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Brattleboro Reformer (Vermont)

Nader Drops by, Praises Vermont

Patrick J. Crowley

BRATTLEBORO -- After a two-hour film about his life had finished, the subject of "An Unreasonable Man" was suddenly there, in real life, standing on the stage.

The crowd stood up and cheered for more than a minute, letting Ralph Nader know how much he was appreciated.

Nader, making an appearance in Brattleboro on Saturday, was tremendously well-received. It seems that if people still had some bitterness over his running for president in 2000 and again in 2004, they kept quiet and let him speak.

Nader spoke briefly about the film's subject matter -- not only his life, but also the work of "Nader's Raiders," who pioneered much safety regulations legislation in their consumer advocacy work in Washington, D.C.

"They came with no power," Nader said. But with a lot of investigation, skill and hard work, "they created power."

"That's really the story of all social justice," Nader said.

He compared their work to that of the slavery abolitionists, how they started with no influence, but over time, gained enough strength to have President Abraham Lincoln abolish the practice.

"Vermont's the last state where that point has to be made," Nader said.

Throughout his appearance, Nader frequently praised Vermont's actions, specifically the impeachment and war referendums during town meeting.

"There's a reason why it starts in Vermont," he said.

Nader, who called the town meeting tradition one of the purest forms of democracy on earth, said he has heard other people speaking about Vermont's actions in his travels across the country.

"You're not going unnoticed," he said.

"An Unreasonable Man," a film co-directed by Newfane native Henriette Mantel, is playing through the week.

Mantel, surrounded by those she grew up with, said that Nader's attendance at the Brattleboro screening of her film was in part a "homecoming" present to her.

The film, which opened in New York and Los Angeles on Jan. 31, is now playing in 55 cities.

"It's insprirational," said Mantel after a Saturday showing.

Attendence at the 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday was heavy, and film promotors agknowleged they had been pushing hard all week to get as many people to come as possible.

The question-and-answer period that followed included exclusively questions from Nader supporters. Those questions had to do with various issues.

One man asked Nader about the current education system and the use of "No Child Left Behind."

Nader said "No Child Left Behind" tries to put a number on education.

"Standardized tests lead to standardized minds," Nader said to applause.

Nader pointed to something his father asked him as a child growing up in a small factory town in Connecticut.

His father asked him if he learned to think at school that day, or if he learned to believe.

Too often today, Nader said, students are coming out of their education not as civic-minded individuals, but as cogs in the corporate machine who are "evermore helpless to change the world around them."

Part of that, he said, is that the grades K through 8 shouldn't be as much about computers.

"They keep talking about computer literacy," said Nader. "I'll settle for literacy."

Also coming to his attention was a question regarding nuclear power, something those who live in the Brattleboro area know a little something about.

Simply put, Nader said, nuclear energy needs to be banned.

He said there were problems in many areas. First off, if an accident occurred at any one of many U.S. nuclear power plants, it would devastate a large area and the public would quickly turn against nuclear power.

Nader also said one of the most serious risks that nobody has figured out how to address is the vehicles and trains that carry the radioactive waste, not to mention all the waste itself.

But it also didn't take much to get Nader going on the two-party system, something he has been fighting against since 1996.

One man asked what it was that made Nader move from the consumer advocacy work he had been doing for years (you can thank Nader for seat belts and airbags) to the world of politics.

Nader responded that the way Washington started to be run in the 1990s made it hard for any of their work to get through the maze. It was there that his attention turned to politics and how the two parties have formed a "duopoly" and turned government into an "elected dictatorship."

"Most of my strongest critics are people who agree with me," he said. "Why are we fighting?"

Copyright 2007 MediaNews Group

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