this event, working tirelessly with your participants to assess their individual needs and providing them the guidance to transform their lives. Thank you.

In his January 1964 State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed, “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” Johnson argued that the United States should aspire to more than simply sustaining people in poverty. “This nation,” he declared, “is committed not only to human freedom but also to human dignity and decency.”

Since President Johnson made that declaration, we have spent over $22 trillion dollars on anti-poverty programs.

How much is one TRILLION?

In 2018, Apple became the first US company with a ONE trillion dollar valuation.

Go back a billion seconds and you'd be in 1988. Go back a trillion seconds and you'd be around 30,000 B.C.

In fact, there's just over a trillion dollars currently in circulation in the United States.

Suffice it to say 22 trillion is a really big number.

So, 55 years later and 22 trillion dollars invested, how are we doing?

We may have made poverty less miserable for some, but we have not improved the level of poverty in this country at all, nor have we increased a sense of human dignity, as Johnson had promised.

55 years later our society is facing a huge dignity deficit, as described by author and renowned social scientist Arthur Brooks. Dignity means being considered worthy of respect. A sense of dignity is felt when our lives produce value for ourselves and others. To feel dignity, we must be needed by others for the essence of who we are.

The War on Poverty has failed because the government has treated the people it was trying to help as liabilities to manage rather than human assets to develop.

If its goal is to instill dignity, the government does not need to find more innovative ways to “help” people; rather, it must find better ways to make them more needed. The question for leaders, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, must be, Does this policy make people more or less needed—in their families and their communities?

Some may ask whether making people necessary is an appropriate role for government. The answer is yes: indeed, it represents a catastrophic failure of government that millions of Americans remain trapped in poverty instead of creating value for themselves and others.

Since my time serving on the Board of Supervisors, I have been challenging my colleagues to be bold with how the County makes investments in the human potential of the most vulnerable people we serve.

How are we showing compassion to the people experiencing homelessness in our community? We are providing food and clothing and if we are lucky, a roof over their head. All transactional.

But what have we done to invest in that person, to help them reestablish a sense of dignity, self-respect and belonging? What are we doing to help them heal?

Are we helping people to learn to live as part of a community and to be a productive and proud member of that community so they can experience something greater than themselves?

We must redefine compassion.

We must raise the bar for what is possible for people, not lower it. We must stop being transactional in our approach and start being transformational.

You see, I believe there is an unbreakable quality that lies within us all that makes us the strong and resilient human beings we are. Sometimes we can lose sight of it when life circumstances become too difficult to bear.

Even in your darkest hour, I have the ability to see you for the essence of who you are. The warrior that once protected my family, our freedoms. Strong, resilient, valuable, capable. You have a purpose in life and you matter to the community.

If only you could see it ...

When you’re sick and tired of living this way, I want you to know I am here to extend the same offer. I want to walk alongside you as your biggest champion, cheerleader, and I desperately want you to rewrite this chapter of your story.

Finally a message to the elected leaders in this country. We have 55 years and 22 trillion reasons why we need a different strategy.

Let’s empower and invest in the potential of people. Let’s stop doing things the way we always have and let’s give our friends, family and veterans the gift of their lives back.

It CAN be done, but it’s going to take the WHOLE community.

In his farewell address to Congress, General Douglas MacArthur reiterated a popular World War 1 barracks song by saying: “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away."

Today, I salute all of you “old soldiers” and promise to you that I am here to make sure not one of you “fades away.” In the beautiful words of our Veteran guest here today: I want to better myself and give a little back to the world too.