Vermont Public Radio Commentary
“Today is the 4th of July when we celebrate America’s Declaration of Independence, and commentator Rick Hubbard is thinking about 91 year old Doris Haddock, a neighbor in Dublin, New Hampshire.”
You may remember Doris as Granny D, the great grandmother who, in her 90th year, walked over 3000 miles, coast to coast, to promote campaign finance reform.
A year ago on February 28th, Granny D reached the steps of Congress where she presented petitions from thousands of Americans calling for comprehensive reform of the way we finance our political process. A few months later, on April 21, Granny D again mounted those steps and made her way into the Capitol’s rotunda.
There she began speaking about The First Amendment to our Constitution which says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble to petition the Government for a redress of grievances which is just what she and 31 others accompanying her were doing.Granny D’s grievance – and that of many others – is based on the belief that our elected leaders are so consumed by the need to raise election funds from special interests that ordinary citizens no longer have proper representation.
“We must declare our independence from the corrupting bonds of big money in our election campaigns by reforming our campaign finance system”, she said.
“We must alter our government. As a people, we know how to declare our independence and authorize alterations of our government. Here is how we did so in Congress, on July 4, 1776.”
At this point Granny D was interrupted and she and the 31 others with her were arrested.
A month later, on Wednesday, May 24th, Granny D appeared in court to respond to the charge of demonstrating inside the Capitol building.
Chief Judge Hamilton of the District of Columbia Superior Court was silent after Doris explained that when she was arrested she had been reading from the Declaration of Independence to make the point that we must declare our independence from the corrupting bonds of big money in our election campaigns. As her hands were pulled behind her and bound she was reading these very words:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
Then Granny D pleaded guilty to the charges. In sentencing, Judge Hamilton offered a thoughtful perspective to Doris and the other demonstrators. He said:
“As you know, the strength of our great country lies in its Constitution and her laws and in her courts. But more fundamentally, the strength of our great country lies in the resolve of her citizens to stand up for what is right when the masses are silent. And, unfortunately, sometimes it becomes the lot of the few, sometimes like yourselves, to stand up for what’s right when the masses are silent, because not always does the law move so fast and so judiciously as to always be right. But given the resolve of the citizens of this great country, in time, however slowly, the law will catch up eventually.”
With that, Judge Hamilton released Doris for time served and a minimal fine.
So that’s why on Independence Day, I can’t help thinking of Granny D…one of the most independent-minded people I know.
This is Rick Hubbard from South Burlington.