Wisconsin MLK Award to James Groppi "accepted" by his widow

When authority stands silent in the face of abuse, it becomes complicit. Father James Groppi’s widow is definitely not complicit.

“As a person who got her start in the civil rights movement by volunteering to work on Southern Christian Leadership voter registration campaign in Alabama, I know that those who oppose any curtailment of voting rights are not in the traditions of Martin Luther King and James Groppi.

As the widow of a man who after we married not only drove a bus, but became president of local 998 Amalgamated Transit Union, as a person who remembers that Martin Luther King was killed while he was working to organize sanitation workers, I know that anyone who works to curtail union rights is not in the tradition of Martin Luther King!

And as someone who is a member of a family that loves Wisconsin’s natural resources, I know, that if you endanger those resources, you are not standing with us.

You do not get arrested thirty plus times, you do not get assassinated, for being a photo-op do-gooder. Father James Groppi was more, and did more, and so he lives on. He believed in addressing the root causes of poverty, and those causes are backwards social policy. He believed in the tradition summarized by St. Thomas Aquinas that the “super-abundance of the rich belongs by natural right to the poor.” He believed, like Frederick Douglas, that “power concedes nothing without a demand: it never did and it never will.”

“So what I want to do most of all before I close here is to thank those who are standing up in the tradition of Martin Luther King and James Groppi. I want to thank Voces de la Frontera and their youth group, YES. I want to thank the people on strike at Palermo’s Pizza. I want to thank The Overpass Light Brigade and The Solidarity Singers, and the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, people who took care of this land before my grandparents came from Poland…”

When the people govern, authority rests with the people. It is because our agents are likely not to want to hear our rebuke that they must be prohibited from interfering with our speech.