Citizens Organized and Acting Together

The following speech excerpt was delivered to Minnesota COACT, a lobbying and advocacy organization. At the time the speech was given, Wellstone was in the early stages of planning his 1982 run for state auditor, and was developing a growing reputation as a highly persuasive orator.

I am a teacher and writer, the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, a father of three children, ages 9 to 16. I am worried, frightened and angry. I love my country and I am concerned about democracy and about survival. Decisions that affect the lives of all of us are being made by a few who are not accountable to the American people or to the people of Minnesota.

Under this Administration, we face the grim realities of the nuclear arms race – nuclear war being made thinkable, and possible and even portable. As the Pope reminded us in his New Year's message for 1980 – Only 200 of the 50,000 weapons in existence would be enough to destroy the world's major cities – the outcome of nuclear war would be the sudden death of hundreds of millions of people and the destruction of our civilization as we know it.

I can live with my own mortality but not the mortality of our children and grandchildren. We must organize.

Perhaps you asked me here because I co-authored the book Powerline: The First Battle of America's Energy War. I wrote about farmers who were asked to sacrifice, but who benefits, and who decided? Farmers speak of their loss of innocence with a realization that their government – our government – worked hand in glove with the utilities to build this line, with realization that their government – our government – and legal system are geared to protect the big business, not the people. Decisions were made without consulting or considering the effect on those who had to live with their decisions.

I am here to remind you that what happened to the farmers of western Minnesota is happening to all of us. In energy, in jobs, in agriculture, in health care – in almost everything that matters to people – the same pattern of power dominates the vital decisions that affect our lives and shape our future.

This is not democratic. The corporate planners, multinational interests, and government bureaucrats who decide policies are not accountable to the many. Too few people have too much wealth, power, and say. This is what corrupts our political process arrogances at the top and a sense of impotence on the bottom.

This Administration tells us we must sacrifice so we can once again have a strong economy. So we see $48.6 billion in social spending cuts – cuts in legal services, health care, food assistance, energy assistance, job training, education, medical, social security. This scorched-earth budget cutting deserves to be called exactly what it is – a class war against the poor and oppressed, in the streets, out in the work places, in the schools, in the hospitals, in the schools, in the hospitals, in the hearts of the old, the sick, the disabled, the powerless. It is a program of meanness – one that we will not accept.

This Administration is getting the government off our back so the corporations and the military defense establishment can jump on. Meanwhile, schools, health care, jobs, assistance to poor people and local services to citizens are cut severely as part of the attack on government. Yet the biggest part of the government by far is the Pentagon, and its budget grows by leaps and bounds.

What is our vision, and what is the task for tomorrow? The vision is economic democracy. We're losing this battle, and if we don't fight they are going to take it all way. They are going to give the country away to big business. This is the biggest fight yet. It has as to be a big and noble effort. It is a great task, but you are up for it. We will play an historical role, because no one else will. This is nothing less than an effort to make our country more democratic, and renew our vow of equal opportunity and justice for all citizens.