Presidential Campaign and Candidates


Gary Hart 1984 Announcement Speech

For Release

11:30 a.m., MST

February 17, 1983




Senator Gary Hart

Denver, Colorado


I am a candidate for President of the United States in 1984.


I take this step out of a deep concern about the condition of our country -- and a deep commitment to a new vision of a better, stronger America.


We now face a stark choice between national renewal or national decline. Our problems worsen while some retreat to an unfair past and others debate old remedies and contend over shop-worn policies. In this decade -- in the term of the next President --we must build a bridge to a new era and master its possibilities.


That task is the legacy of our national character.


Our forebears launched covered wagons to conquer the frontier. In World War II, we led the free world in defeating Fascism and in preserving democracy. And the Americans of the 1960's launched rockets into space to conquer the skies.


The course of history has continually tested the creativity of our people. That test has taken different forms at different times, but at heart it is always the same. We must preserve our enduring ideals by replacing tired assumptions with fresh ideas.


So now that challenge confronts us again. As America was in the years of Franklin Roosevelt, facing economic collapse and the passing of an isolationist world, we must once more become a bold, adventurous, and pioneering nation.


In the 1930's, the task was to break the grip of paralyzing ideas about a do-nothing government and a see-nothing foreign policy.


Half a century later, in the 1980's, the task is to break the grip of narrow, negative agendas and special interest government in Washington. Today the center of national interest has been made a center of insensitivity, inaction and special favor.


While a few in our nation enjoy unprecedented wealth, too many others endure unnecessary suffering. Homeless people wander our streets and sleep in cars or boxes and huddle on grates to find a breath of heat. Middle class families cannot pay the interest rates to buy a house. Workers cannot find a job. Farmers feel hopeless and helpless as their land is foreclosed and auctioned at forced sales.


At best, the Administration offers a recovery which will enrich the wealthy, make a portion of us a little better off, and do nothing at all for the tens of millions of our people who are the worst off.


This is divisive and dangerous. It is economically wasteful and morally wrong. I refuse to accept it. I believe that, as Americans, we can and must move this nation forward while leaving none behind.


To create true progress, we must first reject the myth that we can return to a simpler, easier time of public inattention and neglect. Far too many candidates and too many presidents have been running against the very government they seek to...lead. So let me state my view plainly: We live in a complex period of advancing technology and accelerating events, where mistakes of public policy can unemploy millions or unleash nuclear conflict.


Government is the instrument by which we solve our collective problems. As Americans, we cannot claim to love our country if we hate our government.


The next President must challenge us to positive change and to a new democracy. We must begin by rejecting the false choice between an inefficient government frozen in the ice of ineffective programs -- and an insensitive government which warms only to the claims of money and privilege.


I am the first candidate for President in history to reject contributions from political action committees.

Because, as President, I do not intend to be in debt to countless lobbies with narrow and conflicting agendas.


For a President who owes his election to narrow interests risks an Administration that is owned by them.

The best government money can buy is the worst government we can have.


A President must do more than negotiate, bargain and compromise with an array of interests. He must have the vision to see the national interest and achieve national renewal --to see what is best for America, and how all of us together can do better.


The next President must shape domestic policies that actually achieve progress -- instead of perpetuating programs merely because there is a pressure group for them. Every dollar wasted on a program that does not work represents something better we cannot do. We can afford to be more compassionate only if we also have the courage to set rational priorities. We can be tender-hearted if we are also tough-minded.


The next President must match our armed forces to the real needs of our national security. And he must guarantee our defenses are the most effective -- not the most expensive. Too often, there is a constituency for the most costly new weapons, but not for the maintenance of weapons we already have -- or the retention of talented men and women in our armed forces. Our national defense deserves better.


And the next President must look beyond the demands of the moment to the foundations of a lasting prosperity. We must cease fighting among ourselves for the pieces of a shrinking economic pie. We cannot have the East and the West, the South and the North, the sunbelt and the snowbelt, waging a second civil war over their share of a declining economy. Instead, we can and must act together to achieve steady economic growth -- not just next year, but across the next generation.


We must create the best education system in the world -- a system that teaches students how to master the machinery and technology of tomorrow and how to promote humanitarian principles on a contentious globe. To an Administration which says education is too expensive, I say: Wait until you see how much ignorance costs.


We must forge a new and innovative consortium of labor, business and government to make America once again the first economy in the world. We must modernize our industrial capacity and reject economic isolationism as clearly as we once rejected military isolation.


Our auto, steel, and textile workers have been victims of deficient management and planning. We must re-employ them by making their industries modern and competitive. The answer is not to make other workers and farmers casualties in a worldwide trade war. The answer is to insist aggressivelly on fair trade rules and to become the most competitive open market nation in the world.


For more than a decade, our people have been crying out for change -- yet nothing seems to change except for the worse. The fault is not with the American system itself, but a government of, by, and for, narrow interests -- locked in the past and unable to respond to a changing world. We will have a fair and responsive society only when we have a President who is on the side of the vast, unorganized majority of Americans and who can lift our sights to a higher national purpose.


I believe the American people are ready to respond again to a President who does not promise what government can do for each separate group --but who asks anew what all of us can do for our country and our common good.


I intend to be a President on the people's side. I intend to be a President who fights to protect the rights of minorities and of women and who fights to provide opportunities and jobs for all at a fair wage.


I intend to be a President who works to conserve the natural gifts and beauty of this land -- "from sea to shining sea" -- and who resists attempts to put our environment on the auction block.


I intend to be a President who cares about the truly needy -- not a President who only speaks about them. I would like to be remembered for reducing unemployment, instead of reducing unemployment compensation. I would like to be remembered for helping to house the homeless, instead of trying to house the MX missile.


And I intend to be a President who -- as a matter of the highest priority -- negotiates a freeze on nuclear weapons with the Soviet Union -- and then achieves major and mutual reductions in the arsenals of nuclear overkill. And I intend to go further -- I intend to do everything within my power to see that nuclear weapons are never again used on the face of the Earth.


I yield to no one in my commitment on this issue.


The demand for real arms control came from the people. While experts in Washington quarreled over theories,

Americans across the country took control of the question for themselves. The madness of the nuclear arms race must end. And, as President, I intend to see that it does.


And I intend to be a President who listens to the people. A national leader should do more than hold occasional press conferences. He should go out in the country regularly to meet informally with ordinary citizens.


I believe Americans are ready to go on the march again. They sense the passage we must make between two worlds -- the world of our parents and the one we will leave to our children. They are prepared to give of themselves to make our country what it must become. They yearn to be patriotic -- to be confident about our prospects, and proud of our role in the world.


I share that hope. And as the son of dust bowl farm parents who never finished high school, but who always had the greatest love and the highest hopes for their children, I want to see the American dream live and flourish for my children and the next generation. I want to see a world safe from nuclear extinction, where, nonetheless, we will be called upon to continue the ceaseless effort to defend democratic values against those who would suppress and collectivize the human spirit.


I ask you to join in this campaign --not just for a candidate but for a vision of America. We begin here at home in Colorado at the edge of the Continental Divide. We know once again, that our great nation stands at a great divide --and that we must set our course toward a new era. My message is not one of permanent limits, but of potential breakthroughs. Breakthroughs in health and science, in communication and understanding, in instruments of peace not weapons of war.


Let us break the deadlock of old systems and old doctrines. Let us renew the order of progress and of caring for one another. Let us move this great nation into the future.


For that purpose, I undertake this campaign. For that cause, I will carry our campaign into every state. And with your help, we will win the Democractic nomination, and then the Presidency -- and then we will win back our nation for all the people.


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Source:   Gary Hart for President Press Release

Courtesy: Archives University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries


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