It is time for a positive change in Washington politics and not just legislative change, but a real change in the culture. We have the distinct pleasure to endorse Vennia Francois as she runs for U.S. Congress in Florida Congressional District 10. Our Chief Editor and Founder Nick VandenBrekel had the pleasure to meet with Vennia at the ORU News offices in Orlando, Florida. You can read an excerpt from the Q&A below.
Vennia Francois is a first-generation American, born and raised in Central Florida. She is an attorney, a member of the Florida Bar, District of Columbia Bar, and the United States Supreme Court Bar. She served as an intern for U.S. Representative John L. Mica and later joined U.S. Senator Mel Martinez’s staff as a policy advisor where she continued under U.S. Senator George LeMieux. She worked at the SEC where she protected the public from fraudulent and deceptive financial practices. Vennia is a graduate of Florida A&M College of Law, Lee University, the University of Florida and Edgewater High School. Vennia’s family has worshipped at Calvary Assembly for over 40 years.
Florida’s 10th Congressional District, in central Florida, is at the heart of the political battle for Florida and the nation. Central Florida, along the I-4 corridor, is home to the largest number of undecided voters in the state. Ultimately, these voters can swing the balance of the U.S. House of Representatives and decide the next U.S. president.
Vennia Francois is running as a Republican to represent the more than 740,000 people of Florida’s 10th Congressional District. She was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. One of nine children, she is also a first generation American. Her parents came to the U.S. hoping for a better life and the American dream. She is an ardent believer in the American Dream because she and her family have lived it.
Vennia found her calling for public service when she volunteered for political campaigns and community organizations during her undergraduate years at the University of Florida. She chose to pursue her law degree at Florida A&M University College of Law so that she would be better equipped to affect community and political change.
As an attorney with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), Vennia fought to end corrupt business practices. Her career in public service has also included working for Senator Mel Martinez, Senator George LeMieux and Congressman John Mica, all from Florida. In addition, she served as a board member to the Orange County Minority Women’s Business Enterprise Committee and the Certification Appeals Board of Orlando. She believes in fighting for the vulnerable and those in need and helping others achieve their own American dream.
Read more about Vennia Francois in our interview below.
Why are you running for a seat in the U.S. Congress?
I believe I can make a difference, and I want to be a part of crafting legislation and building bipartisan coalitions that move our district and our country forward. As a lawyer, I have done my best to defend the truth and advocate for those in need. As a Congresswoman, I can take that advocacy to the next level—improving federal legislation and legal protections for all our citizens.
Throughout my life, I have been compelled to public service, always with the goal of improving people’s lives. And today, in the shadow of the unnecessary death of George Floyd and so many others, I am even more driven to make a difference in the lives of others and to be an example for good.
This election, more than any other in our lifetime, will have consequences that will determine the fate of America and that will determine the kind of country our kids and grandkids will inherit. It is important for me to get involved and to contribute my best to help my community and my country.
Will the death of George Floyd be a tipping point for change and an opportunity to move equal justice forward in our country?
George Floyd’s death in police custody was unacceptable. His death and the subsequent violent protests and looting spotlighted such horrible hatred, intolerance and violence across our country. These actions have no place in our society, and I will stand with all American communities who face unjust discrimination and violence.
I also support the many good police and law enforcement officers who are committed to fair and equal enforcement of the law. They play an important role in our communities and in keeping our citizens safe.
There is a lot of work ahead for America to fulfill its destiny as an equal home for all people and a place where every person in this nation matters and is valued. I hope the public debate we are having now leads to real change. Every state needs to be able to have an honest and transparent debate about what is best for their citizens. On the federal level, we need to strengthen our stance against hate crimes and continue working to reform our criminal justice system to ensure it is fair and impartial.
More than anything, I hope the death of George Floyd drives people to get involved in the political process and the process of governing. I encourage everyone to learn about the candidates on their ballot and to vote. I urge individuals to volunteer or work with their local and state governments, and maybe even run for office.
America has always struggled with racial and ethnic diversity in government. How do we change that?
In the late 2000s, I was one of only a few minorities working on Capitol Hill. According to one study, African American, Asian, and Latino Congressional staff accounted for only about 6% of the more than 4,000 U.S. Senate employees in 2006. I know things have improved since then, but there is still a shortage of minority representation among Congressional staffers. And I know we can do better.
America’s diversity gives us such great strength. We can learn from our different backgrounds and experiences. That knowledge makes us better people. And when key legislative decisions are being made for all Americans, we need those different perspectives at the table.
Getting more racial and ethnic minorities to the table starts with education and information. We need to give every student the same tools and opportunities to get involved. At the federal level, we need to talk about the opportunities for high school students to work as congressional pages and for college student to work as interns. Those of us who have worked in government need to reach back into the schools and talk about our experiences and share step-by-step how more students can be involved.
How has your experience as a first generation American shaped your outlook and policy positions?
My parents emigrated to the United States from the Bahamas in search of the American dream. They arrived without a lot of money and no higher education, but what they did bring was their faith and a belief that America would give their children a chance at a better life.
Theirs is the story of many immigrants. They worked hard, often at two jobs. They faced challenges. They struggled to provide for me and my eight brothers and sisters. So, I understand firsthand the difficulties faced by immigrants and those who are striving every day to achieve a better life for themselves and their families.
Eventually, my parents were able to open their own small business, and I witnessed the intended and unintended impact of public policies on small businesses—policies that helped them grow and policies that cut them down.
All of these experiences, on top of growing up as a minority woman in America, have influenced my political views. I understand the hardship. I understand the struggle. And I want to do what I can to make life easier and success more attainable for everyone in our country.
There’s an urgency in my heart to save America and get us back to the true ideals of our founding – that “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” We live in the greatest country on this planet, and I intend to make sure we keep the foundational principles and freedoms our forefathers fought so hard to give us.
What are your views on immigration, specifically?
Immigrants, legal immigrants, are a vital part of our growth as a community and as a country. They have a strong work ethic and drive for success. Here in central Florida, they are integral to our tourism and hospitality industry. They are also opening their own small businesses, creating jobs and helping strengthen our economy. It is the incredible mix of different cultures, ethnicities, and perspectives that immigrants bring that makes America such a great nation.
To protect America’s legacy as a nation of immigrants and a nation of freedom, we must ensure that those who arrive in our country do so legally. We must protect the rights and freedoms of our citizens and those who have made America their legal home.
Earlier this year, I met with leaders from the Department of Homeland Security and the Customs and Border Patrol at the southern border in McAllen, Texas. I trust them when they tell me they need a wall along certain sections of that border. I heard their requests for help—for additional technology and barriers to make up for a lack of adequate workforce.
In our own backyard in central Florida, we have to ensure there are strong protections in place to guard against human trafficking and the proliferation of drugs. We want the world to know about Orlando, but we do not want to be known as the third largest city for human trafficking. We have to do better.
How do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic will affect priorities and policies in Washington?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had us rethink everything from health care and agricultural supply chains to large scale manufacturing and small business. We have also had to address outdated policies that did not account for the growing number of people who make a living in the gig economy.
It has been a challenging time, especially for a community like ours in Orlando that depends on tourism. Workers have been laid off or furloughed. Businesses have been shuttered, and the tourists have gone home. Our communities look so different today, like nothing we could have imagined at the start of this year.
Recovery will be difficult. Our systems and policies were not designed with a global pandemic in mind. However, we are already seeing signs of improvement in Florida as state officials cautiously move us forward in a phased reopening. And on the federal level, I believe we must continue to advocate for support for small businesses, for job creation, for vaccine research, for health care systems that have been strained beyond capacity.
We need to continue listening to our experts at the Centers for Disease Control, following their guidelines and trying to understand what this disease might look like in the fall and next winter. With a greater understanding, we can work together to develop the right plan forward for our community and for communities across the U.S.