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June 23, 2004

Remembering Hope

One year ago today, Howard Dean announced he was running for President of the United States. He called his announcement speech "The Great American Restoration" ; it was a great speech. After outlining the many problems he saw with politics as usual in the U.S., Dean declared the mission of his campaign:

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

The history of our nation is clear: At every turn when there has been an imbalance of power, the truth questioned, or our beliefs and values distorted, the change required to restore our nation has always come from the bottom up from our people.

And so, while the President raises $4 million more tonight to maintain his agenda, we will not be silent.

He calls his biggest fundraisers Rangers and Pioneers.

But today, we stand together with thousands in Burlington, Vermont and tens of thousands more, standing with us right now in every state in this nation. And we call ourselves, simply, Americans.

And we stand today in common purpose to take our country back.

I stood in a brewpub in Shirlington with around 100 others watching the speech on video, and after hearing that speech, I made my first-ever contribution to a political candidate. Dean wasn't my dream candidate, and in many places I disagreed with his agenda; to me, Dean was too centrist. But that didn't matter, because finally here was a politician who was describing the world I lived in, rather than some fantasy world I'd never seen or visited. Finally, here was a politician who gave me hope that maybe my vote would matter, maybe my voice and my actions could matter, and maybe we, as Americans, could turn this country around.

One year ago today, I started hoping again. For the next six months, Howard Dean offered honest, frank, specific, pointed, fact-based critiques of the current administration, Congress, corporate America, and politics as usual in the U.S. He had everyone running for cover, and by January 2004 he had everyone believing that he would at least get the Democratic nomination, if not the presidency. It was a beautiful thing to watch, and a beautiful thing to be a part of. I gave money, I set up and staffed information tables at street fairs, I attended rallies, I held a house party, I collected names to add to the email list. I had hope, and it felt great to back that hope with action (even when I could and should have done much more).

And then something happened. What was it? I still can't say, but I do know it had a lot to do with a politics of fear, the fires of which were stoked by all of Dean's many opponents, both Republicans and Democrats alike. Dean offered hope, his opponents offered fear, and fear won. Too simplistic? Sure. But that's what it looks like from here, one year later. I look forward to seeing how history describes the rise and fall of the Dean campaign. Perhaps history will prove me wrong.

Today, a year after "The Great American Resotoration," I still hope that Bush will not be reelected, but that's about it. And if that happens, the presidential administration will change, and yes, many things will get incrementally better under Kerry, but politics will continue as usual. It's sad, thinking of what might have been. And yes, we can still hope that a Kerry presidency will be better than anything so far would give us reason to think it will be, and we can hope that beyond Kerry, beyond the presidency, there are still ways to change America for the better. After all, hope dies last, right?

Posted June 23, 2004 05:59 AM | election 2004

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