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On Sunday, former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke joined the Historic McKinley United Methodist Church as it hosted its first "Vote and Live" virtual lecture series. The series was integrated into the church's regular Sunday worship service, which looked different due to COVID-19.
Lasting a little more than an hour, the service was put on with a small, in-person production crew that included the sound crew, musicians, poet laureate, media staff, parishioners and McKinley’s pastor, Peter Edward Matthews. Soul-stirring song selections, guided meditations and poetry readings highlighted the collaborative interview segment with O’Rourke.
The "Vote and Live" livestream reached more than 9,000 viewers through McKinley's Facebook page. O'Rourke introduced himself to those viewers as a good friend to Matthews and talked about topics ranging from the service itself, the dire plight of COVID-19 in Texas, the Black Lives Matter movement and the state of our country.
“I was just so struck by you,” O’Rourke said about Matthews during the beginning of his remarks. “Certainly [by] your eloquence and the power of your words and thought, but also your personal empathy and kindness and how welcome you made me feel in Dayton, Ohio, a city I had never visited before.”
O’Rourke then lamented about the COVID-19 response in Texas and highlighted Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s actions not going far enough to slow the spread of the virus. “The governor, I think responding to the public pressure that all of us are a part of...recently implemented a statewide mask order,” he said. “Good step in the right direction, [but it’s] totally insufficient to the challenge that we face, but a good step and should encourage us that this pressure that we have applied is working.”
O'Rourke also touched on the impact of police brutality and the need for equality in our nation. “People of all ages, walks of life and backgrounds are taking to the streets, literally together, to defy the inherent, structural, systemic racism of this country,” he said.
Elevate Dayton interviewed with O'Rourke during the service that covered topics like hope in a post-coronavirus world, and how to be a better ally. “We have to find some joy, and certainly some fulfillment in acting, even if the goal of our actions will not be realized in our lifetime. To know that we are on the right side of these struggles," O’Rourke said.
He noted what he saw from leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement withstanding police beatings and rubber bullets. “They were doing that not just for themselves, and not only for what they could realize as a direct result of their protest and action, but for all of us many generations later. I want to be part of that in some small way, whatever way I can fit in or have function or perform to my potential,” reflected O’Rourke.
After the service, he expanded on his current political endeavors, since he’s not on the 2020 ballot. O’Rourke is spearheading a series of voter registration phone banks in Texas to help elect Democrats at the local, state and federal levels.
He emphasized that the voter registration phone banks are building a more genuine connection with potential voters. “All humans trying to talk to humans, not automated and kind of bypassing TV ads, Facebook posts and Twitter messages just to try to get to a very personal connection,” O'Rourke said.
He said he is focusing on the phone banks for right now and will figure out his next move after the November elections. “I don't know what the future holds, but I've got to give everything I've got to help us win in November, and then I just know that afterwards, things will fall into place,” O'Rourke said.