NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

LIVE from Atlanta: Al Gore Takes the Stage for the Closing Plenary of Netroots Nation 2017

It’s a beau­ti­ful day in the North­west, but we’re tak­ing you to Atlanta, Geor­gia for our live cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2017. For the clos­ing ple­nary this evening, atten­dees are hear­ing from for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore, labor leader Dolores Huer­ta, civ­il rights leader Rev. Dr. Ger­ald Dur­ley, NextGen Amer­i­ca founder Tom Stey­er and DACA recip­i­ent Pamela Chomba.

Start­ing the evening, Angel Kyo­do Williams brought the audi­ence togeth­er, urg­ing for healthy dis­agree­ment, an empha­sis on love and the voic­es of the peo­ple, and clear minds. By stat­ing, “We move togeth­er with love and with jus­tice.”, she beau­ti­ful­ly called for uni­ty and pre­pared the audi­ence to not only lis­ten to the clos­ing speak­ers, but to move for­ward as a movement.

Net­roots announced a vig­il after the ple­nary in hon­or of a counter-pro­test­er who died fol­low­ing the “Unite the Right” white suprema­cist march in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia this afternoon.

Rev. Dr. Ger­ald Dur­ley came out, fol­low­ing the announce­ment, and led the crowd in a moment of silence to reflect on those killed or injured in Vir­ginia this after­noon. Dur­ley reflect­ed on his work with MLK, not­ing that 57 years lat­er, we are still in the same strug­gle so many years ago.

Quot­ing the pre­am­ble, Dur­ley called out the Pres­i­dent and his admin­is­tra­tion by stat­ing that “we the peo­ple” have been put on the back burn­er, even stat­ing that the coun­try is run by men “who know the cost of every­thing and the val­ue of noth­ing”. Dur­ley went on to empow­er the room by ask­ing, “Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?” If so, he said, it is time to stand against, resist the oppo­si­tion, and sacrifice.

In his clos­ing, Dur­ley deliv­ered a riv­et­ing expla­na­tion of his phrase, “Our resis­tance must be per­sis­tence”, and shared that the envi­ron­ment is his new bat­tle to wage as a fight­er of justice.

Next up, the room wel­comed Tom Stey­er, founder of NextGen Amer­i­ca. Stey­er also called out the admin­is­tra­tion for fram­ing the dis­cus­sion around, “Who is Amer­i­can? Who is wor­thy of dig­in­i­ty? Who is human?” while refo­cus­ing on the his­to­ry of how these ques­tions were answered in Amer­i­can his­to­ry and acknowl­edg­ing the sig­nif­i­cant names that rede­fined the answers to those ques­tions in this nation.

Stey­er not­ed that our democ­ra­cy has been cor­rupt­ed by cor­po­rate inter­ests, men­tion­ing issues from the Dako­ta Access Pipeline to the preda­to­ry prac­tices of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal companies.

He moved on to sug­gest­ing a game plan, start­ing with invest­ing in the Amer­i­can peo­ple through uni­ver­sal health­care and education.

Sec­ond­ly, he stat­ed we need to pro­tect cit­i­zen’s rights by ensur­ing the pro­tec­tion of voter’s rights, labor unions, peo­ple of col­or, immi­grants, and LGBTQIA+.

Third­ly, Stey­er urged the audi­ence to reclaim a clean Amer­i­ca, while not­ing that fail­ure to act on cli­mate change will not only make us health­i­er, but will get peo­ple high­er wages and bet­ter jobs.

Fol­low­ing Stey­er, Pamela Chom­ba took the stage, start­ing with her per­son­al account of ICE com­ing to her door, with guns and SWAT agents. “I’m mus­lim, undoc­u­ment­ed, Lat­inx, and I am unsafe”, Chom­ba stat­ed, “I’m unsafe.”

She said that as a DACA recip­i­ent, she felt safe, but under the new admin­is­tra­tion, DACA recip­i­ents are now being detained. “As activists we shout, ‘undoc­u­ment­ed and unafraid’, but I am so afraid.”, she stat­ed in tears.

She not­ed that killing the DACA, as many Repub­li­cans have sug­gest­ed, would take 8,000 work­ers and thou­sands of home­own­ers out of the Amer­i­can econ­o­my. Chom­ba went on to say that immi­grants from Haiti, South Amer­i­ca, and Mex­i­co are in dan­ger, and that our lead­ers want to recre­ate the coun­try in their image.

She then intro­duced Dolores Huer­ta to the stage. Huer­ta stat­ed that, “Racism comes from the stain of slav­ery on our his­to­ry.” But that all humans are from Africa, and that the KKK could do be remind­ed of that.

She went on to state that immi­gra­tion is not a crime, but that immi­gra­tion as a crime is impor­tant to those in pow­er because it fills pris­ons and the his­to­ry of racism in this coun­try. Edu­ca­tion, she not­ed, needs to be our focus. Know­ing that African Amer­i­cans built the schools, Asian Amer­i­cans built the roads, and Mex­i­can Amer­i­cans built the infra­struc­ture of this coun­try changes how one sees the nation. Quot­ing a philoso­pher, Huer­ta stat­ed, “If you do not have an edu­cat­ed cit­i­zen­ry, the cor­rupt and the crim­i­nal will govern”.

Huer­ta pushed the audi­ence to start orga­niz­ing at the local lev­el, in school boards and recre­ation boards and water boards. She also urged them, say­ing, “if we do not do it, no one will.”

Next, Huer­ta pushed to end the school to prison pipeline, to offer free edu­ca­tion and free health care. But she men­tioned that the peo­ple do not own their nat­ur­al resources, cor­po­ra­tions own them, mak­ing it hard to pay for what the nation needs.

Huer­ta also men­tioned that all groups must march togeth­er, essen­tial­ly urg­ing every­one to show up for all caus­es. Using the poor­est peo­ple, Mex­i­can farm labor­ers, com­ing togeth­er against pow­er and win­ning. But they won because they worked together.

She closed by quot­ing a Cuban poet who wrote, “They can cut all the flow­ers, but they can­not stop the spring.” She then led the audi­ence in a chant, “Who’s got the pow­er?” to which the audi­ence respond­ed, “We’ve got the power!”

Head­ing towards the end of the Ple­nary, Huer­ta intro­duced Al Gore and Mustafa Ali to the stage. The dis­cus­sion start­ed with look­ing at the sequel to “An Incon­ve­nient Truth, Gore’s famous movie about the bat­tle for envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, “An Incon­ve­nient Sequel”.

Mustafa asked Gore, “Why is this movie so impor­tant right now?” Gore respond­ed by not­ing that peo­ple are see­ing the same prob­lems today, but in glob­al pro­por­tions. While dis­cussing some sta­tis­tics regard­ing the pro­por­tions of atmos­pher­ic pol­lu­tion, Gore also men­tioned the major envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters that the world is fac­ing right now.

Yet, the major prob­lem is, accord­ing to Gore, that those most affect­ed by pol­lu­tion are defense­less against major cor­po­rate pol­luters, caus­ing vio­lence against those who are poor­est and most defenseless.

Mustafa also ques­tioned Gore on the impor­tance of march­es and oth­er dis­plays have in this issue. Gore stat­ed that those dis­plays of orga­ni­za­tion are extreme­ly impor­tant, but that build­ing per­son­al con­nec­tions with peo­ple is also a major motor of change.

Ref­er­enc­ing the Sanders cam­paign, Gore also men­tioned that the cam­paign proved to every­one that cam­paigns can be suc­cess­ful with­out tak­ing mon­ey from bil­lion­aires, spe­cial inter­est groups, and lob­by­ists, giv­ing hope to Americans.

But Gore also detailed the cri­sis of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy, that politi­cians spend most of their time cam­paign­ing for mon­ey from the wealth­i­est peo­ple. In turn, they rep­re­sent those who are wealthy in leg­is­la­tion. Gore pushed for an end to this sys­tem, stat­ing that we must to reclaim our democracy.

Mustafa con­tin­ued by ask­ing Gore about the Paris Agree­ment and what it would mean to leave the agree­ment. Gore sound­ed hope­ful, not­ing that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are ded­i­cat­ed to pro­tect­ing our envi­ron­ment and that any new lead­er­ship in our future may eas­i­ly rejoin the agree­ment. Gore stat­ed, “This could just be a speed bump in the plan.”

Final­ly, Gore dis­cussed the fram­ing of cli­mate change as a moral issue, as asked by Mustafa Ali. Gore stat­ed that it nev­er should have been a polit­i­cal issue first, but that the younger gen­er­a­tions will ques­tion why we left them with the prob­lems we did; that in itself is a moral issue.

Gore, like Stey­er, con­tin­ued to dis­cuss how the alter­na­tive is bet­ter: that cli­mate change can be mit­i­gat­ed by inno­va­tions that will rev­o­lu­tion­ize our econ­o­my, pay our work­ers more, and will save our younger generations.

Gore and Mustafa also dis­cussed the need for diver­si­ty in the envi­ron­men­tal movement.


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  1. Every­one who wants to help pro­tect our plan­et and can spare the time should apply to be trained by Al as a Cli­mate Real­i­ty Leader.

    # by M. Leigh :: August 29th, 2017 at 2:56 PM
  2. Gore should have tak­en office as our Pres­i­dent, not Bush.

    # by Arthur Castro :: August 30th, 2017 at 8:37 PM
  3. Al Gore is an Amer­i­can treasure. 

    # by Daniel Campos :: August 30th, 2017 at 9:22 PM
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