The 2013 National Rural Assembly opens with a call for rural communities to define themselves by what they can get accomplished, rather than what they lack.
Rural America should be defined by what it hopes for, not by what it fears, the chairman of the National Rural Assembly steering committee said at the opening of the 2013 Assembly Sunday night.
Dee Davis welcomed approximately 200 participants to the conference in Bethesda, Maryland, which runs through Wednesday, June 26. The meeting will address issues such as healthcare reform, immigration, broadband access, economic development and agriculture.
“We’re going to grind through a lot of things,” said Davis, who is also publisher of the Daily Yonder. “We don’t all agree on all of these issues, and there’s some urgency in our communities. We know a lot of communities are really facing some tough times.”
He said it was better to face issues together than to live in fear of changes, such as those that might occur under the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“I live in what is considered the most rural congressional district in the country (Kentucky’s Fifth),” he said. “It’s also the sickest. We are rated 436th in health and wellbeing out of 436.”
People wonder whether he’s afraid of healthcare reform. “We’re already 436 in wellbeing,” he said. “They would have to add a state before we could be ranked any lower.”
“Are we going to be defined by what we are afraid of or are we going to be defined by what we hope for?” he asked. “Are we going to be defined by what we lack or by what we can get accomplished?”
Davis also said he expects rural legislators to play an important part in immigration legislation. “We need to make sure that rural America is defined by who we want to include and not just who we want to keep out,” he said. “That’s a big part of our job here.”
The Daily Yonder will cover the conference and will live stream selected plenary sessions, such as speeches by Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday, starting at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. Streaming of all plenary sessions is available via the National Rural Assembly website.