Monday's Faneuil Hall speech reminded me that it's been a while since I've watched my all time favorite John Kerry speech. The speech is titled "A Right and Responsibility to Speak Out", but most folks simply call it "Dissent".
"Dissent" was delivered in historic Faneuil Hall, the Cradle of Liberty, where the words of American statesman Daniel Webster "Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable" can be seen above the speaker's head as a reminder to all of his famous Senate speech "Second Reply to Hayne" in which he proclaimed, "It is, sir, the people's Constitution, the people's government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.", a remark later expressed in President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
On the 35th anniversary of his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Kerry reminded us of the role we all play in our government, and the need of our government to listen to the voices of the people it represents.
Dismissing dissent is not only wrong, but dangerous when America's leadership is unwilling to admit mistakes, unwilling to engage in honest discussion of the nation's direction, and unwilling to hold itself accountable for the consequences of decisions made without genuine disclosure, or genuine debate.
Our country was founded on dissent. Holding our elected representatives accountable is not just a right, Senator Kerry reminds us, but a responsibility. Yet so many Americans seem to take such a passive role, it's as though we've forgotten who we are. Certainly, the administration has done everything in its power to try to make us forget. They use fear as a weapon and attack the patriotism of dissenters. The loud voices from the right treat dissent not as a patriotic duty, but as an act to be discouraged. They attempt to silence the voices that challenge the status quo, even of those who have fought to ensure that very freedom.
We must insist now that patriotism does not belong to those who defend a President's position-it belongs to those who defend their country. Patriotism is not love of power; it is love of country. And sometimes loving your country demands you must tell the truth to power. This is one of those times.
It's long past time for politicians to stop talking past each other and start listening to the American people. On important issues like national security, healthcare and the economy, we're not that far apart, most of us. We want to care for our children's health and education, to see our tax dollars spent wisely -- to improve our quality of life, not to support an immoral war of choice, and to protect the rights that so many have fought and died to defend.
But we can't ask them to listen if we don't speak out.
As Frederick Douglass said in Faneuil Hall in 1860, "Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one's thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist."
Oh, and keep an eye out for the young guy on stage with JK. Better yet, check him out here. Good luck, Captain Powers. See you on C-SPAN!
Transcript and video of the speech can also be found at Senator Kerry's website.