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by Ron Cruger
The Speech
        The Vice President of the United States called the Joint Session of Congress to order. The Speaker of the House of Representatives made an informative introduction of the guest speaker. The people’s gallery was filled to over-flowing. The President of the United States, the cabinet and all members of the United States Supreme Court were eagerly awaiting the speech. It was a rare event – a guest speaker who wasn’t a president or a member of Congress. In fact, he was an unknown.
        Following the introduction a round of polite applause filled the hall. After all, most of those attending had never heard of the guest speaker who rose when he heard his name mentioned. He walked to the podium, thanked the Speaker, the Vice President. He acknowledged the President, the Cabinet and members of the Supreme Court.
        His nervousness showed. He dried his palms on his jacket pockets, rubbed his forehead and finally remembered to look out at his audience. He nodded towards the President and offered a weak smile. His heart raced.
        He was in his mid-fifties, tall, angular, slightly balding. He wore a neatly pressed dark blue suit, black shoes shined to mirror perfection. He wore glasses but removed them when he started to speak
        He began. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” The mild applause subsided.
        “I have come to this stately building, this wonderful symbol of our democracy, to offer some suggestions and to complain to you, members of Congress and to you, Mr. President.”
        A sudden hush fell in the great hall. Here was an unknown telling the President of the United States he was about to complain to him.
        “For a score of years I have watched and listened to the members of Congress and the President of the United States divide this country of ours into blue and red states, further separating the dreams and wishes of our people. I have watched as, not since the Civil War, has our country been so bisected. We Americans have watched members of the two parties cleave, one from another, until this very hall has become a standard of inaction and disconnection. We depend on all of you to use your minds and creativity to attend to our nation’s problems, but instead we find you bringing into existence sophomoric ways to invent new reasons to separate us – one side against the other.”
       “Our planet, our country, face immense problems that we elected all of you to solve. Instead, we find you bickering among yourselves and against each other. We didn’t elect you to make your political party appear correct. We elected you to resolve these problems for the betterment of this nation’s citizens. Instead, we find you separating into political and idealistic congregations. The overriding reason that you were elected was to solve problems and, to tell you the truth, most Americans find you failing at that intention.”
         “You continue to support lavish and overindulgent earmarks as thousands of America children go to bed hungry. The list of problems you should be working on and solving include global warming, Middle East dangers, dealing with natural disasters, neighbors and neighborhoods struggling to survive, our increasing debt and the quality of everyday life in America.”
        “In 1963 President John F. Kennedy asked Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public. Eleven months later the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law. It took only a few months. The President and Congress, working together changed, for good the actions of our entire country. We expect each of you to do no less – for the good of our country.”
        “It is a general feeling in this country that what most of you care about, more than improving this country, is getting elected and re-elected. Do you care about being written in the history books as a group of men and women who intractably and mulishly adhered to a ‘party-line’ and ignored what you were elected to accomplish?”
        “America is asking you to face our many problems and devote your days and nights to resolving them. We ask you to stop the bickering and the constant electioneering and do the jobs you were elected to do. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you. God Bless America.”
         A few in the people’s gallery began to applaud, more joined them. A few elected representatives clapped. The applause spread throughout the chambers. The sounds became deafening. All in the gallery and all the Senators and Representatives stood and applauded. The President, his cabinet, the Supreme Court Judges – all stood and applauded.”
        The speaker, embarrassed and humbled, smiled shyly and waved a ‘thank you’ as he left the podium and walked away. The applause continued, growing even louder.
        Above, in the People’s Gallery, a young man turned to a middle aged woman who wore a proud smile. He asked her, not knowing that she was the wife of the speaker, “Do you know who that man was, the one who just spoke?” The woman wiped proud tears from her face and said, “Yes, bless him, that’s my husband, he’s Mr. Tanner, from Dayton, Ohio. We own a little cleaning shop there. He has strong feelings about America.”