What an amazing time of reflection and hope this past weekend was in Madison, Wisconsin. The sneak preview of We Are Wisconsin was shown to a sold out crowd of over 1,300 at the Orpheum Theater. Unfortunately, hundreds more were turned away, but the movie is sure to return after the film festival circuit and before the summer recall. Amie, Kathryn, Melissa and the entire team truly captured the very essence of what occurred in Madison a year ago, and the power of the film has lingered with me for days. On to Toronto in May for the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival. This weekend also saw 65,000 Wisconsinites gather together at the State Capitol for a truly inspiring anniversary rally. The speeches were a tremendous mix of reflection and looking forward to a better future.
As part of the events of the weekend, I was asked to speak at the AFL-CIO "Reclaim Wisconsin" candlelight vigil on the State Capitol Square. I have since received several requests to post my remarks online, so I will do it here. Thanks to each and every one of you who has fought tirelessly this past year to reclaim our great State from the grasp of greed and corruption.
Candlelight Vigil Remarks
March 9, 2012
Good evening, my name is Brian Austin. I am one of the representatives of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association. I am just one of the many off-duty police officers who founded the "Cops for Labor" movement.
This is a solemn night, but also a night of renewed hope in the State of Wisconsin.
Like all of you, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what has happened during the past year, and want to share with you some of the things I have learned during this extraordinary time:
I have learned that average working people are extremely vulnerable to attack in this country. These attacks have been planned for decades and have been coordinated with disciplined precision. Wisconsin. Ohio. Michigan. Florida. Indiana. Arizona. The list goes on and on with no sign of slowing down. We are not only vulnerable to attacks to our wages and our health care; we are vulnerable to attacks to our bargaining rights, our very seat at the table.
I have learned that money not only buys elections, but it can create an army of political mouthpieces whose only function is to serve their masters.
I have learned that when politicians like Scott Walker and Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Voss become beholden to this money, the result is an immoral agenda that hurts the very citizens they are supposed to serve.
I have learned the extreme danger of allowing ourselves to become politically disengaged. When we become disengaged from the political process, the result is a democracy that is warped and broken and sick.
I have learned that the fundamental bedrocks of this great State, the very institutions we hold dearest to our hearts, such as labor peace, public education, healthcare and environmental protection can be tarnished beyond recognition in an astonishingly short amount of time when we don’t choose the stewards of our state wisely.
I have learned that special interests outside our state have most certainly purchased Scott Walker and many of the Wisconsin GOP, but I have also learned this: when you buy politicians with money, you get unimpressive and mediocre people who rule by ego and division and corruption. As a result, these politicians are not long for power.
I have learned that the agenda of those like Scott Walker is not only immoral, but it produces terrible economic results. Simply put, our economy cannot function in a healthy and appropriate way if it serves only those of wealth and privilege.
Finally, I have learned that the committed, collective voice of the people can overcome unbelievable amounts of money and power.
But tonight we also need to recognize something: We gave the people of this great nation a gift.
We gave them a gift last February and March when we walked through snow and slept on marble.
We gave them a gift this January when we delivered to the GAB the roar of a million voices.
That gift was hope.
We gave this nation a vision of a democracy that doesn’t simply go to the highest bidder. We gave the nation, and the world, proof that the ideals of solidarity and compassion and humanity can conquer greed and hate and fear.
But by giving these gifts we have also accepted a responsibility . Tonight we should mourn our losses and celebrate our accomplishments, but we must understand that our work is far from over. In fact, it has just begun, and let’s be honest, we have arrived very late to this fight
Each and every one of us must commit to remaining engaged and seeing this fight through to the end. We most certainly won’t win without this commitment. But with it, we cannot fail.