Mar 17, 2010
It read like just another obituary written about someone who'd lived a
very long time: "Doris Haddock died peacefully in her family home," it
began. "Born in 1910, she lived through two world wars and the Great
Depression. She is survived by her son, eight grandchildren and 16 great
Oh, and one other thing: "She walked across the United States at age
90 to rally public support for campaign finance reform."
Doris Haddock - better known as "Granny D" - was not your usual
elderly lady, living her last years in quiet repose. She had always been
that finest of the American species: a "Citizen" - with a capital C - one who
stayed engaged in the public issues of her time.
She was small in size, gentle by nature and soft-spoken, but she had
the heart of Sojourner Truth, Ida Tarbell, Mother Jones and Rachel
Carson beating within her, and she was neither afraid to speak out nor
hesitant to take what actions she could.
In her late 80s, Doris took note of the ever-spreading scourge of the
corrupt cash that's choking the very life out of our democratic
political system. She was
outraged that she would be leaving such a foul political inheritance to
her grandchildren. Rather than sit and seethe, she wanted to make a
statement, to do something. But how could just one person with
no connections or clout make her voice heard, much less make a
"I'll walk," she decided. Not down to town hall. Across America. The
full length of it! Her grandchildren feared their Granny D had finally
lost her grip on reality. But she was the very voice of calm reason, and
she was resolute.
On New Year's Day 1999, this petite, unknown lady donned her
emblematic straw hat, unfurled her banner calling for publicly financed
clean elections and headed east from Pasadena, Calif. Destination:
For the next 14 months, Granny D traversed our country, walking 10
miles a day, lifting hearts all along the way.
She weathered 105-degree deserts and a
blinding snowstorm, but she kept going. She encountered a rattlesnake in
Texas and Sen. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, but she kept going. She had
to have her feet taped sometimes and had to wear a steel corset to help
her back, but she kept going.
The national political cognoscenti had been claiming that ordinary
Americans didn't care about the arcane issue of campaign finance
but Doris proved them liars. Hundreds of people of all political stripes
would turn out as she approached every town or city, greeting her and
cheering her on. They simply loved her, loved both the anger and hope
she represented, loved her message and mission - and they signed on to
join her rebellion against the moneyed powers controlling American
politics and government.
Thousands (including me) joined her as she entered Washington on Feb.
29, 2000. We walked with her across the Potomac, past the Lincoln
Memorial, right up the K Street corridor where corporate lobbyists roost
and on to the Capitol itself.
From the east steps of this edifice of American democracy, she
addressed the throng with a moving portrayal of her 3,000-mile journey
through the heart of our country: "The people I met along my way have
given me messages to deliver here. The messages are many, written with
old and young hands of every color, and yet the messages are the same.
They are this: 'Shame on you, senators and congressmen, who have turned
the headquarters of a great and self-governing people into a
Doris Haddock made her voice heard. Throughout the last decade of her
life, she embodied the national yearning for democratic reform and
rallied a movement that has successfully pushed for local and state
clean-election laws that give our "people's voice" real strength against
the moneyed interests.
Granny D, 100 years old, died March 9, but her strong heart beats in
everyone who dares to confront the corporate corrupters of our
democratic system. To keep that beat going, connect with others engaged
in this essential effort: www.grannyd.com.
© 2023 Jim Hightower
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