Introduction by Naomi Walker, Assistant to the President of AFSCME
Reverend James Lawson excerpt: “…. to make a long story short, I want to try to say that the experiment to have a democratic society is the most important experiment the human race has launched, probably ever. To lift human life to a level where we have the capacity to govern ourselves and to live with one another and to create cooperation rather than war and violence is the great frontier for the 21st century and beyond. And in that act of shaping democratic society, unions are absolutely essential.”
Jamin Raskin, Professor, American University, Washington College of Law & Maryland State Senator
Introduction by Darrin Spann, Assistant Director of AFSCME Council 13 in Pennsylvania
Opening Remarks by Professor Jamin B. Raskin: "In 2010, in the 5-4 Citizens United decision, the conservative majority on the Roberts Court broke from government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people,' and gave us a constitutional blueprint for government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. It held that for-profit corporations have the right to spend unlimited sums—million or billions of dollars-- promoting or disparaging candidates for public office."
Saket Soni Executive Director New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and National Guestworker Alliance
Opening Remarks by Elissa McBride, Director of Education and Leadership Training, AFSCME
Opening Remarks by Elissa McBride: "Born and raised in New Delhi, India, Saket Soni has been a driving force in the effort to secure justice for workers fighting for their dignity in post-Katrina New Orleans. During the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, black workers whose families had lived in New Orleans for generations were denied jobs. At the same time, thousands of immigrant workers were given false promises of steady jobs, fair pay, great conditions and even permanent legal status...Saket Soni brought those workers together, linking their struggles across the lines of race and class and citizenship. He helped build a broad platform from which they could wage an inspiring fight for justice and dignity."
Elissa McBride Director of Education and Leadership Training, AFSCME
Opening Remarks by Elissa McBride, Director of Education and Leadership Training, AFSCME: "Like Eleanor, [Brigid] knows that we can make real change if we link education and action. I hope you will listen, learn, and leave committed to honor the legacy of Jerry Wurf and Eleanor Roosevelt by passing on the knowledge you gain here to others, so that together, we can restore the right to organize and bargain for all workers – public and private."
Paul Booth Executive Assistant to the President, AFSCME
Opening Remarks by Paul Booth, Executive Assistant to the President, AFSCME:"Miles Rapoport is the president of Demos. What is Demos? There is an awful lot of Demos material out on the table there, and you really should indulge freely in it. To me, Demos is simply the leading voice in the United States for small d democracy. Its mission, as I see it, is this cause which it so ably advances.
Miles Rapoport has a career that included personal involvement in Connecticut politics, to which he brought activism, organizational skills, and a set of real deep commitments."
Introductions and Opening Remarks by: ELENA KAGAN, Dean, Harvard Law School, Harvard University
President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Opening Remarks by Elena Kagan, Dean, Harvard Law School: " This is a great privilege for us. Actually, before I say anything else I'd like to welcome Jerry Wurf's family: Mildred Wurf and his children, Abigail and Nick Wurf. We are extremely pleased that you could join us today. For those of you who don't know, Jerry Wurf was the seventh president of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is now one of the biggest unions in America. Most of that union's great growth, really its coming into being as a major force in the union movement, took place under Jerry Wurf, who was really one of the great modern labor leaders."
Opening Remarks by Lawrence H. Summers, President, Harvard University: " Al Gore is going to speak to us about the strength of America. In a moment, I want to say a few words about the strength of Al Gore but, before I do, I want to say a few words about public service. I want to recognize Jerry Wurf, someone I knew well as his family vacationed near mine in Wellfleet, Massachusetts and someone who I admired for his commitment to doing the right thing by the people he represented and doing the right thing by this country. Jerry made what I think is a point that none of us at the university can make often enough or strongly enough and that is the importance of public service. There was only one group of people who were going up the stairs in the World Trade Center on September 11 and those were public servants. Public servants. People who are paid by taxes. People who were workers in the government of New York City, workers in the government of New York State and workers in the government of the United States. Anyone who wants to say that government work is wrong or that government is wrong or that government is bad should think about those people going up those stairs at that moment."
"Some time ago in Vienna, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Bruno Kreisky's speech when he retired as chancellor and leader of the Austrian Social Democratic Party. As we in the audience sat there listening, we expected to hear an account of his long and eventful life and of his wide-ranging and successful political experiences. But not at all! Bruno Kreisky talked only about the future. At his retirement from official life, the whole of his thinking was looking forward..."