On Living in the Present Moment (from March 12, 2019)

I've been spending some time reading the stories of those who lost their lives in the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Many of the passengers had stories similar to my own. Many were students, professors, aid workers, diplomats. I could have been on that flight.

Most of us want to live long and healthy lives. But the truth is, the future is always uncertain. No day is assured, no minute guaranteed. All we can be certain about is the present moment.

Tao Porchon-Lynch once said, "Tomorrow never comes. One minute after midnight is already today." If we live our lives with only fuzzy aspirations for a distant future, with probably's and maybe's, we set ourselves up for disappointment and regret. For a life only half-lived and dreams half-realized.

So don't wait until you're old and gray to travel and explore the world. To forgive others for past transgressions. To say thank you to those on whose shoulders you stand the tallest. To inspire others to live their best lives. Do it now and don't procrastinate.

And most importantly, don't forget to laugh. To smile. To dance. And to be infinitely grateful for every moment spent on this beautiful planet. <3

Election Day 2018

Voting is one of our core responsibilities as citizens and the lifeblood of democracy. Especially now, at a time in which the U.S. has been downgraded to a "flawed democracy" by Freedom House and state officials routinely abuse the power of their office to deny some Americans their franchise, voicing our views at the polls is more important than ever.

I was so incredibly proud to get the opportunity to vote for so many strong, inspiring women today. I voted for female candidates for Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, State Representative, and several other offices. I was also proud to cast my ballot to finally end marijuana prohibition in Michigan.

There is something afoot in America today. Americans will no longer accept the hateful, divisive politics of the incumbent president. We are one nation, and I hope that today's election will bring us one step closer towards realizing the future that we all deserve.

#vote #midterm #elections #bluewave#pinkwave #rainbowwave #legalizepot #Michigan #2018

On Brett Kavanaugh's Elevation to the Supreme Court (from October 5, 2018)

Brett Kavanaugh may well be on the Supreme Court until I am in my 60s.

This is why tomorrow's Senate vote is one of the most important in a generation. This is one of the biggest reasons why the election of Trump in 2016 was so terrifying.

Reproductive rights. LGBTQ+ rights. Healthcare for millions of Americans. Capital punishment and our broken criminal justice system. So much is on the line; so much progress could be lost.

But above all, a man facing multiple powerful and credible accusations of sexual assault will be elevated to the highest court in the land. He will hobble onto that once-esteemed institution in a 50-49 vote in a serious blow to survivors of sexual assault, to common decency and humanity, and to the institutional legitimacy of the Supreme Court. This is a difficult day for our country; tomorrow will be more difficult still.

I am awe at the countless women and men who have stood up so bravely to share their own stories of sexual assault, battery, and abuse. I thank them. And I thank GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska for standing alone in her party to do the right thing, in the face of enormous pressure to vote the other way. Ditto for Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who despite feeling similar pressures and being down in the polls in a very competitive re-election race, decided to vote her conscience.

As for those who enabled this horrifying confirmation to come together? 2020 is waiting for GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine. And Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who I once defended because I felt his presence was key to winning back Democratic control of the Senate, should be expelled from the Democratic Caucus. He should certainly be stripped of his leadership position. You don't vote for a very conservative, sexual assault-committing nominee to the highest court in the land and still get to call yourself a Democrat. You just don't.

And lastly, in a month from tomorrow, VOTE. Vote as if your life and well-being depend on it. Because they do.

On Peace & Yoga (from July 17, 2018)

In a world thrashed by violence, hatred, and seemingly endless division, we all need sanctuary places where we can ground our souls and restore our connection with the oneness of life. For me, one of those places is my yoga practice. In the three years that I have been a regular practitioner, I have been healed anew with each gentle breath and every graceful (usually not so graceful!) motion that yoga affords me. Our yoga mats offer us a refugee in time and space where we can intimately feel the life force that binds us all to one another--humans and animals and all living things. My practice teaches me the importance of caring for others, of living in the moment, and of believing in my ability to define my own destiny.

So my message for today is this: don't sweat the small stuff. Look beyond the ephemeral and find the eternal. Stress, worry, and even hatred perish, but love and kindness never die. Forgive those who trespass against you. Look down deep into your soul and find your "breath of life"--your animating spirit--and seize it. Use it to transform yourself and the world. Use it to make your every act an act of love and compassion. See in every stranger a friend, for we were strangers once too.


On the Constitution (from July 9, 2018)

The Constitution protects our freedom to make the most personal and intimate choices that we can make--decisions about marriage, family, contraception, childrearing, relationships, procreation, etc.--without undue interference from the state. The Supreme Court has repeatedly found over the previous decades that there exists a realm into which the government may not enter, even if democratic majorities would have it do so. In landmark cases concerning contraception (Griswold v. Connecticut; Eisenstadt v. Baird), abortion (Roe v. Wade; Planned Parenthood v. Casey), same-sex sexual activity (Lawrence v. Texas), interracial and same-sex marriage (Loving v. Virginia; Obergefell v. Hodges), Supreme Court jurisprudence has repeatedly affirmed that there exist certain fundamental rights of which individuals may not be deprived.

While these and other rights are not explicitly written out in the Constitution, they emanate from the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments. Our Constitution IS a living document, a charter that breathes anew each time an American invokes its principles in the pursuit of liberty and equal justice. As Justice Kennedy wrote in his 2015 opinion legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide (Obergefell v. Hodges), "The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed."

It is greatly distressing to think that very soon there may exist a majority on the Supreme Court that disagrees with substantive due process/fundamental rights jurisprudence. Our Constitution is a storied document with immense power, a power to protect liberties and to confer equal justice under law. But this power can be suffocated and cut off by those who would have us see it as a dead piece of parchment from 1789.

So please. Raise your voices and speak out. Never sit out an election again. Become active participants in your democracy. And fight to keep the Constitution alive--because only a living Constitution can protect your most cherished rights and freedoms.

On Obama's Presidency (from January 13, 2017)

A week from today, the Obama era will come to a close. A week from today, I shall fly to Washington to participate in the Women's March and other protest activities.

It would be an understatement to say that Barack Obama's tenure as president was exceptional. For his legacy, even considering the president-elect's stated plans, will endure long past these times in ways both big and small.

Take for instance the reversal of the Great Recession, the longest stretch of job creation in American history, Wall Street reform, the bailout of the auto industry, or the fact that more than 20 million Americans have gained health insurance under the ACA. Consider the millions of acres of federal parkland that have become newly protected (more than any other administration) or the ambitious climate agreement negotiated in 2015 in Paris. Remember our new relationship with the Cuban people or the diplomatic solution to the question of Iran's nuclear weapons program. Perhaps the president's most voluminous accomplishments lie in the extension of civil rights to LGBT people, with nationwide marriage equality, a hate crimes law, a federal anti-discrimination executive order, and the scrapping of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the transgender military ban. And many undocumented immigrants and Dreamers have won protection from deportation.

These are awe-inspiring, concrete actions, but the president's legacy will also live on in other ways. He has inspired a whole generation to reject the lazy cynicism that often surrounds politics and to believe in their ability to bring about change. His time in office has marked us; my high school (2009-2013) and college (2013-2017) years coincide almost perfectly with his two terms. Today President Obama's approval rating among people in my age group (younger Millennials) approaches 80%.

During his farewell address, President Obama referred to our generation as "unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic." He said, "You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America....You are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward....and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands."

Fear not what is on the horizon. Together, our generation will change the world.

Yes, we can.

On Trump's Election (from November 10, 2016)

To be quite honest, my knee-jerk reaction to the election of Trump was much like it typically is: conciliatory and diplomatic. Calm and collected. I thought to myself, "It will be okay."

But since Tuesday night, I have rapidly shifted away from that position. True, if McCain or perhaps Romney had been elected, I would have accepted that. I disagreed with nearly everything in their platforms, but at least they didn't mock and vilify people. They didn't attack the free press, denigrate immigrants, brag of sexually assaulting women, make a mockery of people with disabilities, or cozy up with murderous Putin.

Trump is different. He stands against all the best our country has to offer. Right now, undocumented immigrants that have registered with the federal government under DACA or DAPA are terrified that the President-elected will use that information to rip their families apart and deport them. Most of my family lives in Romania. They now live in fear that Putin may run roughshod over them. LGBTQ+ people live in fear against a government that will oppose them at every step, against a vice president that believes that you can electrocute gay people until they're straight. People of color are terrified that they will be relentlessly attacked, that we have elected a person who began his short career in politics by launching a racially-motivated tirade questioning the President's birthplace. Women are afraid that a rapist has been elected over a strong, smart, and steady female leader. That Roe v. Wade may be on the chopping block. And the planet is afraid that its last hope of salvation has died with the election of a man who believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

And I know many of you are saying that we should now move to a place of understanding for the poor whites who elected this man. But I'm afraid I can't do that. Not when they do not see myself, an immigrant and LGBT person, as a full American. Not when they are unwilling to consider the struggles of people of color in this country. Many will say that Trump's supporters are not all racists, sexists, homophobes, and xenophobes. But you cannot cast a vote in isolation from all of that. You STILL voted for him, you still took the decisive action, even if enacting hateful policies was not your goal. In effect, it is just like saying that you did not want to bully the kid in the school yard, but you did it anyway. And yes, his supporter's economic struggles are 100% worthy of consideration, which is why we need a strong progressive leader in the White House. Donald Trump will be a disaster for poor people in this country, no doubt about it. He will NOT bring manufacturing back to this country.

As strongly as the GOP pledged to oppose Barack Obama when he was first elected to office, I now do so today. I pledge to work hard to make sure that Trump is a one-term president and that he is soundly defeated on November 3, 2020. Because Donald Trump is, without a modicum of doubt: