Pete Stark’s Legacy

I was saddened by the news of the death of [former U.S. Rep] Pete [Stark] (“Local Deaths,” Jan. 30). He was an honest, principled, moral man. Below I’ve transcribed a letter he wrote to me in response to one I had sent to him lauding his courage to admit he did not believe in God. 

Also, please find a poem by Dulce Murillo, a math student of mine. She wrote the poem when she was 14. One day my students, who had just come from their English class, asked if they could read their poems. They were so excited I said “yes.” Sometimes things are more important than math. 
I was so impressed with Dulce’s poem I asked if I could read it at a Town Hall in Alameda. 
The rest is, as they say, history.
— Karen Green

Dear Ms. Green:
Thank you for your kind note. I continue to be amazed by the outpouring of support from around the world, all the result of a simple statement of a long-held personal belief.

Some say it took courage to acknowledge being a non-theist. Actually, real courage is exemplified when we work to bring peace around the world through honest diplomacy; address the hunger and poverty that continues to grow amid areas of wealth; provide high-quality health care to every resident; and ensure quality education for all children.

We don’t need divine guidance to tell us what is needed. All we need to do is listen to our neighbors, open our hearts and make the hard political choices that will lead us to a better life for all.
— Pete Stark Member of Congress

Dear Dulce:
Thank you for sharing your insightful poem. I was honored to place it in the Congressional Record on June 3, 2003. Your thoughtful expression of concern about current events is reason to pause and redirect our priorities to insure peace and the welfare of others.

Again, thank you for sharing your poem with me. I have in turn shared it with my colleagues in the House of Representatives. I am hopeful your words will resonate with all who are making decisions of vital importance.
— Pete Stark 
U.S. Congressman

From the Congressional Record of the 108th Congress of the United States:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to share with you the wisdom of a student in my district. At one of my recent town meetings, we were discussing people’s concerns with the President’s war with Iraq. Teacher Karen Green rose to read a poem by ninth grader Dulce Murilla at San Leandro High School.

Sometimes we need to pause and listen to our children — who often have meaningful insights into even the world’s largest problems. I commend this poem to your attention:

It’s all ‘bout the war in Iraq
What are these dumb fools 
   on crack?!
Don’t you see all the lives that have
   been taken
And how many souls have been taken
I hate these moments in history
Like they say life before your eyes
And that our government is full
   of lies
And ask myself why
Why why Why
Why all the pain
Why all the tears
All these fears that haunt us behind
   each corner
This is all so complicated
Did you hear that missile
And did you hear that bomb
Imagine all the lives that have been
And all those children without their
Can’t we have some peace
And just stop the damn tease
Doesn’t it break your heart
‘cause I feel my heart falling apart
After each child that dies
And each woman that is burned
I wish the soldiers would’ve
   thought and turned
Turned back to their homeland to
   the USA
But hey what’s there for me to say

Presented this third day of June, 2003, by the Honorable Pete Stark, a Representative in Congress from the State of California. 

Editor’s note: Pete Stark represented Alameda in Congress from 1993 to 2012.