The meaning of “roots”

“We are the great grass-roots campaign of the modern era, made of mouse pads, shoe leather, and hope.” — Howard Dean, June 22, 2003, The Great American Restoration

So much has been written about the “grassroots” nature of this campaign that I’d begun to not even hear the word “grassroots”. To me it had become a synonym with individuals working on the campaign (as opposed to the traditional top-down controlled campaign). I’d heard it so often that it lost meaning.

Then I was talking with Mathew Gross this weekend while in Burlington, and it dawned on me: that the roots we were building weren’t about the people working on the campaign, it was about the roots each and every one of us are growing in our communities to make them (and ourselves) stronger.

Today’s post at the campaign blog from Kris and Page is just the latest example of what I’m talking about: by getting out and talking with neighbors, they’re connecting to the community in ways that many of us had stopped doing a long time ago. A few years ago, Cliff Stoll asked in Silicon Snake Oil whether the Internet was brining us together or giving us ways of staying apart, and concluded that in many cases it divided us.

No more. The real gift of the Dean campaign has been its ability to add water to our roots — so that our involvement in our communities gets stronger. My wife and I moved to our town three years ago, and with two little ones we’ve been busy trying to raise them. We hadn’t been as involved as we would have liked, but reasoned that we’d get more time “later.” The Dean campaign was the impetus to jump in — and as a result we’re meeting our neighbors, traveling to surrounding towns, marching in parades and fliering at local events. The end result is that for the first time we feel anchored in a community — we’ve now lived in Naperville longer than we’ve lived in any other town. We want to stay here and continue to grow those roots.

Our experience is not unique. As our roots grow, our ability to effect real, lasting change grows. It is not simply that we are empowered to act, we must act. It’s our responsibility.

When Howard Dean states that the campaign isn’t about him, it’s about us, he’s not stumping. This is what the Washington Post today called transformational politics — and it’s why the impact will not just be Howard Dean in the White House, but a completely new way of looking at our role in our own towns and cities. Then — and only then — will we have achieved real change.

9 responses to “The meaning of “roots””

  1. The Meaning of GrassrootsInspired by the story of how Page in Albuquerque and Kris in Washington got together to do precinct walking for Howard Dean (below), Rick Klau (who was in Burlington this weekend lending the web team a skilled hand) contemplates the…

  2. I was thinking the same thing myself yesterday, looking at photos people keep posting on the Blog of going to baseball games, building homes for Habitat for Humanity, and more. The only reason these events have anything to “do” with Dean for America is that the folks are wearing Dean t-shirts and pins and that they share a common support for Dean. That's just A-mazing!

  3. Hi Rick:I'm the Kris in the Page and Kris story! and let me say first of all, it would be impossible to explain my own experience more eloquently than you just did. But everything you said is true. I gave up in 2000 and swore I would never allow myself to be vulnerable again. But the sadness and loss of what was happening to my country never lessened. When I heard about Howard Dean I came out of my self-imposed political retirement. And you have seen part of the result of that decision. Meeting exceptional people like Page Sebring, telling others of the hope that we all have within us if we will allow ourselves to be open to it. But none of this would be happening for me if a certain New England doctor had not been willing to make the sacrifice of being away from his family and take on the task of showing America with clarity and courage how this inept “president” and his administration are using lies and manipulative fear tactics to try to control and douse the American Spirit. The Dean campaign is, person by person, taking back our America and its Spirit which we all cherish. Howard Dean is NOT POLITICS AS USUAL. And THAT is what brought me out of retirement. Without the leader that this campaign has, I would still be in my foxhole. Thank you, Howard Dean, for having the courage to bring back the hope, to recognize what this country has been needing, and for providing it. Thank you to Judy Steinberg Dean, and your children, for making the sacrifice you all are making. It is appreciated more than you could possibly know.Kris in Washington

  4. I think we just have to decide that there is no “later”– only “now.” When you move to a new place, jump into something that will help change the place where you are as quickly as possible, otherwise it is way too easy to become complacent.

  5. The Meaning of GrassrootsInspired by the story of how Page in Albuquerque and Kris in Washington got together to do precinct walking for Howard Dean (below), Rick Klau (who was in Burlington this weekend lending the web team a skilled hand) contemplates the…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.