Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news from Florida for working families since 2007


Tom Wells: Democratic Candidate for Congress in Florida's 3rd Congressional District, “I am heeding the warning of Benjamin Franklin”

Ben Franklin - "A Republic if you can keep it"
Image via Twitter | Columbia County Observer graphic

I came of age in the 60s in the aftermath of the defeat of German Fascism and Japanese Imperialism. I was at the intersection of Civil Rights, Abortion Rights, and Medicare for All.

These were made personal to me in my father's medical career. He spent ten years overseas in the Army Medical Corp. Then he came back to the states as chief-of-surgery at a VA hospital and spent ten years patching up soldiers. 

In 1956 my father set up private practice in a mid-Georgia mill town. He discovered immediately that the broader society did not follow the color-blind policies of the Army or VA. In short order, he found that poor women were dying untreated from botched illegal abortions. The poor understood that he would risk jail in nightly house calls to save a life and never denied care to anyone for lack of money.

Working daily to exhaustion, he provided our small town the Medicare for All that we as a nation still do not provide.

In 1966 my dad died. He was only fifty. I was 16. He lived long enough to hear MLK's words, see the Civil Rights Act Passed, and the first black student enter my high school. He saw LBJ create Medicare. He believed that we were learning to live together as brothers.

I learned honesty and service from both my father and mother.

In my youth, I was not ready to devote my life entirely to serving others. I chose science, earning a Ph.D. in theoretical physics - the search for root causes of observed effects. This choice gave me time to spend with my children.

I took time to run and bike to keep my heart and body healthy.

What happened to my theoretical mindset? It now serves me well in tracing the root of our present political malaise - and a path to finesse it. The climate will not wait for us to get our act together. 

Since 1980, I have despaired that my father's dreams of brotherhood were collapsing around us. I have observed new burdens, inequities, and injustices thrust upon marginalized communities and the young. My votes and social circle activism were not enough.

In the fall of 2015, Bernie Sanders burst upon the national scene. He was filling stadiums with his message. During the next nine months, I went to every event I could find. Between events, I walked/biked campus, parks, sidewalks, late-night lines outside clubs, and bus stops. I was talking politics and always listening and learning. I went home to study the problems I encountered. 

Then, in June 2016, the democrat running against Representative Ted Yoho in FL CD3 dropped out. I entered that race and have been running ever since. I recognized that this was what my journey had prepared me for.

I witnessed Trump and, lately, the Supreme Court making a mockery of the Rule of Law.

I have seen the core elements of the Civil Rights Act removed by the Court and Roe v Wade eviscerated.

I saw the VA starved and many veterans treated as disposable. I saw Medicare turned to private profit. I saw fascism rising, along with white supremacy, scapegoating, and science denial. I saw teachers threatened for teaching simple history.

The bloody coup of January 6 made clear that 2022 is a test of democracy vs. fascism. It is the last warning we will get. If we do not heed it, the fault is ours.

Benjamin Franklin forewarned us, “We have a republic if we can keep it.”

I am running for U.S. Congress to be on the other side of the wave threatening our democracy and republic. I am heeding the warning of Benjamin Franklin.

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