Presidential Campaign and Candidates


John Glenn 1984






This is one of the most important days of my life -- and I want to begin by saying it's good to be home.

New Concord is a very special place to me. It was here that I grew up; here that I went to school; and here, forty years ago this month, that I married the most courageous woman I've ever known, my wife Annie.

It was also here in New Concord that I learned the values that have guided me through life.

My father was a plumber, and he taught me the value of hard work. But after a few summers of swinging a pick, helping him dig water lines, I came to agree with Abe Lincoln, who said that while his father taught him to work, he never taught him to like it.

My mother was a schoolteacher. She taught me the value of one of the great experiments in human history. It's called American public education, and it's based on the revolutionary belief that all the children of this land deserve an opportunity: an opportunity to rise as high and go as far as their ambitions, talents and good fortune combine to take them.

I was given that chance. And I stand before you today because I believe that this generation of Americans deserves the same precious, priceless opportunity.

Here in New Concord, I also learned the value of community and compassion. The conviction that neighbors should help each other arose naturally from our religious beliefs. When money was short during the Depression, my dad sometimes took payment for his work in sides of beef and bushels of potatoes.

But when the Depression deepened, he kept us together by going to work for the WPA installing a new town water system. That was after Franklin Roosevelt became President and began a new American tradition: a tradition of concerned, compassionate government. And I stand before you today because I believe in that tradition; and because I believe America must never turn her back on those in need of help.

Patriotism was something else we learned here in New Concord. On Memorial Day, my father played Taps on his bugle at the cemetery -- and I would echo him from over the hill. We were proud of our flag and ready to defend it. In two wars, I saw good men die so democracy could live. I've seen the awful destructiveness of man --and the awesome courage of individual men. And I stand before you today because I believe that the highest form of patriotism is the unrelenting pursuit of peace.

In the forty years since I left New Concord, I've seen much of our country and the world -- and I've experienced much, first as a military officer and astronaut, and later as a businessman and United States Senator.

As I travel this land of ours, I'm humbled by its grandeur and the vastness of its natural resources. I've seen our wheat fields and our oil fields, our timberlines and our coastlines -- and no nation on earth is more blessed with splendor and abundance.

But America is more than our resources.

America is people -- 233 million men, women and children of every race, creed and color. And America is the shared dream of freedom and opportunity that brings us together.

America is democracy -- the radical belief that free men and women can express a common vision, unite for a common purpose, and elect a government that will faithfully represent them.

America is free enterprise, a tough, competitive system that offers great rewards to those with ability and initiative.

But America is also compassion; the conviction that we will never move this country ahead by leaving some of our people behind.

America is more diverse --and infinitely more complex than one community. Yet all Americans share the simple values we learned in this small town -- the values of excellence, honesty, fairness, compassion for those who have less, and confidence in facing the future. Those values are truly the heart of the American experiment, and they must be the soul of our government as well.

Two years ago, we elected an Administration which likes to talk about those values. Unfortunately, its deeds have fallen far short of its words.

The policies of this Administration aren't expanding opportunity, they're diminishing it.

They aren't promoting excellence, they're discouraging it.

They aren't fostering compassion, they're reducing it.

In our schools, children from poorer families are getting neither the help they need nor the skills they deserve. In our colleges, the Administration's shortsighted cutbacks in government loan programs -- our finest investments in the future -- are keeping many students from enrolling, and forcing others to drop out.

In our laboratories, vital, long-term research that could be producing new jobs and technologies is too often abandoned for lack of Federal support.

In our communities, elderly Americans have their golden years tarnished by growing fears of lost dignity and social insecurity.

In our cities, blacks, hispanics and other minorities have seen two decades of progress replaced by two years of retreat.

American women see an Administration that applauds the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment -- and that shrugs its shoulders at economic discrimination.

All across this great country, we've seen millions thrown out of work --and millions more thrown into despair. We've seen factories close, small businesses bankrupted, and farms sold at auction. We've seen bread lines and cheese lines, soup lines and shantytowns. We've seen people sleeping on grates and families living in cars. It's a national tragedy and a national disgrace -- and I say we're going to put an end to it in November of 1984.

The issue is leadership.

We're the same people who tamed a continent, crossed frontiers, won wars, and built the greatest, strongest nation on earth. We see a problem, think up an idea, test it, adjust it, and finally succeed with it.

I deeply believe in that process -- because I have been part of it. In this country, the sky is not the limit. I say we can rise above the depths of this recession. And I say that given the right leadership, the American people can still outwork, outinvent, outproduce and outcompete any nation on the face of this earth.

In foreign policy, too, the issue is leadership.

Cold war rhetoric and public relations offensives won't end the arms race, but visionary leadership will.

A flip-flop foreign policy that alienates our allies won't enhance America's security, but consistent leadership will.

A policy on human rights that ignores inhuman wrongs won't restore our moral authority, but principled leadership will.

At home and abroad, the issue is leadership.

But instead of a renewal of old values, we see a return to old inequities.

And instead of a confident advance into the world of the future, we see a nostalgic retreat into the myths of the past.

Two decades ago, I served a young President who promised to get America moving again. He asked us for sacrifice and repaid us in courage. John Kennedy was struck down, but his legacy lives -- and I believe that courageous leadership can once again unite this country to meet the challenges of anew generation.

The President says America is on the mend. I say it's time America was on the march.

Together, we can put our people back to work. We can reduce the deficits that keep interest rates and unemployment high by deferring this year's tax cut and repealing indexing. Those measures alone would save 225 billion dollars over the next four years.

Together, we can prepare the children of today for the challenges of tomorrow – and do it by restoring funding for basic education, incentives for science education, and loans for higher education.

Together, we can give industry the help it needs and still treat our environment with the respect it deserves. We can't pit one region's ecology against another's economy, and that's why problems like acid rain must be addressed at the national level.

Together, we can enact a sensible farm bill that preserves fair prices at home and promotes expanded exports abroad. And we can end the disgrace of soup lines by feeding the hungry with some of the surplus food we're paying to store.

Together, we can reduce the uncertainty and doubt of older Americans by making Medicare solvent and retirement secure. In our national life -- as in our personal lives -- we must observe the ancient admonition to honor our fathers and mothers.

Together, we can reform our criminal justice system so law-abiding citizens can walk the streets and victims of crime will have rights.

Together, we can protect women's economic rights by passing the Economic Equity Act, and we can guarantee their Constitutional rights by getting the ERA passed by the Congress, ratified by the states, and written into our Constitution.

Together, we shall overcome racism and bigotry -- not through legislation alone, but through the even more difficult struggle to change the hearts and minds of men and women, so that finally -- and at long last -- we can turn the old dream of justice into a new American reality.

Together, we can keep America's defense the strongest on earth, because we know the first duty of government is to keep our people alive, independent and free. Yes, I'll stand up for the military -- and I'll also stand to the military when that is what our national interest demands.

But we must also look beyond the problems of today and raise our sights to the challenges of tomorrow.

We stand at a changepoint in history. New technologies are changing our world as dramatically as the Industrial Revolution did two centuries ago. Our children and grandchildren will hold jobs, use technologies, and compete in a world that we can barely imagine. We cannot, should not, and must not retreat from these challenges, nor can we allow them to overwhelm us.

New technologies promise great opportunities and pose great dangers. They promise greater prosperity, elimination of hunger and disease, a more secure defense, and expanded personal freedom. But they can also cause lost jobs, environmental destruction, nuclear disaster and an Orwellian nightmare of government control.

That is one reason the next election is so crucial. We must have leadership that understands the potential of modern science both for good and for ill. We must have an educated citizenry that can make informed decisions --and can never be controlled by a technocratic elite.

In short, we must be masters of the new technology, not its servants or victims.

Nowhere is this more clear than on the critical issue of our planet’s survival.

In today's world, all our greatness, all our dreams, and all that we cherish can vanish in the blink of an eye. In today's world, every word and deed of the President of the United States can move us closer to annihilation, or closer to peace.

Once again, the issue is leadership. As a first step toward peace, we must work for an immediate, mutual and verifiable freeze on nuclear weapons. But then we must go further --and negotiate a reduction in existing nuclear stockpiles. Then we must go further -- and halt the worldwide spread of nuclear arms. Then we must go further still -- and involve all nations possessing nuclear weapons in the arms control process. And then we must go further yet --and work to reduce conventional weapons as well.

In an age when the next war could well be the last war, our task is clear: this generation must seek not just to end war once it has started, but to end war once and for all.

During his 1980 election campaign, President Reagan often spoke of a shining city on a hill.

It is no shining city that denies education, destroys jobs, and diminishes opportunities.

We will not reach that dreamed-of city following roadmaps of the past that direct us back into the valleys from which we've already climbed.

No one person or party has all the answers. But I believe we can start by:

--Summoning our Nation's best minds to chart a bipartisan Agenda for the Future: a statement of national purpose that can be our roadmap to the next century:

--By guaranteeing a first-rate education to every young person; and

--By revitalizing our old industries and, with research, invention and innovation, paving the way for new jobs and industries as yet unknown.

This Nation gave my generation the gift of opportunity, the chance to be all that we could be, even to reach for greatness. In the final analysis, our lives will count for little unless we pass that gift on, to this generation and to generations yet unborn. That is my goal --and I believe it is America's destiny.

Twenty-one years ago, after my flight in Friendship 7, I spoke to a joint session of Congress and closed with these words:

"As our knowledge of the universe in which we live increases, may God grant us the wisdom and guidance to use it wisely."

Today, as I stand at the threshold of an even greater journey, my feelings are the same. I seek your support and God's guidance as once more I ask to serve my country.

With confidence that my life has prepared me for this challenge,

With dedication to the promise of opportunity and the pursuit of peace,

And with a firm belief that guided by the light of old values we can again reach new horizons,

I declare my candidacy for President of the United States.

Source: John Glenn Senate Office Press Release John Glenn Archives at The Ohio State University


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