Let me begin with a quote by Adlai E. Stevenson: "What counts now is not just what we are against, but what we are for. Who leads us is less important than what leads us--what convictions, what courage, what faith--win or lose. A man [does not] save a century, or a civilization, but a militant party wedded to a principle can."
As I sit here in P-Town tonight, while the greatest political strategists in the state converge at the Camp Wellstone campaign training, I can't seem to redirect myself from thinking quite deeply about the men and women I admire. This may be in part due to the presentation I will give tomorrow at the Biennial Idaho History Conference on the obstacles I have encountered in the Stallings Collection or because last night I had the honor of sitting in a room with the Bannock County Democratic Central Committee, people I am honored to know and interact with, I sat in a room with former Congressman Stallings, former state representative Allen Andersen, my fellow blogger Serephin from 43rd State Blues, and two women I have grown to greatly appreciate and admire -- Diane Bilyeu and Sallee Gasser. So here I sit, thinking about the Democratic party and history. The greatest passion I will ever know is the passion that resides within me for history. History seems to occupy a great deal of my time.
Since I began my Kennedy research I was always less fascinated with the Curtis LeMays and the Maxwell Taylors. I have always thought that Bobby Kennedy was a man of ambition and high ideals, a man cut down in his prime with the possibilities of presidential greatness watching nearby, and that Jack Kennedy was merely an entrance for his younger brothers...the real politicians. Never was I too terribly impressed with the politicos or the career military. I found my inspiration in men like Adlai Stevenson, Pierre Salinger, Kenny O'Donnell. I found my interest revolving around the fallibility of human leadership. And of course the assassination.
For as long as I can remember I have held a significant interest in the untimely deaths of mortal men. Mortal men behind extraordinary causes. Men like John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and the list continues. Men who carried on their shoulders the weight of a plight not since forgotten. On a non-political level, I could add Percy Shelley to this list. A man who carried on his shoulders the weight of genius.
These men gave their lives in pursuit of the cause. The cost of their lives cannot be measured by what they did, but what they may have done. John Kennedy may have ended Vietnam before the Gulf of Tonkin. Bobby Kennedy may have been the greatest president this nation had ever known. I often wonder how much different the United States would be today had King, Malcolm X, and Evers lived on to continue the battle for civil rights. I wonder if the brilliance of the Great Society would have eventually emerged or if Johnson would have ever sat behind the desk in the Oval Office. I question what may have been knowing that these men held the courage, conviction, strength, and faith to carry out their duties as servants of the American public.
One man alone cannot bring about change on a national level. On a national level it takes a party, strong in not only its membership, but strong in it's principles, values, and beliefs, to force the change we need.
Tonight my message is to Republicans and Democrats alike. We can no longer shout from the highest roofs the errors and misjudgments of our opponents, we must shout our ideals, our goals, our plans. The American people deserve to hear our clear message.