One of the more outspoken and progressive voices in the US House of Representatives, Dennis Kucinich, representing a heavily industrial district comprised of Cleveland and its western suburbs, is a maverick who does not shy away from controversy. In addition to being a leader on the 'bread and butter' issue of opposing presidential trade promotion authority, he has introduced bills to outlaw the militarization of space, and to establish a cabinet level "Department of Peace" in order to 'work toward peaceful solutions of conflict at home and abroad.' He often resembles a liberal elected from a 'safe' seat on the west coast or in a heavily minority district, not someone from the rust belt. He is also one of the most vocal proponents of increased funding for NASA, and just to keep people on their toes, is a supporter of restrictions on access to abortions. He is most likely the first and only vegan member of congress.

Kucinich, whose father was a truck driver, was the oldest child in a family of seven. He attended Catholic school and Case Western Reserve University. His blue collar Eastern European pedigree is typical of the city he represents in congress. In 1977, at the age of 31, he was elected mayor of Cleveland, making him the youngest person ever elected mayor of a major American city. As mayor he fought extremely corrupt corporate interests and their slick media blitz to keep the city owned electric utility from going private, and actually prevailed. Those same interets conspired to deny him a second term, and upon his defeat he headed to the west where he rambled across many states working odd jobs. He returned to Cleveland, and after a stint in the Ohio state Senate, in 1996 he was elected to congress and was re-elected in 1998 and 2000. Currently, he chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The seemingly fearless proletarian politics of Kucinich are very illustrative of the north-south split personality of the state of Ohio - when compared to those of the authoritarian fascists Steve Chabot and Rob Portman that represent the southern end of the state in congress.

The following is an excerpt from a speech given by Kucinich that I think encapsulates the major challenge facing America and illustrates why he is such an amazing leader:

"When I was mayor, I was asked to make a conscious choice between competing visions, between whether corporations existed for the city or the city existed for the corporations, between the claims of the community and the claims of commerce, between the requirement for economic justice and the imperative for profit, between the public interest and private interest. These are choices that we all make every day in the accommodations we make with our purchases, where we work, where we live, how we travel, what we eat.

Everyday, as each one of us chooses, so chooses the world.

A few years ago, I could smell the dynamic tension between the claims of the community and the claims of the free market in the tear gas that invaded the locked-down lobby of this very hotel (Westin, Seattle) during the challenge to the practices of the World Trade Organization. I could feel that tension coursing through the streets of this city when I marched with machinists and moms, with Teamsters and turtles in a call for human rights, workers' rights and environmental quality principles to become integral to our commerce. The challenge before us today, the challenge before our nation and the world is whether we accept the beneficence of Lincoln's prayer to create "...a government of the people, by the people and for the people," or whether we timidly accept the economic, social and political consequences of a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.

In the same speech, he delivered this 'haiku' about the corrupt deregulation bought with corporate dollars:

Plotting gains.
False promise low rates,
Political contributions place.
Regulatory controls erase.
Energy supplies manipulate.
Shortages create.
Taxpayers bled.
Ratepayers dead.
Windfall profitgate.
Earnings misstate.
Stock inflate.
Enron investigate.
Bailouts by state.
System remains.

The fact that there is a well-informed progressive who speaks in haiku representing a blue collar district in congress is what makes America great. The fact that this is a unique situation is what makes America in need of improvement.

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