When Granny D Walked Across America
Eventually Jim bought a used camper for his mother to use. On the back he had printed: CAUTION! 90-year-old walker ahead! Support Campaign Finance Reform! The camper is now parked in Jim ‘s driveway, a bright reminder of Doris’s triumph.
When Doris arrived home, the bands played and Dublin threw a big party. The invitations for her to speak seemed endless. Most of us who had bid her good-bye were amazed to find that, 3,200 miles later, Doris looked stronger, younger, more alive. She not only walked 3,200 miles, she also delivered hundreds of speeches, nothing she had ever done before.
In Toyah, Texas, she told the crowd, “We didn’t send our young men and women off to fight for a government of, by, and for the corporations.” In Nashville, Tennessee, she said, “We must provide a public financing system for candidates. Otherwise, the candidates are not honestly offering themselves to us. They are already sold.” In Texarkana, she said, “It’s obscene to have to raise that kind of money [the millions funneled to campaigns] when children are going to bed ill and old people are eating pet food. It’s simply insane.”
Radical words for anyone but Granny D. In Parker, Arizona, she was welcomed by the Marine Corps Marching Band. Along her way, politicians fell in and out with Doris Haddock, trying to set their feet on her untarnished path.
Granny D walked through four pairs of shoes and staunchly refused the contract Nike offered her, in spite of her very real need for money to keep her walk going. She exhausted four sun hats and dozens of walking companions. She walked the walk and talked the talk through 208 towns and 13 states.
At her welcome-home party in Dublin, she said , “I am thankful to New England for raising its children with businesslike severity so that we might be a little tough and more courageous and become, after long lives here, great connoisseurs and critics of beauty and community … Wherever I went across America, people wanted to shake my hand and wish me well, not because they thought I was something special, but because I was someone like them. Americans are not selfish. They are kind and full of great spirit.”
Two months after she arrived home, Doris returned to Washington, D.C., to once again call attention to her cause. Surrounded by supporters, Doris stood in the rotunda of our Capitol building and read the Declaration of Independence. As she read, police arrested her for demonstrating. They put her hands behind her back and cuffed her. She and her supporters (including her son, Jim, and several of her elderly lady friends from the Tuesday Morning Academy) were taken by bus to the police station to be booked. She was released, and a month later she came before the court in Washington to answer charges.
She faced the judge and read her statement: “Your honor, the old woman who stands before you was arrested for reading the Declaration of Independence in America’s Capitol building. I did not raise my voice to do so and I blocked no hall … Your honor, we would never seek to abolish our dear United States. But alter it? Yes. It is our constant intention that it should be a government of, by, and for the people, not the special interests … In my 90 years, this is the first time I have been arrested. I risk my good name, for I do indeed care what my neighbors think about me. But, your honor, some of us do not have much power, except to put our bodies in the way of injustice — to picket, to walk, or to just stand in the way. It will not change the world overnight, but it is all we can do.”
The judge could have imposed a six-month sentence on Doris and charged her $500. Instead he charged her $10, an administrative fee, and praised her for acting on behalf of the “silent masses.” He told her to “take care, because it is people like you who will help us reach our destiny.”
Our walk this morning has been brief, a mere three miles. Tomorrow morning, she will address the Rotary, and the next day she will be at a rally in Boston. Just the week before, she sat on a podium alongside Jane Fonda and Ted Turner at Emerson College, and together, the three of them received honorary doctorate degrees. Next week, she will be addressing the graduates. And in August, she will decline an offer to become the Reform
Party’s vice-presidential nominee. It’s the never-ending story of Doris Haddock.