There they all were. Lined up, chomping at the bit. Waiting for the signal, any signal, to blast through the gates. All on the same course, wanting to arrive at the same place and at the same time.
The only one between them and the gate was a tiny figure who really would have liked to be on the racetrack too, but the gatekeeper can't do that. How she must have wanted to jump into the saddle herself.
Instead, above the cheers and drumbeat clapping and shouts to let the marches begin, Northern California Congresswoman Barbara Lee (9th District) had to lift her voice and shout, "Now is not the time to march!"
United in their desire to end the war in Iraq now, but devoted to Lee as well, the revved- up audience in Oakland dutifully returned to their seats and awaited her direction on what to do right now. She has that kind of power: she can bring people to their feet and calm them down with the greatest of ease. For not only has she so aptly defined the problems, the tragedies and the results of this unholy war, Lee is widely regarded as the leader who will guide the country off the battlefield.
Although writing a letter to President Bush and members of Congress and the Senate does not feel quite so powerfully dramatic, elected officials know how to read the public's will, and they will respond, Lee explained. Even if it comes to standing up to the president, as many Republicans are also doing.
Raising her voice above the crowd, Lee said patience is in order for the moment, as she skillfully redirected the focus to the magnitude of problems facing cities throughout the country, which demand immediate attention, saying, for the moment, there is more than enough to do while Iraq and the associated war issues are being handled in Washington.
As the crowd tucked away their mental "End the War Now" and "Out of Iraq" signs, they only had to leave the confines of the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building to see before them all that must be done in cities across America. On that very evening, people were on the streets seeking shelter from injustice and the cold and rainy night, food, warmth and dry clothing, medicine, a promise of a living-wage job, and one day without the agony of AIDS.
So now, the party-faithful is asking how long must they await the signal to begin their united, but pent-up anti-war movement?
How long? Not long. Indications are the rest of the country is just moments away from standing and marching shoulder to shoulder with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and other leaders, parents and families to say in one voice, "Bring our troops home — NOW!"
Mona Lombard is the owner of Lombard Communications in Oakland, Calif. She can be reached at