I’m proud to be a Democrat. There, I said it. For the whole of my life, I have been aligned with the values of the Democratic Party. For me, it’s a no brainer. The Democratic Party has shown itself to me to be the party of progress and inclusion… the party that continues to hold open the door to the American Dream for all who seek it.

Ours is the party that believes in the middle-class as the drivers of a prosperity not for the few, but for the many. Our party is the party that continues to fight for healthcare as a right, not as a privilege. The list goes on… We believe in people.

E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. As a Democrat, I celebrate that ours is the big tent under which we honor and sometimes wrestle with our diversity. We have understood the value of our divergent perspectives. Because we honor one another, because we consider one another, our policy ideas are compassionate, progressive and inclusive. We stand for human dignity. We celebrate the resilience of the human spirit. We are best when we work together.

And we are not perfect. Managing the Big Tent takes effort and imagination. It takes leadership. It takes Democratic leadership that exemplifies our values as a demonstration of our commitment to them. So often, it seems, we cannibalize ourselves as we become mired down in petty fights, struggles for power, or the prestige of position. We sacrifice the nobility of ideas and the advantage of collective wisdom. We forfeit the benefit of moral leadership that inspires and cultivates grassroots participation. But when we come together, we accomplish great things.

I’m proud to be a Democrat because I am a beneficiary of the progress gained under our banner. The life I live today was unimaginable when I was born. There were no civil rights. Marriage equality wasn’t even something living in the smallest recesses of the American consciousness. In fact, interracial marriage was considered criminal in many places in our great country. To live openly and honestly, with integrity, is a privilege that is given, in large part, because of the values of the Democratic Party.

Democrats win on the power of our ideas. Democrats win when we are bold. Democrats win when we are inspired by the future. We win when we come together with confidence and stand up for that which we believe… even when our beliefs are different. From these varied and sometimes desperate threads, Democrats have woven the tapestry that is my American experience.

“Yes, we can” was more than a slogan. It was invitation to see ourselves stronger than we knew ourselves to be; as the agents of change we so very much needed. In these polarizing times, it’s too easy to call out that which is not working or that in which we find some particular advantage. But now, more than ever, Democrats need to sound the clarion call. We need to stand up and be counted. We need to be proud to call ourselves Democrats.

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Christopher Arlen is unapologetically optimistic — he believes in people and what we can accomplish when we come together in good faith around a shared vision or goal. For nearly 30 years, he has worked in the nonprofit and government sectors to push the boundaries of possibility, creating innovative programs and novel approaches to addressing risk-taking behaviors and negative outcomes for diverse populations. He has conceptualized, developed and implemented innovative initiatives for the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention, the National Black Lesbian & Gay Leadership Forum, San Francisco’s renown Glide Memorial Church, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and a host of others.

Drawing on this vast experience, Christopher works to foster positive relational dynamics in increasingly diverse organizations. As principal consultant for The Soft Skills Company, he has developed facilitation, leadership and communication trainings for the US Department of Energy, the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Colorado Statewide Independent Living Council. He is a certified mediator, a community minister and most recently, a candidate for Lakewood City Council.

He lives with his husband, Damon, and a terribly spoiled Jack Russell Terrier, Oliver.