Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich made an appearance last night at the Church of the Crossroads. People filled the available seats, stood and even set up chairs outside the church's Weaver Hall to hear the Ohio Democrat's speech.

Standing ovations
greet speech by
candidate Kucinich

Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich declared his support of reparations for indigenous people but steered clear of specifically addressing native Hawaiian issues in a speech last night to about 200 people.

"An injury that occurred 400 or 500 years ago still exists today. We must become acutely aware of the history of this country. We must look for a way of curing America's disconnection from its native people," said the four-term congressman from Ohio, a comment that garnered sweeping applause.

In a telephone interview later, Kucinich said he has not decided whether to support the Akaka bill, which would give federal recognition to native Hawaiians.

"My philosophy is to heal all the wrongs that have occurred between America and the indigenous peoples," Kucinich said. "Whether or not Sen. Akaka's bill is going to be that vehicle, I don't know."

People filled the available seats, stood and even set up chairs outside the Church of the Crossroads' Weaver Hall to hear Kucinich's speech. During his hour-long talk and 30-minute question-and-answer session, the congressman got a number of standing ovations.

"He's the only honest candidate out there," said Dr. James Yamasaki, a Honolulu physician. "It's going to be difficult (to win), but we have to try."

Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich was greeted by longtime labor leader Ah Quon McElrath, right. Hawaii was the final stop on Kucinich's 11-state tour, which began last Monday.

Many audience members agreed, and even Kucinich, who trails many of his rivals in opinion polls and coffer size, said his path to the White House could be difficult -- and short-lived.

But some compared Kucinich to former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, who declared his presidential candidacy in mid-December 1974 but managed to gain grass-roots support quickly.

Grant Wise, a laboratory instrument salesman, said Kucinich's speech was uplifting, but "he didn't touch on the economy, and that will be a key issue" in future presidential debates.

Kucinich embarked on an 11-state tour last Monday to formally declare his presidential candidacy. Hawaii is the final stop on his trip, and Kucinich said he was surprised that with no advertising, so many people turned out to hear him speak.

"What a turnout. I'm glad I got there when I did, so that I was able to get in the door," he said, adding that he hopes to return before the presidential primaries.

Kucinich was the first of the 2004 presidential candidates from a major party to visit Hawaii when he made several appearances on Maui Saturday and yesterday morning.

President Bush is expected to arrive Thursday, after a week-long trip through Asia and Australia, for a fund-raising banquet.

Kucinich gained national distinction when he was one of very few federal lawmakers who voted against the Bush administration's Patriot Act -- a law critics say sacrifices civil liberties for security. He vows he will repeal it if elected.

He was opposed to attacking Iraq and has been against U.S. military action in the country.

"Iraq has nothing to do with 9/11, with al-Qaida's role in 9/11, with the anthrax attacks on this country," he said during his speech. "Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, has no ability to attack America and has no intention of doing so."

He said that the Bush administration's involvement in Iraq was aimed at shifting "the debate away from a critical domestic agenda and towards a plan of domination of a culture and the domination of an economy that can't fight back."

As chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Kucinich has promoted universal health care and increased unemployment insurance benefits. In his speech he also supported free preschools and abolishing tuition for undergraduate students at public universities.

Kucinich, a staunch pacifist, has introduced legislation that would establish the U.S. Department of Peace, an agency in support of nonviolent domestic and international policies and relations. He said there are 50 members of Congress who have supported the measure.

Kucinich started his political career when he ran for city council while a sophomore in college. In 1977, at 31, he was elected mayor of Cleveland, a position he held for two years. In 1994, Kucinich returned to politics as a state senator, and two years later was elected to Congress.


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