Inside Bush's Motivational Speech
Editor’s Note: When ex-President George W. Bush debuted as a motivational speaker at one of those high-energy pep rallies for people trying to get inspired, activist Leslie Harris and a companion infiltrated the crowd with a hidden banner.
In this first-person account, Harris describes the scene – and what happened next:
George W. Bush was scheduled to be one of the “inspirational speakers” at a “Get Motivated!” seminar at the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena. The irony was not missed by many of us that Bush and his administration were less than inspirational.
Or, more to the point, much of what they had inspired was illegal, immoral, or criminally negligent -- and that George W. Bush should be in The Hague, rather than being celebrated while inspiring others to be like he is.
The sizeable group of people who were ready to go to Fort Worth on Monday morning to demand accountability of Bush and his cabal waned along with the sunshine, as warnings permeated the news about thunderstorms, high winds, flash-flooding, and freeway stoppages in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex.
In the end, only “Intrepid Nel” and I were able to make it there. By the time we sloshed our way downtown from the suburbs in traffic, found a place to park (all the lots were full), did a wardrobe & prop check, stopped for a bathroom break, and walked the eight blocks in the rain, we had already missed Colin Powell.
Not to worry, Bush’s appearance was still to come. We climbed the stairs to find a huge arena, filled with thousands of wildly cheering “fans.” It was similar to walking into a professional football arena during a play-off game. Literally, the crowd roared.
It would have been fun, if they were cheering for peace, or justice, but given the nature of the seminar, we felt like fish-out-of-water and found it pretty intimidating.
We had read that Peter Lowe, who puts on these extravaganzas with his wife, Tamara, often gives a gospel message before speakers and “is a Christian, card-carrying conservative Republican since age 22 with a huge ministry… and . . . thousands of people have come to know Christ as a result of testimonies at the Success Seminars,” and that the seminars “imbibe and combine spirituality, music, patriotism and other inspirational messages from Peter. Peter has immense faith in Jesus Christ and spreads the gospel through such seminars.”
And, at the low price of only $19.95 for your whole office to get in, we wondered if the seminars were really used as a way to peddle get-rich-quick schemes or other such “inspirational” materials, in between famous speakers.
Not knowing exactly when Bush would appear, we scouted out possible places to unfurl our big “ARREST BUSH” banner at an appropriate time. Would it take them longer to come get us if we were up high in the middle of a row, or should we try to get down on the ground floor?
We went out and down the stairs and tried the entrance to the bottom floor. Thanks to Intrepid Nel’s charm, we eventually found ourselves just inside the entrance to the “up close and personal floor.”
We just kept walking up closer to the front until only Security was between us and the stage. The seats in the front row were full, so we just stood next to them. People were dancing in the aisles, so we joined in.
The “motivators” divided the arena into quarters and chose four people from the audience to be “team leaders.” Anything they did, their team (their 1/4 of the audience) was supposed to do. They pumped up the music, and the team leaders started gyrating -- just “going ape” and doing whatever they could to make their team the most outrageous and therefore The Winner.
The arena looked like it was full of thousands of people having seizures. People all around us were flailing and bumping into us. It was downright scary, and I said to Nel, “This says so much about what’s wrong with America!” It was a “mass inspiring,” pumping people up into a “patriotic frenzy” about how to “be successful” (read: make money) and be players on The Team, i.e., The Sheeple.
Our impulse was to run away screaming, but in view of the fact that hundreds protested Bush’s appearance in Canada last week, we knew we couldn’t let his appearance at home go uncontested. So, we stayed there and tried to fit into the crowd.
After we’d been standing there by the stage for only ten or fifteen minutes, the “motivator” began introducing the next speaker. To our surprise, she told the crowd that they’d love the next speaker . . . the two-time governor of Texas.
Whoa! It took a while for it to register, as we thought they’d probably save Bush for the end. But, no.
In a few seconds, to loud music, wild cheers, and exuberant adoration, Dubya himself came strutting out, right past us, with that big, you-know-what grin, and climbed onto the stage.
Nel said, “What should we do? Should we wait a while? My heart is beating so fast!”
Everyone who had just a second ago been dancing and flailing all around us, sat down in their seats. We didn’t have seats, so we were left standing there, sticking out like a sore thumb.
I said to Nel, “If we don’t go now, either they’ll nab us, or one or both of us will have a heart attack.”
We dug out the ARREST BUSH banner, checked to make sure it was right-side up, and then we unfurled it and waved it as far over the heads of the security guys as we could.
We had about ten seconds of good banner-waving before Security realized what was going on. They grabbed the middle of the banner, and a little tug-of-war ensued.
I told them they couldn’t take our personal property and they stopped for a second to think about it . . . then started yanking again. I said to the biggest guy, who was nose-to-nose with me, “We’ll make you a deal: we’ll go nicely if you let us keep the banner.” Happily, he let go!
Then it was “Okay, ladies, you’re outta here” time, so they began escorting us away from the stage.
It was a long way, through aisles of seats and up a long set of stairs to the exit, and we’d said we’d go “nicely” but hadn’t mentioned anything about “quietly,” so we used the opportunity to quite loudly, all the way out, yell our message to the crowd:
“Bush is NOT inspirational! On his watch: Abu Ghraib, Katrina, 9/11, Gitmo, torture, lies, rendition, illegal spying, illegal, immoral war . . . Bush is NOT inspirational! He’s a war criminal! Torture is illegal!” It was a long way out, so we had a long time to list things and repeat ourselves.
When we got out into the lobby, we kept yelling, and the reception was all positive. The working people got it. I said to the guard escorting me, “C’mon, you agree with us, right? Don’t you wanna help us make a citizen’s arrest?” He gave the old, “Just doin’ my job, Ma’am” response, but he smiled.
The seminar must have done its trick, because we were pumped up, motivated, and inspired to raise more awareness. As soon as we were deposited outside the front door, we got out our ARREST BUSH banner again, and stood directly in front of the Convention Center.
Throngs of people had to pass by us on their way back from late lunches. We’ve done our share of sign-holding in cold and unfriendly territory, but this was one of the iciest receptions yet.
They spewed the expected low-information, Fox-inspired, one-liner comments, that really have no meaning and may give opinion, but no real information, like: “Bush is the best president we’ve ever had;” “I love Bush;” “Get a job!” “We had to go over there so they wouldn’t come over here;” You know the rest.
Others, in the most combative, haughty, and condescending of tones, asked us questions, like, “Would you be doing this if you had friends or family in those towers?” and “Why in the HELL would you want Bush to be arrested?”
There were several quite off-topic questions about Obama’s Czars, but our personal favorite, and the most-asked question of the day was: “Are you with ACORN?”
Most hurled their questions/comments and then ran away when we offered answers. A few stayed and tried to intimidate us for a while, but then ended up retreating (even as we encouraged them to continue the discussion in a quiet, respectful way) when they couldn’t deal with the facts we were giving them in response to their talking points.
One lady filmed us for a long time on her little camera, getting less than two feet from our faces (so the sound would pick up, she said) and spitting out, loudly and aggressively, every right-wing talking point she’d ever heard…”whatdya think of THAT, huh?”
When we calmly and respectfully tried to answer, she’d cut us off and start answering her own question or changing the subject. We told her we’d be glad to answer her questions if she’d promise not to interrupt until we told her we were finished.
After a while, she actually let us speak, but her response to the facts we offered was that “you can’t believe anything any media source (except Fox, evidently) tells you, especially on the Internet.” Sigh.
Hopefully she’ll show the tape to her friends and one or two will absorb a fact or two.
Finally, a person with a news crew from Europe came over and said, “I know we’re supposed to remain objective, but off the record: Why are you even wasting your time with these people? Sometimes you just can’t reason with people who are stupid.”
We told her that we preferred to think it was ignorance rather than stupidity, that we’d done this many times before, and that, even with the toughest of characters, if you can stay calm and interject some facts and truth into the conversation, it can spark a little light-bulb moment, and even bring some people around. Hopefully, that’s what happened this time.
Clearly, the Sheeple were in the majority at this event, but many people did express their agreement or thank us for what we were doing. We hope we were able to raise some awareness in them today and that they will in some way be inspired to “take it to the next level” for peace and justice.
[This story previously appeared at Afterdowningstreet.org.]
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