Bryan Weaver launches council run, with big assist from RFK

As anticipated, Adams Morgan community activist Bryan Weaver launched his third D.C. Council run Tuesday. He did it with a YouTube video — a trademark of his 2010 run for Ward 1 council member and his 2011 run for at-large council member.

His latest video effort is less tongue-in-cheek than his previous clips, with earnest remarks delivered over a photo montage. And those remarks, as it happens, might ring familiar to students of American political rhetoric, as they are mainly recycled from the speeches of fellow Democrat Robert F. Kennedy.

Weaver has previously indulged in homage — his first Ward 1 clip was an admitted and loving ripoff of a famous TV spot by former Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone — but this adoption of another politico’s words is unattributed in the video or on Weaver’s campaign Web site.

Weaver, in a interview, said an early cut of the video included an RFK acknowledgment but “got edited out for time” in the final version. “I wish it was in there, to be perfectly honest,” he said. “That was our intent.”

Attributed or not, Weaver said, he chose the RFK allusions to make a point about District politics and his upcoming Ward 1 campaign: “The thing I really find lacking with what has happened in the District is, we’re sort of missing the optimism factor, and a lot of what Kennedy talked about in the 1960s is completely relevant to what is happening today.”

“Maybe you need an element of Robert Kennedy in politics,” he added.

Here’s an annotated version of Weaver’s announcement:

We’ve all seen the progress in Washington, D.C. Progress is a nice word. But change inspires progress, and change has enemies. (1) Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corruption in our city, when we fail to speak out and speak up, that strikes a blow against this city’s progress. (2) No one should believe that there’s nothing one individual can’t do about the enormous problems facing the District of Columbia. Poverty, unequal education, a housing crisis, corruption of government, cultural ignorance, crime, violence. Few individuals change history but each of us can work to change small parts of our city. (3) Every time that an individual stands up for an ideal or acts to change the life of another or speaks out against injustice, the total of all those individual acts will change D.C. and change our city’s history. (4) Too often in D.C. we honor swagger, bluster, the brokers of power. Too often we excuse those who are willing to build their names on the shattered dreams of others. (5) I’m here to tell you that the future of the District of Columbia will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future of D.C. will belong to those who have the courage to believe in the beauty of their own dreams. (6)

1. “Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator and change has its enemies.” (RFK, from remarks in Chicago, August 1963)

2. “Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.” (RFK, from remarks to the Joint Defense Appeal of the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith, June 21, 1961)

3. “Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation.” (RFK, from the “Day of Affirmation” speech, June 6, 1966)

4. “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” (RFK, ibid.)

5. “Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others.” (RFK, from “On the Mindless Menace of Violence,” delivered to the City Club of Cleveland, April 5, 1968)

6. “The future will not belong to those who sit on the sidelines. The future will not belong to the cynics. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” (frequently attributed to Paul Wellstone; the last portion is often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, though its origin is disputed)

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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Mike DeBonis · March 27, 2013

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