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Report from Bus Tour
From Arthur Ruger, who spoke to Lietta Ruger of Military Families Speak Out
She was pumpted up tonight.
"We just finished a super great rally tonight in Cincinnati." More on Cincinnati later.
Before leaving Indianapolis we met with aides to both Senator Evan Bayh (D) and Richard Lugar (R).
The meeting with Bayh's aide was productive and we felt that he "got" our message. The aide was responsive, with questions the reflected engagement and interest. At the end of the interview, Lietta gave him her card and told him, "I'd like the Senator to call me." She said the aide appeared somewhat astonished.
She also told me that meeting with these aides in the presence of locals (their constituencies) was very helpful as awareness of the audience was obvious in both interviews.
She was not impressed with the Lugar episode. In her opinion Senator Lugar sent what she perceived as "second-stringers" out to meet with them and they were totally focused on politics as usual.
She felt the aide who spoke the most was intent on stalling tactics, one of his earliest statements being clearly for the constituent audience as he dramatically and pointedly stated that the coffee they were being served was not paid for by tax-payer funds.
He also seemed to be deliberately taking up time, playing against the clock as he listened to each of the group one by one, interrupting to move back to ask a previous speaker a question repeatedly.
She laughed when she told me that - being short-tempered because of not having any coffee until that interview, that she let her passion turn to "impassion, I mean, impatience."
Again when leaving, she handed that aide a card and told him to "Ask the Senator to call me."
"You? You're not his constituent. Why would he call you?"
"Because I have something to say to him." was her reply.
Some of the group members including Lietta were then taken to a college class studying social movements and asked to make a presentation about the various organizations involved in the bus tour. That went well and the class teacher had used the Tour group as a kind of "show and tell" about social activist groups up close.
Then the bus ride to Cincinnati.
They were taken to dinner and a reception at St. George Catholic Center.
One of her highlights she said occured while she was in the parking lot preparing for the panel-discussion/reception about to occur. A young man came out in tears and wanted to speak with her. He had been inside studying the pictures the group had laid out and it had gotten to him. Lietta says she hugged him and told him "What we are doing is about you, your peers, your generation - people your age. You cannot inherit this war at your age."
During the panel discussion and Q&A that followed she made referenence to the incident without naming the young man. He later thanked her.
During the panel discussion she was asked by a young African-American about whether or not the group considered itself as including the impoverished communities - "poor people" - in their advocacy. "Are you reaching out to them (us)?"
At that point the audience applauded his courage.
Lietta spoke at length about the Tour as representing all Americans and touched again on the generational point she had made earlier. She also spoke at length with the questioner after the session.
Finally, "I'm in another host's house tonight and I'm going to take a shower. And tomorrow I'm going to find a store and by a 4-pack of Starbuck's Frappucino's. I'm not going to get caught again having to go so long without coffee!"
And then we talked about stuff that's none of your business before we said goodnight.