Guest Commentary: Engaging and Empowering Montgomery County
By Ashwani Jain
Editor’s note: More than 20 candidates are running for four at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council in 2018 – and the number could grow. In an attempt to sort through the confusion and enlighten voters, Maryland Matters has asked the candidates to submit an op-ed piece introducing themselves and making their case. Here is the first installment. Subsequent articles will appear over the next several weeks.
My name is Ashwani Jain. I’m a native of Montgomery County, a first-generation American, the proud son of small business owners, a beneficiary of our local public schools, and a former appointee with the Obama-Biden administration. I’m also a candidate to become an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council.
I’ve never lived anywhere else than this county because it’s home to my American Dream. You see, I’m also a 15-year cancer survivor. I was 13 when I was diagnosed. It was the scariest moment of my life and I had to grow up fast. Fighting cancer at a young age shaped my view of the world and my role in it.
There were moments back then when I felt hopeless but with the support of my family and this community I made it through that difficult time. Now it’s my turn to give back and help others reach their goals.
Local communities form the backbone of our nation, and at this moment when the federal government is rejecting the values we in Montgomery County hold dear, our local government must stand up confidently in the face of hate and protect our community. As an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council, I will engage and empower every member of our diverse community, and help us create a home of opportunity and inclusivity.
There are three key areas I’ll focus on to move our county – and its people – forward.
First, I will focus on providing a high-quality education for all. I strongly believe that education is the surest pathway out of poverty. As a product of Montgomery County public schools, and as someone who was honored as the youngest and first alumni commencement speaker at Winston Churchill High School’s 2014 graduation ceremony, I have seen how education is not equally funded throughout our county.
As such, I want to make our schools even better by closing the opportunity gap that our county’s black and Latino children are facing. This includes making universal Pre-K a reality for all our children. Regardless of where you live in the county, you should have access to the same opportunities.
Second, I will focus on fostering greater economic security and opportunity for our families. I believe the role of government is to ensure equality of opportunity by making the necessary investments in its citizens.
My parents immigrated to this country with limited resources and eventually started their own successful business. I know first-hand the value of hard work in combination with a government that truly invests in its citizens. I support raising the minimum wage, providing access to affordable housing and increasing access to transit by finishing construction of the Purple Line and expanding the BRT. If you work in our community, you should be able to afford to raise your families here as well.
Third, I will focus on creating inclusive and safe communities. When talented immigrant children have grown up in and become part of our community, have earned their high school diplomas, have clean records and want nothing more than to stay united with their family, we must embrace them. So, I want to promote greater trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities.
While our county already operates as a sanctuary jurisdiction, we need the political will to finally declare it as such. We mustn’t compromise on our values. To those who feel marginalized for their race, religion or sexual orientation, I want to assure you that you are welcome in Montgomery County.
Back when I was a young cancer patient, I remember sitting in Children’s Hospital feeling like I would never have the chance to accomplish much in life. But I didn’t let that define me and today I’m ready to take my experience running grass-roots programs and campaigns for the Obama-Biden administration and continue organizing the people of Montgomery County.
I believe Montgomery County is the county of the future and the model for the nation. As someone who was born in Rockville and has lived in Wheaton, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring and Potomac, I have seen how not everyone has access to the same opportunities. As one of the most diverse counties, with top-tier education and vibrant entrepreneurs, we are the best of America.
But this is a critical moment in our country and we must lead even more vigorously. Now more than ever, we need strong local leadership that can engage and empower Montgomery County and show the way for rest of our nation. That’s what our campaign is all about.
I hope to earn your support, and I love hearing from folks, so please reach out if you have any questions or issues you want to share. I encourage you to visit my website at www.VoteAshwaniJain.com, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @AshwaniJainMoCo.
Thanks for your interest in our county’s future!