Thursday, December 31, 2015

the next president

the next president
walks into a packed hall
holding a torch of hope

Last night we drove half an hour to the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa, Iowa, to hear Bernie Sanders. The chairs in the hall are arranged in a circle around a podium set on top of the American Eagle on the marble floor. Although we arrive an hour early, the only seats left are behind the podium.

A burly, bald-headed volunteer sitting in front of us in the first row has brought his three young children. He is wearing a shirt with a flag on his right sleeve and "Never Forgotten UAW Local 74 Veterans" on the back. At 7 o'clock he gets up to introduce the senator.

As Bernie begins speaking, a woman behind him signs for the deaf members of the audience. Whenever he mentions a person's name, he turns and waits for her to spell it out. 

When Bernie says he has introduced legislation to make public colleges and universities tuition free, the crowd stands and cheers. The signer spreads her fingers wide and shakes them back and forth.

Whenever people hold up their support signs, which is frequent, Bernie gracefully waits for the applause to subside so he can continue with another burning issue, such as the need to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and to reverse disastrous trade agreements that take jobs away from Americans.

Speaking with animation, Bernie uses his hands to punctuate his points, as when he talks about protecting voter rights and promoting justice for people of color, women, immigrants, prisoners, and LGBT.

Fervently, he speaks about the imperative need to stop climate change by transforming America's energy system away from polluting fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainability. Bernie has led the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions, stop Arctic drilling and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

With great intensity, he talks about the need to get big money out of politics. "Our nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little." It is wrong, he says, for banks to be too big to fail AND too big to jail. "We must break up the big banks."

Speaking about the need for a Medicare for All, single payer system, he asks to hear from those who are suffering from the financial burden of medical care. "Health care is a right, not a privilege," he avows.

Reading from a local newspaper, Bernie reflects on the recent recapture by Iraqui armed forces, with U.S. air support, of Ramadi from ISIS. "The goal of U.S. foreign and military policy must be to destroy ISIS, but to do it in a way that does not get American troops involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East. Our goal must be to establish a strong international coalition made up of our Muslim allies and major powers such as France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia as well as the United States." 

A future to believe in. It's been a long time since I've been this excited about the future of our country, and the world.

"Join the political revolution today." Strong words for the need of the times. I walk out, filled with gratitude for our next president, who openly advocates everything I believe in, and who has the energy to turn hope into reality.

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