Guest Author - Tracey-Kay Caldwell
Comedian, author and radio host, Al Franken announced his run for the Senate. For Al Franken this is not a joke. He wants you to know he is serious. He said, “Nothing means more to me than making the government work better for the working families of this state, and over the next twenty months I look forward to proving to you I take these issues seriously.
Anyone who has been listening to Al Franken on Air America radio knows that Franken is capable of serious political commentary. He knows and understands the issues, but that hasn't stoped him from explaining them to us in an interesting and entertaining way. Franken explained he grew up in a middle class family, where both parents worked. This provided them with a feeling of security and opportunity. His grades earned him a Harvard education.
But Franken’s wife, Franni, grew in a very different situation. Her father had died in a car accident. Her mother was the sole support for five children. Even with a job in the produce department of a grocery store and Social Security survivor benefits, their often wasn’t enough food on the table and then went without heat in the cold winters of Portland Maine. But all four girls were able to college because of Pell grants. And his brother in law became an electrical engineer because of the training he received in the coast guard. His mother on law got a $300 GI loan to fix her roof, she used the money to got to college and become a schoolteacher. Because she chose to teach poor kids, title one kids, her loan was forgiven.
It was these experiences, with his family, with his wife’s family, that formed the basis of his belief that government should provide the “boot straps” to pull yourself up with. Franken said, “That is what progressives like me believe the government is there for. To provide security for middle class families and opportunity for working poor families like the one Franni grew up in.” he talked how today the world is different from the one that give him and Franni opportunities. Pell grants used to cover 90% of a college education, today they only cover 40%. Many middle class families don’t have the sense of security that he grew up with. They are healthcare crisis away from bankruptcy, the grandparents cant afford the prescriptions, the parents don’t know how they will pay for their kids college education. They don’t know when their love one will return from Iraq or what will happen to him when he does return home. Franken said, “The government should have your back. That should be our mission in Washington, the one FDR gave us during another challenging time; freedom from fear.”
His experience at Air America radio, broadcasting three hours a day, five days a week, gave Franken the opportunity to interact with some the best experts in domestic and foreign policy, to meet national and world leaders. On his show, he explored issue such as the high cost of prescription drugs, the war in Iraq, and the Bush administration’s misuse of scientific research. This should be great preparation for the issues he would face in the Senate. Not many of us have had the opportunity to study and comment on the issues facing America today for three hours a day. Franken has traveled overseas with The USO seven times to visit the troops. E has been to Iraq four times. This has provided him the opportunity to see first hand how things are going over there, to meet with members of the service and speak to the generals on the ground.
Franken finished his announcement saying, “My political hero is Paul Wellstone. He used to say, ‘The future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard.’ I may be a comedian by trade, but I am passionate about the issues that matter to your family because they mattered to mine, too. And I am ready to work as hard as I can to help us build a better future together.” Minnesotans will have the opportunity to elect one of the most interesting men to run for the Senate. If he wins, it will be interesting to see how he liven the debate in the Senate.