Living History with Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz

I had the pleasure of hearing San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz speak a few days ago at the DuPage Democrats Gala and I was blown away. Not simply because she is a powerful woman who became a symbol for Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria struck, although there was that. I was blown away because I felt as if I had been sucked into a living history book, listening to the main characters explain what had happened in real time.

I’ve gotten hooked on Malcom Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, where he looks back and dissects and reinterprets a past event. Listening to Mayor Cruz was an awful lot like listening to that podcast, except while the event was currently happening. Make no mistake, the mishandling of the September Hurricane will be in the history books as one of the defining events of Trump’s Presidency. I felt like I was time-traveling to a future podcast where this entire event is dissected and reinterpreted, by its starring character.

It’s easy to call Mayor Cruz a hero, because of her heroic actions, her bravery, her tenacity. She says she only did what thousands of other Puerto Ricans were doing: helping those less fortunate than herself. Perhaps she is correct, but when we are currently living with an administration that has a gaping hole stuffed with dirty newspapers where its’ heroism should be, her role looms all the larger.

Mayor Cruz did not just stand up against a natural disaster, she stood up against a man-made one, as well. She stood up to President Trump. To hear her describe her meetings and interactions with him was jaw-dropping. The misogyny that she experienced and describes in colorful language and detail was both hilarious and horrifying. That a man would let innocent people die simply to spite this woman who, in his mind, defied him, is one for the history books. That he spent only four hours on the island, visiting only the area that had been least affected by the hurricane; that he threw paper towels at people; that he went on a Twitter rampage and called this Mayor “nasty”; that he has ignored cries for aid and help…this will be one of Trump’s defining moments. It shows his ineptitude, his heartlessness, his misogyny, his pettiness all in one fell swoop. Malcolm Gladwell would have a field day with this.

I sent myself a couple of texts during Mayor Cruz’ speech so I would remember her inspiring words. Just crib notes, really, but I was so inspired by her and her courage was so contagious, that I wrote these notes as promises to myself, based on her words. Here they are:

“I will stand up. I will stand up and fight discrimination, racism, misogyny. I will stand up to the bully in the White House. He, nor anyone else, will not stop me or change me.”

I think that’s a pretty spectacular takeaway from a speech.

I am standing up by running for office. I am standing up by trying to become the first woman to ever be elected in DuPage County, 179 years in the waiting. I am standing up, everyday, when I take the next right step on this journey, without knowing exactly where it will lead or exactly where it will end.

Thank you, Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. Thank you for showing us how to lead. Thank you for showing us how a woman can stand up to the most powerful bully in the world.

And, thank you for killing it on Twitter (seriously, you should follow her @CarmenJulinCruz).

Today, unbelievably, the entire island of Puerto Rico lost power, again. As Mayor Cruz tweeted: “Back to September 20th.” And while Rome burns, our President tweets.

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This post was written by Lynn Laplante

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