Yesterday morning, I was prepared to send you a hopefully inspiring message about the new year and the start of our new state legislative session that begins on Monday. Then we all witnessed the stunning siege on our nation’s capitol.

As a newly elected State Representative, I’m focused on making our state the best place it can be for all Arizonans, but this unprecedented event has demanded the attention of all of us.

It’s hard to know what to say. Like you, I never thought I’d see this kind of violent uprising or hear a reporter say that mobs have breached the Capitol here in our own country, here in America, the pillar of democracy.

This is a dark time. Many leaders yesterday condemned the violent mobs for this unprecedented attack on our country. But we need to go beyond that. We must confront the truth that words have power. They can be used to inspire – or to incite, just as the president-elect said.

Our democracy demands that we share a commitment to the truth that every citizen’s vote matters. When national or state leaders repeatedly make baseless claims that this was a fraudulent election, they incite violence. When they paint themselves as victims and abuse their power by falsely demonizing whole groups of other Americans as enemies, they generate hate and fear.

As someone said today, you can’t strike a match to light a fire and then when it’s raging yell at the fire to stop. Yesterday’s events made the power of speech very clear. Words have consequences that can be hard to extinguish.

So often, we feel powerless against the forces that seek to consume us. But as a friend reminded me last night, we are NOT powerless. In fact, each of us is a point of light with the potential to use our power to illuminate, heal, and find the common good.

We face so many truly serious challenges right now here in our own state: a pandemic that continues to take too many lives, hardworking neighbors who have lost their jobs, businesses that are on the brink of bankruptcy, healthcare and housing we can’t afford, students who need the great education that will allow them to thrive. These and so many other issues are all daunting right now, but there’s nothing we haven’t been able to do when we work together.

I’m not talking about just elected leaders. I’m talking about all of us. Each of us shines a light that makes a difference in our families, work, and community.

And here’s the part about the new legislative session. We begin on Monday. So, it’s a vital time for us to use our power to work for our common good right here at home, as well as for our nation.