A small turnout and virtually nonexistent public profile failed to dampen the spirits of Democratic presidential hopeful Larry Agran last night, as he spoke about his campaign at the Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics.
Agran, a former mayor of Irvine, Calif., has been plagued with media inattention since he announced his candidacy on August 22.
"To many of you I might still be 'Larry Who?'," he acknowledged.
But Agran assured the crowd of approximately 100 that he is a serious candidate. He decried the lack of Democratic presidential candidates who are willing to say "bold and visionary things about the end of the Cold War."
Agran's speech foused on what he called the "New American Security" that has come with the end of the Cold War. He attacked President Bush, Bush's Republican backers, and "the complicity of a go-along Democratic party" for failing to take advantage of the end of the Cold War by drastically cutting the military budget.
Calling present military spending levels "absurd," Agran said such expenditures indicate America has a "Rip Van Winkle President and a Rip Van Winkle Congress which has just slept through the end of the Cold War."
He proposed cutting the national military budget in half by initiating an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Western Europe and Japan.
Agran said that such a move, along with a multilateral weapons freeze and cuts in military research, would result in a "real peace dividend of 150 billion dollars a year."
"This money can and should be redirected at home," Agran continued. He went on to detail a precise economic agenda for the country. According to his program, 25 billion dollars a year would go directly to cities and towns to be used for such projects as public health clinics, libraries, police forces and improved transportation, he said.
Agran disparaged President Bush's educational policies, attacking the "voodoo education reform of the so-called education president." He said 15 billion dollars of his proposed military cuts would go directly to school boards.
The remaining 110 billion dollars of this peace dividend would go to environmental protection programs, an improved national health program and deficit reduction, Agran said.
This money would also be used to ensure jobs for soldiers and civilians employed by defense industries. "These people should be the beneficiaries, not the victims, of the Cold War's end," he said.
Last night's small crowd was enthusiastic in its support, giving Agran a standing ovation at the speech's close. Many spectators said they were unsure about his chances for success, but found his sincerity and unabashed liberalism refreshing.
"He makes too much sense for a politician," said Lisa M. Schoenbach '93. "I loved him."
"I find him down-to-earth and engaging," said Aretha D. Davis '93. "This is a guy who I can place a lot of faith in. He's an underdog, and I like that.