Presidential Campaign and Candidates


Alan Cranston 1984

Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA.) announced his candidacy for President of the United States on February 2, 1983 with the following statement read to an overflow crowd in the historic Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.


I come here today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.


I have given this decision long and careful consideration.


I discussed it with citizens in every part of the country.


I do not make it lightly. 


Nor do I act with reluctance.


Indeed, I have no other choice...not if I am to remain loyal to the principles which I have developed during four decades of public life.


In my early 20s, as a foreign correspondent, I covered Hitler and Mussolini in the dark days of conquest and appeasement that preceded the Second World War. 


As I witnessed the brutality, the intolerance and the tyranny of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany – I felt that I must come home and help arouse America to the need to thwart Hitler’s ambition.


Returning to an America which was still hoping to avoid any participation in Europe's war.  I joined my efforts to those who were trying to educate our people to the need for increased military strength in preparation for our inevitable involvement.  The war came.  I declined deferment and enlisted in the army.


Then I turned it to history for an understanding of the forces and follies which incite war among nations. 


From my studies, I wrote a book about the struggle between President Wilson and Senator Lodge – a struggle which ultimately destroyed the League of Nations in the peace that followed World War I.


Shortly after World War II ended, in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I was one of 50 Americans who gathered in Dublin, New Hampshire, to discuss the meaning of the nuclear age. 


I came away from that conference convinced that the threat of nuclear war was the dominant problem of our age.


And ever since – through my years in business, and my experience in building the Democratic Party in California and in my 14 years in the Senate – I have concentrated on arms control, defense and foreign policy so that I could work, constructively and creatively, against the holocaust of modern war.


Many Americans – I believe an overwhelming majority – share my concerns about a nuclear arms race that is undermining our economy and our society and threatening our very existence.


Yet today we maintain the most powerful military machine in the history of the world.


And, the demands of this insatiable monster cannot be measured in dollars and cents.


The cost is the steady closing of the doors to American economic opportunity.


For let there be no mistake, there can be no cure for growing unemployment, decreasing productivity, the diminishing opportunity for individual Americans to enhance their well-being, if we continue to pour a mounting portion of our national resources – our money, our technological skills, the energies of our people and government – into a race to build arms.


The arms race can never end unless men are wise enough to call a halt or mad enough to destroy the world.


I believe in the necessities of defense.


I learned firsthand that in an uncertain and violent world, rational men and women must be prepared to defend themselves.


But we have overleaped at the bounds of reason.


The Soviet Union and the United States frantically compete to prepare themselves for a war which – should it come -will totally destroy civilization.


And we do so knowing there can be no limited nuclear war – no winnable nuclear war – no survivable nuclear war – only a devastation of such horror that even a Soviet leader warned, “The living will envy the dead.”


The cost of this insane policy – for both America and Russia – is that neither of us can meet the most basic aspirations of our people.


There are some who claim that increasing our power to destroy increases our security. 


They are wrong.


For three decades – since 1950 – all our power has increased until it towers above the imagination of human kind.


Yet we are no more secure, no less vulnerable, no closer to peace.


There are also many who tell you that we can restore our economic health while continuing to heap new weapons upon the old.


They, too, are wrong.


Our economy has been in decline ever since the war in Vietnam. 


There have been temporary upturns.


But our long -term course is clear.


It is a downward path.- A path toward depression, the destruction of human dreams, ambitions – the fair expectations which are the birthright of all Americans.


It is stifling the fair demands of justice – to provide equal opportunity without regard to race or sex, to extend that compassion to the helpless and the impoverished, to close the widening rift which is separating many of us from those denied the blessings of American society.


It is leading us to abandon the aim of an excellent education for every young American – not just for the sons and daughters of the well born.


It is causing us to violate the very continent – that fruitful soil – on which we built a country.


This lesson of experience is reinforced by simple common sense.


Countries like individuals -even the greatest among them -have their limits.


We cannot take vast resources, our most highly skilled citizens, our creative talent, away from the structure of American production – which creates both wealth and opportunity – without suffering the inevitable consequence.


There's much I would do immediately as President to rescue our nation from prolonged recession and possible depression.


In the course of my campaign, I will spell out my vision of full employment and prosperity for America.


But I am convinced that in the long run we can not revive our economy – or save our society – until we end the incredibly dangerous, shamefully expensive arms race.


And therefore, my first to act as president will be to challenge of the leader of the Soviet Union to join with me, not to sign a proposal he’s already rejected, but in making peace.


I will tell him:


“You and I have a solemn responsibility.


“We have a common affliction ravaging both our economies and threatening to ravage the entire world.


"Let us face this issue together – and solve it in a practical, sensible way."


I will seek, first of all, a mutual and verifiable freeze on the production, testing, and deployment of nuclear weapons.


I will propose that we meet again and again and again – until we agree on substantial reductions in our arsenals of debt.


Our aim must be to end the threat of nuclear war – a purpose for which will be the dominating goal of my presidency.


It will take precedence over all others.


Indeed, it must, if there is to be any hope of success.


No president has ever given the task of ending the arms race the priority attention it demands, I will.


A president must concentrate the powers of his mind and his office on one or two principle purposes, else he will squander his strength and his substance on the demand of the moment and the crisis of the hour and his years at the center will waste away.


He will leave the White House having achieved nothing truly enduring or significant.


With luck, he and our country will have survived, and little more will be remembered -or be worth remembering – about his presidency.


It will not be easy to reach agreement with the Russians.


Years of failure, suspicion and mistrust lie behind us.


Yet we are not asking for favors or privileges -only for action that serves that the most urgent needs of both nations.


The Soviets are hostile to our concept of freedom -willing to forcibly repress the peoples of other countries as they repress their own.


But they, their families, their economy, are held hostage by the nuclear peril – as we are.


Peace is in their interest – as in ours.


President john Kennedy never failed to face the Russians when they were wrong – or negotiate with them when the cause was right.


His words, 20 years ago, are as true and compelling today as they were then:


"Let us not be blind to our differences. But in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet.


"We all breathe the same air.


"We all cherish our children's future.


"And we are all mortal."


In 1983, the doomsday clock is racing ahead, faster than ever.


Albert Einstein warned that nuclear war could destroy the environment that sustains life upon this planet and thus annihilate the human race.


That would surrender us to absolute and total darkness, as Jonathan Schell put it:


"A darkness in which no nation, no society, no ideology, no civilization will remain; in which never again will a child be born; in which never again will human beings appear on the earth; and there will be no one to remember that they ever did."


At the heart of all my convictions always has been the belief that American freedom can only flourish in world at peace.


I have not given so many years of my life and so much energy to fulfilling that belief, that I can now stand by while this country – which Jefferson called the hope of all mankind – abandons its justifying creed: the right of every citizen to liberty, to the pursuit of happiness and to life itself.


I will not let this happen.


I know the American people do not want it to happen.


They share my values. They share my concerns.


And, once united in purpose, they will be a mighty – indeed, an irresistible force.


I cannot forge that unity of purpose from my seat in the Senate.


It can be done only from the White House.


And so, today, I set out for the White House for the same reasons that, years ago, led me into public life.


I am – at 68 – older than many of the other candidates.


Some have said that my age is a handicap.


I don't believe so.


Principles and values don't decline with age.


They just grow stronger.


There's one claim I can make: I have lived in another America – a country that rose against depression and brought the armed powers of tyranny to their knees.


That America is still here.


I see it, feel it, hear it in the voices of a hundred meetings, as I make my way across the continent.


And that is why I believe I can attain such difficult goals – with confidence, not in myself alone, but in the people from whom I come.


So, today, I leave the starting line.


The finish line is not Election Day, November 6, 1984.


That will only be the starting line of the campaign that really counts – to heal our nation – and to bring ourselves and our children out from under the dark shadow of nuclear war.


It is essential and it is possible to win this campaign – and to banish nuclear weapons from the face of God's earth.


Thank you.


Source: Cranston For President Committee (Courtesy Mike Swickey)


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