Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2004 | 8:22 a.m.

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The Audacity of Hope

I read a poll question yesterday that asked if conventions were helpful to voters. It's a good question -- why have these conventions when the decision about who will represent the party has already been made? Why have a formal dog and pony show? I think the answer is that it's a rallying point -- for either party, these conventions are the biggest pep rally before the big game in November. For this voter, they are not useful in the sense of providing detailed information about candidate's platforms and views, but they are useful in getting me interested enough -- riled enough -- to do some homework, read the information provided on the web and then make a more informed decision.

Will I watch the RNC? I haven't decided yet. Watching the Shrub makes me want to puke and I feel like after four years, I already have a pretty good sense of where he and his party are coming from. I'll probably read transcripts, especially if Senator McCain speaks.

The thing that's most important to me with any politician is to remember the motivation for these speeches and not take anything at face value. Everyone has an agenda, from the politicians, to the people commenting on the politicians (yes, even me!). I remember feeling the way pink-enigma feels when I started really looking at voting records and not just listening to the news or speeches. In fact, that's when I decided to register as Independent. I don't vote party -- I vote according to my ideals, which are extremely liberal. Most of the time, that means I vote Democrat, simply because they are representing my ideal.

What I think is most important is I take the tremendous right I have as an American adult -- the right to vote for a representative government -- seriously enough to educate myself about the issues and candidates and vote the way I feel is right. Aside from not voting at all, I think the most irresponsible use of my strength as a citizen is to simply vote the way someone tells me to, without considering the issues on my own, whether that someone trying to tell me is a political party, a spouse, a friend or the evening news. And I feel other Americans should do the same. I don't care if your vote is ultimately different from mine, as long as it was carefully considered.

The next responsibility is to not give up if my candidate or issue isn't voted in. It's easy to just get pissy, pick up my ball, and go home. It's easy to get discouraged and quit, especially after an election like the 2000 Presidential election, where votes didn't seem to count, or if they did, didn't seem to count correctly. The harder road -- and in my opinion, the more mature road -- is to pick up my ball and to decide to keep playing, to keep trying to make a difference with my vote and with my actions. If it's a candidate, well, there will be another election. If it's an issue, then it's even more important that I don't go home. It's important that I keep working to find a way to resolve it, even if the resolve involves finding the middle road between my point of view and one that seems to be in opposition.

Okay, I could go on ad nauseum (and maybe I already have), but I want to highlight some of the things that are staying with me about day two's speeches:

From Senator Edward Kennedy:

"Our country demands a great deal from us, and we rightly demand a great deal from our leaders. America is a compact, a bargain, a contract. It says that all of us are connected. Our fates are intertwined. Fifty states, one nation. Our Constitution binds us together.

Yet in our own time, there are those who seek to divide us. One community against another. Urban against rural. City against suburb. Whites against blacks. Men against women. Straights against gays. Americans against Americans.

In these challenging times for our country, in these fateful times for the world, America needs a genuine uniter – not a divider who only claims to be a uniter.

We have seen how they rule—they divide and try to conquer. They know the power of the people is weakened when our house is divided. They believe they can’t win, unless the rest of us lose. We reject that shameful view.

The Democratic Party has a different idea. We believe that all of us can win. We believe we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And when we say all, we mean all."

And yesterday, someone accused Bill Clinton of being harshly partisan in his speech! (A criticism I found amusing, by the way -- hello, this is the Democratic National Convention. What part of that is hard to understand? Think the Republicans will be Fair and Balanced in their representation of Democrats at their convention? ::snort::) I love Edward Kennedy, despite the fact that he can occasionally be a hypocrite in the way that he lives vs. the things he pushes as a politician. Even if it's just a sense of noblisse oblige that keeps him working so hard for liberal ideals, he does work very hard and I appreciate that.

Anyway, I like this quote because I really do feel Dubya has been the most divisive president of my lifetime, at the least. You either swallow everything he says whole, or you despise him. There is very little middle ground for most people.

"Interdependence defines our world. For all our might, for all our wealth, we know we are only as strong as the bonds we share with others. The dangers of terrorism and nuclear proliferation—our greatest challenges – are shared by all nations. And our greatest opportunities—from achieving lasting peace and security, to building a more prosperous society, to ending the ravages of disease and the despairs of poverty—can all be seized. But only if the world works together, and only if America helps to lead in the right direction."

From Illinois State Senator Barack Obama:

His whole speech was amazing. I was mesmerized. I truly believe this man could be the first black president of this country. You can read the transcript here.

"The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don’t expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to. Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don’t want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon. Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. No, people don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice."

"Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

"I’m not talking about blind optimism here—the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!"

Yes. The audacity of hope.

From Teresa Heinz Kerry:

"My name is Teresa Heinz Kerry. And by now I hope it will come as no surprise to anyone that I have something to say."

Indeed she did. I found her to be inspiring in a way I haven't felt in forever. This woman who comes from another country truly appreciates -- and can speak eloquently about -- what it means to be an American (hint: it's not about how many flags you plaster on your SUV). Teresa Heinz Kerry reminded me of the greatness of the American beacon.

"There is a value in taking a stand whether or not anyone may be noticing and whether or not it is a risky thing to do. And if even those who are in danger can raise their lonely voices, isn’t more required of all of us, in this land where liberty had her birth?"

This is what it means to be patriotic. Not blindly following your leaders (sorry, Britney). It's speaking out when it is time to speak out.

"I have a very personal feeling about how special America is, and I know how precious freedom is. It is a sacred gift, sanctified by those who have lived it and those who have died defending it. My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called “opinionated,” is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish. My only hope is that, one day soon, women—who have all earned the right to their opinions—instead of being labeled opinionated, will be called smart or well-informed, just as men are.

Tonight I want to remember my mother’s warmth, generosity, wisdom, and hopefulness, and thank her for all the sacrifices she made on our behalf, like so many other mothers. This evening, I want to acknowledge and honor the women of this world, whose wise voices for much too long have been excluded and discounted. It is time for the world to hear women’s voices, in full and at last."

"In America, the true patriots are those who dare speak truth to power. The truth we must speak now is that America has responsibilities that it is time for us to accept again."

Say it, sister!

Last night's speeches were good -- I did more homework this morning. I don't have a quote from their speech, but I thought it was very cool that the Tohono Oodham nation was represented last night as well.

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