Editor’s note: The Deseret News has invited both vice presidential candidates, Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, to speak directly to Utahns and the nation in this forum. To read exclusive commentary by Vice President Pence, click here.
When my sister Maya and I were growing up, we lived two doors down from Regina and Arthur Shelton, a wonderful couple who ran a day care and after-school program out of their home. Because our mother was raising us mostly on her own, and was still at work when we came home from school in the afternoons, we would go straight to the Sheltons’ house. Mrs. Shelton became a second mother to us. We became family to each other.
Maya and I loved singing in the children’s choir at the 23rd Avenue Church of God. On Sundays, our mother would get us dressed in our Sunday best and send us off to church, piled in with the other kids in the back of Mrs. Shelton’s station wagon. There, my earliest memories of the Bible’s teachings were of a loving God, a God who asked us to serve and stand up for others, especially those who were not wealthy or powerful. It was where I learned that “faith” is a verb — that we must live our faith and show faith in action.
This is a value shared by people of all beliefs. I saw it as a child when my mother — an immigrant from India — took us to Hindu temples. I see it in my husband, Doug, and his family’s Jewish traditions. I see it in Joe Biden, whose deep Catholic ethic animates his commitment to “the least of these.”
And it’s exactly what I see in members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I felt that spirit this week, when I visited the This Is The Place Monument and the Salt Lake Temple site. Indeed, the church’s commitment to serving others, to doing his work here on Earth, is a moving example of faith in action.
It’s the same example that has always guided my life’s work, from the time I was a young lawyer all the way to the United States Senate and now as a nominee for vice president of the United States. Leadership, in my view, is strengthened by faith. My own role models — Constance Baker Motley, Thurgood Marshall, Ella Baker — understood that it is a deep faith that allows us to see what can be, unburdened by what has been.
Over the past four years, as we’ve seen so much callousness and cruelty, I’ve thought a lot about how faith governs our public life — how the values of our leaders are reflected in their actions. Are we, as a nation, living our values when we separate babies from their mothers? When we desecrate the planet God has entrusted to us? When in the wealthiest country in the world, we allow millions of children to go hungry?
Today, as we navigate a global pandemic, an economic crisis, a national reckoning with racism and catastrophic consequences of climate change, we are all being tested. And if there has ever been a time that has called for us to honestly grapple with what our faith requires of us, with what it means to live the values it teaches us, it is now.
For me, living and leading with my faith means heeding the lesson of the good Samaritan, a story which, at its core, is about who we choose to see as our neighbor. It teaches us that my neighbor is not just someone who lives down the block or in my same ZIP code. We are all each other’s neighbors, and we are called to look out for one another.
It means working to end the staggering income inequality in our nation, which enables a wealthy few to do better and better while far too many working families barely scrape by. It means making sure that everybody has access to affordable health care, especially in the middle of a pandemic. It means fighting against structural racism and striving for justice. It means upholding America’s ideals on the world stage once more.
In this moment, our nation lacks the leadership it deserves. But despite all the challenges we face, I wake up each day with enormous hope — because all around us, we see people stepping up on behalf of something bigger than themselves.
From the Americans who swarmed airports to protest the travel ban against Muslims, to the frontline workers risking their lives in this pandemic to care for the rest of us, ordinary people are putting their faith into action by demonstrating the values that matter most.
Those values — kindness, decency, acceptance, generosity, unity — bind us together as people across all faiths and as Americans. Those are the values that, as president, Joe Biden will restore in our public life. And if we stay true to them, not just in our words but in our actions, we will emerge from this moment of darkness with a renewed faith in each other and in the future we can build together.
Kamala Harris is the Democratic nominee for vice president. The Deseret News has invited both vice presidential candidates, Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, to speak directly to Utahns and the nation in this forum.