By Jan Wagner
As President Trump prepared a second version of a travel ban aimed at seven Muslim-majority countries, Rep. Scott Peters chose the San Diego Islamic Center to speak with constituents about “fighting for our democracy every day.”
Peters, a Democrat who represents the 52nd Congressional District, took questions during a town hall on Monday at the packed Islamic center in Clairemont.
In a warm, welcoming spirit of religious tolerance, Hanif Mohebi, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Diego Office, posed this question to the members of the packed auditorium: “First and foremost, let me ask, raise a hand if this is the first time you have been in this center?” Hands shot up from most in attendance. “Look around, wow!” Many smiled and laughed as they looked around at their neighbors. Then he said: “Welcome home!”
Following enthusiastic applause he added, slowly and deliberately: “Welcome to your community center. I really mean that from the bottom of my heart.” “There is no better way to get to know people than coming to such community centers, sharing conversations, breaking bread — even if it is over hummus or some other exotic thing.” That set a mostly congenial, respectful tone for the evening.
Peters began by wishing everybody a Happy Presidents Day, which drew plenty of laughs, and then he got serious: “It took the election of Donald Trump to remind people that we are all fighting for our democracy every day, every hour of every day. This is a fight. This is a fight that’s been going on for over 200 years and we’re in the middle of it today.”
He went through a long list of things that need to be done, including learning what the nature of the connection is between Russia and President Trump, and challenging the construction of a $15 billion wall and the second iteration of a Muslim ban. He repeatedly reminded everyone that in Congress the Democrats do not have a majority – “the lowest level of elected office since before Herbert Hoover” — “so we’re not going to win a lot of votes. How do we stop these awful things from happening?” His answer included lawsuits, continuing to shine a light on what is going on and enlisting the help of the many Republicans who are really uncomfortable with this situation.
Much of the town hall was spent answering any and all questions from the audience. On the few occasions when he disagreed with the speaker, he respectfully said so and explained why.
In between there was a 15-minute break for prayers — or a snack of water and a date-filled cookie bar provided by the Islamic center.
In conclusion, Peters said “you are all really, really concerned about what is happening in our country.” He then recognized the large size of the crowd, noting that “I had Town Halls in my first term where I had more staffers and police officers than residents because they weren’t concerned, right?” “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing up, for participating, for standing up, shining a light on this fight we must win.” Applause and cheers filled the room.
Copyright © 2017 by Jan Wagner
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