Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Centrum

Last night, I was reminded why I'm a Democrat. I worked the DCU center rally in Worcester as a volunteer, and came away with these assorted impressions:

Tim Murray said “Deval Patrick and I aren’t just running for the job, we want to do the work!” (clearly a slap at career opportunist governors of the past and present, and the second-best line of the night).

It seems that only Democrats know what that work really involves any more. Deval says that we don’t have to agree on everything before we can do anything. Bill Clinton didn’t balance the federal budget -- Bill Clinton, working with a Republican-led Congress, balanced the federal budget. Clinton also reminded us more than once that leadership doesn’t come from ideologues who already know the answers, but from listening and arguing based on the evidence.

JFK, from his 1961 inaugural address:

...let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us...

Ted Kennedy is not so smooth in front of a crowd these days, but seeing him and hearing him reminded me (as did Bill Clinton and others who spoke) of his astonishing term of service to the country – the last twenty years of it as my senator -- spanning most of my lifetime, and characterized not only by loyalty to his constituency and his principles, but his ability to foster bipartisanship in getting things done.

I remember sitting with my parents in the gallery of the U.S. Senate in December 1963, the nation still in mourning over JFK’s assassination. One after another, the senators gave tribute to the late president; finally, a very young Ted Kennedy – one year into his first term – rose to acknowledge the memorials and give his own. I wish I could remember even a little bit of what he said -- I was eight years old. I just remember the gravity of the moment, and how moved my parents were. As had many of their generation, they had heard JFK say “Ask not…” and taken it to heart.

Two years later, my father had moved the family to Greenville, Mississippi, to work for a civil rights organization. My parents never forgot how, as a U.S. Senator, Robert F. Kennedy was one of the few politicians from Washington to come down to the Mississippi Delta. He didn’t just fly over or pose for pictures; he stood on the porches of shotgun shacks and spoke with real people living on real mud streets, with no schools and no healthcare, until he understood firsthand what it all meant. Another memory I have from those couple of years in the South is of the three portraits it seemed like I saw in a place of honor in every black family’s home: Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy.

Deval spoke about collecting donations from the well-heeled on the upper floors of fancy buildings in downtown Boston, but then appreciating just as much that each one of the cleaning crew approached him to tell him “I’m with you”.

The sight of Tim Murray on the stage (Deval had to leave early for last night’s debate) alongside Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy suggested a connection between legacy of the Democratic Party and its present and future.


…the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed…

Clinton talked about the historic opportunity in front of us, and all the speakers talked about what it would take to fulfill it.

Deval Patrick:

I do know the right words, spoken from the heart with conviction, because of a vision of a place just beyond our reach and a faith in the unseen, are a call to action. That's what I'm asking you to do: Take action.


…In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.

The chorus of the campaign's theme song asks "What have you done today to make you feel proud?" All I had to do last night was to watch and listen. Beginning today, and for the next two weeks, it's going to take whatever I can give, because of what's at stake.

Originally posted at Blue Mass Group Thu Oct 26, 2006 at 15:52:07 PM EDT