Swans Commentary » swans.com September 8, 2008  



We Will Decide!


by Ralph Nader





[ed. This is the transcript, courtesy of co-editor Jan Baughman, of the speech Ralph Nader delivered at the "Open The Debates Super Rally" in Denver, Colorado, on August 27, 2008. More than 4,000 people were in attendance.

You can watch the video of the speech, which is about 50 minutes long, on the Web site of Free Speech TV. Or, for those of you with a slow connection to the Internet, the speech is posted in six parts on YouTube. You can begin with Part One and go on from there.

And remember that the Nader-Gonzalez campaign needs you financial help and support. Please do your part. Thank you.]


Nader-Gonzalez '08


To know and not to do is not to know.
—Ancient Chinese proverb


(Swans - September 8, 2008)   Ah, thank you. Thank you, Tom Morello -- what great lyrics. This Land is Our Land. One of the greatest songs for social justice ever written. For those of you concerned, all of this [confetti] is going to be recycled, okay?

Well, where do we start? Let's start with something dealing with Colorado since we're in Colorado. The Democratic Party Convention selling skyboxes, and guess who paid big money for those skyboxes? Coors! One million dollars. How about this one? Xcel -- one million dollars. Qwest, six million dollars. Well you know, if they're really a party of working people, the way they used to say they were, fifty, sixty, seventy years ago under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, they'd have hospitality suites, not for these fat cat corporate lobbyists who are tearing the heart and soul out of America, they'd have hospitality suites for workers, for farm workers, for nurses, for patients trying to get health care, for consumers being ripped off, for students who are being gouged by student loans. They'd have all kinds of hospitality suites, and maybe they ought to go and see how some people in Denver live on the other side of the tracks. To see the poverty, and the desperation, and the lack of affordable housing, and the lack of insurance when they get sick. This party is sick, it's decaying, it's lost its soul, and its leaders can never get up on the stage, like at the Pepsi Center -- imagine having to say "The Pepsi Center" -- I'll bet you the tax payers built that center. They never talk about the poor -- that's a no-no in the Democratic Party dictionary. They talk about the middle class, which they've helped shrink, through NAFTA and WTO and all the ways they've crushed opposition to corporate power. Corporate power has crushed so much of its opposition, they've brought trade unions to their knees, they've made it almost impossible for industrial or commercial workers to even form a trade union because of the Taft-Hartley Law and other obstructive laws that no other Western country puts before its workers. The Democrats are dialing for the same dollars, the same corporate dollars the Republicans are dialing for, and they don't even bother covering it up. They're being wined and dined by the corrupters, the corporate predators, the corporations who have ripped off American consumers and workers, who've depleted their pensions, who are outsourcing your jobs when you get out of college, who are saying to you when you get out of college, You've got a skill, but try getting a good paying job. Try getting affordable housing. Try getting affordable health insurance. Try getting anything that your forbearers were able to get. You know what you're doing? I'm talking to the younger people in the audience. You're the first generation that's ever polled and said they're not going to be as well off as their parents, and the indicators are all coming down. More and more millions and millions of Americans not making a living wage, not even close. Wal*Mart wages, McDonald's wages, Kmart wages. Millions and millions of people who have to get sick or become sicker or even die because they cannot afford health insurance. Just think of that -- this is the richest country in the world, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science, just to give you a fact, says 18,000 people a year die in this country because they can't afford health insurance. That's six 9/11s. Washington turned the country upside down after six 9/11s in a lot of bad ways, as we know. They don't turn the country upside down for 58,000 people who die every year from work-related diseases in the mines and foundries. They don't turn the country upside down for 65,000 Americans who died from asphyxiation or cancer due to air pollution. They don't turn the country upside down for 100,000 Americans who died from medical negligence and malpractice in hospitals. They don't turn the country upside down for any form of violence, however preventable it is, if its source is corporate crime, corporate negligence, corporate greed, and corporate power.

You know, some people ask me around the country, Nader -- what are you doing this for -- what do you expect to achieve? Well, look at what we've achieved tonight. You have seen the young leaders of the future on this stage. You have seen not only veteran advocates like Cindy Sheehan, you've seen Ashley Sanders, you've seen Rosa Clemente, you've seen Nelly McCay, you have seen someone you're gonna hear a lot more of in the next few months -- you've seen Rev. Jay. You wait and see -- he's only 21 years old. And he's breaking away from this notion, though many of us have always hoped some day there'll be an African American ascend to the presidency of the United States, he's saying something more than that, he's saying that's not enough. That may be an unprecedented career move into the White House, but it's gotta mean more than that. It's gotta mean standing up to the corporate subjugation of the American people. It's gotta mean pushing forward a war against poverty, it's got to mean coming from your background something more than if it's just a white man or woman in the White House, it's got to mean a peculiarly insistent sensitivity to the bottom one hundred million Americans in this country who are at the bottom of the income scale. African Americans, poor whites, Latinos, who do the most dangerous work -- who do the most dangerous work for us. Who do the most thankless work for us, who raise our children, take care of our children, be with our ailing parents, harvest our food, service us in all kinds of ways while they're under paid and overcharged, while they're excluded, while they're disrespected, while they're marginalized, and the only time they're held up before the country is when we ask them to go overseas and fight our criminal wars for us.

The volunteers that made this gathering possible, I want to thank them, and I have to thank them anonymously but there are several I just want to mention because they've been with us for so long, we're on the ballot -- we're going to be on the ballot -- in 45 states in this country, overcoming all these obstacles to get on the ballot. Because of our home office in Washington, the people working here, because of Christina Tobin and Jason Kafoury, Toby Heaps and others who are magnificently skilled and determined, who basically took ballot access drives to a new level in just a matter of weeks. This is a Herculean effort and one of the purposes of our campaign is to clear away these ballot access hurdles and open up the ballots to diverse candidates -- to third-party and independent candidates -- it's a major civil liberties issue. A major civil rights issue. Voter rights aren't worth as much without candidate's rights giving you more choice on the ballot, and candidate rights aren't worth much unless we clear the way and get rid of the obstructions to voter rights and actually count the votes accurately for a change. We used to -- some of us used to hear -- the Soviet Union would have an election and they'd say 97% of the people turned out to vote. We'd all laugh -- why? Because there was only one candidate on the line. Well in most of the districts for the House of Representatives, over 90%, there's essentially only one candidate on the line, either the incumbent Republican gerrymandered district or the incumbent Democrat. These two parties don't even want to compete with themselves -- they're turning our country into essentially a one-party state and that is not democracy by any measure of even a weak democracy. There's no election without a contest. There's no election without a contest. A contest has at least two competitive candidates. We're left with one, and then the people who do want to run are turned off because, and I've seen this so often, I say to people around the country, you know, you seem like you want to run for office, for city council, for mayor, for state legislature, for governor, for senator, why aren't you doing it? You're very politically astute, you're motivated, and uniformly they say, well, we really don't want to do it because don't you know that politics is such a dirty game? That really riles me up. Politics in ancient Greece, that word was an antidote to autocracy. It was a wonderful, democratic word. And they have turned it into a dirty word, and it's our job to sweep the rascals out of the political forums who have corrupted our country and reduced our choices, and debased our public dialogue, and turned politics into trivial gossip, tactics, horse races, and silly repartees between people like John McCain and Barack Obama.

You know what's interesting about the political scene today? Centuries ago and generations ago, if you were a third-party, independent candidate, and you were a dissenter -- dissent is the mother of all ascent, by the way. Almost everything we like about our country started with a minority decision, with dissenters -- six women in upstate New York 1846 started the women's right to vote, the Suffrage movement. They didn't sit around making excuses for themselves. They didn't say, oh me, oh my we're only six people. They took it to the misogynists and the industrial powers who didn't want women to vote because they were against brutal child labor and all the other coarseness and tortures of a crooked industrial system that put profit above human lives and health and safety. And the same for the abolition movement -- just think of what it took to be an abolitionist against slavery in 1830 Mississippi or 1850 Virginia. What courage it took, and they didn't go around making excuses for themselves, saying they weren't powerful, they made power, they built power out of their moral fervor, out of their sense of righteousness, out of their experience of being ravaged and pillaged and blundered and hung and imprisoned and starved. Now, look at today. We have third-party, independent candidates who espouse proposals that have majority support in the American polling system -- majority support -- this is rather a paradox but it shows you how politics has decayed. That the politicians who are in charge, indentured to their corporate paymasters, are pushing forward proposals that are opposed by a majority of the American people, and let me explain that very, very succinctly.

A majority of the American people in poll after poll, and a recent poll of doctors, 59% of doctors want full Medicare for everyone, single-payer health insurance with free choice of doctor and hospital and the saving of lives, prevention of injuries, and prevention of diseases. And yet, the HMOs say no, the health insurance giants like Aetna and Cigna say no. The drug companies say no to single-payer, and guess what, so do John McCain and Barack Obama say no. Who do they represent? It's clear, they represent their corporate paymasters.

The majority of the American people want a living wage. I mean, I'll bet you this one is 90%. They say if you work full time you should earn enough money to meet the bare necessities of your family. Well, guess who says no? McDonald's says no. Burger King says no. Kmart says no. Thunderously Wal*Mart says no, and one out of three workers, 47 million workers, are making $6.70 an hour, $7.50, $8.50, $9.50, $10.50 an hour before deductions. And what do John McCain and Barack Obama say? They don't say we should have a living wage. Who are they fronting for? Who are they kidding? Who are they trying to fool with their flattering of the people as they subservient themselves to the power of corporate lobbyists? You know the difference -- people say, well there are differences between the Democrats and Republicans. I say, yeah, there are. The Democrats are better on Social Security -- they don't want to send it to Wall Street, except for Joe Lieberman. The Democrats don't want to completely destroy Medicare, although they've gone along with more than they should in corporatizing Medicare. The Democrats are better on civil rights, gay-lesbian rights, they're better on some civil liberties -- not as much as their forbearers would desire, but in the area of corporate domination of our government, of our media, of our elections, corporate domination of almost everything that moves in this country, from organized religion to universities, the commercialization of childhood itself -- on all these areas the principal difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties are the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations pound on their door.

The majority of the American people want a crackdown on corporate crime, the looting of pensions, the ripping off of consumers, the fuel prices, the drug prices -- these are companies that are subsidized by your tax dollars to begin with. Look how they return the favor. The credit card gouging, the gouging of Sallie Mae and the corporate student loan lenders. Well, there are so few prosecutors in the Justice Department, so few investigators you would be shocked to know the figures. There are about 75 lawyers in the Justice Department in the environmental crimes area. Seventy-five lawyers? They're up against corporate polluters who are taking lives and making people sick, who are represented by law firms who have a thousand lawyers, 1500 lawyers, it's a charade. We have no law and order for corporate crime, fraud, and abuse, even though the mass media reports it day after day, including the Wall Street Journal and Business Week. We have no law and order program by the Democratic and Republican Parties -- they don't even talk about corporate crime. Heaven forbid they even put those two words together. They might be deemed in complicity. But Nader-Gonzalez has a corporate crime program -- look it up on votenader.org. It's twelve approaches to bring the forces of law and order, first to prevent corporate crime, foresee and forestall it, and second, to do something we should have done a long time ago: the boomeranging war on drugs has filled our corporate prisons and our government prisons at forty to fifty thousand dollars per non-violent drug offender. Now, we don't send nicotine addicts to jail, and we don't send alcoholics to jail, and we shouldn't send people who are addicted by drugs to jail. It's a health problem, we should rehabilitate them. And as we -- Nader-Gonzalez presses for across-the-board amnesty for non-violent drug offenders, emptying the cells of the prisons and filling them with convicted corporate criminals. Those of you who are interested in prison reform -- and getting rid of corporate prisons is one part of that reform -- those who are interested in prison reform, you put a lot of corporate crooks in prison, you can't believe how fast the food improves, how fast prison conditions improve. They'll be talking rehabilitation of these corporate crooks, for sure.

A majority of the American people would like to tax those things our society likes the least and dislikes the most before we tax worker income. We should tax security speculation on Wall Street. We should tax the addictive industries. We should tax the polluters with a carbon tax. We should tax corporate crime. We should tax gambling, and the gambling industry before we put a tax on honest labor.

Do you realize, I don't want to put a damper on your sense of defiance and resistance, but you are representative of the majority of the America people on these and many more issues. You think the American people, even when they have the American flag waived in front of them by the militarists and the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell address, do you think the American people are not repulsed, are not disgusted by the hundreds of billions of wasted dollars every year in the bloated, redundant, corrupt military contracting budget? Of course they are, and they would like some of that money, that hundreds of billions of dollars, to go back into the revival and remodeling and upgrade of public works, schools, clinics, libraries, drinking water systems, sewage systems, public transit, that create good-paying jobs that cannot be exported to fascist and communist dictators abroad who know how to put workers in their place, don't they? Now, every politician I've ever known, for the major parties, except maybe Dennis Kucinich, every politician starts flattering the people. Oh, how they flatter the people. Because that's what gives the people weak knees. You know, you flatter people, and that helps you fool people so they vote for politicians who go to Washington and then betray them, and then you flummox people. Well, we have got to start getting tough with each other. When you see young people who now have the vote at 18, and we think they should have the vote at 16 when it's legal for them to vote and to drive a car, and it's good to give them a maturing experience so they reduce some of their text messaging and gossiping and so on. When you consider how hard we worked for bringing that vote down to 18, I have to say to you I've been very disappointed by the percent of 18- to 24-year-olds who turn out to vote. And it's not just voting, it's breaking your routine, it's taking more time out for your civic and political responsibilities as you see them. And otherwise, you know what happens? You become sophisticatedly cynical. Ah boy, that really makes you feel good. Ah, politics -- just a bunch of corrupt people -- don't want to have anything to do with it. It doesn't mean anything to me. Well, when young people come up to me and they say: You know, we're just not turned on to politics. And I say, read the grim lesson of history here and abroad. When people collectively do not turn on to politics, politics will turn on them, in a very disagreeable manner. And because young people have not turned on to politics, not just voting -- organizing, supporting those who they believe in, running for local office when they're of age, because they haven't done that, look what they're facing even when they get out of university or college, never mind out of high school, how are they going to get affordable housing? How are they going to get affordable health insurance? How are they going to make sure that even their white-collar jobs that they're skilled for -- accounting, architecture, engineering, even media jobs will be outsourced to people in China and India who know how to repress their workers. Oligarchs, dictators. These young people now face a future where they're gonna be in debt for years under student loans and where they're gonna wonder what is happening to this country that they were told is the land of the free and the home of the brave. They're gonna wonder how many times they stood up in class and pledged allegiance to the flag whose last words were "with liberty and justice for all." Not for some, not for many, for all. If you only knew the power you had -- you have, at this young age, if you knew the energy that no one later in age can match, if you only realized how you ask those tough, impertinent questions that shake politicians to their boots, not quite as tough as 10-year-olds, but you'll do. If you knew how quickly in the Internet age you can connect with one another and build a political movement that will let you look at your grandchildren at age 10 in the eye and be proud to tell them how you rebuilt and you restored and you raised the United States of America and its status in the world to unparalleled heights of justice and happiness, how can anything be more gratifying?

Well, for that you're gonna have to spend less time looking at screens, chuck the iPod once in awhile, stop listening to non-stop music which is blowing apart your mind, and get serious. Get serious. Because it's serious what's happening to you and what's gonna happen to you in the future. It's serious what this country under a criminal recidivist regime of George Bush and Dick Cheney is doing to so many millions of people in the world outside our boundaries. It's serious what these corporate technologies that haven't been tested, or have been tested and have been found wanting, are doing to the health safety of human beings, flora, fauna, the ecology. You're in the first period in world history where our world can be destroyed inadvertently, not just by nuclear weapons, not just by chemical and biological warfare, just by the indifference of many to the cruel, predatory activities of the few. By the feeling of the many that they just are not up to it. They have better things to do in their private lives. That they really can't fight ExxonMobil, or City Hall, or Congress.

Well, sometimes it helps to compare what's happened in other countries, with other countries say in the Western world. Because it is very motivating. Because it showers us with shame. Because we've grown up being told our country's number one in every conceivable category. And now we know it's number 15 in wages, it's number 1 in incarceration and prisons per capita, it's the only country in the Western world that is so careless in not taking care of its children. So let me give you a very, very short glimpse of history. Many of you have read about Eugene Debs, arguable the greatest labor leader in our country's history in the late 19th and 20th century. And at the end of his career, a reporter came up to him -- this was about 1920 or so -- by the way, he ran for president five times, so I have a unique affinity with Eugene Debs. And he said, Mr. Debs, what is your greatest regret? And he said in his deliberate way, "My greatest regret? I'll tell you what my greatest regret is. My greatest regret is that under our Constitution, the American people can have almost anything they want, but it just seems like they don't want much of anything at all."

Fast forward 1945, end of World War Two. The United States, the mightiest political, technological, end economic power in the world. There was no number two. Over in western Europe, they were devastated. Rome, Berlin, Paris, Cologne, London, the countryside had disintegrated. Disease, death, unexploded land mines everywhere. The economy at a standstill. Now watch what happened: People of western Europe, through their trade unions, their social democratic parties, their cooperatives, their multi-party system, their instant-runoff voting, their proportional representation, demanded and received the following by law for all their people. They demanded universal health care, and got it. They demanded a living wage, and got it. They demanded decent pensions, and got it. They demanded four weeks paid vacation -- it's now up to five in France and eight in Sweden, and they got it. They demanded university free tuition, and they got it. They demanded laws that facilitated workers banding together for collective bargaining, and they got it. They demanded paid maternity leave, they demanded paid family sick leave, and they got it. They demanded decent day care, and they got it. They demanded decent public transit, and they got it. And we do not have any of this sixty-three years later by law for all the American people in 2008. Shame on us!

Sure, sure they paid higher taxes -- not that much higher. But look what they got for it as a community -- as a humanitarian community look what they got for it. Well, Eugene Debs said something else, he said: "Better to vote for someone you believe in and lose, than vote for someone you do not believe in and win, because that someone will surely betray you." As did the Democratic Party when the antiwar movement with few exceptions took the year off in 2004 because they didn't want to embarrass John Kerry, who wanted more soldiers in Iraq and, as he said to Bush in the first debate -- do you remember? "We wouldn't have pulled out of Fallujah." He was more hawkish than Bush. So they broke the back of the antiwar movement because they called off those rousing demonstrations in 2003 you recall, here and around the world, and what did the Democratic Party reward them with? They continued to fund the war along with the Republicans and so did Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, until the last one, when it was embarrassing for them to do so. They continued to refuse to de-authorize the war, they refused to impeach Bush and Cheney, the most multiply impeachable president and vice president in American history. After all, criminal war of aggression in Iraq: impeachable offense number one. Systematic torture: impeachable offense number two. Spying on Americans in great numbers without judicial approval: impeachable offense number three. Signing statements in the hundreds by Bush saying he'll sign this bill but he'll decide whether or not to obey it: that's what we had a Revolution for against King George the Third -- we don't need King George the Fourth.

So where are we now? Here's where we are... here's where we are now. It doesn't matter how proper and just our causes are if we do not put civic and political muscle behind it. The difference with this gathering, is it's gonna support, I hope, the Nader-Gonzalez candidacy, which will go past 2008 and with a swell of support and commitment in Congressional districts, move into 2009 and set up citizen congresses in each congressional district to take control of Congress from the corporate interests and move all these things forward. Here in Colorado you have the most remarkable amendment I have seen in decades on the ballot for you to vote into law. It's Amendment 53, and if some of you have not heard of it, I'm going to describe it in three short sentences. Amendment 53, if passed, would hold senior company officers criminally liable for corporate wrongdoings and permit the public to bring civil action lawsuits against company officers for criminal actions by their corporation. This initiative drive has been sponsored and organized by Protect Colorado's Future, a trade union-backed group. Go to the polls -- it's winning in the polls now. Don't let the people of Colorado be propagandized by what's coming on these television ads. If you enact this initiative, it will give heart and life to initiatives all over the country. Not only because it's long overdue, not only because the corporate crime wave is getting bigger and bigger and they're throwing it on your backs to bail them out, but it's because people in California, and Wisconsin, and Michigan, and Massachusetts will say to themselves, for heaven's sake -- if it can happen in Colorado, it can happen anywhere!

All right, on the debates, you remember reading about the Lincoln-Douglas debates? They went on in farm fields, for three, four, five hours. There is no moderator, they just went at it, and scribes would write down short-hand every word and print it in the daily newspapers, which people would gobble up for a penny a newspaper. Those were the days when you had real debates on real issues with real consistently repetitive exchanges so that the arguments can be winnowed out as thousands of people stood in the farm fields to listen to them. Now, those were the days when there was no TV, no radio, no Internet, no telephone, no email -- there was nothing like. And we have all of that today.

Why are we rationing debates? Why are we allowing those politicians and their television networks to restrict our debates? And I don't mean parallel interviews, I mean real debates. We don't restrict weather reports, we don't restrict sports, we don't restrict entertainment. We have to become far more intolerant of the suppression of the use of the First Amendment of free speech and petition and assembly which means running for elective office and turning out the votes. Now you say to yourself, I'm sure you've had trouble with these hard-line Democrats and Republicans saying, "what are you doing thinking about voting for third-party independent candidates?" And you know, there's a thinly-veiled political bigotry there -- they use words like spoiler. Spoiler? Who has spoiled America? Who has spoiled its elections, its government, its hopes and its future more than the Republican and Democratic Parties and their corporate masters? When they try to reduce third parties and independent candidates to second-class citizenship, they try to marginalize them, you can properly accuse them of political bigotry -- political bigotry. They're all for civil rights and civil liberties except for a competitive election. And use those words and watch their reaction. It's so ridiculous, is it not? The sixtieth seed in Wimbledon is given a chance to win the whole thing. The sixtieth seed in the NCAA is given a chance to win the whole thing. But the third candidacy in the presidential campaign, Nader-Gonzalez, is not given a chance to win the whole thing. Because the two parties have the key to the debates, which is the opening to reach tens of millions of Americans. There's no other way unless you're a multi-billionaire -- Ross Perot. No other way to reach tens of millions of Americans -- it's not the way we should have a country and a political system. That's the way it is for this year -- we have got to change it. A lot of people confuse personal freedom with civic freedom. You know, we have a lot of personal freedom in this country. We can marry who we want, eat what we want, buy what we want, choose our friends, whoever we want, pursue our own habits, walk when we want. We can take a four thousand pound vehicle three blocks away to buy Chiclets if we want. We have a lot of personal freedom. But you know, don't confuse personal freedom with civic freedom. Civic freedom we do not have much at all. We have virtually no civic freedom defined by Marcus Cicero as participation in power. That's the only real definition of freedom: participation in power. Do we have participation in our military policy, our foreign policy, our economic policy, our labor policy, our environmental policy? Very little. And I think we've become much more upset with our state and we've become much more willing to raise our expectation levels without which we can never motivate ourselves and galvanize ourselves. Our expectation levels to demand more from our political system, from our Congress, from our president, our courts, right down to the local community. If we do not demand more, if we lower our expectation levels, the politicians will surely oblige us. And that's why we gotta make that distinction between personal freedom and civic freedom.

But there's another distinction we must make, and that is this. We have awfully great assets to turn this country around. You and I know we have all kinds of solutions on the shelf and often in pilot projects around the country. For energy, solar energy, energy efficiency. We have solutions for affordable energy. We have solutions to turn these public schools around and make them comparatively responsive to the great idealism and excitement of seven-year-olds and eight-year-olds and nine-year-olds with their thirst for learning by getting rid of leave no child behind, for starters, which does leave child behind.

It's about expectation levels, and that means we have to make demands on ourselves. I want to leave you with an ancient Chinese proverb. You know, when I was in school I studied Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, and it was really quite interesting to see how they would try to get you to learn the languages through proverbs. This one is from the Ming Dynasty in the fourteenth century. And once you hear it, really you'll never forget it because it sears right to your soul. It sears to the situation we're in now. So many solutions, so many good people who know how to do good things for our country shut out or demoralized, and here it is: "To know and not to do is not to know." "To know and not to do is not to know." You know. You wouldn't be here tonight if you didn't know. You know of the injustices. And you know of what we can do with these injustices and these deprivations and these detonations of human possibility. "To know and not to do is not to know."

And I want to leave you with a reflection on Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton, who supported the cruel economic sanctions against the people of Iraq in the 1990s, which didn't disadvantage Saddam Hussein one bit -- he had his mansions, and he had his food, he had everything he wanted -- medicine, took the lives of approximately 500,000 Iraqi children by the estimate of a distinguished panel of physicians in this country who'd go over to Iraq and survey the scene. He gets prime billing at the Democratic National Convention. Jimmy Carter, who is clearly our greatest ex-president ever, and who is -- and I say this -- I say this even knowing he opposed our candidacy in 2000, in 2004, and he will in 2008, but his advances of health care in Africa and elsewhere, his peacemaking around the world, his work to get rid of serious infectious diseases, and his heroic book, after being the only president who brought peace between Israel and Egypt, his heroic book, which showed the way for a two-state solution, supported by a majority of Palestinians, and Israelis, and Jewish Americans, and Arab-Americans, to resolve that conflict that is radiating and festering through a huge portion of the world that's turned against us: He is given a belated, subordinated role at the Democratic National Convention. I guess that's their definition of political heroism.

My friends, on January 21st, George Bush and Dick Cheney will become fugitives from justice. The full application of the federal criminal laws are applicable to them. They are not immune. Fugitives from justice without sheriffs pursuing them, or district attorneys, will establish a horrendously monarchical precedent for future presidents who think that they may get away with the same criminal and unconstitutional behavior day after day, week after week.

I want you to contemplate the words peace, freedom, and justice. Without justice, there is no happiness. What we need to do is to change our routines and apply our time, without which we cannot apply our talent, without which we cannot apply our moral authority or our energy. To apply our time to waging peace -- muscular peace. To make our country a humanitarian superpower in all the marvelous ways that will come around the world and prevent the sources of violence, and starvation, and disease, and dictatorship. Freedom, meaning only participation in power, otherwise it's just a will-of-the-wisp word of manipulation by political charlatans. And justice, great work of human beings on earth, as Senator Daniel Webster once said way back when.

"To know and not to do is not to know." To be true to ourselves and to marshal our assets and all the things we own, like the commonwealth of the public lands and the public airways and public research and development and to stop rationalizing our own futility is what I and Matt Gonzalez, who couldn't be here tonight, would like you to take from this arena. Because it's only individuals and small communities that provide the resurgence of the democratic spirit. The public sentiment that Lincoln spoke about and the fortitude to challenge the concentration of power. Justice Brandeis put it very well when he said, "We can have a democracy, or we can have the concentration of power in a few hands, but we cannot have both." Ponder that in terms of your own unfulfilled potential to gratify yourself year after year by being shoulder to shoulder with your fellow citizens in the advancement of justice in our country and around the world.

Thank you very much.

Thank you. Thank you. I will be out in the lobby -- thank you very much -- I will be out in the lobby -- I will be out in the lobby to sign books and posters for you. And, you know, somebody said, "What's the motto of our campaign?" Well, the motto of our campaign should be "We Will Decide." Not "Yes We Can" -- We Will Decide. We the People will decide. Let me hear it from you: We Will Decide! We Will Decide! We Will Decide! That puts the responsibility on our backs, and it's only on our backs that we can carry this country and the world forward.


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External Resources

votenader.org: Nader-Gonzalez '08 Web site

Vote Nader 08: 80+ Videos on YouTube

Ralph Nader: The Road to Corporate Fascism (Essential 55m video on Free Speech TV)

Taming The Giant Corporation

Center for Corporate Policy

Center for Study of Responsive Law


Internal Resources

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Patterns which Connect


About the Author

Ralph Nader is proudly running for president of the United States. A long-time advocate of the people he has demonstrated time and again his integrity, intellectual probity, and civism, through his decades-long fight for the rights and safety of the American people and consumers.



Please, feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, please DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. This material is copyrighted, © Ralph Nader 2008. All rights reserved. Published under the provision of U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107.


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This Edition's Internal Links

Ode To Peace And Life (Introduction to Tiziano Terzani's book) - Gilles d'Aymery

Letters Against The War (Eight Essays) - Book by Tiziano Terzani

Torture For Fun And Uncle Sam - Book & Film Review by Peter Byrne

Behind The Curtain Of Ron Paul's Disciples - Gilles d'Aymery

Denver Braying - Martin Murie

Neo-Progressives Sell Out To Democrats - Joel S. Hirschhorn

Well-Known "Evils" We Never Seem To Learn - Carol Warner Christen

The Fall Of Meyerhold - Charles Marowitz

Nature And Man - Poem by R. Scott Porter

Letters to the Editor

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art14/rnader02.html
Published September 8, 2008