Support the Vision
Speech by Thomas Bryer, Executive Director, Reform America, Inc.
Voter Rights March to Restore Democracy, May 19, 2001, Washington, DC
Hello, and welcome to our nation's capitol. As the day draws to a close we will soon be saying goodbye to all of you, and thank you for coming. This is a historic event, a momentous occasion. We come from all around the country, from all different backgrounds: professionals and students; young and old; Democrat and Republican, and yes, Libertarian, Green, and Natural Law too.
We each come for a purpose: to promote reform in the way our ballots are counted, to call for changes in our method of voting to Instant Runoff Voting or proportional representation, to demand for voting rights equal among races and ethnicities and to restore voting rights to ex-felons. We come as spectators. We come as activists. We come as reformists. We come as passionate idealists. We come as dreamers. We come as fighters for equality.
We come with a vision.
We come with a vision for a true democracy.
We are not here to support one man or woman. Nor are we here to rally against one man or woman. We have come together today to achieve something greater than our individual selves, greater than any individual person. Let us recognize that.
What we need is not one man or woman with a vision for a fair and just democracy. What we need is strength in a collective human spirit to make a difference. That is the strength we have here today. Leaders and visions are born and die everyday; it is our job as citizens of this country, citizens of this world, members of the human race to support those with a vision, and to never let the human spirit die. The moment we grow dependent on one person, or grow tired waiting for one perfect vision, is the moment our spirit will fade into darkness.
We come together today with a vision. A real vision.
We come together today, many and strong, to transform our democratic institutions. We come together today, many and strong, to fight for what we know is right and just. We come together today, many and strong, to fight for a true democracy in the United States of America.
In the early moments of his presidential campaign, John McCain issued what he called our new patriotic challenge. He said, talking about money in politics:
We can continue to watch as the American people grow ever more alienated from the practice and institutions of democracy. We can continue to tolerate a government that has become little more than a spectacle of selfish ambition, a government auctioned to the highest bidder. Or we can take a stand. We can fight together to reclaim our government from those who corrupt it. This is our new patriotic challenge.
John McCain has a vision, and he is working to see it become a reality. John Anderson, President of the Center for Voting and Democracy, has a vision. He wants to see reform of our electoral methods, moving to instant runoff voting and proportional representation. John Anderson is working to see that vision become reality. Scott Beale, in the crowd today, has a vision. He wants to see the youngest generation, millennials, engaged in discussion and action about the issues we are all facing. Scott Beale is writing a book to help make this happen. You all have a vision. We all have a vision. We are here today to see our vision for a true democracy become a reality.
We want to see every vote not only counted in every election. We want to see every vote count. Instant runoff voting and proportional representation can make this happen. Do we want it? Are we going to fight for it?
We want to see honest and strict enforcement of the Voter Rights Act. Do we want it? Are we going to fight for it?
In my home state of Maryland George W. Bush got 40% of the vote. Al Gore got 56% of the vote. Who had their vote count? Only the first 41% of voters who cast their ballot for Gore. What do Bush and Nader supporters have to show for performing their civic duty? Nothing! What's more we all know who won the popular vote nationwide. We want major reform of the Electoral College. Do we want it? Are we going to fight for it?
I stood with my friends and compatriots on the streets of DC, and in spirit with them in Boston and New York, as we demanded for open and fair debates. Representatives from the Gore and Bush campaigns said there is no need; Nader with the Green Party, Buchanan with the Reform Party, Hagelin with the Natural Law Party, Brown from the Libertarian Party, Phillips from the Constitution Party, and Reynolds from the Socialist Party - they are not serious candidates, they said. We want equal access to debates for all political parties. Do we want it? Are we going to fight for it?
The candidate I most wanted to vote for in Maryland was unable to gain access to the ballot. My friends in Virginia, however, were able to vote for that candidate, without writing him in. I ask - is that right? We want a uniform ballot throughout the United States for President of the United States. Do we want it? Are we going to fight for it?
The Commission on Presidential Debates … a non-partisan commission. So they say. We demand an all-partisan commission on Presidential Debates. We demand all-partisan election administration bodies in every state. Do we want it? Are we going to fight for it?
I said every state. You know … when I say 'every state' I really would like if that included Washington, DC. We want fair representation for residents of this our nation's capitol city. We want statehood for Washington, DC. Do we demand it? Are we going to fight for it?
You all know what some DC residents did on Tax Day this year? They took copies of their tax returns and burned them to protest this taxation without representation that exists. I often wonder what would happen if every DC resident burned not copies of their tax returns, but destroyed their actual returns and refused to pay!
In the meantime until that day comes call Senator Lieberman's office to support his bill prohibiting taxation of DC residents so long as they have no vote in Congress.
These are just some of the issues that make up our collective vision for a true democracy. Let us support each other. Let us support our vision. Let us grow our collective strength and make a difference!
To begin we must educate. We must educate to recreate. We must educate our fellow citizens about our current democratic institutions and practices. Then we must educate our fellow citizens about alternatives to those failing institutions and practices. Then we must engage our fellow citizens in this great collective effort to recreate - not fix - recreate that which is failing the people of the United States of America!
We must push our government - federal, state and local - to keep their promises made to update voting technologies and create vote-counting standards. But we cannot stop there, my friends. That is barely scratching the surface of what we must do to create a true democracy. We must work together, grow our strength, and recreate all that is failing the people of the United States!Join with me and Reform America, Inc. in our mission to Educate to Recreate. We are an all-partisan 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Our mission is to engage young Americans in the democratic reform movement: to motivate high schools and activate college campuses. Our mission is to educate to recreate.
Check out our website at ReformAmericaInc.org. Let's all work together to go forth to Reform America.
Reform America, Inc.