- Published: 26 April 2008 26 April 2008
Glens Falls, New York
April 28, 2008
The upcoming Presidential election in November is the reason we've gathered here this evening. But if we want to create a lasting change in our country, if our goal is to reinvigorate our democracy, then we must look beyond November.
Every four years we're told don't waste your vote on a minor party candidate; you'll only be throwing your vote away. The US population is now over 300,000,000. We have 5 major broadcast TV networks to watch, dozens of brands of toothpaste to choose from, 5 daily newspapers right here in the Capital Region, countless phone companies, land-line, cable and VOIP to signup with, we can walk into any store and choose from white bread, wheat bread, rye bread, onion bread, Canadian white bread, jewish rye bread, pumpernickel, potato and jalapeño pepper bread, but we're expected to be content with only two political parties representing our interests?
Why must we continue to accept that only candidates such as McCain, Obama and Clinton have earned the right to run for President? Why not consider Ralph Nader who will be speaking shortly, Cynthia McKinney, Kent Mesplay, Jesse Johnson & Kat Swift who are running for the Green Party nomination, Mike Gravel & Bob Barr who are running for the Libertarian Party nomination, and the Republican who won't go away, Ron Paul? Limiting the number of choices only limits our Democracy. If we're only supposed to vote for and support winners, than why in God's name is anyone still supporting the Chicago Cubs? Why are we willing to accept multiple choices in sports but not in politics?
We cannot expect the government in Washington to consider the interests of ordinary citizens more important than corporate lobbyists if all we do is come to out to vote every four years. We must be willing to work for change at the local and state levels.
Last summer Ralph Nader spoke just down the street after the Glens Falls premier of "An Unreasonable Man". I sat in the audience as he spoke at length about the need for citizen involvement at the local level. He told us about the example his parents set. He told us to go to local governmental meetings to ensure that our elected officials were acting in a responsible way. But when Ralph said "I'm going to tell you a Chinese proverb that you'll never forget", I rolled my eyes and silently said "yeah, right". But that proverb, "those who know, and don't do, don't know", struck home. Those words continued to haunt me for weeks, before I finally decided to accept their challenge and run for office.
Last month I had the good fortune of being elected Mayor of Greenwich, NY. But what can I do as Mayor of a small village in upstate NY to end the war? Nothing. What can I do as Mayor to slow down global warming? Nothing. What can I do as Mayor of a village of 1,900 residents to lower the cost of gasoline? Absolutely nothing.
But what I can do as Mayor is to empower my fellow citizens, to open up Village government and convince them that their voice is important. I can create an environment where people volunteer to serve on the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals and run for office. As they gain experience and confidence, in the future they can move up the electoral ladder. In concert with citizen activists from other local communities, a progressive base can be built to support candidates running for office in Albany and beyond.
This is an achievable goal, but only if some of you decide to step forward in your communities. If all we do is vote every four years and then complain about the results, than nothing will change. Unless we're willing to commit ourselves for the next 20 years to work for a fundamental change in the political landscape of America, than Ralph's candidacy, and that of the nominees of the Green Party and Libertarian Party will be in vain.
So will you join with me in giving a rousing, North Country welcome to the man who not only inspired me to run for local office, but who before the evening is out, will convince some of you to also run, brothers and sisters, Ralph Nader.