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Friedman gets award, tells what family values mean to her

State Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington received the Hutchins Family Values Award from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Billerica on Thursday, Oct. 25, and presented the following address:

Flanking Friedman are Jared Chrislip and Jenny Hutchins Whitcomb, the daughter of the man for whom the award was named.  / Photo by Darlyne MurawskiFlanking Friedman are Jared Chrislip and Jenny Hutchins Whitcomb, the daughter of the man for whom the award was named.  / Photo by Darlyne Murawski

Thank you and thank you to Laurie Low and Jared Chrislip for inviting me here this evening. I also want to thank the Arlington and Billerica Wards of the Church of Latter-Day Saints for giving me this award.

I am a bit surprised and honored to be receiving it.

I am especially honored to be in the company of the two individuals for whom this award is named after, Ken and Priscilla Hutchins.
I read about some of your life’s work and accomplishments before this evening.

 Your dedication to sharing and living family values, your commitment to public service and the many contributions you’ve made to the community is inspiring – and provides a role model for those of us who share your commitment -- so thank you.

Real meaning of family values

In preparation for tonight, I began to reflect on this notion of family values and what that really means. We use the phrase a lot …

I was thinking about how one would define these values, and for me it would be caring for, protecting, supporting, nurturing and loving people who are connected to you. To many of us this is our nuclear family, our community, the people we are connected to by faith or heritage.

In today’s world there are lots of ways to define families but whatever kind of family you are these values apply.

When I look at this definition, though, I realize that these values should extend far beyond those in our immediate circle. In a perfect world, they would apply to everyone; those we know and those we don’t and those we’ll never meet.

This notion is important to me and it leads me to wonder why this so. Why do I work so hard to ensure that these values inform the work I do.

Motivations behind cause 

I think there are two main reasons; one very selfish and one I believe comes from an acknowledgment.

Selfishly, I and we should care about others because it keeps us safe. We all – no matter who we are or where we live – need our basic needs met; a stable place to live, enough food on our table to feed ourselves and our loved ones; access to good health and the feeling that we are safe in our surroundings.

Instability and societal turmoil arise when these basic needs are not met.

So by extension, if I want to be secure, I need others around me to be secure as well. I can’t “have” while others “have not.” No guns or laws can truly protect me when folks are struggling just to survive. So it behooves us to take care of others so we all can thrive. As folks much more eloquently than I have said, your security is my security. Enormously selfish, but there it is.

The other piece that drives me is the continual reminder always running through my head about how absolutely lucky I am to have been born when I was born, to have the family, the love and the opportunities that I had.

'Luck of the draw'

I worked hard to get where I am today, but I can never forget that in a fundamental way, it was the luck of the draw. I could have been born in war-torn Somalia or the Sudan. I could have been a Syrian and living there right now. How different my life would be if I was born in 1930, a Jew in Germany.

But I wasn’t. And the phrase that best keeps me grounded in my place is this: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

I am so so lucky!

I’ve had opportunity, I’ve had support and love, and equally as important, I’ve had a voice.

Many people who come from oppressive or violent environments become leaders, activists, educators, lead successful lives.

And I have such awe for people who come from circumstances where the odds from the start are against them, and yet they accomplish great things, and change lives for the better.

But so many people, the most vulnerable, those who are traumatized by life situations beyond our comprehension, or the children who never asked for or were not the cause of their situation, often don’t have an opportunity and don’t have a voice.

Whether it’s extreme poverty, mental illness, violence, lack of access – whatever - it is so difficult to meet your basic needs and advocate for yourself and your families when this is what your life is filled with.

Fights for public-policy changes

As a state senator, I see it as my duty, my obligation and my profound privilege to fight for public-policy changes that will have a direct and positive impact on our community and the most vulnerable. And I define community broadly. Not just my family, or Arlington, not just the 4th Middlesex and not just those who look like me and believe what I do -- but it is our commonwealth and all those who live here.

Confronting the opioid crisis, addressing food insecurity and homelessness, increasing access to good-paying jobs, expanding educational opportunities, and improving access to healthcare, especially mental healthcare, are driven by this obligation and privilege.

These are some of the pressing issues facing our families and our community members, and my colleagues and I cannot confront these issues alone.

It takes all of us.

It takes people like Ken and Priscilla, and all of you and the many ways in which you are probably supporting others right now.

Basic needs

In my view, everyone deserves to have their basic needs met.

And, it’s important to continue to work so that no one is left behind because of circumstances they don’t and can’t control.

As long as I am a state legislator, I will always stand up for those who don’t have a voice at the table and for those who often cannot advocate for themselves.

I want to thank you for your shared commitment to supporting Massachusetts families and helping those most vulnerable.

I’m pleased to accept this award and am grateful to all of you for recognizing my work AND for the work that you do and will do.

We have a long way to go until everyone has equal access but I look forward to continuing this effort together. Thank you so much.

This addresswas published Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2018. 

Town of Arlington to LGBTQIA+ students: You belong


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