health care,
education and
social services

health care,
education  and
social services

Stronger Together

By Maria Gomez

America has always been a strong nation, a shining example and a beacon of hope for people across the world because of the idea on which it was founded – that all men and women are created equal:

But this cherished foundational value has been challenged by events such as the incident in Charlottesville in August, the resurgence of hate groups across the country, the appearance of swastikas on the walls of our schools, and the threat to end protection for Dreamers who were brought to America as children.

Throughout the year, I have been thinking about how America is better than that and how we must rise above attempts to divide us as a nation, to scapegoat people who don’t look like us, and to distract us from the real challenges we should be devoting our energies to.

We must realize that our country is changing, becoming more and more diverse. That might make some people uncomfortable, but it is our reality, and a constant throughout our history. In fact, diversity is actually the source of our nation’s strength, and we are stronger when we work together to solve problems and when we learn from each other’s experiences.

I see this every day at Mary’s Center, where our team is made up of people from over 40 countries who speak more than 35 languages. We serve over 41,000 participants from over 100 countries each year, finding practical and impactful solutions to some of the health, education and social challenges facing the Washington metro area. All of our team members and participants know that the growth and success of Mary’s Center has been built, from its inception, on their views, experiences and innovation.

We must also speak out against discrimination and prejudice when we see it, because we are all safer when everyone’s basic rights and dignity are respected. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968: “Our world is a neighborhood…We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Finally, we must uphold our belief in equal opportunity for all, and work to ensure that every man, woman and child in America has the opportunity to realize their potential, no matter where they were born. Everyone deserves a chance to fulfill their dreams and to contribute to the growth and dynamism of our country. When we restrain aspirations, we suppress economic growth and that perpetuates the cycle of poverty into future generations.

Maria GomezAbout Maria S. Gomez, R.N., M.P.H.

Maria S. Gomez is the founder, President and CEO of Mary’s Center, a community health organization providing health care, education and social services in the DC metropolitan region. Under her leadership, Mary’s Center has grown from a budget of $250,000 serving 200 participants in a basement in 1988 to a budget of $52 million serving over 40,000 individuals at eight locations in DC and Maryland. She has received awards including the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal. Originally from Colombia, she holds a nursing degree from Georgetown University and a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley.

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