- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 29, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Excepts of Sen. John Kerry’s speech, as prepared for delivery last night at the Democratic National Convention in Boston:

We are here tonight because we love our country. We are proud of what America is and what it can become. …

I ask you to judge me by my record: As a young prosecutor, I fought for victims’ rights and made prosecuting violence against women a priority. When I came to the Senate, I broke with many in my own party to vote for a balanced budget, because I thought it was the right thing to do. I fought to put 100,000 cops on the street. …

I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a secretary of defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an attorney general who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States.

My fellow Americans, this is the most important election of our lifetime. The stakes are high. We are a nation at war, a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have ever known before. And here at home, wages are falling, health care costs are rising, and our great middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends; they’re working two jobs, three jobs, and they’re still not getting ahead. …

We can do better and we will. We’re the optimists. For us, this is a country of the future. We’re the can-do people. And let’s not forget what we did in the 1990s. We balanced the budget. We paid down the debt. We created 23 million new jobs. We lifted millions out of poverty and we lifted the standard of living for the middle class. We just need to believe in ourselves and we can do it again.

So tonight, in the city where America’s freedom began … here tonight, on behalf of a new birth of freedom, on behalf of the middle class who deserve a champion, and those struggling to join it who deserve a fair shot; for the brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day and the families who pray for their return; for all those who believe our best days are ahead of us; for all of you with great faith in the American people, I accept your nomination for president of the United States. …

I am proud that after September 11 all our people rallied to President Bush’s call for unity to meet the danger. There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans. How we wish it had stayed that way.

‘Seeing complexities’

Now I know there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities, and I do because some issues just aren’t all that simple. Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn’t make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn’t make it so. And proclaiming “mission accomplished” certainly doesn’t make it so. …

I know what kids go through when they are carrying an M-16 in a dangerous place and they can’t tell friend from foe. I know what they go through when they’re out on patrol at night and they don’t know what’s coming around the next bend. I know what it’s like to write letters home telling your family that everything’s all right when you’re not sure that’s true.

As president, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: “I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm’s way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values from a threat that was real and imminent.” So lesson one — this is the only justification for going to war.

And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.

I know what we have to do in Iraq. …

I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.

We will add 40,000 active duty troops, not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended and under pressure. We will double our Special Forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations. We will provide our troops with the newest weapons and technology to save their lives and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of National Guard and reservists.

To all who serve in our armed forces today, I say: Help is on the way. …

We need a strong military and we need to lead strong alliances. And then, with confidence and determination, we will be able to tell the terrorists: You will lose and we will win. The future doesn’t belong to fear. It belongs to freedom. …

And tonight, we have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. Before wrapping themselves in the flag and shutting their eyes and ears to the truth, they should remember what America is really all about. They should remember the great idea of freedom for which so many have given their lives. Our purpose now is to reclaim democracy itself. We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism.

Values and Old Glory

You see that flag up there. We call her Old Glory. The stars and stripes forever. I fought under that flag, as did so many of you here and all across our country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind my head. It was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men I served with and friends I grew up with. For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in — our strength, our diversity, our love of country. All that makes America both great and good.

That flag doesn’t belong to any president. It doesn’t belong to any ideology and it doesn’t belong to any political party. It belongs to all the American people.

My fellow citizens, elections are about choices. And choices are about values. In the end, it’s not just policies and programs that matter; the president who sits at that desk must be guided by principle.

For four years, we’ve heard a lot of talk about values. But values spoken without actions taken are just slogans. Values are not just words. They’re what we live by. They’re about the causes we champion and the people we fight for. And it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.

You don’t value families by kicking kids out of after-school programs and taking cops off our streets, so that Enron can get another tax break.

We believe in the family value of caring for our children and protecting the neighborhoods where they walk and play.

And that is the choice in this election.

You don’t value families by denying real prescription drug coverage to seniors so big drug companies can get another windfall.

We believe in the family value expressed in one of the oldest commandments: Honor thy father and thy mother. As president, I will not privatize Social Security. I will not cut benefits. And together, we will make sure that senior citizens never have to cut their pills in half because they can’t afford lifesaving medicine.

And that is the choice in this election.

You don’t value families if you force them to take up a collection to buy body armor for a son or daughter in the service, if you deny veterans health care, or if you tell middle class families to wait for a tax cut so that the wealthiest among us can get even more.

We believe in the value of doing what’s right for everyone in the American family.

And that is the choice in this election. …

‘America can do better’

What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steelworker I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory literally unbolted, crated up and shipped thousands of miles away along with that job? What does it mean when workers I’ve met had to train their foreign replacements?

America can do better. So tonight we say: Help is on the way.

What does it mean when Mary Ann Knowles, a woman with breast cancer I met in New Hampshire, had to keep working day after day right through her chemotherapy, no matter how sick she felt, because she was terrified of losing her family’s health insurance?

America can do better. And help is on the way.

What does it mean when Deborah Kromins from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, works and saves all her life only to find out that her pension has disappeared into thin air and the executive who looted it has bailed out on a golden parachute?

America can do better. And help is on the way.

What does it mean when 25 percent of the children in Harlem have asthma because of air pollution?

America can do better. And help is on the way.

What does it mean when people are huddled in blankets in the cold, sleeping in Lafayette Park on the doorstep of the White House itself and the number of families living in poverty has risen by 3 million in the last four years?

America can do better. And help is on the way. …

So here is our economic plan to build a stronger America.

First, new incentives to revitalize manufacturing.

Second, investment in technology and innovation that will create the good-paying jobs of the future.

Third, close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping our jobs overseas. Instead, we will reward companies that create and keep good-paying jobs where they belong: in the good old USA …

And let me tell you what we won’t do: We won’t raise taxes on the middle class. You’ve heard a lot of false charges about this in recent months. So let me say straight out what I will do as president: I will cut middle-class taxes. I will reduce the tax burden on small business. And I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in job creation, health care and education.

Education, health care

Our education plan for a stronger America sets high standards and demands accountability from parents, teachers and schools. It provides for smaller class sizes and treats teachers like the professionals they are. And it gives a tax credit to families for each and every year of college.

When I was a prosecutor, I met young kids who were in trouble, abandoned by adults. And as president, I am determined that we stop being a nation content to spend $50,000 a year to keep a young person in prison for the rest of their life when we could invest $10,000 to give them Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, the best possible start in life.

And we value health care that’s affordable and accessible for all Americans.

Since 2000, 4 million people have lost their health insurance. Millions more are struggling to afford it.

You know what’s happening. Your premiums, your copayments, your deductibles have all gone through the roof.

Our health care plan for a stronger America cracks down on the waste, greed and abuse in our health care system and will save families up to $1,000 a year on their premiums. You’ll get to pick your own doctor, and patients and doctors — not insurance company bureaucrats — will make medical decisions. Under our plan, Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. And all Americans will be able to buy less expensive prescription drugs from countries like Canada.

The story of people struggling for health care is the story of so many Americans. But you know what, it’s not the story of senators and members of Congress. Because we give ourselves great health care, and you get the bill. Well, I’m here to say, your family’s health care is just as important as any politician’s in Washington, D.C.

And when I’m president, America will stop being the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the connected, and the elected — it is a right for all Americans.

We value an America that controls its own destiny because it’s finally and forever independent of Mideast oil. What does it mean for our economy and our national security when we only have 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves, yet we rely on foreign countries for 53 percent of what we consume?

I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi royal family.

And our energy plan for a stronger America will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future — so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East. …

Speaking to Bush

I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush: In the weeks ahead, let’s be optimists, not just opponents. Let’s build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let’s honor this nation’s diversity. Let’s respect one another, and let’s never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States.

My friends, the high road may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And that’s why Republicans and Democrats must make this election a contest of big ideas, not small-minded attacks. This is our time to reject the kind of politics calculated to divide race from race, group from group, region from region. Maybe some just see us divided into red states and blue states, but I see us as one America — red, white, and blue. And when I am president, the government I lead will enlist people of talent, Republicans as well as Democrats, to find the common ground so that no one who has something to contribute will be left on the sidelines.

And let me say it plainly: In that cause, and in this campaign, we welcome people of faith. America is not us and them. I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don’t wear my own faith on my sleeve. But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don’t want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God’s side. And whatever our faith, one belief should bind us all: The measure of our character is our willingness to give of ourselves for others and for our country.

Asking ‘What if?’

These aren’t Democratic values. These aren’t Republican values. They’re American values. We believe in them. They’re who we are. And if we honor them, if we believe in ourselves, we can build an America that’s stronger at home and respected in the world.

So much promise stretches before us. Americans have always reached for the impossible, looked to the next horizon, and asked: What if?

Two young bicycle mechanics from Dayton asked: What if this airplane could take off at Kitty Hawk? It did that and changed the world forever. A young president asked: What if we could go to the moon in 10 years? And now we’re exploring the solar system and the stars themselves. A young generation of entrepreneurs asked: What if we could take all the information in a library and put it on a little chip the size of a fingernail? We did, and that, too, changed the world forever.

And now it’s our time to ask: What if?

What if we find a breakthrough to cure Parkinson’s, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and AIDS? What if we have a president who believes in science, so we can unleash the wonders of discovery like stem-cell research to treat illness and save millions of lives?

What if we do what adults should do and make sure all our children are safe in the afternoons after school? And what if we have a leadership that’s as good as the American dream, so that bigotry and hatred never again steal the hope and future of any American?

I learned a lot about these values on that gunboat patrolling the Mekong Delta with young Americans who came from places as different as Iowa and Oregon, Arkansas, Florida and California. No one cared where we went to school. No one cared about our race or our backgrounds. We were literally all in the same boat. We looked out, one for the other, and we still do.

That is the kind of America I will lead as president — an America where we are all in the same boat.

Never has there been a more urgent moment for Americans to step up and define ourselves. I will work my heart out. But, my fellow citizens, the outcome is in your hands more than mine.

It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there. The sun is rising. Our best days are still to come.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide