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Manitou Springs tribute to my mother

Lifetime achievement awardMANITOU SPRINGS- (Last night my mother Kathy Verlo was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Open Space activists at the Manitou City Council. I was overcome by their gracious tribute. Here are the notes I prepared in thanks.)
 
I’d like to thank you so much for this recognition of my mother, and assure you that my father very much wanted to be here today. He intended to be here, but inadvertently scheduled a trip, and as an afterthought realized the conflict. He asked me to relay his gratitude and apology.

It is actually fitting that my father is missing this meeting by being away on a trip, because travel was always a bone of contention he shared with my mother. They both liked to maintain their connections around the world, but my mother’s sense of obligation to the local community was very strong, and when she served on the city council, her responsibilities became more regimented. When my father would propose an idea for a trip, my mother would agree, so long as she could be back to Manitou by the next Tuesday City Council meeting. This posed an interesting challenge for their travels. Sometimes Mom would have to return early, often she would not go along at all. So it is hardly a coincidence that after her death, my father has been away with more frequency.

I relate this detail about my mother, not to reflect on her dedication to this city, but to illustrate the determination she showed to make a difference, and the effort she knew it required. I can imagine that all of you serving on the council right now know full well this task. I’m sure a number of you are very reluctant to miss a single meeting, less the interests of opposing parties take advantage of your absence. This was how my mother was able to hold steadfast to the ideals she believed in. This was the strategy required to stand firm against the development of areas now celebrated as open space. She lost plenty of battles, but with a great deal of help from you, won some important ones, and that’s why we are here today.

Now… in Kathy’s spirit, I would like to divert my remarks for a moment. I’ll confess straight off I’m barely brave enough to do it without this preamble, but I’d like to take advantage of this podium to address an important issue, and I hope some of you recognize this as vintage Kathy. No matter the occasion, it was never about my mother, but about what could be accomplished with each given opportunity. You could be discussing last week’s flier, but at the same time, she would be handing you another flier.

I have to rush from this meeting, to another scheduled at the same time, the annual meeting of the ACLU, where we are discussing free speech and the limitations being considered at the State Democratic Convention to be held in Colorado Springs in May. There are plenty of issues to protest, relative to what neither major party is doing, and I hope any or all of you seize this chance to advocate for your particular concerns when the state delegates arrive to put together their party platform.

As well, I’ve passed out fliers to many of you already about an event happening this Sunday at Colorado College, related to KRCC 91.5 on the radio. Amy Goodman, of the news show Democracy Now, is paying a visit, and will speak about the current state of the nation at 3 o’clock on Sunday. Please come. We worked very hard to bring Democracy Now to KRCC, my mother included, but they’ve put the show in a terribly unpopular time-slot, 7pm weekdays. Are you able to listen to Amy Goodman at that time? Undoubtedly not. In fact, she’s on right now, and we are attending a meeting. One of many.

Democracy Now is a wildly popular news program, wherever it’s carried. Many people stream it off the internet, and it keeps everyone so much better informed than the usual corporate media sources, including NPR. Public radio listeners think they are well served by NPR until they hear Amy Goodman, and then they become just sick about how they are being betrayed by corporate spin.

We have to spread that sickness to as many people as possible. If we can convince KRCC to reschedule Democracy Now to the morning drive hour, many more people will, not by accident, become immediately better acquainted with world events. There will be no more uncritical interviews with only government spokesmen or think-tanks to hear “the surge is working” or to keep placing a question mark after “global warming.”

If more of your friends and neighbors get to hear more than the corporate-interest-only news, you won’t have to do as much proselytizing yourself. You will more readily find agreement on issues that benefit our community. Like the environment, and health care, and social inequity, and peace. Instead of the media diverting us with issues like Free-Tibet, more of us will question “hey, is the CIA behind the unrest in Tibet?” Fewer of us might advocate for militarized intervention to Save-Darfur if we are asking “hey, is this about our oil companies fighting with China over who gets their hands on the Sudan?” The list goes on.

The opportunity Democracy Now presents is an urgent one. All of you, I know, have interests in bettering our community and in particular issues you’d like to become better understood. Your biggest hurdle is an uniformed public, and your biggest adversary by far is the media which keeps them that way. We can seize hold of that media, locally, by making it more responsive to the people. Like any enterprise, there will be so much less to do later, if we do more now. Please come on Sunday and lobby KRCC to do this for the community.

I’m going to make this same appeal tonight to the ACLU folk, and other ensuing gatherings this week, so I hope we can bring some real support this weekend.

I impose on you like this with the full confidence that my mother would support this plea, as she was fully supportive of every of my efforts –like any good mother, and so I should add– in particular those that advocated for the benefit of all.

I thank you for this opportunity. I apologize if I’ve taken undue advantage, but in the spirit of my mother I remind you –and you know this– the struggle lives on. Thank you on behalf of my father, and my sisters. As much as my mother would have quickly turned to re-gift this award to the nearest person in the room who she considered more deserving or perhaps someone who she suspected would grow by the encouragement, I accept it on behalf of her family. Your recognition of my mother really does mean a great deal to us.

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