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Harris Viewpoints: Kouri C. Marshall (CLA'18) on the Need for American Renewal

As a part of Harris Public Policy’s coverage of the 2020 election in conjunction with the Center for Effective Government, we reached out to other experts in the field to share their perspective on the 2020 election. These are their opinions and perspectives, informed by their life experiences and worldviews (and do not necessarily reflect the views of Harris or CEG).

In his 1961 inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy declared, “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom — symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning — signifying renewal, as well as change.”

Many political observers and kitchen table political pundits have dubbed the upcoming U.S. Presidential election as “the most important election of our lifetime.” There is a reason why celebrants of American democracy have sounded the alarms in this way and it is because the invisible threads that have kept our nation together have been set ablaze. Our politics have never been more broken than they are now. America has always been the leader that global citizens could count on to set the tone as it relates to displaying decency, respect and a political maturity.

We have departed from the kind of American spirit that President Kennedy summoned in the opening lines of his speech to our countrymen and women on the kind of president that he would be – one whose chief goal was to abolish human poverty and bring our country together.

Yes, this is the most important election of our lifetime. And its results will have an indelible impact on literally every basic aspect of the American way of life. We have a very important decision to make on the kind of leader we want to represent us at the highest level of government. Our nation needs a president who believes that women are just as capable as their male counterparts – and should therefore receive equal pay for their equal work. We need a president who believes in the science that wearing a mask can help save and protect the lives of Americans from the ravishing hand of the coronavirus.

There is a lot for us to disagree on as Americans, but in this moment we need a president who focuses on how much we are alike instead of driving a wedge right down the middle of our differences. In elementary school, we teach children the power of sharing and caring for others. We need a president who can model this behavior to the young people who are logged on to Twitter, instead of consistently setting regressive examples with unnecessary digital mediocrity.

In America, we say that “all politics are local” and we need a president who believes this and one who is committed to working with local leaders who serve as the power centers for their cities and states. We need a president who does not block critical resources from being accessible to citizens in need because he has developed a personal vendetta -- that should not stand in the way of our progress.

We all know that our country has historically received a ‘needs improvement’ on our social equality report card because we have struggled to reach parity in this area. As we continue the fight to advance social justice, we need a president who will invite our transgender brothers and sisters back to the frontlines of the greatest defender of our democracy – the U.S. military. And it would certainly be nice to have a president who believes in the power of racial sensitivity training and its ability to demonstrate why we should not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. We need a president who displays in words – and, most importantly, in action – that racial injustice will absolutely not be tolerated in America.

Elections have consequences and the upcoming election will no doubt have a huge impact on our way of life here in Chicago. The next president will have an impact on the federal funding that we receive to help to move our hardest hit citizens forward. I have had countless conversations with organizational leaders across the city who are hoping for favorable returns on election night because they know the power that a president can have on their work. As the co-founder of ChiGivesBack, Inc., a nonpartisan 501(c)(3), I have stood in the gap developing and allocating resources for residents suffering from homelessness and those who are living an inch above the poverty line. Voting is one of the most responsible things that we can do as American citizens and I hope all of our collective efforts will lend to the election of a president who celebrates freedom and equality for all Americans.

About Kouri C. Marshall

Kouri C. Marshall (CLA'18) serves as the Deputy Director of Personnel to the Office of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. He previously served as the Chief of Staff to Cook County Commissioner Richard R. Boykin of the 1st District, the legislative and public policy body of the second largest regional government in the United States with a $5.36 billion annual budget. He previously served as the District of Columbia’s State Director for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, then as the Executive Director of Democratic GAIN, a progressive political association with 42,000 members.

Kouri graduated from Eureka College – President Ronald Reagan's alma mater – where he was elected as the first African American Homecoming King in the 150 year history of the college. The Eureka College Board of Trustees and Alumni Board named Kouri as the 2013 Eureka College Outstanding Young Alumni of the Year. He is the recipient of Campaigns & Elections Magazine’s 2016 Rising Star award, one of the political industry’s most prestigious honors. Kouri is a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s Young Professionals Board of Directors and sits on the Loyola Hospital Chicago Gun Violence Committee. Kouri is a registered Notary Public in the State of Illinois.The views of the author are solely his and do not belong to any employers past or present.


The news release above was originally published by the Harris School of Public Policy.