Sunday, December 24, 2006

Reminiscing About the Future: Al Gore's Announcement Speech

Working through whom to support for president in 2008 has been cathartic for me. Typically I try candidates on for size by writing hypothetical speeches in their voice and occasionally post the results. I did this with Russ Feingold several months ago and liked how it felt but alas he isn’t running. Recently I did the same for Barack Obama and enjoyed the challenge but it required writing in heavy religious overtones and felt uncomfortable. As I review the prospective field in the Democratic Party I neither see nor feel a president among Joe Biden, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsak.

Each has merits and flaws. From my vantage point however, the right candidate must combine maturity, gravitas, experience, intellect, authenticity, foresight and desire to serve a cause bigger than themselves. Al Gore has flaws of his own but is best suited for the job. We don’t need a nominee who sticks their finger to the wind and follows the politics of expediency. Now is also not the time to nominate a pretty face or sound bite machine with a glass jaw. The real question is will Gore run? So I decided to compose a hypothetical announcement speech in Gore’s voice and try him on for size. Looking at 2008 I like how Gore fits.

(Al Gore standing on a platform in Carthage Tennessee with his photogenic family and gathering of family, friends and media in the summer of 2007.)

To my beloved family, my wife Tipper and the great people of Tennessee I ask for your support as we embark on a quest to renew America. The previous six years our country has grown weaker, our moral standing is diminished and corporate interests have triumphed over the public. America needs to reconnect with its core values of fairness, justice and reward for an honest days work. We’ve lost our way.

I can’t help but think of my dad today. I can feel him with me today. Finest and bravest man I ever knew. He stood up for civil rights and fought against Jim Crow laws right here in Tennessee. He stood up and told the truth about Vietnam. The country wasn’t ready for truth and he lost his last campaign. He vowed the “truth shall rise again.”

Since my last campaign I’ve learned truth will not rise on its own. Truth requires a push. We need to stand up for truth. Fight for truth. Sacrifice for truth. Tell truth to power. Demand truth from our leaders and ourselves.

I was in public life along time and learned from experience. As a private citizen I’ve learned even more. I’m a little older. Grayer. Wiser. Humbler. A lot wider (smiles and laughs)! I’m still very charismatic (self-deprecating facial expression eliciting laughter). And what I’ve learned is politicians can be too afraid to lose. Expediency becomes more important than conviction and telling it straight is sacrificed at the altar of ambition.

Not this time. Not for me. Not for this campaign. The stakes won’t permit it. America has wasted time these past six years. Dependence on foreign oil is accelerating global warming and financing our sworn enemies. We’re on a collision course with calamity and shirking the truth won’t safeguard our future.

There are some among us who believe American society must engage in a global war on terror. They sow fear and rationalize taking away our liberties, deploying troops in wars of preemption and torturing detainees without regard to evidence or due process. They’re wrong. Horribly wrong. Irresponsibly wrong. Morally wrong.

The truth is we’re creating our own calamity. The so called global war on terror is a self-fulfilling prophesy of death and destruction waged by people who believe Armageddon is just around the corner. We’re actually empowering our enemies. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Yes America has enemies and vigilance is required against terrorism and those who want to establish a global theocracy. During my years of public service I was a hawk against terrorism. I still am. Yet when global war against Islamic terrorists abroad is waged by Christian theocrats at home – criminal behavior is justified in the name of righteousness.

In 1942, Christopher Dawson wrote in the Judgment of Nations,

“As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.”

The true path to victory is combining a strong defense, pursuing sensible strategic priorities, enlisting international cooperation and setting an honorable example. Nearly six years after 9/11 our homeland security remains shamefully porous. President Bush and his enablers have managed to undermine national security and erode civil liberties simultaneously.

Security at ports and a broad range of facilities ranging from nuclear power plants to our reservoirs remain unprotected but your phones may be tapped. Nothing is done about nuclear proliferation but old ladies can be harassed at airports. Osama Bin Laden remains at large and the country that provided safe haven for the attackers - Afghanistan – is being taken over by a resurgent Taliban. But our military remains bogged down in Iraq’s civil war created by an ill-advised invasion. We have failed to empower moderate Muslims while civil wars rage in Lebanon, among the Palestinians and Iraq.

America is uniquely suited to empower moderates in the Muslim world by setting an example. Millions of Muslims have assimilated well in the United States and lead productive lives. I served in an administration that helped save Muslim lives in Bosnia. Last year a good and honorable man – Keith Ellison from Minnesota who happens to be Muslim was elected to congress. So America has real assets in communicating to the Muslim world.

Instead we’re seen torturing Muslims and citizens such as Congressman Ellison are not given the benefit of the doubt about their patriotism. Too many Muslim citizens are harassed for what they are and not judged by who they are as individuals.

Republicans hope to exploit fear and some in my party are too timid of being associated as America’s “Muslim Party.” I ask my country, have we grown so cowardly, so fearful and so intolerant that we can’t look upon our own citizens as neighbors? How can we expect to empower moderates in the Muslim world when we’re not committed to protecting liberties and dignity of our own citizens?

My Dad taught me America couldn’t be freedom’s beacon of light as long as segregation infected our soul. He was right. Today I’m standing up and telling my country America will never prevail in its quest to spread freedom and tolerance abroad if we remain regulated by fear and intolerance at home. I’m not interested in leading the Muslim Party, the Jewish Party, Christian Party, the black, yellow, brown or white party, the gay party or the straight party. Instead I seek the nomination for president from the true party of all Americans: the Democratic Party (sustained applause).

As President I will roll up my sleeves and work to address the important challenges of our time. Number one is saving our planet from global warming. Some of you might have noticed I made a movie about it (dry self-deprecating tone and facial expression eliciting laughter). I will be blunt: we have no time to lose.

Natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina will become the norm if we don’t take action today. It’s not a coincidence that glaciers and the polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate. This didn’t just happen. This is not fate. Nor is it imagined. Global warming is the direct result of our consumption-oriented culture.

As Americans we have a unique obligation. We consume resources greatly disproportionate to our population. From the ordinary citizen to the biggest conglomerate American society must adapt, mobilize and change. Already we’re falling behind, as companies in China no less are busy establishing themselves in the green industry sector. We fall behind at our own peril. America should be leading the way.

Let there be no doubt I will seek a mandate to mobilize our society for developing clean alternative energy and reduce our carbon emissions. My fellow Americans I’m stating it plainly: if you want to maintain the status quo, drive big cars, make no sacrifices and continue importing foreign oil then don’t elect me. If you want to continue giving your hard earned money to big oil and hostile foreign powers don’t elect me. I intend to empower an American society that’s energy independent, clean and prosperous. I don’t seek incremental change. I’m going to push this country to join the 21st century – culturally, scientifically and economically.

Our schools need to turn out the finest engineers, computer programmers and scientists if we’re going to adapt for a new age. That requires recalibrating our priorities. The task at hand will not come cheap. Oil companies, billionaires and multi-national corporations will have to make due with less. If they’re smart they’ll join in the effort and prosper from it. A used up planet doesn’t do anyone any good.

The average citizen can’t help in this however if they’re struggling to make ends meat. Once upon a time citizens merely needed a work ethic to enjoy a slice of the American dream. Too many Americans are not rewarded for an honesty day’s work because we’ve lost a sense of community.

Workers, small business entrepreneurs and families in George Bush’s America are expected to absorb all the risks, perform the tough labor and relinquish most of the rewards to high salaried CEOs who outsource our jobs. Corporate America and their enablers in Washington have replaced community values with computerized receipts. We haven’t created an ownership society or investor class. George Bush and his cronies have placed the American workforce on a fast moving treadmill and people can’t get ahead.

We’ve seen the results. An American community underserved when disasters like Hurricane Katrina strike. A public school system in decay, skyrocketing health care costs and depleted retirement savings. Environmental and tax laws written by corporate lobbyists while their enablers in Washington lecture the rest of us about values.

I’m a religious man and it angers me when the Lord’s name is used to coarsen our culture with hate, intolerance and greed. Faith has made me humble. I lay no claim to knowing what the almighty considers righteous. I just pray everyday for the wisdom to do right.

I believe what’s right is a bold agenda of progress. I need your help. Let all of us join together. Not for me. Let us come together to restore America’s honor and rightful place as a beacon of freedom, justice and opportunity.

Thank you and may God bless you.

And God bless America.

ADDENDUM: My thanks to "Mike" for including the above topic on his roundup at Crooks and Liars.


Anonymous said...

And in the time it took you to write that in the hope that you would receive accolades for your writing, you could have planted a tree to help in the climate crisis. It really is sad to think that the work that needs to be done this year and next year on this SERIOUS crisis is not even spoken about seriously on blogs. Only the continual redundant mind numbing 2008 banter. But please, continue to feed the media hype that has diverted the people already from so much needed to be done to truly bring this Democracy back themselves. It is obvious to me that people on the whole don't really want progress if THEY have to do it THEMSELVES as it is so much easier to continue to expect to be "saved" and live in their dreamworlds.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the "job interviews" are cranking up early. Too bad people can't devote as much time to the REAL WORLD.

upinVermont said...

Well done, but I don't think you captured his wooden, wonkish delivery. There's not enough wonk.

I also think that your Mr. Gore could stand to read every book that Mr. George Lakoff has written, "Moral Politics", "Don't think of an Elephant", "Whose Freedom" and "Thinking Points". If he gives a speech like this another "wormtongue" Republican is going to send him straight back to making documentaries.

The arguments are all well & good, but if he doesn't learn how to frame them in a way that will directly confront and undercut the right-wing think-tank framing of his opponent, you might as well get used to saying "President McCain" & "McCain Administration".

Think George Lakoff. Could you interview him?

upinVermont said...

//And in the time it took you to write that in the hope that you would receive accolades for your writing, you could have planted a tree to help in the climate crisis.//

Where would you suggest that Mr. Ellman, practically in the middle of New York City, plant this tree? In what crack in what sidewalk? How much resources should he use to get out of New York City, to plant this said tree, which will offset these resources in how many years?

Just this fall, dear Anonymous, I mowed down about 50 to 60 dear little White Pine saplings, because they were growing like weeds in my back field.

Get your head out of your dreamworld.

Besides, a more effective carbon sink is not trees, but grass.

Support your local golf course.

But here it is: There is no one way for anyone to contribute to the betterment of this world, and for *you* to decide that there *is*, is the pinnacle of arrogance. But hey, there's no better world than self love, eh?

You don't know squat about the REAL WORLD.

Anonymous said...

I have no quarrel with your conclusion, but I think you did a poor impression of Gore. I don't hear him speaking in staccato, short sentences and sentence fragments as you do here. This is leaden prose and he's much more eloquent today. But that's just the editor in me nit-picking.

Anonymous said...

I guess anonymous doesn't believe in Unions, or representative government, or our democratic system of choosing people we believe will help bring to the fore what it is we are concerned about and how to proceed addressing our concerns. We all have a stake and a roll, anonomyous. Part of each individuals responsibility in seeing that we move forward in a way that saves the planet, and moving on all of the other issues that are important to us, it to vote people into positions of power we believe to be the most capable of making an honest assessment of the problems, and acting accordingly. That's not bystanding. That's taking part in the great experiment called democracy.

Anonymous said...

Numerous spelling and grammar mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Over from Crooks and Liars, and wanted to drop a line of support on Gore. In reading the comments, I also wanted to address this in detail, because it hits something that frustrates me in these discourses:

"It really is sad to think that the work that needs to be done this year and next year on this SERIOUS crisis is not even spoken about seriously on blogs."

1) This post is about the one politician who's done more to bring climate change to mainstream acceptance than any other. Why bitch here, as opposed to the literally thousands upon thousands of other blogs posting about candidates who've not backed environmental concerns to the point of writing 2 books, and producing a mainstream blockbuster movie, about the very issue you claim to care about, sir? Indeed, it would seem to me that you'd be excited about a Gore candidacy, as would I.

2) You, yourself, sir, have the same access to the tools to develop your own blog on the environment. Blogger, MovableType, Wordpress, TypePad, etc. -- all are free, and await your additions to the cause. You're berating someone else for not doing what you have failed to take time to do, sir, and can so with ease. Does that not strike you as potentially hypocritical?

Anonymous said...

Jim Bob -

Who is the "anoymous" moron? It's so obvious this imbecile is jealous that they didn't write the same thing. People like anoymous have to criticize others because they're losers. It helps them feel better about their inadequacies. I agree with "Upinvermont." You don't know squat about the real world. And if you read this dudes blog like I do regularly, you would know he's not a "bystander" but an activist.

Anonymous you need to get a life instead of tearing down the lives of others. I pity losers like you. I am in the real world. Like Rob I'm an activist. And I've been an environmental activist for 35 years. I'd rather have Rob writing stuff like this then planting one tree.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to C&L I was able to read the speech I would love to see Gore making. He is obviously the best man for the job and IMO the only one with the right experience.

Thanks for taking the time to write it and for goodness sake just ignore dolts like anonymous.

Anonymous said...

God I hate the nitpickers and apparently there are many on this site. I feel sorry for their children. They are probably psychologically messed up from all the criticism. One guy said too many spelling and grammar errors. OMG!!!! What is wrong with you people?
He is right!!! Al Gore is the man we need to lead us out of this mess and I think the speech was very nice, wonderfully written and painfully true.
If Al Gore runs, he could take some pointers from this speech. The rest of you negative nellys just shut up. You are the people who always know how to bring down the room. I bet you are a bummer at parties. OOHHH, wait, you aren't ever invited to any.