Featured Columnist Richard C. Iannuzzi – Election Day “Alternatives”

Featured Columnist Richard C. Iannuzzi – Election Day “Alternatives”

By Richard C. Iannuzzi
November 1, 2010

Earlier this month, I stood with nearly 175,000 other people on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to proudly support the theme of “One Nation Working Together.”

Civil rights leaders, labor leaders, educators, peace activists and tens of thousands of others representing more than 400 progressive groups had organized around a simple, yet profound, mission – to advocate for one nation working together to provide all people a just and fair opportunity, regardless of race, class, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or heritage.

The organizers wanted to build support toward some core principles and policy ideals, including immediate relief for the unemployed; including extending jobless benefits, insurance coverage and mortgage assistance for those currently out of work.  Other principles included improvements in health care; a greater investment in education, and protecting and advancing the civil and human rights of every individual.

As I listened to the speakers and studied the faces of those all across the Mall, I couldn’t help but notice their sense of conviction, steadfast resolve and peaceful determination. Some would argue that anger — not calm determination – is what this moment in history calls for.

They would argue, perhaps, that anger is needed to match those voices which, by spewing hate and fear and pitting one group against another, are trying to lead us backwards as a nation.  They would argue that we must achieve our goals by any means necessary, matching insult with insult and intimidation with intimidation.

But the One Nation organizers disagreed. Tracing the path of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous 1963 march on Washington, they advocated for inclusion, not exclusion and for a common good, not survival of the fittest.

All this provided a stark contrast to the “Glen Beck/Tea Party/Talk Show” venom exhibited by some on the Mall several weeks earlier.  It provided a stark contrast to the “hate-speak” and derogatory inferences associated with too many candidates and their supporters as we approach national, state and local elections.

The One Nation Working Together march provided an alternative. It served as an alternative to inaction on the part of many elected officials on critically important issues facing Congress and state legislatures, and as an alternative to policies being promoted that would reward greed over equity.

Finally, the march also offered an alternative to those who would divide us as a nation and who prey on those who have suffered most in this recession as a means to their own political ends.  The message was an alternative message to those who are seeking to capitalize on the hardships of the unemployed and the anguish of those who have lost their homes and fear losing everything, escalating their fears to garner votes.

As the One Nation Working Together march provided an alternative, so do many candidates on the ballot in a few weeks. Yes, even incumbents!

On Election Day, we will all have an opportunity to seek an alternative.  I urge you to be sure that you exercise your choice and that your choice is not simply an alternative, but an alternative that will lead to what we all need:  One Nation Working Together.

Richard C. Iannuzzi is the President of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.

November 1, 2010

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