political campaigns

“Ms. Cahill for Congress”


Well, this is the most upbeat and inspiring story I’ve heard in a long time.

It came out in joyous original trade paperback last fall but somehow fell through the increasingly narrow slats of our distracted media (see *personal note below). Now there’s a chance of resurrecting it, but more about that later, too.

The book is “Ms. Cahill for Congress” (written with Linden Gross; Ballantine; 246 pages; $14), and here’s how it starts:

In 1999, a gifted teacher named Tierney Cahill was introducing the concept of democracy to her sixth-grade class in Reno, Nevada, when she pointed out that in America, anybody can run for office.

Nobody believed her. “You can’t run for office in this country unless you’re a millionaire or you know a lot of millionaires,” one girl said.

Cahill tried again. “All citizens in our country have the right to run for office,” she said. “Would having a million dollars make things easier? I’m sure it would. But not having the money isn’t going to prevent someone from being able to run.”

And the class shot back. “Well, then, why don’t you prove it?” they asked. “Why don’t you run for office?”

*A Personal Note

It just kills me that during the presidential election, Barack Obama stood for exactly what Cahill was telling her students – that anybody (even “a mutt like me,” as Obama half-jokingly to himself) can run for office and be taken seriously. Obama’s belief that the biggest lessons come to us from the ground up, not the top down, couldn’t find a better example than “Cahill for Congress.”

What stopped the media from seeing this book as a great story during and for the presidential campaign? Well, here is one idea: traditional media are failing because they’re addicted to reporting ONE STORY ONLY – Olympics, Election, Super Bowl, 9/11, Oscars, Bank Disasters, War Hot Spots, or Environment [if fun, like electric cars for everyone]).

And newspapers have dropped to the lowest of the low, following rather than leading TV/radio news. No wonder three more just failed. What newspapers have forgotten they do best is to give readers a feeling of community through stories all around us that we don’t know exist. IF editors would get off their own addiction to the ONE LOCAL STORY (mayor, murders, teams, colleges, events, scandals) and assign some real reporting on long-unseen districts and neighborhoods, neglected arts and offbeat human interest features [plus wouldn’t advertisers love to appear in a center spread with a hundred fascinating websites per day called NEWS FROM THE INTERNET], the print version no matter how brief might find a grateful audience returning. It would be great to see newspapers launch a simple campaign that shows people enjoying the morning paper with their coffee under a headline like AH, THE LUXURY OF DOTS ALREADY CONNECTED or some fun thing. Of course they have to connect those dots first.