Let me just start this afternoon or this evening by answering the question that almost every candidate gets asked by almost every person first. And that is “Why are you running for office?” And the answer I give is actually quite simple: We are in trouble. This nation, this state, this county, this community is in real trouble.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is a war going on. And I don’t mean the war in Iraq. I mean the war for the future, and for the meaning of our country. A war that is taking place in Washington D.C., across this country, and right here in your back yards.
Two hundred and thirty years ago last week, we celebrated our nation’s declaring independence from a tyrannical government. Yesterday’s patriots stood up–they were called “troublemakers”, and they fought for what they believed in, and they fought for what was right. And they established in this country what was intended to be a democratic form of government where we the people rule.
Today’s patriots are not those who will defer, as in a deferential society, to your corrupt or influential “betters”–those who claim to be your rulers. We are not subjects in this nation, we are citizens. (Applause and cheers.) We have to be active participants. We have to be treated equally and fairly and we *must* have a voice in the process.
Today’s patriots are those who will stand up and fight to restore what this country did 230 years ago. In this country, the *citizen* is the highest political office. (Applause). That’s why I’m running. Because I take the role of citizen–I take the duties of citizenship–to right for our rights, to fight for *others’* rights, to defend what we have established. Our rights, and our freedom, must be struggled for eternally, or else we will lose them.
Let me diverge for a second and do something that’s more typical of a campaign speech, and tell you what I’m for. Now, most people have platforms. And there’s a sort of game politicians play. I’m a political scientist so I certainly know about the whole way of electioneering to get into office–something, by the way, that our founders *feared*, and wanted to set up up on a different model.
And “they” say, “Only give the people three things, because that’s all they can handle”. Well, I believe you can handle a little bit more than that, so I have what I call "The 6 E's". These are the things that I stand for aggressively, firmly, and without hesitation. Now, they’re not everything, but I believe that these are the most important.
And the first set of three are the ones that almost no one in government office is standing up and fighting for, and they are the most important. And that is ethics, education, and empowerment. That is the foundation of a good form of government. In the state of Florida, we have a very powerful ethics law adopted by the people via a constitutional amendment, yet it has been eroded and ignored. We have the foxes guarding the henhouse in our ethics commission. This is intolerable.
We have a famous “sunshine” set of laws, open government and public records laws, and they are under attack. They are ignored in local government. They are destroyed in the state legislature, and the governor doesn’t care one thing about your right to be part of the process. They look at you as subjects, not as citizens.
And the most important thing for a citizenry is education. If we cannot understand how to critically evaluate arguments and concepts, if we don’t know our own history, if we don’t know the principles of our government, how are we supposed to defend them as citizens. Forty-eighth in the nation in one of the largest, wealthiest, fastest-growing states is simply unacceptable! (Applause.) Teachers are not the problem, students are not the problem, and the schools are not the problem. The problem lies in Tallahassee, and yes, the problem also lies with us, because we allow the people in Tallahassee to neglect their responsibilities. We need to stand up and make education a top priority. I am here to fight to make this the education state.
Empowerment. Well that gets to the heart of it. That’s what it means to be a citizen. It means that your voice is heard. It means that your voice is part of the process. Yet we in the state of Florida are known for what? Fraudulent elections. We’re known for it from 2000 to 2004 and those of you who know what’s going on in Alachua have seen that it goes on to this day.
This is intolerable! Do you know that in the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that you, the people, do not have a right to vote for the President of the United States, constitutionally guaranteed? Why do we have flag burning amendments, gay marriage amendments–why don’t we have a Right to Vote Amendment? (Applause) I mean, think about it, *that’s* what the amendments to the Constitution are supposed to be about!
We the people need to become empowered in order to rule again, and we need leaders in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. who will help us get there.
Now my second set of E's, I’m going to give to you very quickly. These are the more traditional, policy-oriented ones. And the three most important ones that I think–and they’re not exclusive–but energy, environment, and employment.
We all know what we are doing to this nation and to this world by our dependence upon fossil fuels. Why cannot we as a state lead the nation in creating new jobs and new technologies to bring *new* alternative sources of energy into reality? (Cheers and applause.) And that ties right hand in hand with the environment, which used to be this state’s number one resource, and our number one source of income. And yet we are letting that heritage just be destroyed left and right, as south Florida’s developers move up here, as they no longer have lands to exploit down there. This is the last bastion of what was left of Florida once, and we have a duty to fight to preserve it. (Cheers and applause).
And last but not least is employment because we constantly hear both Democrats and Republicans talking about jobs, and bringing Wal*Mart and “big box” stores from Bentenville, Arkansas, and telling you to give $2 million, $5 million, a billion dollars in tax benefits and exemptions to these multi-million dollar corporations. They can afford to come here and give us jobs on their own. They don’t need our subsidies! Why don’t we invest in ourselves? Employment should mean *ownership*, not a system where we are robbin’ the hood, stealing from the poor to give to the rich through our tax dollars.
The Republicans call it when you give it directly to the people, redistribution and socialism, but somehow, if we put a corporate middleman, it becomes acceptable, and legitimate, and the American way?! That’s nonsense! We need to take back the language and the rhetoric of our country.
The problem, ladies and gentlemen, is the game that politics has become, and the only solution to this, locally, state, and nationally, is to stop playing the electioneering game, and start standing up and fighting for your rights, and that means you as citizens, and anybody running for office. Let’s join together, as a team, to take back this country. Let’s remember that Democracy is when the people rule for the common and public good, not for the private interests of the few. Let’s remember that citizenship is, indeed, the highest office. I encourage each and every one of you to go by my booth and pick up a card about the Alachua Project, because let’s start taking back our country one city at a time!