Pastor Charles Quann, Montgomery County Delegate
“Some of the things I do now I never thought I’d be able to do in my wildest dreams.”
From Beaver County to Bucks County, delegates are traveling across the Keystone State to support Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. This week we’re sharing the delegates’ remarkable stories of resilience and tenacity.
I have always been intrigued by politics. As a pastor, I recognize those who separate the political and the spiritual realm but I think they’re connected when we speak about justice and equality.
I’ve followed the career of Hillary Clinton for a long time. I appreciate what she’s done. I believe that we cannot be silent, particularly about issues like immigration and civil rights.
I grew up without a strong male figure in my life and consequently I made a commitment a long time ago that I would make a difference for others. Whether that was in the church or in the political realm, my initial commitment has gone far beyond what I initially imagined.
Hillary Clinton certainly exceeds the expectations and qualifications of Donald Trump in many, many ways and hopefully America will see that and our country will better as a result of it.
Talk about growing up here in Philadelphia.
When I was in the eleventh grade, we were renting a home. Our landlord lived down the street and when he died, the city said that we could purchase the home. But we weren’t able to afford it.
Several years later, I got married and was working in a factory. I felt something calling me to the ministry. I was in my early thirties and there was a place called Lincoln Prep where I finished my last six months of high school. Then I went to Eastern College and majored in Communications. After that, I attended Eastern Seminary.
I was blessed to have several men in my life who became strong mentors and role models, including my former pastor. I truly believe it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.
It doesn’t matter where you start — if you put your heart and mind to it, you can succeed and make a difference in life. I’m trying to make a difference not just for me but for the people. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for a number of years and have been extremely blessed.
My family and I are on a number of community organization boards trying to give back. We have over a hundred and ten children in an orphanage that we support. I work with the innovators in Philadelphia across party lines and across state lines. I have been able to do something in my life that I never thought I could do.
Hopefully my story will be a blessing to somebody else who may have had a meager beginning and will help them see that if you push your way forward, God can bless you. I’ve been blessed with a nice home and family, sons and daughters. I’m the first person in my family to go to college and I feel really fortunate.
How did you stay resilient in times when you felt challenged? You had to leave school and start working. How did you keep going?
I think that we all have setbacks, roadblocks, detours, but one has to be resilient.
Going back to school was really a challenge for me. I went to a school that was, at that time, predominantly white. I dealt with low self-esteem on campus but I had the faith and the strength to persevere. When I finished school, I was able to focus on my church.
My wife was thirty-nine years old when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away this past December. I had to find a source of strength to keep moving forward when she was diagnosed. At that point I had very few financial resources, but I did feel that it was another point in my life that pushed me to continue moving forward.
I remarried and was blessed by a new wife. I’m trying to make sure that I continue to have perspective and live my life by that idea. There are unfortunately things that are going to happen in life and one of the things I appreciate about Hillary is that she has a lot of fortitude. She’s had some setbacks. She’s bounced back.
I think that everyone who is successful in life will find that there are challenges, but you have to be consistent. I’ve had enough challenges in life to know that you can get through them no matter what.
That’s my story. I’m just grateful that God has gotten me through some of those tough times, whether it’s financial, health, low self-esteem, or anything else that happens in life. Some of the things I do now I never thought I’d be able to do in my wildest dreams.
I think that every individual needs to have some kind of inner strength, whether that’s believing in a higher power or just believing in themselves.
That’s so powerful. Can you recall when faith first became something very important to you? When did you know that you wanted to pursue faith as your life’s work?
In my early twenties, I found the church as a source of strength because my home was sometimes very chaotic.
There were people at church who took a liking to me and encouraged me. In my early twenties I went to a minister and told him that I had a call to the ministry, but because my self-esteem was low at that point, I did not think I could go to college.
Several years later, when I went to join the church, they said, “You’re a young man. Get some formal training.” At that point, my faith overcame my fears and I decided that I would do it. And I did it. It was a tough time but my faith kept me going.
The last year at school, when I ran out of all grants and loans, someone who I had never met paid my last tuition bill so I could stay in school and graduate. The individual said that he heard my story and wanted to make a contribution to my well being. I never knew that person. Those kinds of things qualify my faith and tell me that there’s always somebody out there who will help you.
My faith in God helps me to know that. I look back at my life and think, “God always puts people in place to help us.” When my wife became ill we took her to hospice and that experience increased my faith as well.
I was a volunteer for a few years at Presbyterian Hospital hospice. I learned about different stages of death and dying. All those experiences have strengthened my own faith. My faith is still strong in God and I just believe in putting that into action.
In Montgomery County, has anyone approached you with concerns or issues that are really important to them that they would like the government to address?
Many people have talked to me about issues dealing with equality for women, such as equal pay for equal work.
Sometimes I hear people say that spiritual leaders should not take on political leadership roles. I disagree with that.
I’ve tried to be as open and honest about the candidates and even indicated that I vote for people who have the heart, whether they’re a Democrat or a Republican. I try to be open to people, put people ahead of politics. Sometimes that helps and sometimes it doesn’t.
I try to speak out on issues. I tell people the importance of voting, and I’ve written letters to the editor regarding my position on Hillary and on the election in November.
There’s a lot of people who are galvanized to make a difference. We want to make sure we get the vote out and get the enthusiasm. Particularly with a lot of African Americans, the enthusiasm they felt for Barack Obama is the same enthusiasm they feel for Hillary. That is really important. Obviously every vote counts.
I write a column for the Philadelphia Tribune, one of the oldest African American newspapers in the country. I write once a month and on the third Sunday of this month I have an article entitled “Every Vote Counts.” In that article, I write about being a delegate for Hillary. I hope it will get African Americans in particular to come out and vote for her. So that’s what I’ve done. That will take place on the third Sunday in July.
Every vote definitely counts, and the way to win is to show that we’re all part of this and that we all are voting. It’s going to be really exciting. I hope that we have a huge turnout.
We can’t afford not to vote. I try to be as transparent as possible. I’ve written several articles about my positions on issues that some people may disagree with. People have a right to express their point of view. I usually don’t respond to negativity and I don’t go back and forth with people in letters. But by and large I’ve had several people that have said to me, “I appreciate your writing,” because I have written several articles around justice.
We have a sign outside of the church praying for the families in Orlando. I took part in a walk vigil for those individuals who were shot at the church in Charleston and we took $25,000 to Charleston last August on behalf of our entire community. We’ve had the opportunity to come together in the faith community to pick up those families.
It has been a great transformation.