Tammy S Baldwin

Remarks at Fighting Bob Fest 2005 - Sept. 10, 2005

Tammy S Baldwin
September 10, 2005— Madison, Wisconsin
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Thank you Spencer. Thank you fellow Wisconsinites! Thank you fellow sons and daughters of Bob and Belle Case La Follette, of Aldo Leopold, of Gaylord Nelson. Thank you fellow progressives!

Fighting Bob Fest is our rallying point and this is our rallying cry: Progressives of the world, unite!

It's time to lay aside our petty differences and solve the problems around us. It's time to come together in common purpose—with common sense and decency—for the common good.

It's time to articulate what we stand for, not only rail about what we are against.

It's easy to give speeches about what they are doing wrong. I know, I do it all the time—the war, the deficit, the irresponsible tax and energy policies, their purposeful erosion of our nation's safety nets, their moralistic intrusions into our private lives. But Americans know we're against all of these things. Frankly, so are most of them. What we must do is tell America how we would lead differently.

Disheartened after the last election;
Distressed by my own party's inability to articulate its values or its mission;
Disturbed by the diminished stature of the United States abroad and misguided policies at home;
I stand before you today with my own progressive manifesto.

After the last election, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman echoed my own feelings when he wrote: "What troubled me was my feeling that this election was tipped by people who don't just favor different policies from me—they favor a whole different kind of America from me. We don't just disagree on what America should be doing; we disagree on what America is."

Which led me to ask, "What is America?" And I came to these conclusions.

America is more than a parcel of land; it is an idea and it is an ideal. It is a product of dreamers and visionaries, a haven of hope and opportunity, much of it as yet unfulfilled, and America is a work in progress.

America is a land that should invest more in human potential than in the machinery of death and destruction, but today it does not.

America is a land that should let no person go without health care, no family go hungry and no child go uneducated, but today it does not.

America is a land that should lead the world in energy innovation and independence, but today it does not.

America is a land that should set the standard for environmental protection and stewardship. Today it does not.

America has a government that should always ask, How will this affect average people? And how will this affect future generations?' before it parcels out benefits, goodies, privileges, and special treatment for a few, but today it does not.

But that does not mean that it cannot and will not. America can reach these lofty goals if we create the national will to make it so. Here is what we must do: We must address our unconscionable health care crisis that has led to 46 million uninsured and many more facing bankruptcy and financial ruin due to underinsurance. We must enact universal health care.

We must invest in an Apollo-scale initiative to end our reliance on finite and polluting fuels. We must also recognize that only the best education system will produce the thinkers and innovators to get us there.

We must restore economic justice and repair the pension system which leaves many retirees and near retirees at risk of having the rug pulled out from under them.

We must address a corporate environment that has led to corruption and staggering pay differentials between front line workers and CEOs.

We must stop having debates on Capitol Hill in which the impact of policies on the American people, on the future and on planet Earth, is an afterthought.

We must raise the federal minimum wage. No one should work full time, yet be unable to provide for him or herself and family, the basics of shelter food, clothing and health care.

While respecting our capitalist system and for-profit sector, we must act in the public interest when private excesses and greed threaten workers and consumers.

We must retain an estate tax as one tool in a strategy to strengthen the middle class, to give every child an equal shot at the American Dream, and to prevent enormous concentrations of wealth among the very richest few.

We must protect the privacy of our people and stop government intrusion in our libraries, bedrooms, doctor's offices, hospice rooms and places of worship and insist that government fully support equal rights and protections for all Americans.

We must enact public financing for Congressional elections to take donor influence on policy out of the equation.

We must take control of military spending; abandon Star Wars; abandon the nuclear bunker buster; rein in the defense contractors who lack any accountability; advance the goals of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; and redirect our resources to education, health care, new energy sources, environmental protections, and fair trade policies.

We must recognize that many challenges are global, and that America cannot run from those challenges, nor can we tackle them alone. We must build up institutions that draw on the input and resources of all nations to solve our global problems.

We can achieve all of this by adopting the strategies of the grassroots warriors who came before us—recognizing in their own time and place that somethin' ain't right!—those Americans who worked tirelessly to form a labor union, to end slavery, end child labor, achieve women's suffrage, secure collective bargaining rights, end racial segregation, end the Vietnam War—they formed movements—of the people, by the people, and for the people. These movements showed the world what America is!

Now it is our turn to show the world what America is and what it should be.

Great movements of change are not spontaneous. Each involves citizenship training, grassroots organizing, advocacy and, most important, a belief that each of us can make a difference, and a faith that our democracy provides us with those tools. Democracy can't flourish on a shelf or in a museum, it needs to be constantly pushed, prodded and tested.

As we dedicate Bob Fest 4 to Gaylord Nelson, let us recall one of the greatest lessons he taught us. This man who sat in arguably the most powerful legislative body on earth, the U.S. Senate, knew that the changes he sought—protection of our environment and natural resources and wilderness—were not going to bubble forth from the U.S. Senate. He knew that the change he sought would only come if the people demanded it. Gaylord Nelson did not start with his 99 colleagues in the Senate, he started with the people. And he devised a strategy, through Earth Day, to engage millions of people in directly improving their environment as well as articulating to their leaders what must be done. And it worked.

We must think and act as strategically as Gaylord Nelson. We must engage people fully as he did. We must articulate to our leaders what must be done. And we mustn't succumb, as he never did, to cynicism, frustration or disappointment.

Progressives of the world, unite!

As we gather this weekend our hearts are all heavy. We feel for all of those on the Gulf Coast who are suffering the effects of Hurricane Katrina and for those who are suffering the consequences of a painfully slow and inept response to Katrina.

There are moments in history, when the effects of the misdeeds and neglect of the powerful are exposed for all to see. Such was the case over a century ago, in 1889, when the Johnstown flood took the lives of 2,209 Americans -- predominantly poor mill workers and their families. As a nation began to understand that the flood and the death toll was about a lot more than just a natural disaster, grief gave way to outrage and outrage to action. Some point to that moment as the beginning of the Progressive movement in America.

I ask today, what will we do with our heavy hearts? My hope is that we will now turn our grief to outrage and our outrage to action.

Progressives of the world, unite!

Thank you.

Speech taken from http://tammybaldwin.house.gov/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=1312