The Efficacy of Sacrifice-Based Protest
January 8, 2000
Doris Haddock's Remarks in Morgantown, West Virginia
Thirty years ago, Ms. Joni Mitchell wrote a song about this beautiful town, and I have always ever since wanted to come here. I am a little late, but I see the beauty has graciously waited for me.
In the song, Morning Morgantown, Ms. Mitchell wrote and sang:
We'll find a table in the shade And sip our tea and lemonade And watch the morning on parade In morning, Morgantown I never imagined, of course, that I would be that little morning parade, but life is wonderful and full of magic.
My little parade is a political mission, of course, on our way to Washington. But here, not Washington, is where America is its most beautiful, most authentic and most honest. Here is where we expect fairness from each other, and where we expect and demand clean government. Here, in beautiful communities like Morgantown, is where we learn to care about each other.
We indeed deserve communities that reflect our highest values. We deserve a national government, too, that is a reflection of our highest values, not our lowest. Things have gotten a little turned upside down in Washington in that regard, but as a people we are up to the task of setting things straight, beginning with the work of getting the big, special interest contributions outlawed from our elections.
Thank you for this welcome. I am very honored to be here.
Later in the day, at West Virginia University, Morgantown
The Efficacy of Sacrifice-Based Protest
Thank you for being here to welcome me. It is an honor to be here with you in Morgantown.
It may seem odd to you that an 89 year-old woman --almost 90-- should start walking across the country for an issue like campaign finance reform. It sounds like something that CPAs should worry about, not old ladies from New Hampshire.
Nevertheless, on January 1st of last year, I began my walk in Los Angeles and I have been walking ever since, usually ten miles a day. It has been a great adventure.
That you might better understand how this kind of protest works, let me describe what has happened to me again and again on my walk. When I got across the Mojave Desert in California, I found myself at the Arizona town of Parker, on the Colorado River. The mayor of that lively town is a wonderful woman named Sandy Pierce. Now, I don't know if Sandy cared too much about campaign finance reform before I got there, though she well may have. But after we met --and after people congratulated me for crossing that big desert where many others have died, and after Good Morning America and National Public Radio interviewed me-- people were very curious about campaign finance reform. Sandy understood immediately what I was talking about. Within a few hours, she was introducing me all over town with a little speech like this: "Now I would like you to meet Doris Haddock. She has just walked here from Los Angeles, through the Mojave." People's eyes would open a little wider. She would continue: "She is doing it to publicize the need for campaign finance reform. She is upset that big money interests are calling the shots in our elections, and we no longer have much of a say. She thinks that is a huge problem for us all. She says that all the people who have died in wars to defend our democracy would want us to defend it now, from those who are buying it from under us." Well, all I would have to do is smile and shake hands after Sandy introduced me. People would immediately see that what I was doing did, in fact, relate to serious issues that disturbed them, too.
Then, of course, the local newspaper reporter would want to know about campaign finance reform. If someone would walk so far across that desert for it, it must be important. And so I would explain how there are laws limiting what a person can give to any one candidate, and that these laws are meant to preserve the health of the democratic system. I would explain that there is a soft money loophole that gets around those laws. The loophole allows corporations, unions or wealthy individuals to give unlimited amounts of money to parties. The parties can pass those dollars along to candidates. What is the point of contribution limits, if you can just use this back door?
Well, reporters are quick studies by trade. So wherever I have gone, reporters have quickly learned about the issue and written about it. Large newspapers have looked anew at the issue, and some have changed their positions, now demanding campaign finance reform. Now, could I have done as well if I sat back in New Hampshire and wrote letters to the editor? Probably not. People do respect serious and sincere sacrifice, and they will listen to you on account of it.
Having newspaper reporters and editors who understand and care about campaign finance reform is very bad news, indeed, for anti-reform Members of Congress who are later interviewed by those newspeople.
Now, back to campaign reform for a moment. Some of your friends may say, why shouldn't they be able to spend as much money as they want on a candidate? It is a free country, and that is a part of free speech, isn't it?. Well, tell them this: If money is speech, how can we be equal citizens? If money is speech and we are all in the same room, trying to run a democracy, then some of us are mute and some of us have bull horns. It is reasonable to put some limits on the money going into campaigns, if only to make it so that all can be fairly heard.
As you know, big corporate money has taken up residence in Washington in a very serious way, and has now taken over the process (flooding it with $116 million a month!). If you decide, as a free citizen of America, that you believe we need to do a better job of reducing greenhouse gasses, or of protecting natural resources, or any other cause you believe in, and you go to Washington to press your case, I ask you: will you be talking to those Senators and Representatives, and will they be listening to your arguments and making decisions based on the best facts and the best interests of our country and our world? Today, they will not, and that is the tragic condition we must not allow to persist. They are all running on high-speed treadmills of fund raising that only give them time to listen to big money lobbyists, and then to do their bidding. They rationalize it, of course, thinking that in the big picture of things they are doing the best for America. They are lying to themselves, and to all of us.
K Street, where the biggest corporate lobbyists have their offices in Washington, is the feeding trough for is piggery. The big money lobbyists put money out in the troughs each morning on K Street, and a great oinking starts up near the Capitol, and soon they are all nudging each other at the troughs. Its enough to make you a vegetarian.
I am walking to Washington, but I am not going first to the Capitol building--that is only the puppet theater these days. I am walking to K Street, the true center of power, where we will show Washington to itself for the shameful place it has become.
Enough negativity. Let me tell you that, for every negative thought I have had along this long walk, there have been a thousand beautiful moments. Americans are truly kind, interesting, odd, beautiful and smart people. I recommend that, someday, when it is not escapism, you don a backpack and go see it all for yourself. I don't think you should wait until you are 90. I expect that most of you younger people will live 150 years or more, so you might think about doing it twice, once through the north, and once through the south. And leave time for the rest of the world, too.
On your walks, you will see how important political leadership is in the lives of the people. When we do not have leaders that care about fairness, and health, and the fulfillment of the educational potential of each person, what we get is what we have gotten: poverty, illiteracy, dysfunctional communities, and widespread emotional depression. I am not saying that it is the government's role to run our lives, I am saying that, especially in this nation, we are the government, and we run this country for our mutual benefit, unless powerful interests get in our way, stealing our common resources and our very lives. When that happens, we must act, and that is what I am doing for myself, and what you must do for yourself. For this is your land. It is not someone else's. This is your life, not someone else's. Your freedom, and your position of responsibility as a member of a self-governing community have been paid for in blood by many, many people who came before you. You owe it to them, but most of all to yourselves, to sweep away anything that gets between you and your rightful place as the free member of a free community.
Up the road a ways, in Cumberland, I will mark mile 3,000 and my 90th year. I am almost finished with this walk, but I am far from finished with this work. In Washington, we will make a determination regarding who in Congress is for reform, and who is too busy with their snouts in the sludge to make a commitment to reform. On the basis of that determination, I will be active in the states in the coming election year to try to defeat some Congresspeople who stand in the way of reform. We only need a few more votes in the Senate to achieve a good start.
So this is serious and long term work, but I am up for it, and I hope you are, too. Our democracy, and even the biological survival of our planet are in the balance. Aren't we fortunate to live in a time when so much is at stake --when we each have such a fine challenge to our very souls?
Thank you.Back to Speeches Index
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