It was a rumor I heard yesterday that Bill Richardson would be the keynote speaker for the annual conference at Operation Push on Chicago’s South Side. This morning I decided I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see a presidential contender in person, so three hours and three buses later I found myself listening as the Rev. Jesse Jackson introduced Gov. Richardson. After a few introductory thanks, some remarks about the election (“I had two problems:Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”), and several remarks about the heat (stage light for the live broadcast on C-Span?), here was the governors speech:
If you look at the agenda of the Rainbow for the future, it’s been right on target. Issues that Rainbow took over in the past are now the staple of the day. What we’re talking about in America was the Rainbow that first said we need a decent wage, we needed increases in the minimum wage, and it was rainbow that first said we have to talk about a living wage, for every It was Rainbow that said we should bring Hispanics and Asians and African Americans together in a strong coalition for progressive causes, you know what it’s happening, slowly but it’s happening. It was Rainbow said we had to have prison reform in this country that you can’t just have incarceration, and today we have every politician in every state talking about rehabilitation and jobs and recognizing we have a hamane society so many resources that unless we take steps to substance abuse treatment. It was Reverend Jackson and the that said it was important for young people to stay in school, to lay off of drugs. It was Rainbow that said we should have early investment in preschool and bilingual education, pay our teachers better, and today that’s what every politician is talking about . It was Rainbow that said also that we should have a foreign policy in this country that cares about Africa and Asia and Latin Amercica and not just about the Midcdle East and Europe, that we should care about genocide and malnutrition and pandemic diseases and renewable energy so when I come, and I come every year to these conferences Rainbow has, every time Reverend Jackson–he doesn’t invite me, he orders me to come (laughter)–like he’s (inaudible)
I am here with profound respect because I’m pleased with the agenda that he has brought forth and like Reverend Jackson I kind of copied one of the things he did. He used to go to countries around the world and recue American prisoners and I started doing the same. He did it in the Middle East, I’ve done it in Africa (inaudible) (laughter) because I know he’s sitting here and you wonder does this make a difference , it does, so when I bring this hundred day agenda, the first hundred days of the new preosident, I know it makes a big difference in what we’re talking about.
You know, starting out with ending this war, we must end this war because (applause) (inaudible). Universal health care so that every American no matter who you are, whether you’re rich, poor, old, young, every American has the right to universal health care, to making sure the justice system , why is it that over 80% of those in jail are minorities after America (inaudible) . Why is it that we don’t have rehabilitation and treatment programs in our jails? What is the imortant priortiy to recognize tha twe must change our policy on energy. And I can see today that this great facility, this Rainbow facility, is making a contribution to global change because it’s awfully hot in here. (Voice behind me: “is it hot?” Response “No.”) But the point is we are saving energy, the point is it’s important that we shift from fossil fuels, to solar, wind and biomass and every American, everybody here has to play a part to be more energy efficient in a way we drive and our applicances in the way we get to work, making sure that we (inaudible ) drive in to work but we take the train (inaudible) that we recognize that this planet (inaudible) is preserved and that we should care about the environment not just breathe energy, but also about our national parks and what is precious in the future generations have that protection. Putting America to work, this is probably the most important issue facing our country. Wages have not stayed up. And it’s important that we recognize it, rebuilding our own country and rebuilding roads, highways, our electricity grid, that’s going to bring thousands of new jobs. That what we’re doing also (inaudible) the young men and women that are in our cities that have lost hope that somehow save the government doesn’t care about us, we don’t have jobs and (inaudible) and we’re proud (inaudible ) the key to the new America is creating jobs and it was Reverend Jackson at Rainbow that said it’s good to for American to increase the number of people in unions because unions get the protection, unions give you health care, unions protect against those employers who take advantage of workers and there’s going to be a major push I believe in the new administration to increase the number of our men and women that are in unions and percent of our workforce despite we have the past legislation that penalizes those states that don’t allow collective bargaining organizing. My last point is you all have a large agenda, a broad agenda.
I just bumped into to John Conyers. You know Conyers became a father I think he was 85. Don’t tell him I said that. You know he used to be my–we were in congress together, and he used to be my chairman, he always treated me like a rookie, now that I’m a governor, don’t tell him I said that, but you know Congressman Conyers he reminds me of what Reverend Jackson said about (inaudible) in our country, (inaudible) way before other politicians, and all the members of this stage here, every body and (inaudible) and my brother (inaudible) saw those issues years ago and declared that America had to give them priority. But sometimes there are a lot of people and a lot of progressives that don’t say thanks, that don’t say thanks to the visionaries, that don’t say thanks to those that went out and went out and ran for president and went all over the country and got thousands of votes (inaudible) but people don’t remember it was Jesse Jackson (inaudible) and he stayed all the way (inaudible) . (applause) And he did well in the states like New Mexico and he did well all around America because he was giving voice those who have been left behind.
So I know that unfortunately I have to be heading back, but I wanted just to pay my respects, to say thank you for making it easier for Hispanics like me to make (inaudible) to make it as ambassadors to make (applause) (inaudible) to allow me to speak this coalition the Rainbow is trying it’s Hispanics it’s Americans uniting for a common purpose a common goal that Asian Americans and those who have been left behind and those that have been dispossessed to have a voice in their government. So the best parts of this resolution is we the people.
Is it just me, or was this a disappointing speech? The program was supposed to be about “black and brown disparities”, but it seemed the governor just said, Jesse ordered me to be here and here I am and he’s a great guy. Or perhaps it was the PA system that made it hard to understand, or perhaps it was the spectator in the back who was repeating everything the governor said, and keeping up a running commentary throughout that made it too distracting to concentrate on the message. In typing the transcript there seems to be a little more to it–some lists of policies, but no real insights. I guess he was saying now that there are minority men in high government positions and minority men running for top offices, Rainbow has pretty much done its job.
When the speech was over, all nine minutes of it, I felt a little let down, plus the weather had turned cold and drizzly and I didn’t have a jacket. For a consolation prize, I decided to hit the bookstores on 57th street before tackling the three buses. I now have used copies of Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud, that has been on my reading list for a while, and Foiud Ajami’s The Foreigner’s Gift, about Americans in Iraq–oh, dear, I see Ajami has spent a lot of time advising the White House and traveling with that Ahmad Chalibi that the Jordanians are so eager to talk to.
That should keep me out of mischief for a while.