(Below is the speech Interfaith Alliance of Colorado executive director Shara Smith gave on a March 9 Zoom video call with White House staffers and leaders of other Colorado-based organizations.)
Good afternoon, everyone! My name is Shara Smith. I’m the executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. We are an interfaith public policy and advocacy organization that focuses on faith and freedom. We have over 400 congregations in our network representing over two dozen faith communities across the state.
Like everyone else here, I want to express my deep appreciation to the Biden-Harris administration for listening to community groups like ours. I hope we can continue building on this wonderful partnership that’s been forged between grassroots organizations and the highest office in the land.
President Biden’s State of the Union speech contained a lot of visionary proposals, but I want to focus specifically on two topics the president covered in his speech where our work overlaps, specifically in breaking down the barriers to economic opportunity and security for working families.
In the president’s economic proposal, he touted future investments in historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions. This highlights the Biden administration’s understanding of the importance of racial equity, which is also one of Interfaith’s main focus areas.
Racial equity is a critical factor in the continued development of our nation. As some have said, it’s not enough to just put faces in high places. We need to also ensure that the individuals, communities, and institutions that have been historically and systematically deprived of opportunity can be embraced by the positive, uplifting ideals and values that define our great nation.
In addition to leading Interfaith, I also sit on the City of Denver’s Advancing Equity in Rezoning Task Force. The task force’s chief goal is to evaluate how the city’s rezoning process advances racial equity in its plan for the city’s development over the next decade. I’m so deeply proud of the work our City is approaching regarding racial equity, and am so encouraged by the president’s efforts on this issue as well.
The final point I wanted to address is the president’s commitment to creating a comprehensive national paid family and medical leave program. It’s shocking that the United States remains one of just six countries in the world – and the only remaining wealthy country – with no national program that allows workers time off to be with new children, to care for ailing loved ones, or to recuperate from illness. One of Interfaith’s policy priorities in the 2022 Colorado legislative session is a bill that furthers this cause in our state.
The pandemic has reminded us of how fragile life can be, and we owe it to ourselves and our communities to ensure that if we need to take time off to heal or be with a sick family member, it shouldn’t be cost prohibitive or cost us our jobs. We applaud the president for taking up this cause, and for recognizing that what is good, moral, and just can ALSO be good for business.
I want to thank everyone here for their hard work advancing these causes in their own communities and the Biden administration for taking the time to listen to impacted communities. Thank you so much!