Meeting Howard Dean
copyright 2003 by Tracy Marks
July 5, 2003
What a thrilling experience it was to meet Howard Dean today, to
hear him speak and to be able to talk with him.
The gathering was at the house of a woman named Linda Steir
near Plaistow, NH. We arrived at 2:30, and about 120 people
showed up and sat or stood in her backyard; he arrived 20 minutes
later - we were the second of three houseparties that he was
attending that day, and he stayed for about 2 hours (but believe
me, it was hot - 95 degrees and humid - and we were all out in
At first, he simply milled around and talked to people, shaking
their hands, and briefly listening to each of their comments about
issues of concern to him. He was very warm and approachable.
When I talked with him, I expressed my full support of his health plan,
let him know that I was one of millions suffering from years of chronic
illness and paying a large share of my income for health care, and
still doing without much of what I needed, and expressed my desire
that he not back down under any circumstances in his commitment
to affordable health care for all. He expressed very strongly
his full intention of making that happen.
A number of reporters with big cameras were there -I'm not sure
any were from CNN - and briefly interviewed members of the crowd
about their attitudes toward Dean and later their responses to his
speech. Fortunately, I had brought my camera, and made a decision
early on not to court the reporters, but rather stay close to Dean,
listening to what he said to people, and to take a lot of closeup
pictures which I could post on my website with links to Dean
One impression I had of him - which has not come across on t.v.,
perhaps because of the stress of televised events - is how open
and friendly he is, and what a wonderful genuine smile and laugh
he has. He laughed a lot, and seemed very much at ease. His
intensity however became apparent when he expressed his deeply
felt commitment to issues of concern to him, at which point,
he expressed himself with considerable passion and power.
I sincerely hope we'll see more of his smile and laugh on future
televised debates and speeches, because when he's relaxed and
enjoying himself, he is truly heartwarming, and radiates positive
energy and charisma.
A related impression was that Dean was more handsome than
I had thought.... and indeed could outshine Edwards, who so
far is considered the most charismatically winning of the candidates.
Dean has that kind of aura that draws people in, and keeps them
glued to every word and gesture. If only that came across on tv ---
because he needs to express that kind of energy more in order to
win the hearts as well as the minds of the general public.
Dean then gave about a 1/2 hour speech, summarizing his stand
on many issues - some of what he said verbatim from his recent
Iowa speech, but all with passion and conviction.
He talked about the importance of strengthening national security
by protecting our own borders but not by siphoning funds into
defense missile systems or nuclear weapons and not by acting
unilaterally in international affairs, without the support of the
United Nations and our allies. A related important point which he
emphasized was the moral responsibility of power - and how the
US needs not only preach but also to act in accordance with
the highest moral values, serving as an example of the democratic
process in action internationally.
Dean also spoke of how he supported involvement in the affairs
of other countries seeking our help, but only with full consideration
and understanding of the likely consequences of such action, and
with a commitment above all in regard to following through with
promises made. This he contrasted with the Bush regime's attitude
of a child bully on the playground, determined to beat up anyone
who got in his way, without consideration for the consequences or
the impact such action would have on in regard to alienating other
peoples and maintaining international alliances.
Dean mentioned the importance of developing renewable energy
sources, preserving the environment, guaranteeing health care for
children and affordable health insurance and health care for adults.
He stressed his commitment to making sure that all children in
the U.S. get the education and care they need, to prevent them
from turning to crime or becoming malfunctioning adults in the
future. Related to this is his policy of focusing on prevention
rather than a policy of neglect then punishment.
Occasionally he expressed outrage about the Bush administration.
Such outrage was apparent when he pointed out the fiscal
irresponsibility of the Bush administration and previous Republican
Presidents, and how he believed that the budget can be balanced
while providing necessary services and care for children, adults in
need and the disabled. He also lashed out against Bush's tax cuts
to the wealthy and explained how that money could have been/
could be redistributed to the people who need it most of all.
Much of what he said on the ON THE ISSUES pages on
the Dean for America site.
Dean spoke quite clearly and dynamically, with facts at his
fingertips, and ended each topic with a powerful statement of
conviction and determination in regard to his aims.....resulting in
applause from the audience.
After his speech, he was open to questions and answers for
about 45 minutes or so........and the questions covered a variety
of topics.... the death penalty, disability, energy, children etc.
Since I'm sending this to the Tikkun list, I'll mention that one person
(who may be on the Tikkun list) asked about his stand on Israel and
Palestine - so I wrote down his response.
First, he mentioned that Bush for too long neglected to take
to taking responsible action to help to mitigate the terror on both
sides there. Then he spoke out in support of the Palestinian people,
in regard to how most seek peace, how they know what it's like to
participate actively in government, and that they have experience
and for the most part commitment to democracy. He then said that
it is very important that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories,
and that he favored a two-state solution and the U.S. taking a
peacemaking role mediating between both sides. But he also
pointed out that he didn't see how Israel could fully withdraw from
occupied territories unless something could be done to stop the
terrorist activities on both sides.
His last statement on the issue was to mention that one way to
lessen the terrorism on the Palestinian side is for our government
to stop supporting the countries that are funding it.......for our
dependence on Mideast oil results in our financing the very countries,
Saudi Arabia in particular, which are financing Palestinian terrorism.
He expressed then a strong commitment to energy conservation and
the development of renewal energy resources as one of several means
of our commitment to peace, and of ending our financial support
of countries which breed the terrorist approach to dealing with conflict.
After the question and answers, instead of running off to his next
engagement, he walked around the lawn for another half an hour
or more, shaking hands with people, talking to them about their
concerns, and even posing for photographs with them.
I continued to take pictures - hoping to capture more of his wonderful
smile and laugh on camera - but eventually put my camera aside and
spoke to him again. This time I was a bit tonguetied, but did manage
to ask him what facets of his health plan addressed the dilemma of
many Americans who spend 25% or more of their working income
on health insurance and/or health care. His response was that his
health plan would limit out of pocket expenses of 8.5% of an individual
or family's adjusted gross income (as well as provide a government
health plan that people with income at 185% or less of the poverty
level could buy into at low cost), and that the kind of health plan for
families and children that he instituted in Vermont would pay the
difference, funded in part by money saved by avoiding tax cuts to
the wealthy and further development of the US missile defense
A final impression I had of him, as he talked to people in the group
and responded to questions, is that he genuinely seemed interested
in making contact with people and hearing their concerns, and that
in spite of his strong, charismatic presence, talking to him was like
talking to an ordinary person or perhaps an extraordinary ordinary
person. He made eye contact, and focused his full attention on
the person in front of him.
All in all it was a wonderful experience. Although I do have my
occasional criticisms and concerns in regard to Dean, I am firmly
opposed to Bush's domestic and international policies, and do believe
that of all the candidates, Dean has the intelligence, commitment,
determination, knowhow and conviction to stand up to the powers-
that-be and make a difference.........
Since Dean's approach is to gain supporters on their Internet and
through public and private events throughout the country - and since
he is doing many now in nearby New Hampshire, I encourage you
all to go and hear and meet him sometime. Whether you support him
now or not, such an experience as I attended can only help you get
clearer about who he is and whether or not you support him, and of
course I for one hope you do....
Howard Dean and Tracy Marks
CREDITS: Howard Dean photos taken by Tracy Marks, but the two pictures
above were taken by Bruce Ishikawa and are posted with permission.