By Jerry Waxman
Sometimes fate can fall into your lap when you least expect it. During the presidential campaign season I not only advocate for various causes, but I tutor and manage progressive candidates for low level elective office from Circuit Judge to Soil and Water and City or County Commission seats. I knew of Jill Stein only casually when she was nominated by the Green Party thinking to myself “Oh well, another name on the ballot,” but she really piqued my interest when she and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, were arrested for disturbing the peace at Hofstra University protesting the presidential debates on Oct.16. Two more arrests happened in quick succession during the heart of the campaign. She was again arrested in Texas on Oct. 31 for trespassing while bringing food to the Keystone XL pipeline protesters. She and Honkala were arrested again on August 1 in Philadelphia during a sit-in protesting Fannie Mae foreclosure policies. Crazy, said I. In the heat of the election, where she needs every vote she can get she goes out and gets arrested three times! I wish every candidate had that kind of courage. Images of Eugene V. Debs crossed my mind. Stein is a natural successor to Ralph Nader and her thought processes are very much in line with his, without the hard edges. With all due deference and respect to Nader, he could be hard to take. Stein has plenty of charm and charisma and when you are in her company she makes you feel special. What she lacks are people who will vote for her and her Green Party.
A little more than two months ago Jim Howe, a labor and Green Party activist whom I met during Occupy Orlando asked me to cover the Anti TPP rally in Tampa which I did and I wrote an article on it called The Enemy Beneath. There was also another planned rally in Orlando in May. During this period of time Howe asked me if I would like to meet and interview Jill Stein, who would be at the Florida Green Party conference May 25, 26 & 27. I immediately answered “Of course I would!” So, I started reading up on Jill Stein’s history from every resource I could find. Most of what I found is readily available on line and I needn’t go into it, other than the fact that a life threatening condition changed her into a nonpareil activist, and eventually caused her to run for elective office. In the interview she describes that incident in an almost hilarious way. After doing the research I had a pretty good idea what she was about but there were some gaps that I wanted filled so I was really looking forward to it. Howe informed me that I was scheduled for a full hour at 9:00 A.M. Saturday morning. I thought that was terrific; I could drive over Friday evening, get the interview and get out of Tampa early.
“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley”—Robert Burns
There was a Green Party get together in a coffee house Friday night where the main speaker was talking about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to it because I spotted my friend Billy from Occupy Tampa who traveled to DC with me in December 2011 and got arrested on the Supreme Court steps. I spotted Jill Stein across the room and eventually made my way to her, but not before I had made a comment on a question to the speaker about the impact that the J Street lobbyists are beginning to have. When Jill and I finally met she thanked me for my J Street comments. I told her that I was looking forward to the interview in the morning. Unfazed, she asked me “What interview?” It seems that everyone who arranged the interview neglected to inform her about it. After conferring with the Green Party Coordinator, Friedmann Buschbeck, who was her official escort for the event, we agreed that the interview would take place a little later in the day, and we may not get a full hour.
That meant that I had to alter my schedule. I had to attend the conference, which I did and at the same time I could record Jill’s remarks to the attendees, do the interview and perhaps get to see a friend, Bill Bucolo, in St. Pete who is heading up a statewide environmental caucus for the Democratic Party. No such luck! She didn’t show up until 11:00 and went right into her hour long presentation. I did make a lunch date with Bill in St. Pete because Friedmann and I agreed that we would do the interview after the March against Monsanto, around 4:00. Here are the three videos of her presentation. Here also is another video of Jill at the March Against Monsanto.
During lunch Friedmann called to say there was a change in plans and that they would be coming to St. Petersburg to give a talk at the History Museum at 7:00. So, there I was stuck for a few hours and I’d have to wait until the speech was over. After a full day of events and speechifying I’m wondering if she’ll be in any condition to do the interview. When she finally arrived she looked as fresh and perky as she had in the morning and I was just hoping she’d be in the mood after the event.
Friedmann and I agreed that the interview would take place as soon as the program was over. There were a few other speakers before her, and by this time a capacity crowd had assembled, including another friend, Jay D. Alexander, who occupied Washington D.C. with me. Jay ran unopposed for local office and is now an elected official in St. Petersburg. Jill’s speech was too long to get in one take so here it is via part one and part two. Here’s the video of her Q&A.
Finally, at approximately 9:15 that evening after a very short break we got to do the interview. Twelve hours late but well worth it. Before we turned on the camera I complimented her on her stamina and commented that her unflappability and poise when talking and answering all sorts of questions reminded me of some of the best con men in the business selling time shares or shady securities. I meant it in a good way and we both had a chuckle. She revealed things about herself that are not generally reported. She talked about her life as a child. Her very middle class existence, and even though she graduated from Harvard, she originally started out at Radcliffe, which gave me a lot more to work with. She took a year off before going to Harvard Medical School to become a professional musician, but she gave it up because she found it too difficult. We talked about her poetry, her favorite books and she revealed that she’s not the reader in the family; her husband is. I had wrongly assumed that Don Quixote was her favorite read. What she did reveal was that although she is technically adept, she has the soul of an artist. Here’s the complete interview and it’s well worth the look.
The interview is over and we’ve all been invited to a party. Now I know that I’m not going back to Orlando that night. It also gave me a chance to catch up with Jay, who is still trying passionately to restart the CCC, and has lobbied Congress incessantly about it. At the party Jill said her goodbyes and we hugged in the way that long lost friends do. I felt tired, of course, yet giddy about the whole experience.