South Bronx Man Dreams of the Presidency
Lanakila Washington has $21,000 in his presidential campaign war chest. Most of the money comes from his personal savings.
By Candice M. Giove
There’s an Air Force One pin fixed to the lapel of Lanakila Washington’s dark green suit, a symbol of a more stately form of transportation. For now, the South Bronx resident, running a write-in campaign for the presidency on his own party line, travels in a more quotidian fashion: stumping via Greyhound and Amtrak.
Be it cramped on a bus or riding on a train, Washington spreads his vision for America to the people he meets along the way, chatting about his write-in candidacy for president and the Humanistic Party, which he created in 2005.
“The people in this country are really, really suffering from what’s going on,” he said, while drinking a peppermint tea at a diner on White Plains Road and Story Avenue. “That’s why I picked this particular time to run.”
While not on the road, Washington remains home participating in focus groups or running his travel agency, though these days he dedicates most of his time to maintaining his website and burning homemade CDs to hand out while campaigning. Each disc contains recordings of two impassioned campaign speeches, one set to music selected by his official campaign DJ (possibly a presidential campaign first).
Sometimes people stumble upon his site, or onto one of his speeches posted on YouTube. He said that his candidacy generated media attention from places as far as Austria and Chile. It also attracted the curiosity of a high school in Georgia, where he eventually wound up fielding two hours worth of questions from eager teenagers.
So far a two day ride to Florida stands as Washington’s longest campaign-by-bus stint. “We had a lot of stops and every time we stopped I gave out the CDs, telling people who I was and just talking to people to the point where it’s like, ‘Okay. I have to get to the bus. The bus is going to leave,’” he said.
He plans to go further, cross country by Greyhound perhaps, like Malcolm X. That trip might be in the works for January, when he attends his first debate in California. As election time nears, he’s considering campaigning by RV.
With such a positive persona, Washington would never outright admit that the paltry odds of winning. “No matter what the result is I feel I have the victory because I’m on the journey. I’m going to take this journey and whatever manifests on election night, November 4th, so be it. I’m ready.”
Washington’s quest for the White House—however dreamy, idealistic, or far-fetched—grew out of his frustration not only with the current administration, but also with the candidates vying to take its reigns.
“I actually don’t hear the other candidates talking about the happiness of the American people,” Washington said. “There are a lot of concerns and issues that the American people have.”
Some of those concerns are health care, the deficit and war. Mainly, he said, no candidate in the race bears an attitude towards peace comparable to his own. His vision includes a nine-month troop withdrawal plan from Iraq.
Once a registered Democrat, Washington dumped the party to create his own, complete with a platform to create a “promise land” inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We need to create the promise land based on peace, culture, education and unity through the communities because it starts in communities first,” he said. “It’s about human revolution, which is a bloodless development of the human spirit, where everyone begins to really respect each other and have more compassion for each other and that leads to true peace.”
While on a trip to Atlanta, Washington said that the late civil rights leader appeared in his dream. “He came to me and said, ‘Don’t wait until 2012. Do it now and don’t worry about it. I’m going to be by your side.’”
He’s doing that with a shoestring campaign war chest of $21,000. Most of the money is his savings, little comes from donations. “That doesn’t worry or concern me because people are still coming out and still coming to my aid in terms of saying we really want you in that seat,” he said.
When Washington finishes his tea at the Bronx diner, he mentions that he, his campaign advisor and campaign DJ planned to go dancing one weekend. Then they might head to Atlantic City, where he likes spending time by the ocean. Washington also gambles sometimes.
“I always win,” he said.