Over the weekend, over 25,000 of you met in nearly 1600 living rooms across America to share your stories and to discuss the next steps toward taking back the American Dream. You held meetings in every single one of the four hundred thirty-five congressional districts in this country. From Missoula, Montana to Midtown Manhattan, from Santa Monica, California to Van Jones' hometown of Jackson, TN, many of you showed up for the very first time to engage in politics.That's huge!By comparison, the Tea Party held only 800 meetings on its first organized day in April 2009. And that was with a full on blast of two months of promotion by Fox News. You organized your meetings strictly through e-mails from our partner organizations, word of mouth, and the good will of all the great hosts out there to open up your homes - no national cable news network necessary.And while the numbers are impressive, that alone wouldn't have been important if you hadn't shown up ready to work on the hard task of reclaiming the American Dream for ALL of us. At the meetings, people introduced themselves, shared what was personally important about the American Dream to them, and then picked which of the top rated 40 ideas in the crowdsourced Contract for the American Dream (you can see for yourself which ideas made the top 40 at the Contract website.) This feedback will be instrumental in deciding which ideas will go into the final draft of the Contract for the American Dream.Looking at the response from the meetings in e-mails and on social media, most people were thrilled to fight back for a change. Many of you were surprised at the number of like-minded individuals who showed up on a beautiful summer weekend. And even given the huge upswell in political participation since 2004, many of you reported that this was your first time to engage in any political activity beyond voting in your entire life.All of this is hugely important. We already know that at a baseline, we're incredibly strong - 150,000 rallied in a single day in Wisconsin, thousands have rallied in the last few months even in places like Utah and Montana. But if we're going to change the conversation from cuts back to jobs, if we're going to stop the corporate takeover of our political process, if we're going to make sure that we have healthy, thriving communities, and if we're going to make sure that those who do well in America do right by America, we need to have as many people as possible involved and on the ground and focused on the task at hand to make it happen.So many of you meeting all over the country was a huge step, but these first Rebuild the Dream house meetings were only just the first of many steps on the way to regaining the American Dream. More to come in the next following days - stay tuned!
"The choice is really pretty clear for the governor -- (he) can stand up for the children and provide services and schools for the 20 percent of Iowa's children living in poverty, or he can continue to stand with the large corporations and factory farmers. I know (local) teachers are going to continue to stand for our kids. Gov. Branstad, it's time to put our kids first," Andrew Rasmussen, of the Des Moines Education Association, said.When the marchers reached the Governor's Mansion, they were told that Gov. Branstad was at a governors conference in Salt Lake City. They passed a letter with 400 signatures to an Iowa State Patrol officer listing their demands: a more just and democratic Iowa, an economy that works for everybody and public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics and polluters.The connection with Wisconsin was clear in the minds of many protestors.
"That was awesome. I knew there was a heat advisory but I love Iowa,” Iowa native and Des Moines resident Julia Williams said after the demonstration in front of Terrace Hill. “The ’80s called Terry, they want you back!”
Williams, a retired postal worker and union member said she braved all types of weather — rain, heat, wind and ice — to unload the mail trucks and today is no different. She even ignored the icy, chilly conditions last winter when she marched for bargaining rights during the demonstrations in Wisconsin.
But it wasn’t enough to keep math teacher Rachel Lee at Mount Ogden Junior High. In May, as contract negotiations unraveled, she applied for and got a job in neighboring Weber School District. She wanted to be able to pay her bills, she said, and was frustrated by the turmoil between the OEA and district leaders.
"I feel like we’re disposable to them. They don’t care about collaborating," she said in an interview at Thursday’s rally. "I hope they can understand what they’re doing to teachers is not good for students."And students showed up for their teachers at Thursday's rally as well.
Fourteen-year-old Kyle Speckman worries he could lose some of his favorite teachers at Highland Junior High because of the contract dispute. He wore red to Thursday’s protest to show solidarity with teachers, and raised a hand-written sign that read, "Listen to my teachers, respect my teachers, so they will still be there for me."
"Where is your conscience," Anthony Akubue, a St. Cloud State University environmental and technological studies professor, told the lawmakers.
"It's not about you, it is about us who sent you there," said Akubue, who said empty speeches or rhetoric did not sit well with him. "It's not about you. We sent you there."Gov. Dayton has proposed an increase in taxes for the state's millionaires to help cover the state budget deficit, but Republicans, who control both houses of Minnesota's state legislature, refuse to consider any proposals that raises taxes in any way, even if they only affect the wealthiest of the wealthiest. Dayton has also continued to make proposals in the last week to bring Republicans to the table, which they all refused.In something of a preview of what could happen if the federal government shuts down in August, the ongoing Minnesota shutdown has forced the state to cut back all but the most essential services, lay off 22,000 state workers, and halt construction projects, all of which will cause an economic drag on the state economy as long as it remains shuttered. The shutdown also affects thousands of non-profits statewide, many of whom have to cut jobs as a portion of their funding decreases. State parks, zoos, and historical sites are all shut, too. And even bars, groceries, and convenience stores are affected, because state licensing offices are shut, keeping brands like Miller and Coors from renewing their distribution license and forcing them to pull their beer from the shelves and from bars.
"It's insulting to all of the students, staff and businesses who depend on technical colleges to have someone who just slashed our funding by 30 percent," said Michael Rosen, a state board member with the Wisconsin Technical College System."He can't be seriously attending this celebration," he said.Less than four months from today, United Wisconsin will begin circulating petitions to initiate a recall of Gov. Walker.