(This was one of a number of blog entries on my U.S. Senate campaign website.)
September 10, 2002
I was at Ocean County College in, surprise, Ocean County, N.J. yesterday and had a new experience. I was at the table in the student center that local Greens had set up to register voters, distribute literature and talk to people about my candidacy. A student came over who knew one of the local Greens and she was introduced to me. She looked at me, took my hand, her mouth dropped, and she wasn’t able say anything for about 15-20 seconds. I guess you’d call it something like “star-struck.” She had heard about me and knew enough about me that she had this reaction.
I thought afterwards of the one time (that I can remember) that this happened to me. I was in my early 20’s, living in Washington, D.C., and I was at a program where one of the speakers was a dynamic African American man, Owusu Sadaukai, who I had read about and whose articles written by him that I had read. He was a national leader in the movement in solidarity with the countries of Africa which, at that time in the early ‘70s, were engaged in organized efforts to expel Portuguese colonialism and to overthrow apartheid in South Africa. I had been impressed by what I read and by what I heard.
I went up to him after his dynamite speech and I just stood there looking at him. He looked at me a bit and then looked around, seemingly feeling uncomfortable. I think I finally recovered enough to tell him how much I appreciated what he had said.
I don’t think of myself as a celebrity and in most respects I’m not. In part because of this campaign, however, I am in a different position than I usually am, which is more of a behind-the-scenes organizer encouraging others to speak up and get some of the limelight. I believe in that; I don’t believe in one person always being the public spokesperson. I believe in the sharing of tasks, responsibilities and leadership roles.
We don’t need more celebrities who bask in the limelight. We certainly don’t need more public figures who use their celebrity to feather their personal nests.
I like what Lao-Tse had to say. I hope I continue to like it and work to live it out, as best as I can given whatever “celebrity” I might be now acquiring within New Jersey:
“A leader is best
When people barely know he exists.
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him,
Worse when they despise him.
‘Fail to honor people,
They fail to honor you.’
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, ‘We did this ourselves.’