Presidential Campaign and Candidates

 

Doug Wilder 1992 Announcement Speech

REMARKS MADE TO THE PEOPLE OF THE COMMONWEALTH

12:30 P.M.

SEPTEMBER 13, 1991

SOUTH PORTICO

STATE CAPITOL

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

BY

GOVERNOR L. DOUGLAS WILDER

My fellow Virginians:

I want to talk to you today about the future .... your future; your children's future; Virginia's future; America's future; and --- yes --- my future. Perhaps most importantly, I want to talk about the future of those Americans and Virginians who have continued to wait to enjoy the opportunities of those basic freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.

We Virginians know the price that has been paid to make freedom ring from Valley Forge to Stone Mountain. It was Thomas Jefferson who risked everything to write the music; .... and it was a Virginian, George Mason, who sacrificed everything by refusing to sing until all Americans could be included in the chorus. We overcame tyranny at Yorktown .... and slavery was defeated at Appomattox.

Our heritage is clear:

.... in the struggle to make America even greater than it is;

.... in the fight to live out our creed that all individuals are created equal with certain inalienable rights endowed on the them by their Creator; ....

.... Virginians, too, have been there when our country needed them.

As a State Senator, a Lieutenant Governor, and now as Governor, I have followed this hallowed tradition. When Virginia needed someone to challenge us to be our best, to redeem that which makes us so special, I have been on the front lines, working to move Virginia ever forward. Together, we have fought for positive, enduring change --- and at the same time --- together, we have rendered to dust many of the mistakes of the past.

For more than twenty years, I have challenged the old ways, the old thinking, in pursuit of a better and more promising tomorrow for all Virginians.

But like you, my involvement, my passion for making this Commonwealth, this country, and --- through our example --- this entire global community better, is not of recent origin. It did not begin with my election to the Senate in 1969 .... anymore than it ended with my election to the Governorship in 1989.

Like you, my passion came early, and has never wavered. As the grandson of slaves, I read about the Constitution, and I knew America and Virginia wanted more for me and my friends than did the politicians in power at that time: and history has proven us right.

As a soldier in Korea, I knew my fight and that of my fellow soldiers --- many of whom never returned home --- against Communism was also a fight against the denial of freedom everywhere: and history has proven us right.

As I entered public life, and stood --- often alone --- against the political establishment, I knew positive change was not only possible .... but absolutely necessary: and history has since spoken.

Like many others, my entire adult life has been devoted to positive change; to making America and Virginia even greater than they are. For this is that special passion which has made our county the greatest upon this Earth .... a beacon for all those who dream what can and should be.

The vision of America that I dreamed about as a boy;

.... that I thought about on those front lines in Korea;

.... that fired my passion as a lawyer and as I rose through the ranks in public service;

.... cannot be described in mere words.

Those who have been touched by it; those who have been moved by it; know of what I speak.

In 1969, and again in 1985, and once again in 1989, it was this force; it was this vision which overcame more than 200 years of history and opened up the doors to the Governor's Mansion for all Americans for all time.

It was not "my" victory..... I was merely the recipient of what others --- so many of whom could not even enter the Governor's Mansion --- had done for me, my state and my nation.

They lived a life of denial --- yet made certain that those who would some day follow..... were not born into a world of similar denial.

As some of you know, a book on my 1989 gubernatorial campaign was titled: Claiming the Dream. To so many who had worked so hard and to the relatives of those throughout the ages who had died still believing, the Dream needed no further elucidation.

For it was not a dream about winning a particular office or winning an election.... it was about the conditions that had to first exist before victory was possible.

Victory was a result; the dream was about the cause.

And what a cause it is: equality of rights and equal opportunity for all.

If men and women were angels, as James Madison once observed, this cause would be achieved without the need for government.

But --- as this is not the case --- government of, for and by the people is needed to be our partner.... so that all of us can Claim the Dream .... and live the dream.

I remember looking over the crowd that gathered for my Inauguration, feeling their pride, remembering the title of another book that had been written about my campaign for Lieutenant Governor: When Hell Froze Over ...... the odds given for my chance of ever being elected statewide.

Perhaps --- I recall someone joking --- that explained why it was so cold that morning as a new Governor took his oath.

But there we were..... bursting with what could be --- and yet, at the same time --- I was becoming worried about the dark clouds already on the horizon that threatened the dream.

The sunlight of economic vitality that fueled the hopes of the middle class and those trying to struggle up the ladder of success was being increasingly blocked by the growing fiscal mess that consumed more and more of our limited resources to pay for Washington's fiscal follies.

Washington's fiscal mismanagement was pushing Virginia into its worst budget crunch in forty years, and --- according to analysts --- just about the worst revenue in all the fifty states.

Although a great many of the Washington Insiders did not personally make it down to Richmond for my Inauguration, I can assure you: their presence was felt..... in the fiscal impact of their mushrooming deficits; in their inaugural "present" to me of $2.2 billion shortfall; sky-rocketing debts; and a decade of unprecedented scandals whose initials have become as well-known as MTV: HUD, S&L, and now BCCI.

Indeed, Washington has so mismanaged the nation's finances that --- in order to save their own skins --- the leaders of both parties met behind closed doors for weeks, and then emerged to join hands in the Rose Garden .... to support the most regressive tax package in history, and a set of budget priorities that lock us into the status quo for several years --- all so everyone can get reelected.

As I have noted previously, this nation has become polarized into a two party system:

The Party Inside Washington which makes the deals .... and ....the rest of us --- the Party Outside---that has to pay for the deals, with higher regressive taxes, and wasteful spending that gives our families and children a less secure present .... a far less promising future.

That's why, beginning with my first speech as Governor, I have taken the lead in fighting the conventional wisdom in Washington.

I have already outlined my plan "Put America First," to begin the process of getting the economy moving again;

.... to put us on a path that will attack federal spending;

.... to begin the process of relieving the regressive tax burden on the middle class families; and

.... to aid localities that provide innovative leadership in attacking the pernicious evil of drugs and drug-related crimes.

And now, I have found an even more worrisome cloud on the nation's horizon: Washington seems to have lost the passion to fight the deterioration in race relations in this nation..... a result --- in large measure --- of Washington's fiscal mess and the noose it has become around America's future economic prosperity.

Moreover, I ask: when was the last time we had a President of the United States who went out of his way to raise the phony and divisive issue of racial quotas in hopes of turning back the clock on Civil Rights?

Ever since Franklin Roosevelt, America has always had a President who understood that it was his self-evident obligation to lead America in this area --- a responsibility which is not merely a matter of policy .... but a matter of morality, humanity and eternal justice.

Truman answered the call. Eisenhower answered. Kennedy answered. Johnson took the clarion firmly in hand. Nixon heard and answered the call. Ford did his duty .... and .... even Ronald Reagan was forced to heed that call.

But not George Bush. For the first time in a great many years, the President of the United States is leading the retreat.

Instead of healing leadership, he offers divisive rhetoric that can only result in pitting one group of Americans against another.

Thus, on the very issues that are at the heart of that American dream ---- the fight to have a rising tide of prosperity and opportunity to lift all the boats and the fight against the bigotry and intolerance that has kept too many for too long out of all the boats --- this nation has a President who is deliberately attempting to take us backward.

As Democrats and as Americans, we cannot afford to compromise on these issues.

We must speak out forcefully and honestly on why the Dream is fading for all too many of our people.

Until we succeed in getting our fiscal house in order, the standard of living for the American people cannot --- and will not --- grow as fast as it should, and --- in some instances --- will both stagnate and even fall backwards. And --- as our leaders in Washington continue to let this happen --- the ugly residue of man's inhumanity to man starts to creep to the surface, as one group is pitted against another for their share of a pie.

We have no choice but to tell the people this simply truth: we must rethink the priorities of the federal budget; we must cut tens of billions in federal spending that we cannot afford.... if we are to ever begin spending the money in those areas which we can no longer continue to neglect. For unless we do better with the trillions we will be spending in the next few years, we will see the American Dream becoming all the more elusive for an alarming number of Americans and their families.

As a Governor; as an American;

....as someone who has fought for positive change and the American Dream for all these years, I cannot stand on the sidelines while the country I love stumbles further backwards.

The past twelve years of pandering has insulted Americans into silence. Who has been listening to their deafening cries for leadership? Why have they lost hope to the degree they no longer see fit to vote? This is the question I asked myself and the answers I set out to find.

Those of us who have the opportunity to influence the electorate must once again look deep in to the recesses of our fortitude to both the good and the difficult answers that only truth can tell. We must seek the solutions---not the headlines---as we are in the fortunate and God-given opportunities to serve our neighbors.

This is the moment to rise with the courage of conviction and serve the country, the citizens of these United States with the honor and the fortitude our Forefathers granted us.

After many months of deliberation and hours of private thought and reflection on my commitment to Virginia and my obligation to my country...

I have decided to run for President of the United States in 1992.

I ask for your patience, support and---above all---your prayers in this effort for Virginia and the nation.

The most wrenching and prayerful consideration in my decision has been my commitment and promise to Virginia.

Twenty months ago, I committed and promised Virginians that I would work to solve the pressing problems of Virginia and position Virginia for the future. I will not shirk from that commitment one iota, nor fall short on my promise one scintilla.

In seeking the Presidency, I recognize that I am the longest of long shots. I may not win. I may not get but a few votes.

But I would not be doing my job as Governor---indeed, I would not deserve to be who I am---if I failed to step forward at this critical juncture in our nation's history.

For if we fail to heal this nation in 1992, it may not be healed in my lifetime. If we fail to put this country on a sound fiscal posture in 1992, then order may not be restored in my lifetime.

If elected, I pledge to all of you that I will do everything in my power to heal the growing divisions among us; to restore economic vitality....so that more people can enter the middle class....and to secure peace around the world through American economic and military strength.

I want my legacy to be that I expanded the economic and political rights of all men and women;

.... and that --- as we enter the next century --- America will have secured peace and prosperity for those Americans who will work for it .... and for all countries who will join us in this quest.

May God bless you, the Commonwealth ... and may God bless America.

Source: Field Guide to the 1992 Presidential Campaign Democracy in Action

 

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