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2012-12-19

Michael Moore’s Poetic Plea to Obama: "Dear Mr. President, Please Let Leonard Peltier Come Home"

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Singers Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger hosted the "Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012 Concert" at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on Friday to raise awareness of Peltier’s 37-year ordeal and plea for executive clemency from President Obama. Peltier is the Native American activist and former member of the American Indian Movement who was convicted of aiding in the killing of two FBI agents during a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Among those who spoke was Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore, who read a poem he wrote urging Peltier’s release. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Pete Seeger, rarely singing on stage, but singing "Turn, Turn, Turn" last Friday night at the Beacon Theatre in New York City at a "Bring Leonard Peltier Home" concert and rally. I’m Amy Goodman, here with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Last week, we reported on how presidents typically pardon more prisoners during the holiday season than at any other time during the year, and we looked at the renewed calls for clemency for one of America’s most well-known and longest-incarcerated prisoners: Leonard Peltier. Well, today, we revisit the case with Peltier himself. He spoke with Democracy Now! Saturday from the U.S. Penitentiary at Coleman, Florida, where he’s currently held.

Peltier is the Native American activist and former member of the American Indian Movement who was convicted of aiding in the killing of two FBI agents during a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. The incident occurred two years after the American Indian Movement occupied the village of Wounded Knee for 71 days. During that time, some 64 local Native Americans were murdered; most of them had ties to AIM. Their deaths went uninvestigated by the FBI. Leonard Peltier has long maintained his innocence. Amnesty International considers him a political prisoner who was not granted a fair trial.

On Friday, singers Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger hosted the "Bring Leonard Peltier Home in 2012 Concert" at the Beacon Theatre in New York City to raise awareness of his 37-year ordeal and plea for executive clemency from President Obama. Among those who spoke was Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Michael Moore.

MICHAEL MOORE: I have followed this case for a very long time and the idea of how we incarcerate people in this country. Millions tonight sit in prison. And Leonard is there for a crime that he didn’t commit and has served 37 years, enslaved in a pen. What will history write about us in how we locked up some of our best people? There, but for the grace of God, go you or I.

Today I woke up, and I was inspired by his poetry, so I decided to write a poem for him. And I will read it to you first, and then I will—somehow I’ll get him on the phone and read it to him myself. So, here it goes.

Dear Mr. President,
please let Leonard come home.
Let him be home for Christmas.
That would make my Yuletide gay.
Let his troubles be far, far away.

He has been gone some 37 years.
Just think of what he’s missed.
I want to take him to Ikea
and see if he can figure out
how to put a coffee table and matching bookcase together.
I want to take him to Starbucks
and show him the difference
between a grande and venti.
I’d like to bring him to my home
and sit with him and watch The Bachelorette
and see if he can guess
who will get the single red rose.
I want to ride the 7 train with him
and go to Citi Field,
named after a bank
that fleeced millions of people,
and show him that the Mets still suck,
although 10 years into his prison term
they didn’t.

I want to show him all of this.
Twenty women in the U.S. Senate,
an African American in the White House,
and no soda over 12 ounces in New York City.
And maybe, just maybe,
he can help us with the next Occupy,
the next battle,
to stand with the millions
who are in need of a courageous leader,
now more than ever.

Please, Mr. President,
let Leonard Peltier come home,
for we shall all bury our hearts
at Wounded Knee.

Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Moore, speaking on Friday night. Special thanks for that footage to filmmaker Lorna Tucker.

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