Sunday, May 29, 2005
 
Uppie Award Address By Senator Barbara Boxer
Eighty-three years ago Upton Sinclair was arrested right outside this beautiful theater. And his crime? Reading aloud from the Bill of Rights to a group of organizers who were fighting for our liberties. Tonight, we must do much more than just remember Liberty Hill... Let's face it. It is often hard and, yes, lonely to raise our voices on behalf of our most basic rights and liberties. Those gathered at Liberty Hill knew that. You certainly know that. And believe me, so do I. But it's never been more important. When legitimate questions about how we wage war and pursue peace are labeled as unpatriotic, we must make our voices heard. When America's workers are threatened, whether it's their wages or their benefits or their right to organize, or their social security, we must make our voices heard.

And yet, when the basic right of dissent is under attack, we must make our voices heard. The right wing in this country is plotting--plotting to change the rules of the Senate and outlaw filibusters of judicial nominations. The reason? They want it all. It's the arrogance of power. We've confirmed 208 of President Bush's nominations and only blocked ten. And those are the most extreme. I'm talking about judges who are completely out of the mainstream. Judges who could spend a lifetime on the bench undermining the protections that many of you have spent their lives defending. And yes, judges who should be forced to get sixty votes. This isn't about some arcane rule. It's about the role of the minority. The role of minority voices. It's about silencing voices with whom you don't agree.

We should never be afraid of debate and disagreement. They are the stuff of our democracy, the foundation of our country. And the promise of the First Amendment that Upton Sinclair read eighty-two years ago. And I'm quoting: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." More than 200 years later it is up to us, now to fulfill those promises.... If we lose our right to dissent, if we lose minority rights, if we lose America as we know it, then the world will lose a beacon of freedom that has been uplifting for so long.

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