I sent my first e-mail to the Dean campaign on September 1, 2002. Increasingly frustrated with the lead-up to the Iraq war (Congress voted on the war resolution just a month later), I was intrigued by Governor Dean’s principled stance on our policy in Iraq. More importantly, I was impressed with his ability to articulate a vision for what our country could be. In the year since then, he’s focused on a couple key phrases that have stuck with me: proclaiming a need for the “restoration of democracy”, telling us that “you have the power” and labeling his campaign “people-powered Howard.”
In each case, Governor Dean has put the emphasis not on himself, but on us. Each and every one of us are capable of making a difference. As I’ve become more involved in the campaign, I’ve realized the truth of Governor Dean’s message. I’ve met hundreds of my neighbors who are united not by anger but by hope: hope that we can together shape a future that is built on trust, compassion and hard work.
The past seven days for me are evidence of what has been happening around the country. Last Monday, I went to a seniors center to speak to a group of seniors about Howard Dean. On Tuesday, I joined 3500 fellow Illinois supporters to attend the Chicago stop on the Sleepless Summer Tour. On Wednesday, I had lunch with a friend of a friend — who, it turns out, is also active in the Dean campaign. Thursday, several of my neighbors got together to build banners and signs for our town’s upcoming Labor Day parade (and got their picture in the paper for doing so!). Friday to Sunday, Dean volunteers staffed the local Democrat booth at the annual Labor Day festival in town — handing out bumper stickers, buttons, and sharing information about the Dean campaign.
Tomorrow, one year to the day after I first contacted the Dean campaign, I will be joining 20 neighbors (who I now consider friends) to march in our state’s largest Labor Day parade. Our message? “Picture a Better America.” Volunteers throughout our county have worked on collecting thousands of empty film canisters, and are inserting mock film strips with photos of Governor Dean and bullet points about his policies. (The design work was donated by a fellow volunteer.) We’ll be marching with two 3’ x 8’ banners — again designed by a volunteer and paid for by local volunteers — to encourage parade goers to “Picture a Better America.”
I know I’m not alone — that what I’ve seen happen in the last year is happening all over the country. Ignore the press when they say that what fuels this campaign is anger. They don’t know what we know: that what fuels us is each other, led by a man who will be our next President.
Happy Labor Day.