Can You Read the Signs?

By Donna Griffin, candidate HD 88

All my life I’ve either been looking at or looking for signs - for directions, to combat boredom, to know where I am and where I need to go.

In my quest to become State Representative for House District 88, I’m raising funds for yard signs. Yard signs will help with name recognition and attract voter support for our campaign.

While I don’t doubt the validity of this campaign strategy, there are other signs that show me I am on the right path:

…Having a former student who is now a successful young professional and a trusted adviser agree to be my campaign manager.

…In a message from a Facebook Friend - “Your first vote is in the bag and I’m bringing my grandparents next week to vote for you too!” He’s now a part of the team.

…In a face-to-face moment when a colleague spoke straight to my heart and changed how I saw myself and this campaign.

…In a message from a family member who offered to help and join the campaign.

We need to focus on what we have in common rather than what divides us and how best to work together toward a common goal.

Family Matters

I grew up on Rural Street in the Near Eastside of Indianapolis with a mother and father who put their children and family first. We lived in tumultuous times in the Sixties and Seventies; my parents struggled with paying the bills, but they raised me and my four siblings to believe in ourselves, in our family, and in the promise of education. They modeled what it means to put family first, to love beyond measure, and cling to each other when times are tough. Now we are five successful adults, with children and in some cases grandchildren of our own. We live close to each other and continue to follow our parents' example of love, acceptance and hope.

Education Matters

Why am I running? Because education is in crisis and teachers are the best people to be involved in this critical reform process.

We can’t go back to classes that are underfunded and overcrowded and an outdated education system that judges and punishes rather than uplifts and encourages.

Learning should be fun and rewarding. I want to give all schools in HD 88 autonomy, equity, and access in this process.

Community Matters

When Hoosiers see a chance to help or a problem to solve, they step up. That’s why I am running for HD 88. Our campaign will provide a unique and innovative answer rooted in Hoosier values of teamwork, compassion, and pride. We have a diverse state and role models with unique visions to be celebrated in the arts, business, and our beloved sports.

The first time I thought about running was in 2012 when government leaders accepted the fact that the lives of the 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary were collateral damage to protecting the Second Amendment.

I lost a child due to the criminal actions of another. People say there’s nothing worse than that, but it continues to twist a knife in that wound every time our leaders choose to put guns above any person’s life.

In my 25 years of teaching, nearly 300,000 students have experienced gun violence in school. Every day I hear on the news of at least one death due to gun violence in Indianapolis. During my career I’ve gone through metal detectors, heard shots, had lockdowns, bomb threats, stabbing, fights, mace, and blatant disrespect. But no one cared what was going on inside of schools until they closed down due to Covid. Then that rage, anger, and frustration spilled out onto the streets, and the calls came to get the schools open again.

During the last 25 years, our families have been buffeted by changes rivaling any era in history. This is an opportunity on every level and in every community to seize the moment and collaborate, innovate, and above all find common ground.

I’m putting precious family time and a lifelong goal on the line to show my children, grandchildren and my former students who I consider “my kids” that their lives and their families’ lives matter to me. I’m asking them to step up and vote because I am still an American who fiercely guards her ideals by calling out the reality of living in a democratic work in progress, who sobbed in relief and pride while watching the first woman vice president take the oath of office and Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman speak of the hope of youth.

After the past two years, E pluribus unum means more than ever. We need to realize that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. Our bonds have been stressed and strained by the forces of this past year but that is nothing new for Americans.

Moving Forward

My Uncle Jim taught me the most about understanding and accepting different points of view.

Proud, stubborn, dedicated, hard-working and above all, fiercely loyal - to sum it up - my Uncle Jim was Old School, a bonafide member of the Greatest Generation. When I was an idealistic college student, he and I debated busing, and other local and national political issues. Our conversations would get heated. Despite the fact that we totally disagreed, our firm faith in each other allowed us to always listen and respect what the other said. It never changed the love we shared. I miss our talks.

That’s what we’ve lost as citizens and stopped demanding from our political and government officials - the acceptance of different points of view. To listen, compromise, and care. To acknowledge everyone’s burdens and move forward in reconciliation - not forgetting, but focusing on these shared goals that are the foundation of any community.

Remember what I said about signs? While substitute teaching recently, we read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. She ended this award-winning 1989 novel with a quote that speaks even more loudly today, “...And I want you all to remember - that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow minded and prejudiced one. This is the great gift our country hungers for … and something everyone can work and fight for.”

I’m running for State Representative in House District 88 to create a campaign that builds a lasting movement; focusing on what we have in common, how we can connect people of diverse perspectives, and build consensus to make constructive change.

Join us - let’s move forward together in cooperation, optimism, and hope.