Thursday, March 24, 2005
Since I started writing this op/ed feature for this website, I have gotten several e-mails asking me just "who are you" and just "what" is my background as a Democrat. Good questions. I will answer your inquires in today's (and next time's) column. I hope you'll be satisified with the answers.
My first rather vague memories of anything "Democratic" goes back to when I was 6 years old in 1956 when I recall my parents had a "Madly For Adlai" pin.
But it wasn't until I was 10 years old in 1960 when I noticed JFK and for good reason too. I was a cadet at a Roman Catholic military academy in Nov 1960, and being Catholic myself, I liked the idea of a Catholic president...for the very first time in our history.
Election night, the nun who supervised our dorm floor, allowed us to stay up past regular bedtime, to watch the election results on a small b&w rabbit-eared TV in the corner of the dorm, and watch JFK win.
In 1962, in grade school, I recall visiting both the Dem hdqs and Repub hdqs on Colorado Blvd in Pasadena to gather campaign stuff for a class project. The Dem hdqs (Re-elect Pat Brown for CA Gov) were filled with not only whites, but blacks too. I liked that, as the blacks tending the counter were very friendly with me, and told me to help myself to buttons, stickers etc.
I next went to the Republican hdqs ("Tricky Dick" for CA Gov), where, when I went up to the counter, I noticed older white ladies, who appeared upper crust and bluish-haired "old wealth"-like, in the storefront. I asked them if their stuff was free. They made me the butt of a joke when they said "Well, they ARE free...free enterprise, that is..he he he." She told me nothing was to be given away. Everything had a price. Buttons, stickers, you name it. I don't think I had more than just bus fare in my pockets. I walked out empty handed. I always remembered that "free enterprise" comment, and how it bothered me that wealthy old white ladies would put a price tag on everything on their counter.
But it was when I was 13 in early 1964, when I realized my early political leanings when I heard LBJ's speech on "The War On Poverty" and a "Great Society." I liked that. It seemed to be the RIGHT way for our country to be. Our U.S. Senator Clare Engel had just died, and JFK's Pierre Salinger was picked to fill out his term. I liked him because he was one of Kennedy's men.
It was 1966 when I had my first taste of working for a political campaign. I was only 16, as a high school sophomore, and really wanted our Governor, Pat Brown, to win a 3rd term. His opponent? An actor I used to see on TV westerns, that I never really liked, Ronald Reagan. I went to the Dem hdqs on Colorado Blvd in Pasadena (same kind of storefront as in 1962 and 1964), and asked what can I do that night to help re-elect Pat Brown. They told me they needed me to "get out the vote," and so a black gentleman I met there drove me up to a mostly black neighborhood in north Pasadena, where he and I went knocking door to door, passing out flyers, offering rides to the polls, and getting Dems out to vote. I was so pumped up that night. I worked from when I got there after school to when the polls closed. Sadly, when I got back to the hdqs after 8pm, I found out Pat Brown lost. I was saddened.
In 1968, the Vietnam War was out of control, I was 17 in high school, and as much as I liked LBJ, I was drawn to Eugene McCarthy as the peace candidate. Then when LBJ dropped out, and RFK jumped in, I gravitated to RFK...a man I was so inspired by..a man who saw poverty first hand in Appalachia and knew it had to be dealt with. I remember the white (with blue/red) "Kennedy" stickers, and how I wanted Bobby to be our President.
After Bobby's murder, as a loyal Dem, I supported Hubert H. Humphrey, and with a classmate of mine, went knocking door to door in a middle class area near my home, to try to get voters to vote for HHH, and NOT the evil "Tricky Dick." I even went to an urban rally to see Hubert Humphrey in person. I wore a red "HHH" pin on my shirt to school everyday.
1970, is when I really felt stronger than ever about being a Young Dem (at 19 years old)...U.S. Representative George Brown came to my junior college..he was running for the CA U.S. Senate seat nomination in 1970...George Brown really blew me away..here was a guy who I truly believed in..he hated the war, and was a man of peace. He lost the nomination to John Tunney, but I still have my George Brown for Senator pin.
Then in September 1971, when I turned 21, I remember my girlfriend and I were in the Westwood Village area of Los Angeles, where we stopped at a table and I registered as a Democrat for the first time. (The 18 yr old vote didn't affect me as I was 21 in 1971 and it made no difference)
Next time, I will share with you my adult life as a registered Democrat..now
able to vote...and we'll pick that up in 1972.
(BiLL EARL is a periodic feature of AFB.com. Not only is Bill a regular contributor here, but also EB08 Senior Moderator of the national Bayh Yahoo! group, and CFB Moderator from Rosemead in the CA Bayh Yahoo! group, all part of the National Bayh! Network...NB!N)
posted by BiLL Earl