copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert
He was a beautiful, bouncing, baby boy. He entered the world enthusiastically. As an embryo, he seemed to absorb all the energy that surrounded him. Once a fetus, the soon to be “Dennis” delighted in the warmth of his mothers womb. He turned and tumbled as the unborn do when some event in the outside world stimulates a response. Once infant Dennis entered into an Earthbound existence, he was delighted. His brown eyes shone with joy. Little sponge that he was, Dennis showed an instant interest in everything.
Dennis’ parents encouraged the young toddler to think. The little lad had zillions of questions. He inquired fervently and frequently. “What does this mean?” Why does this occur? How might that affect him, her, you, or me? The tot cared; he was concerned. Young Dennis was infinitely curious. However, as occurs with most of us, this sweet child began to learn what ultimately deadens the desire we each feel or felt. Dennis discovered that if he were to be accepted and acceptable, he could no longer be the person he was born to be.
At home, the youngster, once praised for his inquisitive inquiries was told, his mother and father had no time to answer all his questions. Tired and torn by the stress necessary for survival, Mom and Dad could not devote themselves to their son’s scientific search for truth, knowledge, and the wisdom that might better the world.
Father, Frank, drove a delivery truck. Mother, Virginia, cared for the children at home; that is, when the family could afford a conventional dwelling. There was a time when the car was the family’s shelter. Among the working class, life could be quite grave. The times were tough when Dennis was a boy. His Dad “salary” was meager. As the sole source of income for the family, frequently Frank did not make enough to pay the rent,
Dennis entered school and discovered there, he could consume more information. Facts, figures, formulas, and the fluid data that changes in a chaotic culture called life. Scholar Dennis dived in deeply. This active academic was challenged in the classroom; he was ready to reach for the stars. Sadly, the road was, at times rough. There was little money to secure the basic needs. Staples were short in supply. Extras were that. There was no money for stylish garb.
The lad was chided for his distinctive clothing. In appearance alone, Dennis was different from his peers. The apparel available to this youngster of little means set Dennis apart from his classmates.
While the young lad understood what was true for most, a certain amount of conformity is preferred, Dennis could not do the accepted thing even when he wanted to. He had fewer choices than most. His wardrobe consisted of a pair of turquoise blue pants with black pinstripes. Later in life, he would describe these “like something out of a psychedelic prison.” Yet, he wore them pridefully.
One of the nuns at his school noticed other kids making fun of him for wearing the same pants a lot and provided clothing for the entire family.
As an adult, Dennis would recall, upon reflection, his younger years helped him to realize the importance of being rather than having. Through the strife and the struggles . . .
“Every step along the way, there was someone who offered the roof over our heads, clothing, or financial help.” . . . “Any family who’s ever been through that knows you don’t make it through life alone.”
People care. Neighbors within a community provide. Perhaps, love is all we truly have. For Dennis’ family a shared fondness was as gold. Affection and appreciation were available and abundant in the world of this wondrous child.
Dennis made friends easily. He did not fret for what he did not own. He reveled in what he might be. Although, many adolescents lost their spirit to soar as children, confronted with comments such as , “you ask too many questions,” “I do not have time for you and your antics,” or “do it, because I said so,” Dennis did not lose his. For him, the absurd was achievable, if only he believed. Dennis did.
The wunderkind had faith in himself, and in humanity. At times, he was distracted. When he saw people at war, he worked to resolve their differences. If his parents bickered, Dennis concentrated on prompting peace and talk between them. On these occasion, his siblings did not always understand. Brothers, Larry, Frank Gary, and Perry; and sisters, Theresa and Beth Ann might have felt slighted when their elder brother paid more attention to Mom, Dad , and their immediate needs than he did to them.
In the hallways at school and on the streets, as a teenager, Dennis was often misunderstood for his focus. When the whimsical fellow observed another in distress, he acted to alleviate whatever caused the harm. Some friends thought this folly. They wondered why Dennis did not do as his peers did. There was fun to be had. For a few, the fight was exciting. To watch others engage in physical or verbal combat, that is entertainment. For the deliberately tranquil Dennis, strife seemed nonsensical.
Oh, there were times in his younger years when Dennis was viewed as confrontational. He was easily angered by what he thought unreasonable. The excessive bothered Dennis even as a boy. It seemed the elite prospered, and the poor fell further into poverty. When the young man witnessed what he thought unwarranted, he did not always deliver his message well. Frequently, he felt the soul pain of others so deeply, he did not know what to do other than what he had seen others do, rage.
Yet, even when he emulated the behavior of an angered individual, his concern was less for himself, and more for the good of the community. That, for most was difficult to discern, or understand. Most people are more interested in them selves and their personal success. Dennis John was a man of the people. Yet, he seemed strange among them.
Sure, Dennis could try to fit in. He could go along to get along. However, for this special person, being popular was less important. Dennis had principles, among these love and peace. Sadly, when in his early thirties, he was unsure how to create harmony when confronted with those whose power seemed limitless. This hindered Dennis’ early rise.
Many of us might relate. In our youth, we see societal ills and we long to change what is. We are stopped at every turn. If we were not defeated as children by the words of our elders, “you cannot, you will not, that is unacceptable,’ then, after years as a rebel, a person with promise may come to believe they have no cause, or at least no way to move the mountains of mildewed minds. Without hope, dreams are left behind. As the defeated among us say, “We are born, and then we die.”
Dennis John Kucinich conceived he could help change the world. He trusted he would achieve. Dennis wanted no war; nor did he see a reason for the woes inflicted on the impoverished. At an early age, this lively dreamer was confident, all men were created equal., just as the founders of the United States of America declared in the Constitution,
As a student, Dennis loved history, He learned his lessons well. His own life experience taught him to empathize with his brethren. If an individual was discussed unfairly or dealt with in a manner that was not just, Dennis took the time to assuage the situation. He calmed the combative, and quieted any chaos. However, on occasion his own enthusiasm seemed contrary to his message.
Nonetheless, at the young age of thirty-one years, Dennis John Kucinich was recognized for his genius. Citizens of Cleveland, Ohio elected the boy wonder as mayor.
Kucinich ran as a populist, railing against the city’s tax policy and strongly opposing its plan to sell the struggling municipal power company to a private competitor that local banks had a vested interest.
“The next mayor of the city of Cleveland must be his own man,” Kucinich declared during a debate. “[He] must be willing to take the chances in going after the utility interest, the banking interests, the big business interest for exploiting this community.”
Dennis Kucinich served the city well. When a huge corporation sought to privatize the city’s utility, Mayor Kucinich stood strong. He remained true to the people, the common folk, the citizens of Cleveland, much to his own political demise.
In 1978, Cleveland’s banks demanded that he [Kucinich] sell the city’s 70 year-old municipally-owned electric system to its private competitor (in which the banks had a financial interest) as a precondition of extending credit to city government.
When Mayor Kucinich refused to sell Muny Light, the banks took the unprecedented step of refusing to roll over the city’s debt, as is customary. Instead, they pushed the city into default. It turned out the banks were thoroughly interlocked with the private utility, CEI, which would have acquired monopoly status by taking over Muny Light. Five of the six banks held almost 1.8 million shares of CEI stock; of the 11 directors of CEI, eight were also directors of four of the six banks involved.
By holding to his promise and putting principle above politics, Kucinich lost his re-election bid and his political career was temporarily derailed.
While heartbreak and defeat may have done another in, the forever idealist and lover of life’s lessons learned. He reflected on what had happened, and realized that if he were to give birth to tranquility, he must be the calm he intended to create. Four years after his expulsion from the office of Mayor, a humbled Dennis J. Kucinich returned to public service.
The Kucinich who returned to the Cleveland City Council was not the same firebrand who had antagonized and frustrated the council as mayor. He so abandoned his confrontational style that Council President George Forbes said at the time, “He’s not the same person. He has done a good job on the council. I have a lot of respect for him.”
There were many words of vindication. Absolution from those once labeled adversaries was abundant. The city praised the man once blamed and banished from City Hall. Appreciation and admiration for the outcast was ample.
[T]oday, Kucinich stands vindicated for having confronted the Enron of his day, and for saving the municipal power company. “There is little debate,” wrote Cleveland Magazine in May 1996, “over the value of Muny Light today. Now Cleveland Public Power, it is a proven asset to the city that between 1985 and 1995 saved its customers $195,148,520 over what they would have paid CEI.” He also preserved hundreds of union jobs.
Ultimately, although this small in physical stature of a man still did not seem to be the average Joe, John, Bill, or even a Barack, he was endearing, engaging, and had great appeal. He may not have been the conventional conformist a Hillary, Nancy, or Diane might be. However, perhaps, that was his beauty. Ohio residents elected Dennis J. Kucinich to the House of Representatives, in 1996. At home in Congress, where the populist could truly serve the people, Dennis fought tirelessly for Union workers, civil rights, and human rights. He strived to bring the world to peace. Kucinich did not vote to fund the war, nor would he advocate for fellow Democrats who did. Dennis John Kucinich, true to his principles worked to restore the State of the Union.
In Congress, Kucinich has authored and co-sponsored legislation to create a national health care system, preserve Social Security, lower the costs of prescription drugs, provide economic development through infrastructure improvements, abolish the death penalty, provide universal pre-kindergarten to all 3, 4, and 5 year olds, create a Department of Peace, regulate genetically engineered foods, repeal the USA PATRIOT Act, and provide tax relief to working class families.
Kucinich has been honored by Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and the League of Conservation Voters as a champion of clean air, clean water and an unspoiled earth. Kucinich has twice been an official United States delegate to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (1998, 2004) and attend the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In his district, Kucinich has been recognized by the Greater Cleveland AFL-CIO as a tireless advocate for the social and economic interests of his community.
Kucinich led the effort to save Cleveland’s 90 year-old steel industry and the thousands of jobs and retiree benefits it provides. While hundreds of community hospitals have been closed throughout the country, Kucinich led a community-based effort to reopened two Cleveland neighborhood hospitals.
Kucinich worked with the nation’s largest railroads to create a merger agreement that improved rail safety while diverting a heavy volume of train traffic away from heavily populated residential areas of his district.
In Cleveland, Kucinich has been honored by the Cleveland AFL-CIO, the Ohio PTA, the NASA Glenn Research Center, the Salvation Army, the United States Post Office, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, Ohio’s Boys Town, and the Human Rights Campaign.
Gratified with all he had been able to do for Cleveland residents, and those in Ohio , cognizant of how as a Congressman, he was also able to assist people throughout the country, Dennis Kucinich felt a need to do more. This caring gentle man decided it would be wise to help more people help themselves. Thus, Dennis J. Kucinich chose to seek a higher office. Congressman Kucinich concluded he would pursue the office of President of the United States.
The man who since birth, was never fully understood struggled to reach those who learned to conform. Those who had given up on dreams and could no longer envision equality and justice could not conceive as Dennis could, or does. Again, the commerce elite thought this profoundly principled person was a threat. Talk of trade agreements gone awry frightens those who profit from the sweat and toil of cheap labor in foreign countries. Business persons, who benefit from war, and earn billions as long as America continues to bomb innocent Iraqis tremble at the thought of Dennis Kucinich in a debate. Just as Muny Electric worked to quell the message of this ethical giant, so too did the powerful Corporate Chief Executives.
Those who own and operate media markets, manufacture weaponry, and feed the nation did all they could to ensure that Dennis Kucinich never spoke to a national audience for more than a minute here or there. The Big Business Bosses slammed Kucinich, damned him, and better yet, they silenced a man who would, as President destroy the possibility of ill-gained profits.
Kucinich was barred from debates in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina. This man of the people was kept off of ballots and prohibited from campaigns in state after state.
Once more Dennis was distracted. As he worked to bring peace and understanding, just as he had in his youth, those close to him felt left behind. The people of Ohio believed as his siblings and peers might have when Dennis was on a quest. “What about us.” Those who know America’s Don Quixote well, those who he has helped to succeed and believe want him back home. The industrialists who would welcome the demise of the decent Dennis Kucinich are happy to have an opportunity to destroy him.
Americans who have never accepted the man, who live as almost everyone of us is told to do from birth, barely miss Dennis Kucinich. All along, they wanted to support a presumed winner, not a moral man [or woman] to be President of the United States. Citizens of this country, beaten down as children, now repeat as their elders did, “Do not ask questions.” “Do not stand up for truth.” “Settle for what you are supposed to think, say, do, feel, or be.” “If you never expect much, you will never be disappointed.”
As children we learn, it is important to be popular, pretty, perceived as acceptable [electable.] A peaceful person cannot get ahead. It is a tough world out there and if you are to get ahead, you better do as you are told or as others do. If you dare to be different, only those who took the time to know you will want you. Those who are dear will treasure you.
To the beloved people of Ohio, please honor the man who cherishes you, and please pity superficial Americans not ready for the change they crave. Ohio residents, I hope you will reelect Dennis Kucinich to Congress. We need Don Quixote, Dennis Kucinich to remind us that dreams do come true, and we can create what other tell us is impossible.
The Life of A Believer, Biographical References, and a Rare Reality . . .
- Kucinich speaks from experience on homelessness, By Holly Ramer. Associated Press. Boston Globe. August 15, 2007
- About Dennis. Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
- Kucinich Took On Powerful Interests in Mayoral Race, By Cheryl Corley. Day To Day. September 26, 2007
- The Buying of the President 2004. The Center for Public Integrity.
- Debates Are On; Debaters Are Off, By Michael Getler. Public Broadcasting Services Ombudsman. September 20, 2007
- NBC Wins Battle Over Debate, By Brian Stelter. The New York Times. January 15, 2008
- Kucinich contests debate exclusion by ABC. The Seattle Times. January 5, 2008
- To debate in S.C., Kucinich must be in Nevada’s top 3, By Sabrina Eaton. Cleveland.com. January 18, 2008 17:38PM