I hope everyone can boast of a legislator who emboddies all that is good for them and the nation. I believe my legislator is such a person.
I bet that my title will not have you scratching your heads-
asking- Dennis who? No, I think you will recognize him by his
first name alone like we do other notables like Oprah, Ellen
This Sunday on TV I stumbled upon "Faegler and Friends," -Cleveland's
answer to other political roundtable discussion groups. This day
Dennis Kucinich was the sole guest, and listening to his answers on
various topics posed by host Dick Faegler, I was sadly reminded that
we will soon lose this wonderful common- sensed and compassionate
politician because of Republican redistricting.
Lucky to have been part of his former 10th congressional d istrict
for so many years, I feel a great loss. And I'm sure I am not
alone. Dennis is Dennis - a little man physically but a political
giant re his views for those of us who looked to him for wisdom
But I am so sorry to remember that I had not understood why he
was against the war in Iraq. Yes, I had believed all the wrong
people and all the wrong reasons for entering into it. But, of
course, Dennis was right. He was not afraid to voice his seemingly
lone opposition to a needless, expensive war which caused many
lives to be lost -to both our soldiers and to many Iraqis too.
Truly his name should have been David - because he was brave
enough to fight many Goliaths in his public life: the Iraqi
War, passage of a senseless Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act; the
arrogant Cleveland Trust bank, two failed presidential quests,
and finally Republican redistricting- to name those "Goliaths"
I easily recall.
I have known Dennis since the 70's when he replaced Ralph Perk
as Mayor of Cleveland. At the time, I was not pleased because
I liked Mayor Perk under whose administration I became employed
with the City. But yes, I got over it and soon learned that it
was no accident that this little guy of Croation descent had become
Mayor. It was during this time when he faced his first Goliath-
Brock Weir of the now defunct Cleveland Trust Bank. As we all
know, Dennis would not cave into Weir's demand that unless the City
sold the Muny Light (now Cleveland Power) utility to the Illuminating
Company, the bank would call in the City's financial notes.
Wow! What would you or I do? Men of lesser stature would have
caved into the bank's demands. But not David - er Dennis. I
was at work when the City went into default. You could hear a
pin drop in the now quiet rotunda. What must have it been like
in the Mayor's chambers? Only a great man would put his political
life on the line to keep the Cleveland utility in Cleveland's
Dennis would not be intimidated by this big bank and its demands.
Instead of placing the fault on Weir and the bank, the majority
of the people of Cleveland blamed Dennis. I'm usually unimpressed
by the way people in general vote and here was a perfect example
of it. The people of Cleveland voted Dennis out of office because
of the default. Instead of being grateful for saving the utility,
they drove him out of office. I have never forgotten this lack
Today the Cleveland Power Utility is servicing the people of Cleveland
who need it. For a long time, business leaders would not fund his
portrait to be hung in the gallery of former mayors. Well, finally
a young councilman who realized the injustice of this, made sure funds
were available to finally get Dennis' picture up with the other former
mayors. Perhaps he is one of the most distinguished of them all.
I have never forgotten this courageous act of Dennis, and I even
included this event as a chapter in my little homespun book called
"Blame It on Peaches." My little book is a loving testament to my
life being changed forever by my first little puppy. I also believe
that it was during his term that a much needed low- cost neuter/
spaying program was started for the people of Cleveland.
Then, as my congressman from the 10th district, Dennis would also show
to me by his voting during all his Congressional years his concern for
animal welfare. The HSUS which tracked congressional votes on animal
issues found him getting 100 percent all the times I checked.
And then amazingly, when a law was proposed (Animal Enterprize Terrorism
Act) which would almost make protesting in front of animal venues a serious
offense - Dennis was the ONLY one who voted against this bill. He saw
what others failed to - the right of people to protest at venues
where they felt animals were being mistreated.
I loved seeing him on Faegler's Friends and recounting his early life
of deprivation. One of 7 children, he tells that his family rented
and often had to move. He recalls collecting returnable bottles
which at the time could redeemed for cash. He collected them to
help with family finances. His early life was one of struggles.
We need to publish another Profiles in Courage. This time the
honoree should be the story of Dennis and his life of deprivation
and meeting them head on without being diminished by them. But,
despite poverty and early struggles, he overcame these obstacles
to become Mayor of the large City of Cleveland. Later he was
elected to other political offices until he ran successfully
to become a member of the House of Representatives.
And yes, he even had the chutzpah to run for president of the U.S.
He also told Faegler that during his two unsuccessful runs, he made
sure that the people of his district were not neglected. I have
always hoped that one day we would have a president who was compassionate
to animals. Dennis would have been such a president while not neglecting
the needs of the 99 percent.
I'm sure much, much more could be said about Dennis' accomplishments,
but it is to his credit, that I didn't have to go to any other references
except my memory and his recent talk on Faegler's Friends to write
The best to you Dennis. You are a survivor and an inspiration. I have
no doubt that you will accomplish much good in whatever circumstances
you'll find yourself in the future.