05/22/2007 10:23 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Speech to Progressives: "Get Busy Living, Or Get Busy Dying"

On Friday, I was honored to give the keynote address to this year's Montana AFL-CIO Convention in historic Butte - a town that has been at the forefront of the labor movement's most important struggles. I entitled my speech "Get Busy Living, Or Get Busy Dying" - a reference to The Shawshank Redemption's haunting message. This is a particularly important message for organized labor and the progressive movement, as we watch the Democratic Party attempt to triangulate against us on the key issues of trade, corruption and the Iraq War that drove the 2006 election. Will we as a movement get busy living and demand that our friends stand up for us? Or will we get busy dying and be too afraid to make demands because that would make people in power uncomfortable?

The speech, which followed a fiery address by my friend Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), was of particular importance considering Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee - the panel that oversees many of the most important economic issues.

The Nation magazine decided to reprint the speech in full on its website. You can find it here (I would re-post it in full here, but I think it's important for the progressive movement to drive traffic to our progressive publications when we can). In addition, please see today's update on the Secret Trade Deal, as it includes details on how Democrats seem to be contradicting themselves on whether they will approve President Bush's request to reauthorize fast track trade authority - the authority that allows presidents to strip labor, human rights and environmental provisions out of trade deals.

These fights are too important to back away from. It's time for us to choose whether to get busy living, or get busy dying.