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Americans Who Tell the Truth :: Dennis Kucinich

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Robert Shetterly's portrait of Dennis Kucinich
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“Mr. Speaker, we make war with such certainty, yet we are befuddled how to create peace. This paradox requires reflection if we are to survive. Making and endorsing war requires a secret love of death, and a fearful desire to embrace annihilation. Creating peace requires compassion, putting ourselves in the other person's place, and all of their suffering and all of their hopes and to act from our heart's capacity to love, not fear.”
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Dennis Kucinich
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52 of 100
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US Congressman, Former Candidate for President (1946— )

Dennis Kucinich, Democratic Congressman from Ohio and two-time candidate for President lives his life as an advocate for peace and a greener, healthier world. That he has carved out a successful political career holding true to these values is a remarkable achievement.

Kucinich’s early life and career were lessons in persistence and hard work. He grew up in a large family that was constantly on the move for affordable housing, even occasionally forced to live out of their car. He worked his way through the schools he attended, and began his political aspirations by running for Cleveland city council while still in college. He moved from that position to mayor in 1977, becoming Cleveland’s youngest mayor at age 31. His term was very controversial. Kucinich refused to sell the city’s publicly-owned company, Muny Light, a decision so unpopular at the time that a contract was taken out on his life. It was years later before the city recognized that Kucinich, in standing up to the banks and big business, had in fact made the right decision. By then, Kucinich had spent the 1980s as a political pariah. Wanting to continue serving the public, he began his political career over, starting again as city councilman, then moving to the State Senate, and finally to the US House of Representatives in 1996. He remains in office today after making two bids for the Presidency in 2004 and 2008.

As a Representative, Dennis Kucinich makes a point of knowing his constituency and working on their behalf, without giving in to corporate interests. He supports a liberal and environmental agenda. He voted against the NAFTA agreement, the Patriot Act, the 2003 invasion into Iraq, and advocates a withdrawal of troops there. He supports gay rights, including same-sex marriage, and a universal health care system. Kucinich would also have the US government sign the Kyoto Protocol and address global warming and other conservation issues.

These ideas are part of the philosophy by which Dennis Kucinich lives his life, and he brought these beliefs to his two bids for the presidency. His platform included creating a Department of Peace, as when he said, “I’m going to let the rest of the world know that the days of America trying to be a nation above nations is over. We have to quit trying to dominate other countries, and we have to step out of our isolation and into the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people…. We have to be ready to take the lead, but we need to have harmony with other nations.” His firm belief in peace as an integral part of life earned him the Gandhi Peace Award in 2003. His platform also included leading the US into becoming greener and more sustainable, without dependence on coal or oil. As a candidate, Kucinich said, “One of my proposals is to have millions of homes with wind and solar technologies… the role of utilities will change dramatically because it’s not going to be a centralized approach to energy production…. I want to see, eventually, all the homes in this country have the option of that technology. In turn, you can create millions of jobs building alternative technologies.”

Dennis Kucinich left the presidential race in January 2008, and was re-elected to office. His ideas of how government can best serve the people do not always follow Party lines; often he stands alone, as when he proposed articles in 2007 to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney, charging him with misleading America into war. He keeps a small copy of the Constitution with him at all times, to remind himself and Congress of their commitment to upholding its principles. In June 2008, Kucinich presented 35 articles of impeachment to Congress; one month later, realizing that number was too large to deal with at once, he introduced a single article to impeach President Bush for “Deceiving Congress with Fabricated Threats of Iraq WMDs to Fraudulently Obtain Support for an Authorization of the Use of Military Force Against Iraq.”

The heart of the matter, for Dennis Kucinich, is believing that “peace means being in harmony with nature.” It shapes his life and his work for a greener and more socially just America.

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See the full set of Robert Shetterly's portraits at www.americanswhotellthetruth.org.

Tools for Teaching: see the acompanying curriculum materials with suggestions on how to use the portraits and biographies of these American truth-tellers in your classroom.
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Americans Who Tell the Truth ::

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