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Patch Adams joins Rolling Thunder Asheville lineup


NOTE TO EDITORS: Please note that physician-social activist Patch Adams and media critic Eric Alterman have been added to the line-up of speakers for the Rolling Thunder Downhome Democracy Tour schedule for Saturday, May 3. The following press release includes this new information. Thanks. wally bowen

4-23-03 CONTACT: Wally Bowen, 255-0182

Patch Adams, Jim Hightower, Granny D headline Rolling Thunder festival May 3

Radio commentator Jim Hightower, grassroots activist Granny D, media critic Eric Alterman and physician-clown-social activist Patch Adams headline the Rolling Thunder Down-Home Democracy Tour as it rolls into the Asheville Civic Center on Saturday, May 3.

The day-long festival is a spicy stew of music, films, workshops, spirited speakers and social-action organizations aimed at boosting grassroots activism in western North Carolina.

Hightower, the twice-elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner widely known for his homespun wit and wisdom, launched the Rolling Thunder Tour last spring in Austin, Texas. The tour has since made stops in Seattle, Tucson, St. Paul and Chicago. Asheville is the first stop on the 2003 tour, according to local organizers. Hightower chose the name "Rolling Thunder" for its reference to the prelude to the rain that wets the grassroots and makes them grow.

Patch Adams vaulted to global fame with the 1998 hit movie starring Robin Williams. He continues to run the Gesundheit Institute in West Virginia, combining his medical practice with the healing arts of laughter and community-building. Adams is also a widely recognized activist for comprehensive health-care reform.

Doris Haddock, a.k.a. Granny D, is the 93-year old activist who walked 3,200 miles across America in 1999 to call attention to how money is corrupting the U.S. political system. During the debate over the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform bill in 2001, she walked continuously around the Capitol for seven days, stopping only for catnaps and food.

In a recent birthday speech, Granny D told supporters: "Aren't we privileged to live in a time when everything is at stake, and when our efforts make a difference in the eternal contest between the forces of light and shadow, between togetherness and division? Between justice and exploitation? Oh, be joyful that you are a warrior in this great time!"

Eric Alterman is the media critic for The Nation magazine and online columnist for MSNBC. His most recent book is What Liberal Media? The Truth about Bias in the News. Alterman is also the author of Sound and Fury: The Making of the Punditocracy. He holds a doctorate in U.S. history from Stanford University.

Rolling Thunder-Asheville is sponsored by more than 40 WNC social-action organizations, ranging from Aging Advocates and Common Cause-NC to the Clean Water Fund and the WNC chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"Rolling Thunder's stop in Asheville affirms the richness and diversity of grassroots activism here in the mountains," said Wally Bowen, one of several dozen local organizers. "From the early days of the rural cooperatives to the current citizens' alliance for clean air, the mountain region has long been blessed with a wealth of citizens willing to join a good cause."

An Organization Fair of WNC social-action organizations will be featured at Rolling Thunder, allowing area citizens to sample the wealth of local opportunities for civic participation. Issues addressed will range from the erosion of civil liberties to environmental stewardship, sustainable agriculture and economic development.

A series of "Citizenship and Democracy Workshops" on topics ranging from alternative energy to media consolidation will be interspersed among the music and speeches. Rolling Thunder culminates with a New England-style town meeting and a concert by Laura Love, whose eighth album will be released April 22.

"Rolling Thunder is part of a long American tradition of grassroots activism and populist reform in response to an era of excess and corruption," said Bowen.

"The populist reaction to the Robber Baron-era of the late 19th century led to reforms such as the direct election of the U.S. Senate and women's right to vote. Likewise, populist reaction to the corporate excess of the Roaring '20s led to a host of New Deal reforms, such as the minimum wage, Social Security, and pure food and drug laws," Bowen said.

He added that recent financial scandals, the continued shifting of the tax burden to middle and working class families, and the ability of corporate lobbyists to block reforms in health care, alternative energy, and clean air are creating grassroots pressures that can be harnessed for a new politics of populist-led reform.

"It's important to remember that previous populist reform movements crossed party lines," said Bowen. "For example, progressive leaders such as Teddy Roosevelt and Robert LaFollete were both Republicans."

Admission to Rolling Thunder-Asheville is $12. Tickets are available at the Asheville Civic Center box office, the Grove Corner Market, Malaprops Bookstore, Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), and from other participating organizations. Tickets can also be purchased from TicketMaster by calling 251-5505.

For information on workshops or reserving a table in the Organization Fair, visit the Rolling Thunder-Asheville website at


[Note to Editors: Jim Hightower, Granny D. and Eric Alterman are available for print and radio interviews in advance of the Rolling Thunder festival. Call 255-0182 to arrange interviews.]