Democratic presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun discussed the spontaneity of her decision to run for president and criticized a remark by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean at GW Thursday.
Speaking to about 30 students from the Elizabeth J. Somers Women’s Leadership Program at the Mount Vernon Campus, Braun said she originally planned to restore her family’s farm in Alabama after her three-year stint as ambassador to New Zealand ended in 2001.
But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks she said she was “animated by a sense of duty to the nation and a patriotic desire to serve.
“Friends and supporters called on me to get back into the political agenda,” Braun said. “They made me realize that it’s not time to go to Walden Pond yet.”
Despite being out of politics for three years and lacking the multi-million dollar coffers of other candidates, Braun said she has an equal chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
“We have an uphill battle, but in the end I hope people can see the strength of my message and the clarity of my vision,” said Braun, who has not emerged as a front runner among the nine Democratic candidates. “I make the government work for people. I tell people what I believe, and I hold myself to it. This is a very serious campaign.”
Braun said her diverse leadership experiences, which include a term as a senator from Illinois and several elected state and county positions, give her an edge over the other candidates.
“I have more experience than most other candidates since I have been a part of international, local and state government,” Braun said. “Also, I have a solid grounding in policy and a legal practice background.”
Braun criticized a comment by Dean, who was forced to publicly apologize after saying he wanted to be a candidate for “guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks” in early November.
“The Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and lynching, and Howard Dean needed to understand that,” she said. “His apology was absolutely necessary.”
She also highlighted several policy differences between herself and President George W. Bush.
“I think we need to bring a different voice to the conversation and expand our democracy in a different direction,” she said. “I oppose the war in Iraq. We need to get back to Congress declaring war as precedent.”
Advocating a single-payer health care system, Braun said the current system is out of date and unnecessarily complicated.
“Right now we are paying for health care in the most irrational way,” she said. “We have this hodgepodge system that tries to blend public systems with private systems, and they don’t fit.”
As the only female black candidate, Braun differs from Bush and his predecessors, who have typically been white Protestant males. However, she said the differences make her fit to be president.
“As Americans, we are all mixed up,” she said. “Every group within this country brings something unique. We are stronger as a country because we bring all these experiences together.”
Braun encouraged students to look at the 2004 presidential election as one that will determine who will decide their future instead of a popularity contest.
“People get too caught up in the politics of an election – such as the candidate’s personality, the ratings in the polls – when the real objective is levers of government and who will make decisions that affect all of us,” she said. “The U.S. needs your active involvement in order to continue the democracy.”