Went to an open reception and lunch for Teresa Heinz Kerry in Concord, hosted by MJ and Dan in their beautifully restored home. There were about 75 people there, mostly middle aged and connected with New Hampshire not for profit organizations.
MJ gave a short introduction to Teresa Heinz Kerry, describing her as one of the nation’s leading philanthropists, a woman that generously donated her time and money to women’s causes and environmental solutions.
Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke of the untimely death of her first husband, Senator Heinz from Pennsylvania. He had no immediate family except her and their children, consequently, the leadership of the huge Heinz Foundation had literally been thrust upon her. One of her first acts as head of the Foundation had been to build a new headquarters in Pittsburgh that was entirely ‘green’, even the wood was from sustainable operations in Pennsylvania. The project had been a huge success, and the architectural community in Pittsburgh had followed her lead; now, Pittsburgh was the most green city in the United States, with over 600 green buildings.
Teresa Heinz Kerry then spoke about the Heinz Foundation’s dedication to Early Childhood Intervention. She believed that work to prevent problems was as important as cures. For instance, the best way to deal with the prison system was to intervene early with families that needed help, and to make sure that families knew that help was being offered. She was convinced that families and teachers knew early on which children were headed for trouble. The difficulties of children were also often related to health and diet, and the work of the Foundation addressed these needs of families and the community as well. From here she segued into the importance of small farms, and her work with the Foundation to find new markets for family farmers.
Teresa Heinz Kerry ended her talk by describing her husband as a complex man who was a poet, educator, sportsman, and Senator dedicated to his country and family. While he could enjoy simple pleasures, life did not offer simple answers. He spent much time thinking deeply about the issues that confronted this nation. Senator Kerry was now taking a lot of heat for a commercial he was running in New Hampshire declaring that no American life was worth one drop of oil.
Teresa Heinz Kerry had time for three questions. She fielded one on cold fusion, a hot topic in Concord because of several scientists and a foundation located there, dedicated to its reality.
Then she called on me. I stated that I agreed entirely with her husbands position paper supporting small farms and fighting the monopoly power of corporate processors, but did not understand why the word “self-employed” was not used in his literature, considering that 90% of farmers were self-employed and these were the people being dominated. She responded by describing some of the work Senator Kerry and the Heinz Foundation were involved in on behalf of small farms and small business in general, particularly concerning the crisis that small business faced in health insurance. I followed up by stating that I supported this work, but small business was a description that the Small Business Administration and the federal government used to describe any manufacturing business employing less than 500 people. The reason she was here today was to defeat George W. Bush, and the way Senator Kerry would reach millions of unrepresented people was to use the word “self-employed”. Sixteen million union members and 20 million self-employed equaled a populist movement.
After Theresa Heinz Kerry spoke, she mingled with the crowd for about half an hour. I listened to some of the conversation and discovered that she had grown up in Mozambique, and that her father had been a rural physician.
Teresa Heinz Kerry’s chief of staff introduced himself. He said I was absolutely right about the self-employed and unions making common cause, and gave me his card.
Before leaving, I shook Teresa Heinz Kerry’s hand. She said, “Tell Senator Kerry to use the word ‘self-employed’ when talking about farmers, right?”
“When talking about farmers and small business,” I replied.
“I’ll deliver that message,” she said.
It was now 2:30. Edwards was to have a Town Meeting at the Manchester YWCA at 5:30. I used the time to check the candidates’ schedules on the internet at the Concord Library. The next day only Clark and Lieberman would be in New Hampshire, all the other candidates would be in Iowa.
I arrived at the YWCA early to get a good seat up-front in the designated room for the Town Hall. Edwards was late, and by the time he arrived the room was overflowing with about 150 people. Edward’s infectious smile, articulate phrasing and eye contact quickly won over the crowd. He went straight to the heart of his campaign: he was against a have and have-not nation. The America that had enabled him to rise from the son of mill workers to be a U.S. Senator was changing in ways that left much less opportunity for people to improve their lives. This change was occurring because George W. Bush served only the interests of the wealthiest Americans. An Edwards Presidency would be dedicated to keeping opportunity open to all. He would focus on job creation and improving healthcare and educational opportunity. George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program was just the kind of educational reform America did not need. It was underfunded and ill-conceived—did anyone really believe that teaching a child how to take a test was a real measure of an education? As for higher education, George W. Bush was decimating the Pell Grant Program that had enabled millions of Americans to go to college.
Edwards stated that political experts criticized his tactics when he addressed the needs of the poor. The poor don’t vote, they said. Edwards addressed poverty in America not for votes, but because it was the right thing to do. He was a Democrat and the history of the Democratic Party was to improve the lives of all Americans. That’s why as President one of his first acts would be to raise the minimum wage to $7 an hour.
Race was not an African American issue, not a Latino issue, it was an American issue. America had a tremendous amount of work to do on this front. He had grown up in a segregated South, and new the importance of strong federal judges in defending civil rights.
All his life Edwards had been told what he couldn’t do: He couldn’t become a lawyer, he couldn’t defeat America’s top corporate lawyers in trial, he couldn’t be elected Senator, and now people were saying he couldn't be elected President. He’d always proved his critics wrong, and he’d prove them wrong again. This was the fight he’d been waiting for all his life—President Bush, raised in privilege, versus himself, raised by the values of hard working people. Every day life got harder for most Americans because this President served only wealth and special interests. An Edwards Presidency would serve the people because he was of the people.
When Edwards concluded, the YWCA erupted out of their seats in applause. This was the third time I’d seen Edwards speak, and, measured in style, I found him the most “winning”. Once again, however, he had completely avoided discussion of Iraq, and over the next hour of questions, no one asked him about it.
When Edwards called on me, I nailed him with the speech I’d written in the car four days earlier. “Half a century ago, Paul Robeson said that political movements succeed when people fight their own oppression...”
As I spoke, Edwards completely engaged me with his eyes. When I was done he said, “You’re right. I’ve got it. I should be addressing the self-employed, and I will.”
I was delighted and declared, “If you do, you might be elected President.”
“Now, let me teach you something. When the candidate agrees with you, don’t say might win. Say will win.”
Edwards concluded the Town Meeting with a speech similar to what must have been his style as a trial lawyer. He simply knocked the audience out because they believed he was championing their principles: in America hard work must be rewarded with improved lives and hope.
Edwards shook hands for about 20 minutes. When I approached him, he thanked me for my message and took my packet. I told him that my father as a private practitioner had argued more cases on behalf of organized labor in front of the U.S. Supreme Court than any person in history, that Edwards had fantastic delivery, and that my packet contained important numbers to help him with his strategy. We exchanged thank-yous.