Knocking Down Walls

In the late 80’s, I had a job doing data entry for LDS Hospital. This consisted of wearing a dress-shirt and dress-pants while sitting in a darkened room entering billing records into a terminal. It was an evening shift so I could attend the University during the day. My boss didn’t mind me taking personal calls, so periodically my friends would call and keep me company. One call sticks out in my memory.

“They’re tearing down the wall,” my friend Ryan called. Ryan was a brilliant Apple ][ programmer who later went on to become an eye surgeon.

“What wall?” I had no idea what he was talking about.

“The Berlin Wall.”

We were witnessing one of the most defining moments of the 20th century. Up until that point, I had always lived with the specter of the Soviet Union in my life. That night the regime that one thought would always be on the other side of the global chess board began to crumble.

Although the Berlin Wall was a symbol of so much more, in retrospect, I see an interesting metaphor. Many walls fell in the 1990’s. Apple introduced the Macintosh and Laser Printer and broke down the walls of printing and publishing. The Sundance Film Festival in Utah became a launching pad for many successful films made with a budget of what could be scraped off credit cards. Then the Internet became commonplace and suddenly anyone could be their own music distributor, news reporter, or international business. These barriers and others have fallen to the benefit of humanity.

In my view, one prominent wall remains, the wall between leaders and the people, the wall that I have been trying to scale for nearly a year.

When I started seriously considering this campaign, I sat down with the XMission staff and shared my thoughts. One wish I expressed was that I wouldn’t fall into the same pattern as many campaigns I have seen; ideas sacrificed on the alter of fund raising, every opportunity to meet people turned into an opportunity to ask for cash, candidates being forced to grovel before people with money in the hope that some of it would come their way. At that October meeting I told my staff that if I was going to run, raising money would not be my primary concern. Time would be the most valuable contribution people could give me. In an effort to model my campaign after the “Open Source” software movement, anyone could contribute at any time.

That ideal was lost. After six months of full-time work, I find myself in the same kitchen in which Democratic challengers have been for the past forty years, following the same recipe. These individuals were committed to their cause, passionate about their work, and nearly all of them raised around $200,000 and hit the end. Momentum raises money, but sadly, money buys momentum. Two candidates I talked to told me that they had no money to buy television commercials and were steam-rollered by the competition who had millions.

Nevertheless, I refuse to to self-finance this campaign in an effort to somehow portray myself as immune from the influence of money. This would only be self-serving and do nothing towards solving the problem. Even though I am a successful businessman who has reinvested back into the community, self-financing would go against the fundamentals of what I am trying to change. Instead of career politicians, attorneys, and millionaires dominating our government, we need citizens like school teachers, scientists, firemen, and mothers. Our desired form of government is a republic, but without broad representation it is merely an oligarchy.

I have resisted using the Internet to its full extent for fear of revealing too much strategy, giving too much away, or stumbling over my own words and saying the wrong thing. This paralysis began to creep into my daily life, turning me into the wooden man afraid to be himself. I will not continue that charade.

“Open Source” at its core means transparency and collaboration. It is a powerful concept that has far reaching implications for society in our future. This campaign will reach for that ideal. One of the most impressive works on the Internet today is the Wikipedia, a completely free, open, and collaborative encyclopedia. I have contributed to and edited the Wikipedia and so can you, so can anyone, right now and without permission. Inspired by what they have done, I have installed their MediaWiki software on my website. If you want to volunteer, here is a good way to start. Together we can craft policy, strategize, and reach out to others.

I have also started a full-blown journal (yes, “blog”) into which I will work to put my thoughts and experiences on a daily basis. Discourse is the foundation of Democracy and this campaign will not be a platform to lecture my constituents. Leave your comments, trackback, and participate.

I look forward to this experiment and I hope you will join me.

“You can blow out a candle
But you can’t blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher”

– Peter Gabriel

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