With trench warfare in Europe and religious intolerance driving war in Gaza, one can get pessimistic about the capacity of our human race to live with moral courage and compassion.
As a teenager, I stood in the snow in Washington, D.C. in January 1961 to hear newly elected President John F. Kennedy announce his vision of a New Frontier, not only for America, but for our world community. You may read his inaugural address here.
The Caux Round Table Principles for Government hold that government is a trust, not an exploitation of the commonweal for personal enjoyment. The principles further hold that discourse, as used by Kennedy that cold January day, is the ethical way to be political.
Kennedy’s nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., has just used discourse to announce that he is running for president of the United States as an independent individual without being nominated by either of the country’s two established political parties.
In RFK Jr.’s announcement, you can hear the cadences of that 1961 inaugural address and you can experience the emotional impact of idealism.
Here is his announcement published in Newsweek Magazine:
Today, I declared myself an independent candidate for president of the United States of America.
And more than that, I joined my voice with all the people who are fed up and all the people who are hopeful, to make a new Declaration of Independence for our entire nation.
Today, I declared my independence from the corporations that have hijacked our government to milk us for profit.
I declared independence from Wall Street, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Ag, the military contractors and their lobbyists who now outnumber members of Congress 20 to 1.
I declared independence from the mercenary media that forever urges us to hate our neighbors and fear our friends.
I declared independence from the cynical elites, who betray our hope and amplify our divisions.
And finally, I declared independence from the two political parties and the corrupt interests that dominate them and the entire rigged system of rancor and rage, corruption and lies, that has turned government officials into indentured servants of their corporate bosses. If left unchecked, they will commoditize our air, water, food, labor and children and turn the American dream into desperation and dust.
I declared my independence from these corrupting powers because they are incompatible with the inalienable rights that our original Declaration of Independence invoked in 1776: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
How can we guard life when for-profit corporations have captured the public agencies that are supposed to protect us? How can we enjoy liberty when a surveillance state seeks to hide the truth and quash dissent to preserve its power? And how can we pursue happiness when our nation’s families are imprisoned by debt and hunger and jobs that will never pay the bills?
And so today, I declared my independence from the tyranny of corruption which robs us of affordable lives, belief in our future and respect for one another. And to do that, I had to declare my independence from the Democratic Party and independence from all parties.
I haven’t made this decision lightly. It is painful for me to let go of the party of my uncles, my father, of my grandfather and of both of my great-grandfathers – John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, Boston’s first Irish Catholic mayor and Patrick Kennedy, a Boston ward boss, who together, launched my family’s political dynasty.
But my sacrifice is nothing compared to the risk our founding fathers took when they signed the Declaration of Independence 247 years ago right over there. They knew that if their revolution failed, every last one of them would be hanged. They chose to place everything on the line.
When John Adams put his pen down after adding his signature to the Declaration, he turned to those present and said, “Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, from this day on, I’m with my country.” I make that same pledge today, so that I may stand before you as every leader should, free of partisan allegiance and backroom wheeling and dealing, a servant only to my conscience, to my Creator and to you.
Today, we are turning a new page in American politics. There have been independent candidates before, but this time is different. This time, the Independent is going to win.
The two major parties are fielding candidates that most Americans do not want even to run. A shocking three-fourths of Americans believe President Biden is too old to govern effectively. President Trump faces multiple civil and criminal trials. Both have favorability ratings deep in negative territory.
That is what two-party politics has come to and that is why we need to break the stranglehold of the two parties. And that’s why we need to pry loose the hammerlock of corrupt power over Washington, D.C. We are going to make this nation ours again.