Kucinich: A time to rekindle the dreams

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) formally announced his bid for the U.S. presidency in a speech in the Council Chamber of Cleveland City Hall Oct. 13. He had served as a city councilman there in the 1970s and was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977 at the age of 31.

He has served four terms as a U.S. congressman representing Cleveland. He was instrumental in rallying 136 House members to vote against the resolution authorizing Bush’s preemptive, unilateral war on Iraq. Staunchly pro-union and anti-racist, his campaign has energized a nationwide grassroots movement. The media has virtually boycotted his campaign. We offer here, as a public service, extensive excerpts from his announcement speech.

Thank you for joining me for this important moment, not only for myself but for the Cleveland community. My brothers and sisters will remember this story. There is a fiery torch which lights the night skies over our beloved Cleveland. It rises from the furnace of a steel mill. I remember a time when that light played against the interior of our car. As a young child I pressed my face against the car window and watched as the flame reached up. It filled me with wonder, it gave me a spark of hope. It made me forget that my mom and dad, my brothers and sisters, all seven of us, were living in that car.

Light has the power to enkindle dreams. And though we lived in 21 different places by the time I was 17, including a couple of cars, I breathed in the image of blazing light and I breathe it out at this very moment. ...

So I dedicate this day to the light bearers of today and tomorrow. The children who seek hope, who seek homes, who seek our help to be lifted up, to learn how to look for the light, how to read, how to dance, how to sing, how to play, how to love, how to summon from seemingly nothing the new realities which some call miracles. …

Daycare for kids, cuts for the Pentagon

Last month, I introduced a bill and as president will seek to enact a program to provide for universal pre-kindergarten for children ages 3-5; to give each child the earliest start in a five-day-a-week program, in a school setting, to learn reading skills, educational, social skills and to have proper nutrition available. This day care program would be funded by a 15 percent reduction in the bloated Pentagon budget. You know and I know that there is massive waste in the Pentagon budget, and this would not jeopardize our national security. ... [I]t would instead enhance the economic security of our nation, of our nation’s families ... it would allocate families at least $5,000 per child to do this. I will match an effort to provide free tuition to public colleges and universities for all of America’s youth. ...

A Secretary of Peace

I am running for president of the United States to create a cabinet level department of peace and nonviolence. Fifty members of Congress already supported the bill I introduced in July of 2001. The Department of Peace will facilitate the dream and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, that dream will still seek to make nonviolence an organizing principle of our society, and we can do that, through education, we can do that, through teaching our children peace, sharing, charity, giving and mutuality. ... The men and women … who serve this country honorably, stand in Iraq because there are those who believe that war is inevitable. ... As president, I will work with leaders of the world to make war a thing of the past, to abolish nuclear weapons. If America is to lead in peace, it must lead through rejoining the world community.

We must rejoin the world community through signing the biological weapons convention, the chemical weapons convention, the small arms treaty, the land mines treaty, join the international criminal court and sign the Kyoto climate change treaty. It’s time for America to rejoin the world!

And after we rejoin the world community, we can then work to make sure our principles of peace are carried aloft throughout the Middle East at the moment when our brothers and sisters, Israelis and Palestinians alike, find themselves locked into internecine conflict. This is the moment when the hand of peace which seeks to create conditions where all nations live together and coexist peacefully is so needed. America cannot put its foot on the accelerator of war and advocate peace simultaneously! ...

Heal the wounds of exploitation and slavery

Today is an appropriate day to remind ourselves of the necessity of healing the grief with Native Americans, who were dispossessed when exploration turned to exploitation. ... I have joined Congressman John Conyers’ call to study reparations for those whose African American ancestors suffered enslavement. ... [W]e must recognize the debilitating effects of slavery which are with us still. ... [S]o many of our African American brothers and sisters are locked still in prisons of poverty, substandard housing, unemployment, run-down schools, without health care, without hope. I know this. And my brother Gary, my brother Frank, my brother Larry, my sister Terry, my sister Beth, my brother Perry – we know this, because often we were the only Caucasian family living in a community of color. ...

And we need, too, to stop the breaches that are occurring right now with an immigration policy which causes so many of our Latino brothers and sisters to be reduced to another kind of slavery because they have to come into America to try to receive an opportunity to survive financially, but they don’t have the protection of law, they don’t have the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act, their children don’t have health care, their children don’t have education. We must do everything we can to create legalization and amnesty for immigrant workers; we must lift them up, too. …

And we must heal America from the pain and the suffering and the fear of 9/11 which, unfortunately, led this administration to attack a nation which did not attack us, and to pass a Patriot bill which undermines our civil liberties. ... I ask you: how can we afford to be the policemen of the world, when we can’t afford to hire police, firefighters, and EMS back here at home in our cities?

No more lies! Bring our troops home

That is why this week I will ... vote against funding $87 billion for the occupation of Iraq. I am running for president of the United States to end the United States occupation of Iraq, and put an end to the lies which brought us into Iraq. ... We must challenge those lies. ... I am here at this moment to say that it is time to support our troops, and I say: Support our troops, bring them home!

People ask: Oh well, that sounds great, how can you do it? I put on my website, at www.kucinich.us, a few days ago an exit strategy to bring our troops home by New Year’s, and here’s how we can do it. The United States must go to the UN with a resolution that has these features:

Number one: that the UN will handle all of the oil assets on behalf of the Iraqi people with no privatization – until the people of Iraq can handle their own affairs. Number two: that the UN will handle the contracts – no more Halliburton sweetheart deals! No more war profiteering, no more contracts going to political contributors of the administration. Number three: that the UN handles the clause of creating new governance in Iraq, until the Iraqi people can handle their own affairs. ... We need to bring the UN in and get the U.S. out, and to bring our troops home. ...

The passage of the Patriot Act was an abomination and as president I intend to lead the effort to repeal it. We need to regain the trust of the American people and we need to have a government which trusts the American people.

Cancel NAFTA, WTO, create public works jobs

Americans have lost 3 million manufacturing jobs since July of 2000. NAFTA and the WTO have facilitated the movement of jobs out of America. ... Corporations move where workers don’t have rights, where nations provide little legal protection. America can change that. America can set new rules for trade, but to do that you must set aside NAFTA and the WTO. I’m running for president to cancel NAFTA and the WTO. ... We must put into our new bilateral trade agreements workers’ rights, the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike, the right to decent wages and benefits, the right to a safe workplace, the right to a secure retirement. ...

We need to remember another time when America was hurt economically, and an American president by the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced a nation that was broken economically, and said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and enacted a range of social and economic programs to restore America. As the next president of the United States I intend to lead the way to restore our cities by having a new WPA-type program to rebuild our bridges, our roads, our water systems, our sewer systems, to build new energy systems. We can rebuild America; we can put millions and more back to work. ...

Take profits out of health care, Medicare for all

Last month, I introduced a bill which takes the profit out of health care, together with John Conyers and Jim McDermott. This proposal brings to the American people a universal, single-payer system, Medicare for all. It is time for health care for people, not for profit. You know ... and I know that insurance companies … make money by stopping people from getting the care they need. ... They make money because they are interested only in profit. ...

[T]his proposal ... covers all medically necessary procedures, complementary and alternative medicine. ... And it includes vision care, and it includes dental health care. ...

No more health poverty in America because people need long-term care! It covers mental health care. ... In my district in Cleveland, Ohio, senior citizens are splitting their pills to try to make prescriptions last. They are giving up meals. ... This proposal for universal health care includes a fully-funded prescription drug benefit, another way to take our people out of health poverty. ...

I say that now is the time to, once again, break up the monopolies and restore competition in our economy. And we must do so again on behalf of small businesses, and on behalf of family farmers. And as president, I will move to break up the monopolies in agriculture, which strangle the market from seed to shelf. And to make sure that our family farmers are able to get their product to market and get the price that they are entitled to. ...

Defend public power! No privatization!

It was here in this very Council Chamber, 25 years ago, that I had the privilege of stopping the sale of Cleveland’s municipal electric system. ... I recognized then, as I recognize now, that it matters how much people pay for electricity. That’s why I fought to make sure that the people of this community would be able to have access to cheaper power. ...

Cleveland is my home. Cleveland is where my heart resides. Cleveland is where my dreams started. ...Years ago, my grandfather, John Kucinich ... the name was spelled K-u-c-i-n-i-c. When he came over on the boat, they added the “h.” A lot of names were changed there. … And my grandfather, when he traveled from Croatia as a very young man, he traveled to Ellis Island, and he was welcomed by a light as well ... the Statue of Liberty that holds its lamp high. ... So, by the lights which guided my grandfather to America; by the light still shining celebrating public power; by the lights which still emblazon the sky over Cleveland’s steel valley, I stand here, ready to light up America. I am Dennis John Kucinich and I am running for President of the United States!