It is not very often that I find John McCain and myself admiring the same woman, and yet here I am about to write about a woman who McCain called a true patriot and a blessing to our nation. Something felt a little fishy … but, it’s all Lawrence Lessig’s fault. You see, in the 2014 Thanksgiving issue of Time Magazine, Lessig was asked to comment on who he admired and was grateful for, and he waxed enthusiastically about Doris Haddock. So, of course, off I went to find out a bit more about Mrs. Haddock (I am just trying very hard here to refrain from some comment about swimming up stream to find information about her, but that would be too fishy even for me, so I will try to reel myself in).
So then, what is it about Granny D, as Mrs. Haddock preferred to be called that resonates with me? Well, I have to admit that now that I am retired, there are days when I look back at my life and think, I did OK, but . . . but there are so many things that I wanted to do that I never quite got around to trying, things I started and never quite finished. And I am inspired by an 88 year old woman who looked around, said to herself, something is not right here, and set out to draw attention to that! Here’s what she did.
Back in 1995 Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold proposed some legislation to regulate campaign financing. Short version of that story, their efforts failed.
Somehow, campaign financing caught the attention of Granny D. The story goes that on January 1, 1999 Granny D left the Rose Bowl Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena California and set out walking. She walked about 10 miles every day for 14 months. She walked across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, heading to Washington DC. Of course she made speeches along the way and gathered mass media attention as she progressed along her 3200 mile route across the country. On February 29, 2000 a number of the members of Congress walked the last miles with her from Arlington Nation Cemetery to the Capital Buildings on the National Mall. And, the McCain-Feingold Act addressing federal reform of campaign financing did pass shortly after she completed her walk.
Now, you need to realize that Granny D did not wake up on New Years Day 1999 and say, ‘what the heck, I feel like taking a bit of a walk today.’ Granny D did not decide this on her own. A trek like that takes lots of preparation, planning and people. Granny D had a team of support people, she had a community backing her up. She had experience – in 1960 she and her husband campaigned against the testing of nuclear bombs in Alaska; in 1972 she served on the city planning board in Dublin, New Hampshire, her home town. She was well known and active in the community. And at 88 she set out on a 3200 mile walk to raise awareness.
Granny D subtitled her autobiography, which she coauthored with Dennis Burke, “You’re Never Too Old to Raise a Little Hell.” That’s my kind of woman!! So, let’s go out and raise a little bit of hell today in the spirit of Granny D!.
Granny D AKA Ethel Doris Rollins Haddock
Born January 24, 1910 in Laconia, New Hampshire, U.S.
Died March 9, 2010 (aged 100) in Dublin, New Hampshire, U.S.
Occupation Political activist