Fairfield tends to embrace "dark horse" candidates, whether true independents or those with positions well outside the mainstream. In the Iowa Presidential caucuses, our county often stands out uniquely among the state's 99 counties. In 2003, Dennis Kucinich enjoyed a strong wave of support.
- February 2003

The hundreds of people who packed the Best Western last week to hear Congressman Dennis Kucinich begin his long road toward the Presidency witnessed something very rare. Here was a politician of national prominence expressing bold, palpably authentic concern for an array of values that are almost never even glimpsed in our political leaders: he stands for unity, harmony, openness, caring, respect, justice, and an end to war. This is a striking list in itself, but the amazing thing is that all of these words feel like they have deep personal meaning when they leave his lips.

Up to now, bold declarations of "alternative" values have come mostly from third party candidates. Now here comes a Democrat, standing out with bravery from his own crowd, saying what he feels and meaning what he says.

But beyond the policy discussions and the value statements, one luminous moment stood out for me as particularly remarkable. During the question period, a woman raised a concern that was, although potentially a matter of public interest, also highly personal for the woman asking (it was about "electrically sensitive" people, and the harms they may face from pervasive electromagnetic radiation from cell phone towers and other sources). This woman was well known for bringing local meetings to a halt with her insistent and idiosyncratic opinions. After an initial response from Kucinich, the woman continued to press her concerns. Another member of the audience, fearing a collapse of the meeting's momentum, approached her, asking her to let Kucunich continue his talk. The woman protested this intrusion, saying "Excuse me!," very loudly and repeatedly, drawing the uncomfortable attention of the entire room.

Kucinich cut cleanly through this moment of confusion: "She is our sister. She is our sister — please let her speak."

Now there is nothing so unusual about a politician insisting that someone in the audience be given the right to speak. What was unusual however, and deeply moving, was this direct claim of kinship, this personal demonstration that the talk of unity and harmony was more than just talk, more than just a political philosophy. The statement was simple, the episode brief, but it resonated with, and confirmed, the tone and direction of everything else this candidate had to say. It was a transparent moment of compassion incarnate.

This is a bold man, with heart, and with reverence for the spirit, for humanity, and for individuals. I do not know enough, yet, about Kucinich to judge whether he has everything it would take to make a great President. I certainly plan to find out.