Kerry Announcement Speech
September 02, 2003
Patriot's Point, SC
John Kerry kicks off his
Presidential Announcement Tour
Thank you, Max Cleland for your friendship,
your inspiration, and your patriotism.
Thank you, General Cheney, for the leadership
you provide and all you have given to your country. And David Alston, I
am as proud to have you on my crew now as I was thirty-five years ago.
This is no ordinary campaign because this is no
ordinary time. We have lived through the most deadly attack on our people in
American history, the greatest job loss since the Great Depression, and the
greatest loss of wealth and savings ever recorded. But every time our
country has faced great challenges, we have come through -- and come out
stronger -- because courageous Americans have done what’s right for
This is a time for the same kind of courage.
I learned something about service from two
people I wish could be here today. My father, who as a member of the
Greatest Generation, enlisted in the Army Air Corps even before Pearl Harbor,
and served in the State Department at the height of the Cold War. And my
mother, 50 years a Girl Scout leader, a community activist with a passion for
the environment who took me into the woods as a young boy and simply said
My wife Teresa reminds me of the ideals of
America. She is a naturalized citizen who came here from a dictatorship.
And she loves the freedom and optimism America has to offer. She is caring and
strong, a leader on many causes, and she speaks the truth -- and I love her
for that too.
Vanessa, Alex, and Christopher are here, and I
thank them for taking time out of their lives. For Teresa and me, all
our children and now our first grandchild give us joy and pride everyday.
As I look around at my crewmates and the
veterans here today, I am reminded that the best lessons I learned about being
an American came in a place far away from America -- on a gunboat in the
Mekong Delta with a small crew of volunteers. Some of us had been to
college; others were just out of high school. But we grew up together on
that tiny boat. It was our sanctuary -- and a place for bridging
distances between California and South Carolina, Iowa and Massachusetts.
We were no longer the kid from Arkansas or the kid from Illinois. We
were Americans -- together -- under the same flag -- giving ourselves to
something bigger than each of us as individuals.
We arrived as strangers; we left as brothers.
We didn’t think we were special. We just tried to do what was right.
And when we came home, we had a simple saying:
Every day is extra. I used my extra days to join other veterans to end a
war I believed was wrong. I saw courage both in the Vietnam War and in
the struggle to stop it. I learned that patriotism includes protest, not
just military service. But you don’t have to go half way around the world or
march on Washington to learn about bravery or love of country. Again and
again, in the causes that define our nation, we have seen the uncommon courage
that is common to the American people.
Today, with confidence in the courage of our
people to change what is wrong and do what is right, I come here to say why I
am a candidate for President of the United States.
I am running so we can keep America’s promise
– to reward the hard work of middle class Americans and pull down the
barriers that stand in their way and in the way of those struggling to join
them; to restore our true strength in the world which comes from ideals, not
arrogance; renew the commitment of our generation to pass this planet on to
our children better than it was given to us.
I reject George Bush’s radical new vision of
a government that comforts the comfortable at the expense of ordinary
Americans, that lets corporations do as they please, that turns its back on
the very alliances we helped create and the very principles that have made our
nation a model to the world for over two centuries. An economic policy
of lost opportunity and lost hopes is wrong for America. An international
policy where we stand almost alone is wrong for America.
George Bush’s vision does not live up to the
America I enlisted in the Navy to defend, the America I have fought for
in the Senate -- and the America that I hope to lead as President.
And every day of this campaign I will challenge
George Bush for fundamentally taking our country in the wrong direction.
I will tell you what I believe and what we must do for our country -- and
I’ll show you how together we will defeat George Bush next November.
First, we must restore a foreign policy that is
true to our ideals. We will defend our national security and maintain a
military that is the strongest armed force on earth. But, if I am
President, I will never forget that even a nation as powerful as the United
States needs to make some friends in this world.
Overseas, George Bush has led and misled us on
a course at odds with 200 years of our history. He has squandered the
goodwill of the world after September 11 and lost the respect and influence we
need to make our country safe.
We are seeing the peril in Iraq every day. I
voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the
resolutions of the United Nations. I believe that was right -- but it
was wrong to rush to war without building a true international coalition --
and with no plan to win the peace.
So long as Iraq remains an American
intervention and not an international undertaking, we will face increasing
danger and mounting casualties.
Being flown to an aircraft carrier and saying
“mission accomplished” doesn’t end a war. And the swagger of a
President saying “bring ‘em on” will never bring peace.
Pride is no substitute for protecting our young
men and women in uniform. Half the names on the Vietnam Memorial are there
because of pride -- because of a President who refused to admit he was wrong.
Pride is no excuse for making enemies overseas. It is time to return to
the United Nations, not with the arrogance of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz but with
genuine respect. For the Bush Administration to reject the participation
of allies and the UN is a miscalculation of colossal proportions. We
need to end the sense of American occupation as fast as possible and take the
targets off American soldiers.
In Iraq and across the world, we must share the
burdens with our allies and the international community. Then, and only
then, can we assemble a worldwide coalition truly sufficient to defeat the
terrorists -- to keep the most dangerous weapons out of their hands and out of
the reach of unstable regimes.
Here again, George Bush is taking the world in
the wrong direction. He is poised to set off a new nuclear arms race by
building bunker-busting tactical nuclear weapons -- smaller and more usable
nuclear bombs. I don’t want a world with more useable nuclear bombs. I
don’t want America to turn its back on half a century of effort by every
President to reduce the nuclear threat. I’m running to put America
where we rightfully belong -- leading the way to a new international accord on
nuclear proliferation to make the world itself safer for human survival.
At times in the term of the next President, we
may well have to use force to fight terrorism. I will not hesitate to do so.
But if I am President, the United States will never go to war because we want
to, we will only go to war because we have to.
And in the war against terrorism, let me state
clearly what we all know in our hearts to be true: two years after the tragic
events of 9/11 we have not made our nation safe enough. Overseas, our
Commander-in-Chief turned to Afghan warlords for the assault on Tora Bora;
Osama Bin Laden got away and today the Taliban and Al Qaeda are regrouping.
And here on the home front, every
investigation, every commission, every piece of evidence we have tells us that
this President has failed to make us as safe as we should be.
We are not making progress when we are laying
off police and the jobs of sky marshals are in jeopardy. If we can open
firehouses in Baghdad, then we can keep them open in New York City.
But the threats today don’t just come from
gun barrels; they also come from oil barrels. The dollars we spend at
the pump can too easily fund the terrorists who seek to destroy us.
America will only be stronger if we never have to send our sons and daughters
into battle for oil half a world away.
We have to disarm that danger by making America
independent of Mideast oil within the next ten years. I know that the
auto industry has political muscle. But we’re in a time of war, and
everyone should contribute to the cause. In World War II, Detroit was
the arsenal of democracy. Today they need to raise their gas mileage and
build the vehicles of the future that use clean, renewable energy like
ethanol. I also know there are some in our own party who resist this
because they fear it will cost jobs. But it’s right for America -- and
energy independence will create 500,000 new high-paying jobs right here
in this country.
On energy and the environment, George Bush
seeks to undo the progress of 30 years under Presidents of both parties.
His Clean Skies initiative actually means dirtier air; his Healthy Forests
proposal actually means cutting down trees. He proposed to let his oil
industry friends drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. I led and
won the fight to stop him.
In a Kerry Administration, we will recommit
America to one of the greatest unfinished challenges of our time and of all
time -- to save our environment, to protect our oceans, to reverse the tide of
global warming. We will not let polluters rewrite our laws in return for
campaign contributions. We will make them and not taxpayers pay the bill
to clean up toxic waste. And we will disprove the lie that protecting
the environment can only come at the expense of jobs.
The truth is that prosperity doesn’t come
from pollution. The most powerful economic engine in this nation has
always been opportunity -- the ability for anyone from any start in life, to
get a good education, to go to work, to start a business, to take an idea and
change the world. But George Bush’s only economic plan is lavish tax
breaks for those at the top. He has taken us down the road of diminished
opportunity, not greater opportunity.
Under the Bush Administration, in less than
three years, three million jobs have been lost. That is an astonishing
failure -- and it is an outrage.
As a Senator, I was proud to work with
President Bill Clinton to turn around the last Bush downturn. And I know
the people of this country have the courage to do what’s right for our
If I am President, I will rollback the Bush tax
breaks for the wealthy so we can invest in education, health care, and
the skills of our workers.
Some in my own party want to get rid of all tax
cuts -- including those for working families. That would mean that a
family of four -- with two parents working hard on the job and at home --
would have to pay $2,000 more a year in taxes. That’s wrong. We
need to be on the side of America’s middle class, and I’ve proposed a tax
cut for them because it’s the right way to strengthen our economy.
Let me put it plainly: if Americans aren’t
working, America’s not working. So my economic plan sets this goal --
to get back George Bush’s three million jobs in my first 500 days as
President. And to cut the budget deficit in half in the first four
But what we face today -- and what we must
change -- is not simply a failure of policy. Today at the center of
power, we have a radical ethic that ratifies and glorifies a creed of greed.
Once, a great Republican President named Theodore Roosevelt took on those who
abused their wealth and power; today’s Republican President invites
them in for secret meetings, sells out our environment, tolerates their abuses
and lets them evade taxes by moving their headquarters to an offshore shelter
that is nothing more than a post office box or a mail drop.
Dick Cheney’s old company Halliburton has 58
offshore tax havens. The Bush Administration’s response is to hand
Halliburton a seven billion dollar no-bid contract.
My response as President will be:
• No more lavish government-funded life support for favored
• No more tax allowances for bonuses of over a million dollars for CEOs
who have done nothing to earn them.
• No more contracts for companies, no
matter how well-connected they are, until they decide to do what’s right.
• And no more tax breaks that help
companies move American jobs overseas.
A tax code that once ran 14 pages now takes up
17,000 pages, filled with twists and turns and customized loopholes.
Everyone in America knows it is not fair, and if I am President we’re going
to scour that tax code and make it simple and fair once and for all.
Instead of tax breaks for the wealthiest and
subsidies for special interests, and instead of photo opportunities with
children as backdrops, let’s give real meaning to the words “leave no
child behind.” It’s time to give our schools the resources and our
teachers the respect they deserve -- and give every child in America the best
possible start in life.
And let’s recognize that for all our wealth,
we will be a lesser nation if we continue to be the only advanced society that
does not secure access to health care for all our people. This is not an
abstract issue to me. Early this year, I was diagnosed with prostate
cancer. I was cured -- because as a United States Senator, I was lucky
to have some of the best medical care in the world. Millions of
Americans are not so lucky -- and I’m determined to change that. I
propose to give every American access to the same health coverage as a Senator
or member of Congress. And I say to you today: Your family’s health is
just as important as any politician’s in Washington.
The courage to do what’s right means standing
up for civil rights and equal rights – and ending discrimination against gay
men and lesbians. And it means understanding that our civil liberties
are not an obstacle to defending this nation, but are one of the very things
we seek to defend.
George Bush has sought to undo guarantees
enshrined in the Constitution -- not by amending it but by subverting it with
his judicial nominees. As President, I will only appoint Supreme Court
Justices who will uphold a woman’s right to choose. A just
America demands a Supreme Court that honors our Constitution -- and an
Attorney General whose name isn’t John Ashcroft.
And courage means standing up for gun safety,
not retreating from the issue out of political fear or trying to have it both
ways. I’m a hunter and I believe in the Second Amendment but
I’ve never gone hunting with an AK-47. Our party will never be the
choice of the NRA -- and I’m not looking to be the candidate of the NRA.
Today, I ask all of you to enlist in a mission
that is bigger than any of us.
For each of us has extra days -- not just for
ourselves but to share. And I hope to be the President who asks all of
us to serve -- because in the end, the ideals of the nation will not be
realized by Presidential decree, but by the national service that can only be
measured in countless acts of individual commitment to do what’s right for
America – every day, in every community -- in many different ways -- from
helping a child learn to read to giving senior citizens the chance to give
more of their talents and strength.
And the force of all those extra days joined
together can open a new era of concern for others and not just ourselves, of
community and not division, of opportunity for the many and not just the few.
I believe the courage of Americans can change
I believe the idealism of Americans can match
our power to our principles – so that this nation will advance the best
hopes of the world.
I believe the genius of Americans can make us
The resolve of Americans can break the grip of
special interests and bring back jobs and economic justice.
The vision of Americans can save our
environment, raise up our schools, and finally open up health care to all.
The conscience of Americans can guard our
fundamental liberties and preserve them for generations to come.
Your courage can make sure we do what’s right
for our country.
Your courage can give America back its future,
its strength and its soul.
I am honored to join you in this endeavor as a
candidate for President of the United States.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Source: John Kerry for President Web