(previous) Last year our campaign promised to journey to all fifty states. I am the only Presidential candidate to have completed campaigning in every state of our country since the first of March. In Boise, Idaho, recently, a reporter asked me: "Since Bush is expected to win Idaho and Gore has essentially conceded Idaho, neither of them are coming here, why did you? "Because," I replied, "if you're going to run for President of the United States, you should campaign in every one of our states."
Campaigning with the people in all the places we visited is illuminating and heartwarming. The impulse for changes as if people mattered are visible everywhere. Let me share some examples.
In Toledo, Ohio, we joined with members of a community of some 80 householders and 16 small businesses taken by the City, under threat of eminent domain, to provide DaimlerChrysler with a landscaping area. Already, the cowed
city had given Chrysler ample acreage for its Jeep plant. The city of Toledo cleared the land for the giant company, absorbed any environmental liabilities, gave DaimlerChrysler a long tax holiday as part of a nearly $300 million package in federal, state and local subsidies. The auto company got the additional land it wanted for its shrubbery and a long-time cohesive neighborhood was utterly demolished just like Detroit's Poletown in the 1980s. A World War II veteran told us that when he was fighting the fascists, he never dreamed his long-time home would be taken for corporate shrubbery. In stark contrast, DaimlerChrysler, recording record profits, had $20 billion cash in the bank.
In Madison, Wisconsin, we marched with workers picketing for a livable wage. They were working for an independent contractor who provided services for the University of Wisconsin.
In Atlanta, we stood in solidarity with a large homeless shelter in the downtown Business District where homeless people are not supposed to be seen. The city has not given the Shelter a kitchen permit for two years.
In Nashville, Tennessee, I met Tom Burrell, now running for the U.S. Senate on the Green Party line. Mr. Burrell returned from Vietnam to work in the auto industry and then came home to Tennessee to farm a large tract of land. There he learned about the shocking state of black farmers in America, dispossed of most of their land and forced to give up their farms over the last seventy years, in no small part due to blatantly discriminatory behavior by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Department is only now offering to make inadequate amends. Mr. Burrell has been a transforming leader of these farmers seeking recompense and land. We had reported on this situation nearly 30 years ago.
In Boston, right next to Fenway Park, we gathered with members of the neighborhood at a news conference. The issue was a forthcoming demand by the Boston Red Sox organization that some $300 million in tax monies be used to help build a new ballpark nearby. The neighborhood groups, disturbed by diversion of tax dollars from neglected needs of the city, wondered why renovation of this historic park was not wiser than demolition. Did not the Red Sox learn from the experience of the New England Patriots football team who were sent fleeing back to Boston after their $500 million bonanza for a stadium in Hartford was successfully blocked? There, an aroused citizen coalition spearheaded by the Connecticut Green Party effectively routed the power of a determined executive-legislative alliance by the Republican and Democratic parties.
In Montana and Idaho, we heard unassailable arguments that stopping the logging in national forests made superior environmental, economic and job sense. Enjoy these forests now and for future generations rather than destroy them for 3 percent of the nation's annual timber harvest and $1.2 billion of annual taxpayer subsidies to the timber barons. "Let the forests breathe for us," America's great environmentalist, David Brower told us.
In Hartford, Connecticut's grim inner city amidst the office buildings of the affluent insurance companies, we met with clergy from the churches and social activists and discussed what this so called booming economy has left behind in misery, deprivation and neighborhood heroics.
In Nebraska and Iowa we learned about the shocking crisis of much rural farm country where small farmers and ranchers, despite working from dawn to dusk, cannot make a living. They are being mercilessly squeezed by giant suppliers and giant buyers, who are relentlessly driving toward an industrialized corporate-contract agriculture mutated by genetic engineering.
In Hawaii, we visited one of the only two plots in the United States (the other is on the Pine Ridge Reservation) legally permitted to grow industrial hemp, that 5000 year old, versatile plant with thousands of uses, including textiles, fuel, food and paper. A fraction of an acre was surrounded by barbed wire fence, saturation night lights inside a larger fenced area. This medieval experience brought home once again that for the sake of farmers, the environment, consumers and energy independence, it is necessary to free industrial hemp from the proscribed list of U.S. Drug and Enforcement Agency.
In West Virginia, the misbehavior of King Coal is painfully visible. Some coal companies think nothing of blowing the tops off of mountains and producing a polluting rubble and consequent jamming of streams for many miles. Imagine! Against prevailing public opinion, King Coal is dynamiting mountains, whose lore and beauty formed the natural space for the mountain people. There was no objection from the Clinton-Gore administration. Similarly, the company that operates the giant incinerator, an extremely hazardous polluter in southwestern Ohio benefitted from the broken promises of the Clinton-Gore team made in 1992, to the citizen groups that fought and continue to fight to shutdown the incinerator.
From Minnesota, my vice-presidential running mate, Winona LaDuke and I called a conference of tribal leaders about the need to respect treaties, and end the budgetary and other discriminations against the impoverished reservations. This is long overdue.
Around the country from Delaware to Kentucky to Oregon to Minnesota, we joined with students deeply involved with the anti-sweatshop movement and with workers who have lost their jobs to these sweatshops abroad. We surveyed and confirmed the need for modern public transit and the wonderful new technologies that community groups were demanding to enable low-income people to get to work and to relieve the enormous time wasted in chocking bumper to bumper traffic. We spoke with nurses from coast to coast about furthering their leading role in advancing patients' rights, the quality of health care and universal health care for all. And, a tip of the hat to the California Nurses Association, the standard-setter for unions everywhere, for being the first union to support this Green Party Presidential campaign.
How uplifting were our conversations with peace and nuclear arms reduction groups whose members, most of them sagacious, experienced and determined elderly women and men whose concern is first and foremost for the "Seven Generations" ahead. They set a new standard for grandparenting. We should recall that the nuclear freeze movement began in town meetings in New England.
We saw struggling small businesses, the Main Street core of their community, slipping before the onslaught of the Wal-Marts and other giant chains that have privileges not available to these merchants. We met with volunteers and donors at receptions filled with civic activists excited over the premises and promise of an expanding Green Party. It would take about one million Americans, pledging 100 volunteer hours a year and raising $100 a year, advancing a broad and deep agenda for the just society congenial to millions of other Americans, to establish a majority political party in a few years.
The citizens of this country are not a backdrop for political maneuvering by big business. They are central to a democratic politics. They are central for reality testing, to help the politicians stay close to growing inequalities because politicians can insulate themselves by design. Did we really need a World Health Organization report to tell us how badly we stand on health care issues? Big money in electoral politics produces a kind of institutional insanity. This campaign will set an example of what can be accomplished with the honest dollars of individuals, by refusing to take PAC money or use soft money. This is a sane choice, now and in the future. It offers the citizens of this country an authentic role in defining and solving problems.
A progressive political party is most authentic when it connects with or arises from citizen movements and does not forget where it is coming from or the reason for its being. Major changes for the betterment of human beings start with major changes of direction. Such changes start with small steps taken by each individual and their community together with other individuals and these small steps evolve into ever larger steps which are thereby more tested and surefooted.
The question we have to ask of ourselves is how badly, how urgently do we want these changes? Do we want public financing of public elections, which will remove any roadblocks to progress? Do we want universal, accessible and quality health care, with an emphasis on prevention, for all children, women and men in America, at long, long last? Do we want the repeal of restrictive labor laws such as Taft-Hartley which fuel the obstruction of trade union organizing for tens of millions of American workers who do not earn a livable wage? Do we want adequate budgets and do we have the willpower for enforcing and strengthening the environmental, consumer protection and job safety laws against corporate crime, fraud and abuse so often and well reported in the mainstream media but, alas, to so little effect? Do we want to end hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate welfare, the so-familiar subsidies, giveaways and bailouts? Do we wish to discover the small and medium-size businesses in the Social Venture Network, and other places that believe in sustainable economies, like the Interface Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia, so as to refute the chronic nay saying of Big Business? Can we not move our rich country to become a society that abolishes poverty? Do we want an expansive transformation of our energy sources to the many kinds of solar energy, some of which have been around for centuries? Do we wish to advance the appropriate technologies that define efficiency and productivity as if consumers, environment and workers mattered?
Do we want to elevate the many civil servants in our federal government above the demeaning stereotypes that politicians have pasted on them and liberated their knowledge, insights and imagination to make government our servant?
Can we assure that these civil servants -- physicians, engineers, scientists, lawyers, cost analysts, procurement managers and others -- have a place where they can bring their conscience and ethics to work everyday?
Do we want our own media, our own television, radio and cable networks as a functioning and deliberative democracy desires and needs? Do we want to reserve part of the public airwaves which the people own in the first place for programming that reflects our solutions, our cultures, our sense of the heroic and the many models of little known success that need to be publicized and emulated?
Do we wish to so lift the horizons of the pursuit of happiness in our society through the pursuits of justice so that bigotry, discrimination and virulent intolerance recedes toward oblivion?
Do we wish to expand the definition of national security and national purpose to show how, with reasonable amounts of knowledge, resources and goodwill, we can rapidly begin to defeat the global scourges of poverty, contagious disease, illiteracy, lack of shelter, environmental devastation, and to recognize the genius of Third World peoples to help it flower?
Isn't it about time that the United States government stop supporting dictatorships and avaricious oligarchies with our tax monies, munitions and diplomacy? Isn't it time that our government takes a cue from numerous studies and model projects, and advances foreign policies that support the peasants and the workers for a change.
Do we want to say to the 70 million non-voters, the Greens want to help you build a new beginning? Here is your chance to come forth and support what you have long wished for, a progressive movement that is for the people because it is of the people.
To the contented classes in America, the top five percent on the income ladder, I ask, is your choice only to exit or is it also to voice? Your income enables you to exit and buy bottled water when you are concerned about the quality of your communities' drinking water, to send your children to private schools, and to move to some more pleasant
community. But you are the people who can get your calls returned. You are the citizens who can give voice to the powerless and the beleaguered to improve their conditions.
My classmates at Princeton University and Harvard Law School have chosen to voice. Over ten years ago our Princeton class of 1955 established a Center for Civic Leadership to place undergraduates in dozens of civic organizations dedicated to systemic change. The Center is also pursuing a major effort to reorder our public health budget so that a major assault on global tuberculosis can be mounted. In 1993, members of my Law School class of 1958 established the Appleseed Foundation that organized state-based Centers for Law and Justice. Over a dozen of these centers are underway, for the purpose of furthering systemic approaches to systemic injustices. How many other older alumni classes, undergraduate and graduate, can develop their systemic initiatives for building democracy and justice?
A progressive political movement highlights civic energies which are dedicated to the proposition that a society which has more justice is a society that needs less charity. Too many good people are walking around with invisible chains which restrict their contributions to the good life for themselves and their fellow citizens. A progressive political movement liberates their wisdom, judgment, experience, creativity and idealism.
To the millions of retired Americans with such capacities, a progressive political movement offers endless opportunities for this community-based patriotism to blossom. We need you in this fresh campaign. Small numbers of large corporations are playing roulette with the planet.
To the youth of America, I say, beware of being trivialized by the commercial culture that tempts you daily. I hear you saying often that you're not turned on to politics. The lessons of history are clear and portentous. If you do not turn on to politics, politics will turn on you. The fact that we have so many inequalities demonstrates this point. Democracy responds to hands-on participation. And to energized imagination. That's its essence. We need the young people of America to move into leadership positions to shape their future as part of this campaign for a just society. Let's prepare to take the politicians and the lobbyists on a tour of the People's America.
Two premises are basic to this political campaign. First, that a basic function of leadership is to generate more leaders, not more followers. Secondly, this political movement is first and foremost movement of thought, not of belief. There is nothing wrong with beliefs but it would be better to have them preceded by thought and followed by action.
By debating, phoning, e-mailing, and marching during the next four months, we the people will grow a new political start, a green plant pushing up between the two fossil parties.
With a new progressive movement, we the people have the ability to vastly improve our lives and to help shape the world's course to one of justice and peace for years to come.