BYU Alternative Commencement Speech

Complete audio of the entire BYU Alternative Commencement is here.

The most sobering commentary of last night was from the students whose parents had chastened, berated, and even outright abandoned them over their involvement in this event. For a community that prides itself on family values, I was ashamed of what these young men and women have had to go through to speak their conscience. If my children were ever doing a similar event and I disagreed with their politics, I would still be by their sides, cheering them on. I can expect a random knucklehead passing by to lob a thoughtless comment at these individuals, but if you are a parent who abandoned your own child over this, I find it utterly disgraceful. You should be so lucky to have sons and daughters as bright and committed as these.

The text of my speech follows.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

“Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.” – I stole that line from Kurt Vonnegut. I miss Kurt Vonnegut.

My family’s history is rooted in the great conflicts of the 20th century. I am fortunate that these conflicts did not prevent my family from having a history.

My grandfather signed up for World War I and was selected for sniper duty. No doubt due to the amount of time spent sniping deer in the hills of Bountiful, Utah. His entire regiment was called up to be shipped out to France but my grandfather fell ill with the flu. Because the scarlet fever was ravaging America and depleting troops that shipped out with the infection, his commanding officers decided he would stay on base in California until he was well. This short illness saved his life. Nearly all of his regiment was wiped out in France. Snipers primary amongst them.

My mother was ten years old when the Germans overran Denmark in a day. She would vividly recount to me as a child how the Nazi commanders rode horses into the gymnasium of her elementary school in a show of force only to have them defecate on the floorboards. She, like many of her generation in Europe, held a deep seated distrust of anything German for the rest of her life.

My father was 16 when he wanted to join the Navy to fight the Japanese menace in World War II. He pleaded with my grandmother to sign the permission documents. She ended up signing these documents through her tears. At 16 he must have felt immortal because he requested submarine duty, one of the most dangerous jobs in the Navy. Yet my father, who has had 20/20 vision for most of his life, failed the eye exam. He told me that the hand of God must have been on his shoulder at the time. I think he was wrong, for it most definitely was in front of his eyes. Much to the dismay of an eager, immortal 16-year-old, he was placed on a supply ship in the Pacific that never saw any action for the duration of the war.

Throughout most of my childhood, an atomic mushroom cloud floated over my head. The Russians had their finger on the button and Hollywood did a good job of painting the inevitable outcome to me on a regular basis. I caught the tail-end of the ridiculous “duck and cover” and bomb shelter campaigns while I was in kindergarten.

Although I believe these conflicts have little in common with the war we find ourselves in today, one thing remains the same. My grandfather and my parents were told by their governments that the people we were fighting were savage, inhumane animals who cared less for their own children than they cared for world domination. The enemy were not individuals but hive-minded automatons who would fight to the very last man.

Then some wonderful things happened to my family. My older brother was called on a mission to Japan. I struck up a lifelong friendship with a fellow computer geek in Germany. The cold war ended, the Soviet Union collapsed, and now I count many former unknown enemies as my greatest friends.

My brother eventually married a woman from Japan whom he met while studying at BYU. Her father witnessed the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast and lost a sister who was vaporized because she was standing on the train platform unlike his other sister who was standing below it. I had the good fortune to visit the Shimamoto family in Hiroshima and to be taken to the peace memorial that has been constructed on ground zero. Visit this hallowed ground at least once in your lifetime. It is the most profound, moving sight I have ever seen. It changed me forever and convinced me to run for political office. I have no doubt that a day at this memorial can motivate even the hardest heart to work for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for global peace.

Peace between the United States and Japan, Germany, and even former Soviet Union countries seems to be a natural fit now. It is incomprehensible that we would ever find reason to declare war on these former enemies, for we have trade, communication, and most importantly an understanding of people who were once as alien as another planet.

I lament when I read Plato stating, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Will Plato be interminably right until mankind blows out the candle of its existence? I have but one hope. That if Plato had foreseen the Internet, he wouldn’t have been so pessimistic. Communication and trade are the foundations of the Internet, but more importantly, communication and understanding are the foundations of peace.

Today, insurgents, radicals, extremists, the ignorant and the insane have turned war into an entrepreneurial sport. We can no more fight teenagers using bombs and cell-phones with multibillion-dollar-aircraft-carriers and the latest jets than we can kill mosquitoes with a shotgun. If the Iraq war has taught me anything it is that our traditional methods of nation-state defense are currently useless against committed individuals. The inability to grasp this realization is what dates many politicians as dinosaurs in a modern world.

It is said that if you fear death you have a life worth living. The reverse is also true, if your life is worthless you welcome death. This country must work with its allies to make life worth living for all on this planet, or we will face suicidal bombers and campus killers for the remainder of our existence.

Today, I urge you to respond to the entrepreneurs of war by being an entrepreneur of peace. Try an experiment. Go to Google and search for “Iranian Blogs”. You may be surprised by what you find. Reviews of American movies, love poems, cyclists going on European tours. Barely an anti-American rant in sight. Instead a great admiration for our country’s culture and, imagine this, a zest for the basic things in life outside politics.

Then try this, email an Iranian and strike up a conversation. Ask them about the weather. Then wonder if you’ve just been put on a government watch-list in the land of the free and home of the brave. I hate that feeling.

In addition to exporting peace, work on it here at home. Find some common ground with your fellow Americans who may disagree with you politically. Respond to rhetoric with reason. Be open to changing your own mind. The best way to get rid of your enemies is to make them your friends.

Service is an essential part of all our lives. Give back at every opportunity, not only when it is convenient. Through my involvement in Rotary I have learned it costs $2500 to bring clean water to a village, $20 to cure some forms of blindness and $5 for a mosquito net that prevents the most common killer in Africa, malaria. How many hearts and minds could this country win with these cheap, life saving implements rather than expensive machines of death bought on a payment plan? America should be a beacon for what is right with humanity, not a pulpit for ideology.

Congratulations on your graduation. You have met a great challenge and the best is yet to come. There is much work to be done, and I know you can do it. Every day think about peace. Every day think about service. Every day believe that people can coexist no matter our cultural differences. Every day question your political leaders no matter the party and do not fear to speak your mind. This gathering is more than a response. This gathering is the future.

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul – ”We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”

Peace on earth is the most virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy goal I can imagine. I ask you to share it with me.

Banning Open Wireless on KUER RadioWest

Here is a recording of the RadioWest program that I participated on this morning. I was asked in email to post links to some of the things I talked about.

Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee Membership.
Here are the classes that XMission provides at the Salt Lake City library on filtering and tools we make available to parents.
Here is how to use the filter XMission makes available to anyone using our network, including the free wireless locations, at no extra cost.
Here is a list of locations XMission provides free wireless Internet to.
DansGuardian is the open-source software we use to provide filtering. maintains the filters we use and contribute to.
According to this site, China is #1 in pornography revenue. Over double what the US revenues are. This for a country that has officially “banned” pornography.

Here We Go Again

Yet another attempt from the “small-government”, “free-market” Utah legislature to regulate the Internet with SB-236. Ignoring the advice of their own legal council over the ambition of Unspam’s CEO, Mathew Prince, whose past half-baked “Child Email Registry” has also cost Utahns’ tax dollars to defend, the “E-Trademark Registry” passed unanimously.

This attempt to ban competitive forms of keyword advertising is already receiving a goring on the Internet from a variety of sources. How does one gain access to the legislature to write questionable, expensive law to support your business plan and then get repeated access to the pulpit to preach about it? When was Mathew Prince elected to the Utah Senate?

I hope to ask him when we’re both on KCPW’s Midday Metro, Monday at 10:30 AM.


Here is the audio of the show.

“Never refused a debate”

Lincoln / DouglasThis morning I fell through the looking-glass when I heard Senator Hatch being interviewed on KCPW. It is a strange world, where you can accuse the other side of partisanship and obstructionism while claiming you have never done it yourself.

Lara Jones, the interviewer, asked Senator Hatch if he was going to debate his opponent. I was looking forward to his answer because in spite of requesting a debate via registered letter, I’ve heard nothing in response. The closest thing to an answer is Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen fumbling the ball in response to Ethan Millard at SLCSpin. Even though Senator Hatch has most of August off, campaign season apparently hasn’t started yet.

Senator Hatch’s answer? “I’ve never refused a debate in my life.” I suppose that is accurate. He didn’t refuse my request for debate, he ignored it. I gave him opportunity to debate anywhere, anytime, and this is written off in the same breath as, “We’re not going to do it to the ridiculous extreme.”

The seven Lincoln/Douglas debates started in August and were held all over the state of Illinois. I ask Senator Hatch to merely match this effort. Instead of waiting until the last week of October to have one or two, let us allow the public to ask us questions in several open debate forums. Note that Democrat Jim Matheson has already agreed to six debates with his Republican challenger. The Utah State Fair falls in Dave Hansen’s “campaign season”, I see little reason not to have the first debate then.

In any case, Senator Hatch and myself are not the only candidates in this race. The other candidates have graciously agreed to debate this Saturday, August 12th, at 10:30 AM in the Salt Lake City Public Library. I hope to see you there.

BBC Audio, Momster and Blogger Conference

The audio for the BBC interview from last Monday is available here.

My good friend Ellie Pirelli (pictured in this article) from Washington County apparently made quite a splash at the Yearly Kos blogger conference. I saw Ellie before she left and sent her off with some campaign material and then heard from others about the good work she did there. Ellie, you are an inspiration to us all.

I wish I could have attended Yearly Kos, but there were a couple of campaign opportunities here in the state that were too good to pass up. However, I will be a panelist tonight at the Utah Bloggers Conference. Hope to see you there.

Also, today is the last day you can nominate me in the Map Changers Contest. Your help is much appreciated!

Post Convention

Pete SpeechThe Utah Democratic Convention on May 13th was an exhilarating experience. It was humbling to receive such a warm response to my nomination speech and listen to so many people expressing their support. For those of you who were unable to attend the convention, I have put up audio of the nominations and my speech here. In addition, there is television convention coverage from KSL here and here, along with KUTV’s coverage here.

My convention speech was accompanied by a slide-show presentation. I will work towards matching the audio with that presentation and making it available on the website.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who took time out of their Saturday to help at the convention. I could not have done it without you.

In addition to the convention, I did a “Honk & Wave” in response to bad energy policy on the 9th. This event was covered by KSL.

Quality News Network did an interview as part of their extensive 2006 candidate interview series. Be sure to take some time to listen to Tony Seton’s interview of me and other candidates.

The campaign has over 1,000 volunteers signed up and we are working hard to build a database of all of them. I have installed a copy of CivicSpace to help with that. Right now, I need admins who are versed in using Drupal to make this installation of CivicSpace work for the campaign. I also continue to receive some criticism over the usability of the campaign website. If anyone feels like they can do a better job of organizing, design, and keeping things up to date, I am more than willing to hand over the reins. Please email me your design ideas and your past work.

We have distributed over 1,500 signs already! Send in your photos of yard signs and we’ll put them on the website for everyone to see. If you don’t have a sign yet, email our newest intern, Wade Finlinson and we’ll make sure you get one.

The Scarlett “D”

Last night, I was honored to be hosted at a gathering of moderates and conservatives by James and Jenica Humphreys. A Democratic candidate meeting with Republican-minded voters is something that KSL Radio considers newsworthy in Utah. In this radio piece, the Hatch campaign responded by saying, “Ashdown is just custom tailoring his message to his audience instead of taking a stand.”

This attitude from Senator Hatch is not surprising. Ted Kennedy is trotted out repeatedly as an example of “working across the aisle,” but Senator Hatch repeatedly demonizes Democrats for all of society’s ills. During a recent interview on KCPW, he claimed that it was liberals who came up with the “derogatory term”, “nuclear option” in reference to blocking Democratic filibusters in congress. According to the Wikipedia article on the subject it was Trent Lott who first came up with the term, although I liked their first choice better, “Hulk.”

Taking a stand is not exclusive of building consensus. The forum last night was one of the most productive campaign meetings I’ve been to. There was a minimum of rhetoric and a focus on problem solving. Roughly twenty people had taken their Saturday evening off to hear what I had to say and express their views to me. There was rarely a subject that everyone agreed upon, although the sad state of health insurance in this country was prominent. What impressed me about this group is that they were passionate about making America a better place to live. I believe most Americans are, regardless of party affiliation.

James joked with me after the meeting that the “Scarlett D” is what keeps conservatives in Utah from listening to anyone from the “other side”. Conservative bloggers in Utah have been agonizing over whether they can stomach voting for a Democrat since Urquhart left the race. Understandably, it is hard for anyone to put trust in a politician. Since I have never run before, you can judge me on what I have done with my business. I was honored that the most conservative guy in the room last night, Vince, wanted to get his picture taken with me because he admired how I run XMission. I have had many opportunities to sell XMission for considerable amounts, but I haven’t because I knew it would have been bad for my employees and worse for my customers. Why would I sell out my constituency for anything less?

What I have been advocating in this campaign is openess and transparency in government, along with open access for interested parties to give their input on subjects that concern them. Today’s Salt Lake Tribune has an editorial by BYU philosophy professor Jeffrey Nielsen about just this. Thomas Jefferson endorsed the idea of “peer councils” and it is only now through the use of the Internet we truly have the ability to put this into action.

Good solutions are non-partisan, they simply solve the problem. I believe the best way to fix America’s problems is for everyone to work on them rather than promoting partisan ideologies.

BYU Democrats

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with a group of BYU Democrats. I recorded the meeting with the intention of placing it online.

Suffice to say, don’t buy the iRiver T30 if you’re looking for an MP3 voice recorder. I returned it the next day after I managed to extract the recording with much pain through Microsoft’s MTP protocol.

Anyway, I edited only the volume on this recording. The beginning consists of a presentation I have been showing to groups. I am working towards putting a narrated version of this presentation online. What follows the presentation is Q&A with the individuals who attended.

Many thanks to all at BYU who set this up and participated in this meeting.