Ever the optimist, I write letters to people.
It’s been surprising, over the years, the people who have actually answered back.
Sometime back, author Dean Koontz sent me a reply, along with a copy of the book Life is Good, “written by” his dog Trixie. I got a letter from Texas governor Ann Richards some years ago (which I later realized may have been a boilerplate form letter, but at the time seemed real to me, and personal). Authors Piers Anthony, Robert Ringer and Alex Haley, among others, answered letters with personal replies.
Before the 2008 election, I sent letters to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Never heard back from either of them, but … I kinda didn’t expect it. The letter was out of the blue, I had no connections to either of them, and what I wrote in it was probably far distant from any goal in either of their campaign plans.
Anyway, bearing in mind the upcoming campaign cycle, and the subject of the speech — science and science education, which I know are dear to the hearts of most readers here — I thought you might be interested. The letter, which I sent to every address I could find for Obama (and Clinton) follows:
Senator Barack Obama
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
June 18, 2008
Dear Senator Obama:
Unfortunately, I am not one of your constituents.
I live in New York state. As a New Yorker, I supported the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton as much as I did yours, but I knew from the outset that, even were she elected, she would face years of unending vilification.
The hate that’s been rolling off the conservatives and the GOP for the past ten years and more is just breathtaking, and the amount of it aimed at Clinton specifically was … well, it’s been like living in some sort of third-world country with her at the top of the official Enemies List.
Every evil the conservatives secretly know that they themselves have – the dishonesty, the mindless anger, the anti-American indifference to American principles, the desire for control over the lives of others – they projected it all onto her. I joked with a baseball-fan friend that Ms. Clinton was the GOP’s “designated Hitler.”
Anyway, I’m eager to see you elected. I hope John McCain falls on his ass in full public view. But I also know the hate machine will crank up to level 10 in coming months and ceaselessly attack you and even your family. The mainstream media will continue to give McCain a free ticket to make blunder after blunder, and never call him on any of them, all the while treating you, the Democratic candidate, as if you were a radioactive monster – scrutinizing every tiny aspect of your life and your campaign, and serving as a ready microphone for the hate machine’s endless sly allegations, racial slurs and malicious character attacks.
I really expect that this election will be a Democratic landslide, but I know realistically that McCain could conceivably get elected. I’m sure you’ll persevere, despite the difficulty. But I’d also like to help. What I have to offer is a single idea, and a single speech which contains that idea.
First, I think this is a moment in American history for boldness, for bold ideas.
If the previous 7 years have done anything, they’ve created a yearning in people for Something Better. That utter fool in the White House, and all the malignant bastards he’s surrounded himself with, have created in every thinking person the immense desire for … well, something not just good, but great, to happen.
I really and truly believe that Bush and his band of liars and thieves have destroyed the nation, and if we just walk away and “put it all behind us,” we’ve also put behind us the faith in American ideals. I’ve believed for most of my adult life that America is not just a place, but a body of ideas, of heartfelt ideals, and the Bush White House has assaulted those ideas and ideals to the point that they barely exist anymore.
If we don’t find some way of picking them back up, restoring them to the public consciousness, we don’t have a country anymore, we just have a place. We’ll be like a bunch of strangers living side by side in a house instead of a family living together in a home.
I don’t know if anything less than a Kennedy-esque level of inspiration can bring us out of this spiritual slump.
We need to cut through the cramped, fearful picture the Republicans have painted us into, and find some brave new self-image. We need not just something better than this, but something better than ever.
I think we’re not just ready for it, I believe we want it as much as we wanted to win World War II, or to go to the moon. We want to accomplish something. We want to re-glorify ourselves in our own eyes, so we can be proud – with good reason – to be Americans again. Not just because we were born here, but because we’ve done something worthwhile, something great and good and truly noble.
Attached is something I hope might be a part of helping that happen – the text of a speech I hope you’ll take the time to read.
I know people like me are nobodies on the scale at which political powerhouses such as yourself operate, but I’m not nobody in the ideas I can have. Maybe it takes a brilliantly vicious little turd like Karl Rove to find brilliant ways to destroy people, but it can take no more than a decent fellow human being – a mom, a dad, a brother, a friend – to find ways to heal and grow them, to help people create themselves as bigger, better selves, capable of inspiring others.
And that’s what I want to be – a friend. And what I want to do – help.
Anyway, attached is the speech, the idea. I hope you’ll actually get to read this letter, and this speech.
Thank you very much for everything you’ve done for the people of Illinois, and the people of America. I hope you will continue with the same strength and courage.
One of the major issues of this presidential campaign, for all of the candidates, has been the war in Iraq. Yet in speaking of the war, and of so many other issues – issues of national security, energy issues, economic issues, issues of the global environment – we have reacted to emergencies now before us, rather than taking a more thoughtful, proactive approach, to foresee and avoid potential emergencies to come, and to foresee and help create the countless opportunities which may lie in our future.
America has had a number of great victories in military battles, but one of our greatest victories in recent memory was not a victory of war, it was a victory of this type of forward-looking proactivity, a victory of invention and research, a victory in an epic quest for a quintessentially American achievement.
That quest, President John F. Kennedy’s vision to place a man on the moon, and bring him safely back to earth, brought not just a renewed pride for Americans, and not just a new measure of admiration around the world, it brought a cavalcade of new discoveries that went far beyond those we found on the moon.
It brought us new materials, new sciences, new medicines and new techniques in medical monitoring, new discoveries and inventions that helped speed us into this amazing age of computers and medical miracles that we live in today.
It also helped bring about greatly accelerated economic growth, and it placed a new spotlight on the necessity, even the urgency, of a commitment to education, particularly science education.
The strength of a nation is measured not simply in its military might, but in the power of its commitment to discovery and advancement.
The security of a nation rests not just in gateways and guards but in ideas and discoveries that help ensure the present and future well-being of the citizens who call that nation their homeland.
And the wealth of a nation is measured not simply in dollars, but in the equity of education residing in the minds of its citizens.
Every problem in the world today, from the starvation and want that still plagues us in so many places in the world, to the grave environmental dangers that will face us in coming years, to our own recent economic woes, is susceptible not to wishful thinking, not to blind optimism, but to the solutions of hard work and clearheaded, forward-looking reason and science.
In that light, I am today announcing my commitment to bring America back to greatness in the sciences, to commit our nation to science education and scientific research.
I am as proud as I can be of our nation’s space program, and I want us to continue to take that road to the greater achievements we have all imagined. But I also want us to push back the frontiers here on earth.
To that end, I vow to devote my presidency to a fifteen year Apollo-type program in medical research.
President Kennedy presented us with a complicated quest, but he was able to state it in simple terms that sparked our imaginations and set us ablaze with the desire to actually do it. “Put a man on the moon. Bring him back home safely. Do it in ten years.”
I doubt I can match the inspiring words of President Kennedy, but I would like to state my own goal in equally simple terms: Put an end to four incurable diseases. Save millions upon millions of American lives and families. Do it in fifteen years.
I say 15 years rather than ten because I believe the complexity of the task – the fact that there are four goals within the one larger goal – will require the extra time.
But to put it in even simpler terms: “ABCD by 2023.”
I know every American over age 50 looks forward to continued aging with great concern. We face not just killers, but destroyers of the mind that leave us alive but rob us of our selves. The greatest of those robbers may be Alzheimer’s. Therefore, I call on Congress and all Americans to commit with me to a fifteen year program to find a definitive cure for A, Alzheimer’s.
Every young American looks forward to the joy of building a family, yet all of us face the specter of birth defects. Therefore, I call on Congress and all Americans to commit with me to a fifteen year program to discover and perfect all possible preventatives and cures for B, birth defects.
Every American, every citizen of the world, of every age, faces the dread possibility of cancer. I call on Congress and all Americans to join with me in declaring a fifteen year campaign to find cures for C, cancer of all types.
Finally, a disease both debilitating and deadly for those children and adults stricken with it, a disease on the rise in America, Diabetes. I call on Congress and all Americans to commit, as I do, to a fifteen year program to end D, diabetes, to cut new cases to zero, and to cure those already afflicted with it.
There is not a single extended family in America which has been untouched in some way by one or more of these diseases. The toll of each one by itself, but especially the toll of them all together, has been devastating – killing and wounding more of us annually than all the wars we have ever engaged in.
If we work together, if we commit ourselves fully to this fight, with funding, with research, with a renewed commitment to science education, and with the infinite resolve of which Americans are capable, there will come a day when we will look out over America and see a multitude of senior citizens still healthy and aware, still productive, who might otherwise have slipped into the deadly twilight of Alzheimer’s.
We will see millions of babies growing up to enjoy healthy, happy lives when they might otherwise suffer disability or death.
We will look out and see millions of family members and loved ones alive and well who might formerly have died of cancer.
And we will see millions more who will happily know diabetes only as a word from medical history books.
Just as the Apollo program was, this quest will be difficult. But just as the Apollo program did, these cures, and the research that will make them possible, will pay vast dividends to American security, productivity, wealth and world influence.
More importantly, for every individual set on the path to health and personal well-being, and for every family member who loves them, the value of the successful achievement of each of these goals will be the value of life and health itself.
As president, I will take up this challenge. In turn I will challenge Congress, the American people, the high schools and colleges and universities of our nation, the scientific and medical communities, and the compassionate, supportive communities of faith, to join with me in achieving this goal.
I believe we can do this. I believe we should. I believe we must.
I hope to have the support of every American in reaching for this most difficult star.
I thank you.