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Beto O’Rourke was asked about the controversial kneeling protests. His answer reminded people of the best things about America and true patriotism.

The Texas Democrat is running an upstart campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). No one expected him to win, or even come close, frankly. But his surprisingly strong campaign has put in the national spotlight.

When someone asked him about the NFL national anthem controversy, he gave a thoughtful answer on the spot that instantly went viral for its stirring and unifying message about our country.


O’Rourke was asked if he thought the protests were “disrespectful” to the American flag and the country.

My short answer is no, I don’t think it’s disrespectful. Here’s my longer answer, but I’m gonna try to make sure that I get this right because I think it’s a really important question. And reasonable people can disagree on this issue, let’s begin there. And it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue, right? You’re every bit as American all the same.

The freedoms that we have were purchased not just by those in uniform, and they definitely were. But also by those who took their lives into their hands riding those Greyhound buses, the Freedom Riders in the deep South in the 1960s who knew full well that they would be arrested, and they were, serving time in the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Rosa Parks getting from the back of the bus to to the front of the bus. Peaceful, nonviolent protests, including taking a knee at a football game to point out that Black men, unarmed; Black teenagers, unarmed; and Black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability and without justice.

The response to his speech immediately lit up social media where celebrities like actor Russell Crowe and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised him.

And one prominent activist even said O’Rourke should run for president against Trump in 2020.

He’s  running a surprisingly strong campaign against Republican Ted Cruz.

There’s a reason people are paying attention to O’Rourke. A new poll has him just four points behind Cruz.

Democrats and Republicans in Texas have all but made up their minds between the two men. Now, it comes down to independents.

And there’s just enough room for O’Rourke to pull off a stunning upset.

After all, the state hasn’t elected a Democrat to federal office in 30 years.

Ted Cruz

Part of that reason might be disappointment in Cruz. But a bigger part is surely owed to the positive and unifying vision O’Rourke has put forth.

It’s one that is appealing to progressives but is also pure Texas in its independence, strength and decency. More from his NFL answer:

And this problem—as grave as it is—is not gonna fix itself, and they’re frustrated, frankly, with people like me and those in positions of public trust and power who have been unable to resolve this or bring justice for what has been done and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country. And so nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem and ensure that we fix it. That is why they’re doing it, and I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

America needs someone is can believe in again.

If O’Rourke wins his race in November, he’d literally have to start running for president before he was even sworn into office in the U.S. Senate.

That wouldn’t be a very nice way to reward the voters of Texas for taking a shot on him.

In other words, he’s probably not going to run unless he loses to Cruz and mounts a national campaign afterward.

However, the resonance of his message shows that voters, not just Democrats, are looking for positive and strong leadership in contrast to President Trump heading into the 2018 midterm elections and beyond.

Most elections are won in opposition to something. But as a nation we collectively need something to believe in. And messages like this one from O’Rourke remind of us how great we can be together and the kind of inspiring leaders America has built its better reputation upon.

Peg Hunter/Flickr/cc

This article originally appeared on Common Dreams. You can read it here.

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