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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ky. Voices: Young, Religious, And Supporting Barack Obama.

Ky. Voices: Young, religious, and supporting Barack Obama
By Jordan Stivers
I'm a young person of faith and I helped elect President Barack Obama in 2008. This year I'm doing it again. The remaining contenders for the GOP nomination claim that they best represent the religious and social values of "real Americans." I'm real, I'm an American, and the extreme Republican rhetoric does not reflect my values. This weekend, I'm making sure my voice and my values are heard again by getting help from some of the smartest people around at the Young Democrats of America's first-of-its-kind Faith and Values Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

The YDA Summit is focused on preparing young Democrats to connect with people and communities of faith. Top Democratic leaders will train participants in strategies aimed at showing the deep connection between religious Americans and the Democratic Party values — like loving our neighbor, justice and opportunity for all, and a belief that we're greater together when we pursue the common good through our public policies.

The summit is bringing together 100 young leaders from around the country who are committed to connecting with religious "millennials," a demographic group that is increasingly progressive. YDA is certainly entering new territory with this effort, but the timing and political environment could not be better. Young people of faith are leaving the GOP in large numbers and looking for a new political home.

I was born and raised in Bowling Green and came to Lexington in 2006 to attend the University of Kentucky. For most of my upbringing, my family attended a Baptist church.

During college I became drawn to the Episcopal church after experiencing the reverence and beauty of the Holy Eucharist at the Washington National Cathedral while I was a summer intern. College was an enriching experience where I learned about many different faiths and analyzed my own biases and assumptions about all faiths.

As a freshman, I had registered to vote as a Republican at a table on campus. Throughout that first year of college, my mind was opened and my spirituality was deepened as I was exposed to new people and new ideas. In the fall of my sophomore year, after spending the summer interning for a Democratic elected official in Bowling Green, I changed my party registration to Democrat.

As I started following politics it became clear to me that my values of empathy, personal responsibility and the courage to help others were evident in the policies of Democrats.

Matthew 25:40 says, "And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' "

I believe this verse best represents the spirit of Jesus' teaching, and why Democratic policies are compatible with it. I think of this verse as we discuss universal health care, early childhood education and protecting women's health.

There's much work for Democrats to do on faith outreach, but the Faith and Values Leadership Summit is an exciting first step in what promises to be a worthwhile conversation about which party best represents the values of people of faith. I am excited to be a part of this unique gathering and look forward to what lies ahead.

Jordan Stivers, of Lexington, is a University of Kentucky graduate.

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