Loud, heated political debates were commonplace while Cris Stoddard, 41, was growing up. Both of her parents had served in World War II. But when Stoddard had her first direct experience with war during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the self-identified progressive liberal chose to march with demonstrators on Market Street in San Francisco.
Now Stoddard is studying political science at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, focusing on international relations and public policy.
During George W. Bush's presidency, Stoddard has become even more impassioned about grass-roots activism. "I see hope [in the current political landscape] in the fire that's been lit under progressives," Stoddard said.
In April 2003, she helped found the Springs Action Alliance, a left-leaning think tank in Colorado Springs (online at http://csaction.org).
She also responded to her political calling by attending the Democratic National Convention last month as the El Paso County delegate for Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who was the last Democratic presidential contender to withdraw from the race.
Kucinich supporters -- Stoddard included -- wore bright pink bandanas emblazoned with the words "Give Bush the Pink Slip -- Delegate for Peace" as they worked to advance their causes. The top priorities: supporting universal health care; ending the occupation of Iraq by withdrawing U.S. troops and bringing in U.N. peacekeepers; establishing a Cabinet-level Department of Peace to institutionalize a commitment to nonviolence; and defending civil rights for all, including gays and lesbians.
Stoddard was displeased with the message that Kucinich delegates received -- that by voting for Kucinich instead of Kerry, they were trying to subvert the nomination process. But by the end of the convention, her optimism returned.
"From what I personally saw at the convention," she said. "I think that the Kerry campaign did hear our voice and did get what we were about."
-- by Michael Beckel
photo by Blanca Middlebrook