As prepared for delivery
Thank you all for coming out this afternoon.
Over the last five months, I've been to more than thirty states. And I can say one thing for certain, there's no state like Arkansas. There's no city like Little Rock. And there's no place like home.
I'd like to begin this afternoon by thanking all the foot soldiers in this battle: our terrific staff, our dedicated volunteers, our thousands of loyal supporters. And most of all, those who believed in me long before anyone even knew who I was: the people who drafted me into this race. The thousands who joined together to enlist me to serve.
You have proven what a General can do when he has the greatest troops in the world. And I can't tell you enough how honored and humbled I am by your commitment, your spirit, and your sacrifice. Because of all of you, this has been a cause, as much as it's been a campaign.
And I want to thank my family for always standing by my side, especially my wife of 36 years, my best friend, and my partner, Gert Clark. She is the general's general, and I wouldn't be standing here today without her. And I'd like to thank my son, Wes, Jr., and my daughter-in-law, Astrid. I am so proud of them and so proud of all they have done for this campaign. And, of course, I'm proud of them for making me a Grandpa.
I also applaud John Kerry, John Edwards, and Howard Dean for running great campaigns. They are good men, good Democrats, and real patriots.
Together, five months ago, just a few miles from here, we began our journey for the presidency. We had no money, no office, no staff. All we had was hope and a vision for a better America.
Today, after traveling the country, after visiting with the American people, we end that journey even more full of hope and even more committed to building a better America.
Today, we end the campaign for the presidency. But the campaign for America's future ... for the future of all our families ... continues on.
It continues on for all the hard-working Americans I've met across our country these last few months.
In Enoree, South Carolina, I met a mill worker who had lost his job, but came out to see me because he believed in his country and wanted to make it better for his children.
In Nashville, Tennessee, I met a woman whose daughter has been sick for years, but she can't even afford to take her to the doctor, or pay for her medication.
In Manchester, New Hampshire, I met a woman whose husband is an Army reservist, who's been away in Iraq for more than a year. She came out in two degree weather to see me because she's worried sick about her husband and is struggling to care for their six month old child.
These are the faces of the American struggle. The faces that are too often invisible. The voices that too often go unheard. They deserve a strong party to carry their hopes. They deserve a party committed to their lives. And there is no party more committed to them, no party more committed to the American people, than our party ... my party ... the Democratic Party.
The Bush Administration has had three long years to keep our country moving forward. But instead, he's done nothing but set us back. 3 million lost jobs. Exploding deficits. 44 million uninsured. And the wrong war at the wrong time.
As I've said from day one, President Bush can and must be challenged on his fatally-flawed foreign policy. I'm not anti-war. I'm pro-national security. But we've been taken into a mess in Iraq that we're having trouble getting out of. He hasn't met the terrorist threat we face every day. And he's compromised America's leadership around the world. We have a responsibility as Democrats to make sure the American people know the truth: that George W. Bush hasn't led America, he's misled America time and time again -- and we have to put a stop to it.
It's time we took America back for its rightful owners -- the American people.
An America where we don't just talk about family values, but where we actually value families. And where a job, an education, and health care aren't just luxuries for the chosen few.
An America where we don't just preach our faith - we practice it. And those that have the most reach out to those with the least.
An America where everyone has a shot at the American dream, no matter where they're from. And where we include everyone, recognizing that diversity is our greatest strength.
An America where we understand that debate and dissent - that questioning your leaders and holding them accountable - is the highest form of patriotism. And where being patriotic means using force as a last resort, not as a political tool.
An America where we look up to our leaders, and trust our commander in chief. An America that the world listens to and admires again.
That is the America we can build. And these are the values we must champion. It's time we returned our nation and the Democratic Party to their roots: strong national security, and fair and progressive economic and social policies for all our citizens.
That is why I ran for president.
Because I couldn't stand by and watch all I fought for unravel before my eyes.
I couldn't stand by and watch the men and women I served with sent to a war they didn't have to fight.
I couldn't stand by and watch an Army I had helped build devastated by a political agenda.
I couldn't stand by and watch as the rich were handed one tax cut after another, while the poor were handed pink slips.
I couldn't stand by and watch as millions of jobs were exported overseas.
That's why I got into this race.
And why I will support our Party's nominee, to continue this campaign until we take back the White House next November. This soldier stands ready for duty. And I need every single one of you to join me in this battle. Because this was never about my future. It was a call to duty, not of ambition. Of service to country, not to self. It was always about America's future. And that future will be decided in this election. It's not going to be easy. So I've got one bit of advice for our nominee: give 'em hell and never retreat.
And as a general who spent thirty-four years fighting for my country, here is my pledge: I will do everything I can - everything - to make sure George W. Bush doesn't play politics with national security.
As you know, I have never run for office. I'm just a guy from the heartland, who never had much. I got into this race because I had devoted my life to protecting America's security and preserving our reputation around the world. And this campaign was a way of continuing that service.
In the end, I'm still a soldier, not a politician. But I have loved every minute of this experience. And I leave it wiser, stronger, and even more optimistic about the strength and vibrancy of our democracy -- and even more proud to call myself an American.
For me, this race has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I've been able to talk about what I believe in and fight for it. And you've given me the greatest gift a person can receive: the support to make that fight real.
Finally, let me say this:
I'm going to fight on, and I hope you will join me, until we win the campaign to create a new vision for America in the twenty-first century. Because I believe America's best days lie ahead. Today, I end my campaign for the presidency - but our party's campaign to change America is just beginning. And folks, this old soldier will not fade away. I'll be in the field and out in front, working the issues, supporting our candidates, and doing all I can to contribute to building a new and better America.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.