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Dennis Kucinich: A peace-seeking idealist to the core

The congressman from Ohio makes his second run for the White House, wanting healthcare for all Americans and peace for the world.

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To understand the importance Dennis Kucinich places on spirituality, scan his generally spare Capitol Hill office: a white cloth from the Dalai Lama, a bust of Gandhi, and a picture representing "conscious light" – a gift from Brahma Kumaris nuns.

There's a Tibetan dragon washbowl and, on his desk, two heavy crucifixes once worn by Catholic nuns who taught him and who, he says, "saved my life."

"Obviously, I connect with all religions," says Representative Kucinich (D) of Ohio, in the midst of his second presidential campaign. "All manners of belief and even non-belief come from a common font, and that is the transcendent power of the human heart.... All those things that would separate us are based on misunderstandings of our nature."

They're somewhat unusual religious views for someone who still considers himself essentially Roman Catholic. But then, little about Kucinich is orthodox.

While his colleagues in Congress recently voted for more military funds for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, he is pushing for immediate withdrawal from Iraq and advocates cutting money from the defense budget. In the middle of the war on terror, he wants to establish a Department of Peace. He's the only Democratic presidential candidate who wants a Medicare system for all Americans, supports gay marriage, and advocates repealing the North American Free Trade Agreement and withdrawing from the World Trade Organization.

The congressman is also, by all reckonings, a long shot for the nomination. The latest national polls have him hovering around 1 percent. (He often wins online polls with strong liberal leanings.)

But Kucinich, who projects supreme confidence in both his views and his abilities, is anything but discouraged.

Another item he keeps in his congressional office is an original script from "The Man of La Mancha," a gift from a cast member. It's an apt memento, since Kucinich has been tilting at windmills and dreaming impossible dreams most of his life.

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