BY JEREMY BLACHMAN
On Wednesday afternoon, United States Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich spoke to a standing-room-only Ames Courtroom crowd in an event sponsored by the HLS Democrats. The audience was filled with not just students but Kucinich supporters from the broader community, wearing buttons, carrying signs, waving banners, and, perhaps in the case of one woman who coughed throughout the event, suffering from a lack of universal health care. Many of the audience members wore leis to symbolize Kucinich’s recent second-place triumph in the Hawaiian Democratic caucus, earning 30% of the vote, as opposed to the 1% he has been averaging in the continental United States.
The candidate was introduced by HLS Democrats Vice President 2L Ariel Neuman, and Kucinich entered the courtroom to a rousing standing ovation. Once the crowd quieted down, he launched into a 15-minute speech that focused primarily on his stance against the war in Iraq and in favor of world peace more generally. Kucinich told the audience that the upcoming election did not have to be a choice between a Republican war in Iraq or a Democratic one, but that the country could instead choose peace. “We can consciously create a new world … I think people are ready for it,” he said, and a deluge of applause followed. Kucinich criticized current U.S. policy for putting the country on a platform separate from the rest of the world, and “lording over” other countries. The candidate ran onto the elevated judge’s platform in Ames courtroom to illustrate the United States’ plans to watch over the world from space, and attack whenever a country did something the Bush administration did not agree with.
Kucinich outlined his plan to create a cabinet-level Department of Peace, which he said he initially proposed to Congress in July 2001, two months before the September 11th attacks. The Department of Peace, he explained, would infuse the principles of peace into every aspect of society. In school, children would be introduced to “peace-making” and “peace-sharing” programs starting in the early grades. In homes suffering from domestic violence, abusers would be treated with “open-hearted compassion,” with a focus on dealing not just with the effects of but with the underlying causes of violence in our society. Internationally, the Department would work with the nations of the world to transform relationships, and, in the spirit of the original United Nations charter, end war for good.
The Congressman invoked quotations from Raplh Waldo Emerson, Lord Tennyson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Rene Descartes, and others, insisting that it should be the “conscious cause of the nation to deal with the peace crisis at home,” and that we should use “our capacity to evolve” to “create a more perfect union” and achieve world peace. He closed his speech by saying he wants to “carry the power of the human heart, and the human spirit, and go farther than we have ever gone.”
After a sustained round of applause, Kucinich took questions from the audience. One person asked whether he would consider running on a ticket with Ralph Nader. Kucinich replied that he and Nader have been friends for thirty years, but “my nomination will make Ralph Nader’s candidacy less necessary.”
In response to a question about the legalization of drugs including cocaine, Kucinich said that he thought it was long overdue that we decriminalize marijuana, and that although he would deal with drug abusers with medical treatment instead of incarceration, he was “not there yet and may never be” as far as legalizing cocaine.
In response to a question about the budget, Kucinich said that he would cut Pentagon spending by at least 15%, cut war spending by removing our troops from Iraq, and roll back many of the Bush tax cuts in order to fund universal health care, universal 5-day-a-week child care for kids ages 3, 4, and 5, and make it possible for everyone to attend college tuition-free. No word on whether that plan would include Harvard Law School.