Friday, February 22, 2008

Companion Guide to the Democratic Debate from Texas -- Part I

As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to take a slightly different approach to discussing Thursday night's CNN/Univision Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate.

Quite often during a debate the candidates will reference people, past accomplishments, policies and stories that may be unfamiliar to someone who is new to US politics and history. So I decided to take a look at a few of last night's comments and expand upon them. However once I started writing I realized that this is going to take a lot more than one post. So I hope that you will find this series of post informative, interesting or at least a little fun.

Part I -- Honoring Legends

During her opening comments Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton paid tribute to two of my personal heroes; the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas and former Texas Governor the late Ann Richards.

Senator Barack Obama also mentioned Barbara Jordan in his opening comments.

Both Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards were down to earth, straight shooting women and politicians who had a command of their facts and great oratory skills.

So for those of you who are too young to remember them, or who may not have been US residents during their eras, let me introduce you to two amazing figures in American history.

Barbara Jordan

Click here to listen to Congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s powerful Keynote Address to the 1976 Democratic National Convention.

Wikipedia notes: “Her speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention is considered by many historians to have been the best convention keynote speech in modern history and was ranked 5th in "Top 100 American Speeches of the 20th century" list. She was the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address.[1]

Here’s a brief excerpt from that speech:

“In other times -- In other times, I could stand here and give this kind of exposition on the beliefs of the Democratic Party and that would be enough. But today that is not enough. People want more. That is not sufficient reason for the majority of the people of this country to decide to vote Democratic. We have made mistakes. We realize that. We admit our mistakes. In our haste to do all things for all people, we did not foresee the full consequences of our actions. And when the people raised their voices, we didn't hear. But our deafness was only a temporary condition, and not an irreversible condition.

Even as I stand here and admit that we have made mistakes, I still believe that as the people of America sit in judgment on each party, they will recognize that our mistakes were mistakes of the heart. They'll recognize that.

And now -- now we must look to the future. Let us heed the voice of the people and recognize their common sense. If we do not, we not only blaspheme our political heritage, we ignore the common ties that bind all Americans. Many fear the future. Many are distrustful of their leaders, and believe that their voices are never heard. Many seek only to satisfy their private work -- wants; to satisfy their private interests. But this is the great danger America faces -- that we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against individual; each seeking to satisfy private wants. If that happens, who then will speak for America? Who then will speak for the common good?”

Ann Richards

In an article announcing the death of Ann Richards, the Washingpost wrote: “ “She was nobody's fool,’ then-New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen wrote the next day. ‘ She made them listen and she made them listen good, with precisely those qualities that we often try to iron out of politicians in general and female politicians in particular: a sense of fun, irreverence and general cussedness.’ “

Click here to listen to Ann Richards’ Keynote Address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention.

How did the Democrats lose that election? Listen and enjoy.

Here’s an excerpt from her speech:

“This Republican Administration treats us as if we were pieces of a puzzle that can’t fit together. They've tried to put us into compartments and separate us from each other. Their political theory is “divide and conquer.” They’ve suggested time and time again that what is of interest to one group of Americans is not of interest to any one else. We’ve been isolated. We’ve been lumped into that sad phraseology called “special interests.” They’ve told farmers that they were selfish, that they would drive up food prices if they asked the government to intervene on behalf of the family farm, and we watched farms go on the auction block while we bought food from foreign countries. Well, that’s wrong!

They told working mothers it’s all their fault -- their families are falling apart because they had to go to work to keep their kids in jeans and tennis shoes and college. And they’re wrong!! They told American labor they were trying to ruin free enterprise by asking for 60 days’ notice of plant closings, and that’s wrong. And they told the auto industry and the steel industry and the timber industry and the oil industry, companies being threatened by foreign products flooding this country, that you’re "protectionist" if you think the government should enforce our trade laws. And that is wrong. When they belittle us for demanding clean air and clean water for trying to save the oceans and the ozone layer, that’s wrong.

No wonder we feel isolated and confused. We want answers and their answer is that "something is wrong with you." Well nothing's wrong with you. Nothing’s wrong with you that you can’t fix in November!

We've been told -- We've been told that the interests of the South and the Southwest are not the same interests as the North and the Northeast. They pit one group against the other. They've divided this country and in our isolation we think government isn’t gonna help us, and we're alone in our feelings. We feel forgotten. Well, the fact is that we are not an isolated piece of their puzzle. We are one nation. We are the United States of America.”

Can you believe that these speeches weren’t made yesterday?

Thank You Madams Jordan and Richards. You served your state and your country well.

And, yes, I have been a political junkie for as long as I can remember.

Related posts:

Quick Post Debate Thoughts

A Voice From The Past

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