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Reflections on New Mexico

Reflections on New Mexico .

This spring break, we decided to go road-tripping for Ralph to get him on the ballot in New Mexico. We drove over 1000 miles and collected nearly 1000 registered voters’ signatures. Math and physics students at CU and the Colorado School of Mines, we were excited to participate in democracy and support our favorite candidate.

Although we were long time followers of Ralph and believed strongly in his message, we had never taken such an active role in supporting a candidate or cause before. The idea of walking up to complete strangers and asking them to sign our petition was honestly a bit scary at first.

One of our fellow petitioners, Adam, showed us the ropes and gave us some suggestions on successfully collecting signatures. A psychobiology graduate from UCLA, he offered excellent insights on making potential signers feel comfortable and also showed us what fun petitioning can be.

But before we had a chance to try Adam’s tips and collect our first signatures, the whole team joined in a conference call with none other than Ralph himself. Now we were really stoked! Ralph expressed his gratitude to us for getting involved. He asked how the process was going and about the reactions we were receiving with our petitions. His enthusiasm was contagious, and contrary to some peoples’ opinion, he wasn’t a bit egotistical or stubborn. In fact, he eagerly asked for our feedback and committed to making the changes necessary to make the effort more successful. At the end of the conversation, Ralph encouraged us to work together and pick each other up if the petitioning got tough.

After the conference, we were on our way. Over the next couple of days we talked to thousands of people in Albuquerque. We stopped at the University of New Mexico, the Frontier restaurant, Old Town, Downtown, Nob Hill and a UNM Lobo’s basketball game, to name a few favorite petitioning spots. We received a variety of responses, ranging from excitement and gratitude, to anger, frustration or utter indifference. Some wanted to hug us; some wanted us off their property, even when that property belonged to the state!

The negative responses we received were echoes of the mass media and the corporate democratic candidates. We were told that either Ralph “spoiled” the 2000 election or that he is too stubborn and egotistical. They wondered why we couldn’t just comply with the two-party system or claimed we were responsible for getting Republicans in office. As first time petitioners, we started to wonder if these people were right after all. The rejections we faced started taking their toll and forced us to critically reexamine our reasons for following Ralph.

Ralph was right in the conference call: petitioning is tough work! Our moral stamina was being tested and we needed courage and support to keep our convictions alive. In the end of course, we knew that Ralph was our man. He has been actively working for our interests for over 50 years. He talks frankly about health care, living wages, the war in Iraq, renewable energy, and the stifling corporate influence in Washington. When we agree with so much that Ralph stands for, we couldn’t let our selves fall victim to the very thing those in power want: to be satisfied with the sub-par choices offered to us by the major parties.

We went out the next day more eager than ever to get signatures and more sure about what we were fighting for than ever before. As confirmation, we both received heart-warming thanks from people that day for our hard work and dedication to something that they too felt was so important.

The experience made us feel proud to be part of a country that seeks the participation of all citizens. At the same time, hearing the same undemocratic refrains over and over certainly tested our spirits. Creating and maintaining a democracy takes intellect as well as courage and moral stamina. As educated, informed and passionate supporters of Ralph and his message, we realized that our responsibility to the democratic system takes more than just political shrewdness or wisdom. It takes the effort and action of putting values and ideas out on the line and defending them to the criticism of the public.

Thanks so much for the opportunity Ralph! We look forward to being back on the road this summer!

- Emily and Ben

(Cyborgs with a conscience)