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Week of 10.27.06

Grandmother Walks the Walk

Granny D walks with a group in MD during the winter of 1999 Doris Haddock, also known affectionately as "Granny D.," literally walked across America - at the age of 89 - to draw attention to the need for campaign finance reform. Now her story is being aired on a PBS documentary in October (check local listings below). Senator John McCain called her march, covering 3,200 miles from California to Washington, D.C., "one of the more remarkable feats in American political history." We interviewed Haddock to find out more about her passionate journey in the name of political reform.

What inspired you to make such a difficult journey?

I was concerned about the buying of our government, and my genteel actions, like sending in petitions of support for some reform bills, were not achieving anything. I thought that walking might help get more people interested in doing something and demanding action. People need to see that somebody cares, and that was the only way I could think of to make a sacrifice that showed how much I care.

What is the main message that you wish to convey?

It's still our democracy. Maybe it is hanging by a thread, but it is still ours if enough of us will take ownership of it. Our government should be an expression of our common goals and values. It's presently the antithesis of American values. But we can get it back.

Why is the issue of campaign finance reform so close to your heart?

Big money is the root cause of the distortions in our politics today. It is the tumor, the poison. I think we all now know this.

Granny D. Photo by Dennis Burke What was the most important lesson that you learned during your journey?

That our main contest is not left versus right, but the people versus the power of corrupted wealth.

How has politics changed in your lifetime?

There have always been parts of our society who have not been well-represented by the politicians. Now that part has expanded to nearly all of us. We finally all get to see what the poor and the minorities have suffered: politicians who lie for our votes and do nothing for our benefit. In a way, that is a great improvement, as now we can see what needs to be done: take the money out of politics, create fairer systems of representation, and make it so anyone can run for office and serve her or his neighbors.

How have people reacted to your trip?

Almost always with a smile and with warmth. Not too many think I am crazy, but they might if they knew me better.

Who did you meet in Washington once you arrived there?

There were 2,300 walkers waiting for me in D.C. They all walked the last miles to the Capitol via K Street. Jim Hightower led the march. A number of members of Congress joined the march and made speeches on the Capitol steps. Meetings with Congress members were arranged for the next day. Subsequent trips and events and Hill visits occurred over the next two years as the bill moved from Senate to House to the White House.

What was their reaction?

Some Congress members took me quite seriously; others thought I was a curiosity. Some would not meet with me. When necessary, I threatened to walk across a Senator's state during their next election if they would not support the reform bill. I did that with

the woman Senator for Washington state, and she stopped supporting a poison-pill amendment that was causing trouble. So I was useful.

How long did it take you to complete the journey and how did you manage it physically?

The 3,200-mile walk took 14 months. I rose early and walked about seven miles, took a nap, and then did another three miles. I could manage that every day. Volunteers had a support car so that I had a place for water and for the nap. Other volunteers along the way put me up at night. I met hundreds of people, and many of them became important fighters for reform.

Watch NOW reports on campaign finance reform and special interest money:

» Votes for Sale?

» Lawmakers or Lawbreakers?

Related Links:

"Granny D: You're Never Too Old to Raise a Little Hell"

Granny D. Goes to Washington Website

Granny D. on PBS

YouTube: Granny D Documentary Trailer

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