Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Formal Announcement of Candidacy
Cleveland City Council Chambers
October 13, 2003
Thank you for joining me for this important moment, not only for myself but for our Cleveland community. I know my brothers and sisters will remember this story well. 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 sense of hope, 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.
The scriptures bid us to send forth our light and our truth and when children carry within their hearts the torch of hope, they learn the darkness yields not only to man-made fire, but to starlight, to the rising sun, and to the light of the soul.
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. Miracles occur, miracles occur when our faith meets inner vision, where believing is seeing.
This moment, this moment, which unfolds as the dream of an inner-city child who once lived in a car, to become President of the United States celebrates not my potential but the creative potential of each and every child to be somebody, to be loved, to serve, to lead, to be carried into the myth and magic of the expressive power of the American Dream and our responsibility to make each child’s dreams come true.
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 an early start in a 5-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% reduction in the bloated Pentagon budget. You know and I know the United States already spends more money than the rest of the world combined for the Pentagon. You know and I know that there is massive waste in the Pentagon budget. It would not jeopardize our national security. However, it would instead enhance the economic security of our nation, of our nation’s families. It would help by providing day care for our children. It would help save families at least $5,000 per child. To do this, I will match an effort to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities for all of America’s youth. Let us lift up this nation in the cause of education! Let us lift up the Children! Let us help our babies. Let us help America's young people.
In these proposals, we see the deeper meaning of a sculpture which towers over the entrance of the House of Representatives: A woman’s arm is outstretched, protecting a child who sits blissfully atop a pile of books. This artwork which is at the center of our national experience, as we pass through into the House of Representatives everyday. This artwork of a woman, arm protecting child, this artwork is entitled, “Peace, Protecting Genius” Peace protecting genius. Not through nuclear arms, but with the arms of eternal love the child genius is protected, and the child genius achieves peace through love and through education.
I am running for President of the United States to enable the goddess of peace to encircle within her reach all the children of this country and all the children of the world. And to protect our children from poverty and war, to hold them in the light of grace, and to hold them in the power of peace. I am running to challenge that system! We will challenge that system! We will change the system!
I am running for President of the United States to challenge this system which traps so many of Americans, children and adults, in fear, in violence and poverty and makes us pay for wars we don’t want and causes us to sacrifice our childrens’ future.
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 which still seeks to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our society, and we can do that, through education, we can do that, through teaching our children peace-sharing, peace-giving and mutuality. We can do that through education that addresses the challenge of domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, all of those afflictions which occur in our home and our society seldom organizes to deal with. America can organize her collected efforts to focus on and to help free our homes from this violence. The Department of Peace knows that America does not have to be helpless in the face of violence in our schools, in the face of racial violence or violence against gays.
The same power, the same power that brought to our nation freedom bids us to free ourselves from the shackles of violence through making non-violence a structured part of the everyday life of our nation – to teach peace, to teach conflict resolution, to free our homes and to free our communities of violence, to prove that the American evolution is within and when peace becomes innermost it then becomes outermost in our communities and in our nations. At this very moment, the men and women who we treasure, who serve this country honorably, stand in Iraq because there are those who believe that war is inevitable. The belief that war is inevitable creates violence. 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 it through rejoining the world community.
And as president, I will facilitate rejoining 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 time for America to rejoin the world!
And as we rejoin the world community, we can then work to make sure that principles of peace are carried aloft throughout the Middle East. At the moment when our brothers and sisters, Israelis and Palestenians 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!
In the book of Isaiah, we are urged to be repairers of the breach. Our work for peace will be strengthened when we repair the breach within our own society. 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, and when the cause of the American Natives were excluded in the cause of all Americans.
I have joined Congressman John Conyer’s call to study reparations for those whose African American ancestors suffered enslavement. And let me tell you why I’ve done that- because we must recognize the debilitating effects of slavery which are with us still, the debilitating effects of racism which still exist. We must recognize this because so 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. We know this.
This is not only about repairing the breach for African Americans. This is about healing our world. This is about what is called in the Jewish faith tikkun olam. We must heal the breach! We must heal the breach. We must begin this process of reconciliation and healing. We must be repairers of the breach, and we can help to repair the breach by having a nation which stands for jobs for all, health care for all, education for all! Let’s use this as a moment to lift up America!
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 Standard 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! We must be repairers of the breach! We must repair the breach for people of color!
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. America stands strongest in challenging terrorism when we do not give up an inch of our civil liberties, and when we cooperate with the world community in matters of international security. I ask you: how can we afford to be the policemen of the world, when we can’t afford to hire police, fire, and EMS back here at home in our cities?
That is why this week I will be present in Congress to vote against funding 87 billion dollars 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, and to help make this country whole again in the world community and to challenge those lies which, if left unchallenged, will cause this administration to lead this country towards another war. We must challenge those lies! I am running for President of the United States to stop the hundreds of billions of our tax dollars from going towards the continued occupation of Iraq, and 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! Bring them home. 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 Years, 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- no privatization! - until
people of Iraq can handle their own affairs.
Number two: that the UN will handle the contracts- no more Haliburton sweetheart deals! No more war profiteering! No more no-bid 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.
This is the moment that we need to reach out and connect with the world community once again. We can do that. We can bring the UN in and get the US out. We need to bring the UN in and get the US out, and to bring our troops home.
And I’m running for President to break the shackles of fear which have deprived our citizens of rights. 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.
This war threatens our civil liberties, our civil freedoms, and our economic freedoms. The rising budget deficit, at national and state levels, will continue to mount with the continued occupation. Meanwhile, absolutely no attention is being paid to a rising trade deficit which is now approaching 450 billion dollars.
Americans have lost 3 million manufacturing jobs since July of 2000. NAFTA and the WTO have facilitated the movement of jobs out of America. Because you know and I know: corporations move where they can pay workers less. 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.
This is about fair trade. People ask: what will you do next? We return to bilateral trade. Everyone wants access to our market. We can help set the rules, and through setting the rules we can lift up the cause of all workers. And how can we do that specifically? 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 can put those into our trade agreements. We can protect American workers, and we can lift the cause of workers all over this world, and it is time to do that.
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. I will work to create new jobs, too, with the help of the inventive genius of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which here at Glen Research Center in Cleveland, we are privileged to have them, work on creating the future of America.
Under my administration, NASA will help America lead the way in enabling the private sector to work with the public sector, through the licensing and purchase of the right to develop from the first stage: new technologies in research and energy, technologies in materials, technologies in communication, technologies in environmental protection, in medicine, technologies which are in propulsion. This cooperative public/private partnership will lead us in the meeting, in creating the industries of the future; will create new high-tech jobs. We can do that. We have the ability to do that today and I intend to help NASA lead the way to creating the new jobs.
And we can create new jobs, too, with a new approach to health care. We know. How many places in America, where businesses are laying off employees because they can no longer afford the cost of health care, where employees are seeing cutbacks in their health care benefits, because of a health care system that is no longer about people.
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. You know. You know and I know that insurance companies make money not providing health care. They make money by stopping people from getting the care they need. They make money by making insurance agents more powerful than doctors. They make money because they are interested only in profit.
Universal, single-payer, health care: this proposal that I am talking about covers all medically necessary procedures, complimentary and alternative medicine. Insurance companies don’t make money when people aren’t sick. Yet, we have people in this country who can’t afford to be sick and they can’t afford to be well. But complimentary and alternative medicine is included in a universal health care proposal. And it includes vision care, and it includes dental health care.
Let me tell you, this smile did not come cheap. And all the children of America should have a beautiful smile, but we know that the rising cost of health care, and particularly the costs of dental care, takes proper dental care out of the reach of many families. And so what I intend to do as the next president, is to make sure that this provision for dental health care is included in a universal health care bill.
It will also include long-term care. Some baby boomers are still fortunate to still have their parents with them, and I will tell you: as we learn about the cost of nursing home care we know that some families have to give up everything they work for because of the cost of nursing home care. My proposal for universal health care covers long-term care. No more health poverty in America because people need long-term care! It covers mental health care. It covers prescription drugs.
In my district in Cleveland Ohio, senior citizens are splitting their pills to try to make prescriptions last. They are giving up meals or giving up purchases of clothing to be able to pay for the high cost of prescription drugs. This proposal for universal health care includes a fully- funded prescription drug benefit, another way to take our people out of health poverty.
People ask me, “Oh, sounds great. How can you do this?” We are already paying for universal health care. We’re not getting it. Why aren’t we getting it? Because the health care dollar involves stock options, executive salaries, high profits, lobbying, marketing, advertising, the high cost of paper work! We want the health care dollar to go into caring for people and that is exactly what this proposal does. No more bankruptcies for health care. No more health care poverty in America. No more premiums, no more co-pays, no more deductibles. We are already paying for universal health care, we’re not getting it.
It’s time, America and it’s time, too, to make corporations accountable to the American people; to require that they tell the truth to their shareholders; to require that they tell the truth to their investors; to require that they tell the truth to their employees, to their retirees; that they tell the truth.
And I will bring to the Presidency of the United States, an independence to insist on a higher standard of conduct for Wall Street and its captains. It was a century ago when America had a president, Theodore Roosevelt, who took on the trusts of his era; who challenged the monopolies of his time. 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.
Of course as Peter, and C.J., and Jay and others have pointed out, I have some experience in dealing with monopolies. It was here. It was here in this very Council Chambers, 25 years ago that I had the privilege of stopping the sale of Cleveland’s municipal electric system. And stopping the takeover of our public power system by a utility monopoly because 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.
I’ll share with you a story from that time 25 years ago. The very day that I said “no” to the sale of our municipal electric system- on December the 15th, 1978- I was thinking, brothers and sisters, Frank and Gary: I was thinking about when we lived above Martha’s Delicatessen at 10712 St. Clair. And I was thinking about Mom and Dad sitting at the kitchen table counting the pennies so they would have money to pay the utility bill. I can still hear those pennies dropping…click, click, click on that tabletop. I could hear that on that day when I was asked to sell Cleveland’s municipal electric system.
Oh, I want all of you here to know that I remember where I came from. I want all of you to know that. Because, there are so many families in America, so many families struggling to hold on to their homes, to hold on to their health care, to hold on to their retirement security, to hold on to their education funds, that it matters how much people pay for electricity, for gas, for home heating oil, for food, for health care, for education. These kitchen-table issues always bring us home…if we know where home is.
Cleveland is my home. Cleveland is where my heart resides. Cleveland is where my dreams started. Cleveland is where I’ve learned the lessons I want to share with every American: the lesson that one person can make a difference; the lesson that anyone can, and anyone should be able to rise from humble beginnings to lead a nation; the lesson that we can change the outcome; the lesson of the power of the human heart, and the power of the human spirit to transform the world. I have seen miracles. I have seen the people of Cleveland create miracles. During my career you have helped me to save a municipal electric system when it was already sold. You have helped me to keep hospitals open when they were already closed. You have helped me to save a steel mill, to help keep that bright light burning over the industrial valley when other communities’ hopes were extinguished. Because of you, because of you, because of you, I know the power of hope, the power of optimism, the power of truth, the power of light!
Years ago, my grandfather, John “Kuchinich,” now 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: K-u-c-i-n-i-c. When he came over, because he pronounced it “Kuchinich”, they added the “h” on. So now, Gary, anytime somebody tells me to “get the h out of there,” I think they’re talking about my grandfather. 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. He was welcomed by the light of Liberty. That Statue of Liberty that holds its lamp high, and on the base of the Statue of Liberty, there’s that inscription by Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these tempest-tossed, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door”. The tens of millions who journeyed to this nation, from other lands, connect us in fact and in spirit to the entire world. And in this campaign they connect us to the highest aspirations of everyone who ever journeyed here. To become full partners, Peter Lawson Jones, full partners in the life of our nation.