U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Tuesday, June 9, 1987
ANNOUNCEMENT FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Fifteen years ago, only a few blocks from here, many of you and I began a journey.
We began as young men and women, following of enthusiasm and fired more with passion and purpose than with political wisdom. We announced what most seasoned observers considered a hopeless candidacy. But through the unceasing labors of many of you here today – and the willingness of the people of this state to take a bold and generous chance – you elected the second youngest candidate ever to the United States Senate.
While the world has changed dramatically for me and for you during the decade and a half of our journey, in many ways, it remains the same, for although some progress has been made, many of the same issues that brought us together in 1972 now summon us again. The issues we spoke of that day: public confidence in our political institutions; the threat to environmental; the danger of ideological foreign policy; the dwindling commitment to education; the pressing needs of our unemployed and poor; and of the crisis of drugs confronting our children – remain today at the heart of our national agenda.
I ask you once again to join me, this time in an even more arduous and improbable quest, for you are my friends and this is my home. Your unyielding confidence and unbending support in good times and bad has been a source of strength and a never-ending joy. And it’s your help I seek first, as today, I announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America.
Fifteen years ago, we said that the key to restoring confidence in our traditions and our institutions was public officials who would “stand up and tell the people exactly what they think.” And to paraphrase what I said on that day, I mean to be that kind of candidate, and with the grace of God and the support of the American people, I mean to be that kind of President.
Today, on the surface, America seems to be a tranquil and prosperous nation. But though it is barely discernible to the naked eye, I tell you today, America is a nation at risk. And the greatest risk is not to ourselves, but rather to the next generation, our children.
I run for President because I believe the 1988 election, at its heart, can be reduced to a fundamental choice between two paths to our future: the easy path, in which we consolidate our current comfort and a quick and false prosperity by consuming our children’s future; and another, more typical path, that builds up more genuine prosperity for ourselves, while guaranteeing to our children and their birthright. If we choose the easy path, raiding the nation’s stores, and devouring the seed corn of our children, we will deliver them to a lesser America, the fading shadow of a dimming promise. And beyond a doubt, history will judge us to have failed to discharge our moral responsibility for the continuance of our heritage.
It is the obligation of this generation to care for and protect the future of our children, as much as our mothers and fathers cared for and protected us. For 200 years, the chronicle of our journey as a people and the legacy of the American idea has been the proposition that every generation of Americans passes on to its heirs a greater America, a better life, expanded opportunity and enhanced freedom. In 1988, the clarion call for my generation is not “It’s our turn,” but rather “It’s our moment of obligation and opportunity.”
It is an exciting and dangerous time, for this generation of Americans have the opportunity so rarely granted to others by fate and history. We literally have the chance to shape the future – to put our own stamp on the face and character of America. My parents’ generation, the last to have that opportunity, stepped up to that challenge, rescuing a nation from the depression, and the world from the greatest evil it has ever known. So our parents met the test. And so must we. That is not merely history – it is our destiny.
If we choose the second, more difficult path, rising to meet our destiny, we will be able to stand before our children, as our mother’s and father’s stood before us, and say: “We have kept the faith.” I am absolutely convinced that this generation is poised to respond to this challenge. And for my part, this is the issue upon which I will stake my candidacy.
Every issue before this nation in 1988 must be measured against our obligation to our children. In the spirit of another time, let us pledge that our generation of Americans will pay any price, bear any burden, accept any challenge, meet any hardship to secure the blessings of prosperity and the promise of America to our children. Today, their economic destiny is at risk.
I’m not satisfied that in order to finance our deficits, we must sell off American assets to foreigners, piece by piece by piece – $700 billion in the last five years – literally robbing our children of their inheritance. We cannot accept the naiveté of free traders who ignore the flagrant abuses of our trading partners, nor can we accept the morally bankrupt, easy answer on protectionism – an answer that smacks of defeatism. Protecting one job today at the cost of 10 of our children’s jobs tomorrow is unacceptable.
Nor am I satisfied to accept the idea that we should be “competitive” – which is the new political rage in Washington. To say that we want to be “competitive” acknowledges that we are already losing. I am not interested in losing. I want America to win – flat-out win. I want our children to the winners, too.
We must recognize that our education system is failing our children and cheating their future. We need to totally refashion our education system. And yes, it will cost money – excellence costs. But what choice do we have for our children?
And even as I speak, our very air, land and water are being poisoned by the silent shower of acid rain and the slow spread of toxic death under our feet. We can no longer allow short-sighted profiteering by polluters who are depleting our planet of the natural resources that are our children’s rightful legacy.
There are risks we must take in foreign policy and national security if we are going to shape our children’s world. America can not retreat from the world. We can not succumb to the isolationist instincts of those who would put up trade walls to keep out the world, or others who would pull a Star Wars cover over our heads – a modern “Maginot Line” – ravaging our economic capital, nuclearizing the heavens, and yielding the fate of our children’s world to the malfunction of the computer, Like it or not, our only choice is to compete and prosper in the world beyond our shores.
But no problem in our country is more urgent and more critical than the physical and moral plight of our children at this moment. A child born today in the heart of an American inner city has less chance of surviving the first year of life than a child born in Cuba or Kuwait. Poverty is one of the leading causes of death among our youth. One child is born into poverty every 30 seconds in this country, and unless we act today, America will lose more children in poverty in the next five years than we lost men in the Vietnam War. And these are not someone else’s children – they are our children, America’s children – blood of our blood, bone of our bone, heart of our soul.
Even in our richest schools, drug use is rampant. The needles may be cleaner and the cocaine may be purer, but the drug habits are just as severe. Our middle-class children are growing up to understand the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Our children – rich and poor – are growing less and less able to prosper in the world we leave them. Too many of their bodies are destroyed by drugs, too many of their minds are inadequately shaped by school – and too many of their values are being perverted by our culture. So of all the issues that confront us as a nation, is the plight of our children that is the moral test of our time.
But beyond developing the essential government policies and programs designed to meet the nation’s problems, this campaign must convince America that our future can not depend on the government alone. The government can lead. It can not be the catalyst for our society. But the ultimate solutions will lie in the attitudes and actions of our people.
However, while the solutions to our problems may lie beyond the grasp of traditional government, it does not mean that they lie beyond the responsibility of the next President. For if the president does not lay down the challenge, who will? For example, as President, I would tell the American people the truth: that no protectionist trade law can solve our economic problems when their workers work harder than ours, their managers manage better than ours, and their goods and services are of a higher quality than ours. It is a bitter truth, but one that must be told. And as President, I would tell our people that we must demand better of our nation, better of ourselves, and better of our political society.
For too long, we have a sacrificed personal excellence and moral values to the mere accumulation of material things. For too long in this society, we have celebrated unrestrained individualism over our common community. For too long as a nation, we have been lulled by the anthem of self-interest, for a decade led by Ronald Reagan, self –aggrandizement has been the full-throated cry of our society: “Got mine, get yours!” “What’s in it for me?” This has become the operative ethic, until we have reached the point where Ivan Boesky, before his fall, would be applauded for telling a graduating class that “Greed is good.” In Ronald Reagan’s America, we have honored, not the valiant but the victors – not the worthy, but the winners.
We know what we must do. We must restore the primacy of enduring values in our society. Compassion for the poor, the hungry and the homeless among us can no longer be viewed as charity. After all, they are brothers and sisters – at the very least, are they not our countrymen? As a nation, excellence must be once again be the measure of our worth – in our government, in our economy, in our schools and in our personal lives.
And finally, we must rekindle the fire of idealism in our society – for nothing suffocates the promise of America more than unbounded cynicism and indifference. We must reclaim the tradition of community in our society. Only by recognizing that we share a common obligation to one another and to our country can we ever hope to maximize our national or personal potential. We must reassert the oneness of America. America has been and must once again be the seamless web of caring and community.
The centerpiece of my announcement 15 years ago was a concern over the declining confidence of our people in their political institutions and political leaders. Now, once again, a Presidency promises to end in disappointment. The current Administration has earned the dubious distinction of having more officials under indictment, more officials under attack, and more officials forced to resign in any in our history.
National debate has become a great pantomime, where the standard of judgment is no longer real results, but the flickering images of seriousness, skillfully crafted to squeeze into a 30-second spot on the nightly news. Have a problem? We have an answer – but rarely a solution. In this world, all emotion is suspect – the accepted style is smooth, antiseptic and the passionless.
The casualty of all this increasingly becomes the ethic of responsibility, all are to blame so none are responsible. How can we expect to mobilize our nation to the challenges at hand if our political institutions – literally the expressions of our national idea, continued to be moribund? How can we promote excellence if our political standard is mediocrity? How can we encourage the idealism if the political ethic is cynicism? How can we ask for meaningful long-term efforts throughout our society if our political currency is expediency?
Discontent over the failure of our political system is rampant throughout our citizenry. And bluntly, it is in this gathering of discontent that my candidacy intends to find its voice. For ultimately, success will not be measured by personal victory but by our efforts to heal this discontent among our fellow citizens. I believe that our citizenry contains untapped legions, whose success in other fields prepares them by disposition, experience, confidence and creativity to transfuse the tired blood of our politics with new ideas, new approaches and new energy. I fervently believe that our people are ready and anxious, and that they will rise to this challenge and opportunity like a mighty river surging through the public life of America.
I view this campaign not as a static exercise but as a journey, an evolutionary process to engage our fellow citizens. I’m convinced that from this process, we together will forge a national mandate and a national program upon which a successful governance can be founded. I believe that the next administration begins, not on January 20, 1989, but during the months ahead of this campaign.
It is in a spirit that this son of Delaware leaves now to begin this journey. I do not know what outcome the future holds. Even with years of preparation, I recognize that I do not begin to have all the answers to our nation’s problem. And I know, most of all, that no person – myself included – can pretend that he can be succeed alone, either as a candidate or as a President. But I depart in confidence, but confidence born in the enduring values instilled in me by my mother and father – who are here today – the same values passed on to you by your fathers and mothers; a confidence deepened by the immeasurable love I take from our family – my wife, Jill and our children, Beau, Hunter and Ashley; a confidence strengthened by the unwavering support I take from you, my lifelong friends and Delaware; a confidence heightened by the conviction I take that our generation is eager and ready to reclaim its special legacy and redeem the promise of America for ourselves and our children.
So with joy in our hearts and enthusiasm for our mission, let us begin this quest – asking God’s blessing for ourselves, and asking, for the country that we love, the fulfillment of the promise proclaimed in the Communion hymn that I have recited across the land, that he will raise America upon the eagle’s wings, and bear it on the breath of dawn, and make the sun to shine on it!
Source: Joe Biden Press Release, Courtesy Mike Swickey Political Collection.
Biden Announces for Presidency;
Calls Our Legacy To Children Overriding Issue in Coming Election
June 9, 1987 Wilmington, Delaware
“Every issue before this nation in 1988 must be measured against our obligation to our children.” This deep conviction, and his strong belief that it is his time to inspire a change in America, drives Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. to seek the Presidency, delivering his message over and over again: “I tell you today, America is at risk. And the greatest risk is not to ourselves, but rather to the next generation, our children.” Biden speaks of our time as one of deceptive tranquility, with apparent comfort and prosperity. But, Biden is convinced, we are paying a price, and this price is the hope of a promising future. “I run for President because I believe the 1988 election, at its heart, can be reduced to a fundamental choice between two paths to our future; the easy path, in which we consolidate our current comfort and a quick and false prosperity by consuming our children's future; and another, more difficult path, that builds a more genuine prosperity for ourselves, while guaranteeing to our children their birthright. If we choose the easy path, raiding our nation's stores, and devouring the seed corn of our children, we will deliver to them a lesser America, the fading shadow of a dimming promise. And beyond a doubt, history will judge us to have failed to discharge our moral responsibility for the continuance of our heritage…lf we choose the second, more difficult path, rising to meet our destiny, we will be able to stand before our children, as our mothers and fathers stood before us, and say: “We have kept the faith.”
Striking hard for his belief in rejuvenating a stronger and more idealistic sense of community in the country, Biden declares that “In 1988, the clarion call for my generation is not 'It's our turn', but rather 'It's our moment of obligation and opportunity'…ln the spirit of another time, let us pledge that our generation of Americans will pay any price, bear any burden, accept any challenge, meet any hardship to secure the blessings of prosperity and the promise of America for our children.”
“Beyond developing the essential government policies and programs designed to meet the nation's problems, this campaign must convince America that our future can not depend on the government alone,” argues Biden. “Government can lead. It can be the catalyst for our society. But the ultimate solutions will lie in the attitudes and actions of our people. However, while the solutions to our problems may lie beyond the grasp of traditional government, it does not mean that they lie beyond the responsibility of the next President. For if the President does not lay down the challenge, who will?”…As President, I will tell our people that we must demand better of our nation, better of ourselves, and better of our political society.”
finally,” Biden says, “we must rekindle the fire of idealism in our
society -- for nothing suffocates the promise of America more than unbounded
cynicism and indifference. We must reclaim the tradition of community in our
society. We must reassert the oneness of America. America has been and must
once again be a seamless web of caring and community...I am absolutely
convinced that this generation is poised to respond to this challenge. And for
my part, this is the issue upon which I will stake my candidacy.”
Source: "Biden Times" Joe Biden for President