Tulsi Gabbard

Speech at the Community Plant and Seed Exchange - May 9, 2013

Tulsi Gabbard
May 09, 2013— Kualoa Ranch, Kaneohe, Hawaii
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Aloha to everyone. It's a beautiful, beautiful day, always, to be here in Hawaii. He's right I have to fly back to Washington DC in a couple hours, taking a red-eye and back to work tomorrow, but what Matt said really is the essence of the path in the strategy forward. It's what Leo and Charlie, congratulations, represent and that is rather than pointing arrows or weapons and throwing ammunition at each other, really focusing on how we can create that environment of educating people about what's the right way forward, what is the pono way forward. And you do that through respect and through education and through example.

I recently introduced legislation in the House of Representatives with companion legislation going through the United States Senate requiring labeling by the Food and Drug Administration. …it’s something that so many of you have called for and fought for for a very long time, something that here in our Hawaii delegation hadn't had a strong voice on since Patsy Mink was serving us in Congress and it's about time. It's about time. There are more and more people, both members who I serve within Congress as well as people across the country, who don't know and haven't done a lot of the research and a lot of the information that all of you have, but who understand the very basic American principle of freedom and having the freedom to choose one of our basic necessities of life in food. That when we're caring for our kiekie, we're caring for our communities and caring for ourselves, being able to have the freedom to make that choice is such a basic principle that is easy for everyone to understand.

I read in the newspaper here some articles by those who are in the pro GMO side of the House and making a lot of arguments about how they do things responsibly and how this is the right way for us to go forward into the future, but really even at the essence of all the arguments that they've made, it comes down to choice. I know there was an article by a farmer talking about how they make good choices in their farming practices and they do it in a responsible way, but the key is they are making choices. We as consumers are able to make those choices- must be able to make those choices ourselves, and it's about looking at the next generation and it's so cool to see Leo and Charlie here. It was cool as well for me I was at KO Elementary in Hilo the other day visiting the kids there and they have a big aquaponics garden right in the middle of their major courtyard there, and this happened because the principal has a couple of young kids themselves and they started an aquaponics garden in their house and he said hey why shouldn't all of our kids have an opportunity to take home some fresh vegetables and learn about how they can grow their own food and what good food looks like. So he and his vice principals came in on the weekend they put everything together they brought the kids and got them involved and we're able to send 300 kids home with lettuce that they grew and teaching them about that and what the process is and- and how important it is to be able to grow your own food.

There's no question that there is a lot of work to be done. Many of you are doing that work, but I believe, and this is true of this movement as well as it's true of the secret to finding solutions to many of the challenges we face is we have to do it in the spirit of Aloha. We have to. That is the biggest most secret powerful weapon that we here in Hawaii have I think that we often take for granted because it's part of our community, it's part of our families, it's part of how we grow up, but it's something that is not known by enough people.

We see now at the national level the blockage to progress on so many different issues and it comes from people drawing lines in the sand and choosing which side they want to stand on, loading up their ammunition and blasting away and see who lasts the longest. How can you expect to have united strong communities if that's your tactics? And it's about coming in and recognizing you and I may disagree on some things, but each of us comes from a family, we come from communities that at our core we care very much about, and we have to be able to start the conversation there and recognize that even if it's inch by inch that is the only way for us to be able to make progress.

So that's my goal in my role- I see my role in this as- as one small piece then nothing can be done in government, nothing can be done in the United States House of Representatives, without the power of the people behind it. And that's where the phone calls the emails Facebook messages, tweets that I've gotten is what can we do? Let your voice be heard. Understand that when you speak even if you feel like no one's listening people are, I promise, and when you have the ability to bring masses of voices together, the volume gets turned up to such a volume- to such a great level that even those who want to ignore- ignore you cannot. And doing it in that spirit of Aloha will produce the most positive results, not only for us but more importantly for the next generation.

Thank you very much for allowing me to be a part of this. Know that I will do my best and do my part, and I look forward to all of us being able to work together as partners. Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: So we have about five minutes for some Q&A; for Tulsi before she has to leave to catch a plane to continue the good work, so I'm gonna do my best to moderate this, we're going to share the mike- anybody have any questions?

So the question was what can we do about lunch programs because the food is not great.

GABBARD: I'm actually going to call my dad up to talk about this because I know that there was some work that was done in the state legislature this session, unfortunately it didn't go through, but a lot of what I talked about as far as tactics needs to happen here where bureaucracy often gets in the way. It's not it's not a matter of principled opposition, but its bureaucracy that gets in the way of implementing change like that.

GABBARD’S FATHER: Thanks Tulsi, we had a bill going through that was just one vegetarian option a week. One. And as Tulsi mentioned it didn't make it and what she said earlier is so true. It's just when the voices from those who opposed to this are louder than our voices, and that's what happens down there in the square building, so we need to respectfully with Aloha turn up the volume on the voices and so we can do something about this this next session. So I worked very closely with the Vegetarian Society, they helped draft the bill, Ferguson is here from down to earth and- but everybody we need to join hands together and make sure that we get the word out through our various networks and it'll happen, but we just need to keep- keep trying.

ANNOUNCER: So I have a question for you both on that, what does making our voices heard at the square building with Aloha and respect look like?

GABBARD’S FATHER: It looks like thousands of people showing up on certain days. That's what it looks like. It looks like emails, so many emails that that my colleagues and caucus and on the floor said… you know that's what it takes. I mean, I've been trying to- many of you know to get a labeling bill on GMOs since 2008- back in 2008 and get 4,000 signatures and we're very close, but the other side, they came through with well as you don't know what happens right. But yeah that's what it looks like: phone calls, emails, in-person visits if you can. When the bills are being heard showing up in person to testify, that's the best, if you can't and just get everybody- all you know through your network, get them to- to get involved.

GABBARD: It's very easy sometimes and I think in some ways it's human nature that when you feel so passionately about an issue and you see someone else standing there who may be calling you names or who you may feel are attacking you or your family or your friends or this entire movement that you've taken great ownership of, it's easy to throw a punch back and it takes, in my opinion, sometimes more courage and more strength to stay on that high road, to be that voice of reason and humanity and pono, so that there is no credibility given to any of the rhetoric, the false rhetoric, that the other side may be saying. They want to paint this entire movement as a bunch of crazies, you know we're way out in the fringe and don't represent families all across our community and all across our country. We know that's not true because we know each other, we're in our community every day and that that is not representative of what real people want. So when you talk about how do you speak with a voice of Aloha, it's speaking with strength, speaking with conviction, but not getting caught up in the portrayal that they are trying to paint they may be trying to paint you with.