SENATOR BOB KERREY
SPEECH FOR THE CANDIDACY OF
At the center of this
great country and on the edge of a new century, I am today announcing my
candidacy to be the next President of the United States of America.
This announcement is
to all America. But the first message is to Nebraska. You are the people who
supported me each time I've asked for help. In my family, business and in
I have never done
anything alone; I have always needed you and you have never disappointed me.
At the beginning of
this campaign I remember this community most for what you did for me during my
life's most difficult time: when I came home wounded and disillusioned from the
Vietnam War. Through your collective kindness, you helped a weakened, lonely and
altogether unpleasant young man to renew his sense of purpose and to rediscover
You did not ask what
was in it for you. You didn't calculate the return you might receive on
your investment. You
simply and powerfully extended love and friendship ... and I will never be able
to thank you enough.
Ten years ago I came
to you and asked for your help in a campaign to be Governor of Nebraska. I ran
for Governor because it did not make any sense to me that government should
avoid facing the most important issues just because they were controversial. As
Governor, and as Senator, I have tried above all things to never waiver in my
dedication to doing what I believed was right. In government, as in life, truth
is always more valuable than approval.
Once more I come to
you and ask: Will you help me now become the next President of the United States
I know the greatness
of America, and I know what is at stake. Too often, we take our democratic
system for granted. And too often, particularly over the past two decades, we
forget that all of us have the right to demand more from our leaders -- that we
should expect our President to live up to the standards set by our Founding
I want to lead a
process of renewal in America in order to bring about new possibilities for us
as individuals, families and businesses. Only then can we build greatness back
into American life. Greatness should animate and motivate our work today.
I want to lead
America's fearless, restless voyage of generational progress. We have been led
off course by a Federal government whose engine has become inertia; whose
direction is adrift; and whose compass is cynicism. I am running for President
because America urgently needs better, bolder leadership that will build for
I want to lead
because I believe almost everyone but our present leadership knows what we must
do. I believe Americans know deep in their bones that something is terribly
wrong and that business as usual -- the prescription for the 80s -- cannot work
for our future. What we need is a renewal ... a renewal that leads to a
willingness to act upon the idea of building for greatness.
My generation is
uniquely positioned to understand what must now be done. I am repeatedly drawn
to the difference between the world I inherited as a young man and the world I
am preparing to pass on to my children.
When I graduated from
high school in 1961, I and my classmates faced a future of great promise, the
direct result of our parents' determination to make our lives better than their
generation had taken our nation into the forefront of world leadership. They had
defeated fascism, and were in the process of implementing a network of arms and
alliances that would eventually contain communism.
And my parents'
generation was doing great things for us at home. In 1961 they were in the midst
of building a brand new interstate highway system to be paid for with cash. The
schools they provided us were respected throughout the world. They gave us a
thriving economy that enabled us to double our standard of living within a
single generation; to buy a house; to purchase health care; to afford higher
education for our own children.
Next year, my own son
will graduate from high school. What kind of legacy will he inherit?
understands that the power of those earlier gifts is dwindling because our
leadership simply has not renewed them.
I can feel thankful
that the threat of communism has receded, and that my son does not face the
likelihood of war. But the benefits of this historic victory have not been
brought home to the people who deserve to claim them.
The staggering cost
of that malignant neglect can be seen in the frustrated faces of the millions
who cannot find work, or pay for health care, or make ends meet. And that
neglect will carve even deeper scars on our next generation: the Americans of
the next century.
At the end of this
century, my daughter will be graduating from college. Unless we do things
differently now, she will assume title to a far different inheritance than we
received in 1961.
Unless we do things
differently now, she and her classmates could each inherit an $84,000 I.O.U. in
the year 2000 -- their share of a massively enlarged federal debt that will
crimp their standard of living and that of their children.
Unless we do things
differently now, these turn of the century graduates can expect family lives
where stagnant incomes will force them into more hours at work and less time
with their children, where home ownership and college tuition and even adequate
health care will be beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest.
Unless we do things
differently now, today's children will inherit a land where their daily lives
are diminished by highways and communications systems that are inadequate by the
standards of our international competitors; by natural resources depleted by
wasteful use; and by divisions of race and income that tear at our cities filled
with human lives wasted by drugs, violence and neglect.
I am running for
President because the future I fear for my children is already a reality for far
too many Americans. I am ready to serve because none of it has to be. It is time
for leadership committed to posterity rather than popularity and focused on the
next century instead of the next election.
The year 1992 offers
us a chance to break from a decade in which our leaders invited a season of
cynicism. They invoked morality but winked at greed. They criticized the public
sector but then robbed it blind. They spoke of balanced budgets but never
submitted one. They railed against taxes but raised them on the middle class.
They called for civil rights but practiced racial politics. They wrapped their
cause in motherhood but tried to strip motherhood of choice or meaningful
In our hearts, we all
know that the unchecked selfishness and greed that dominated the policies of the
eighties has taken its toll on our nation. Our enthusiasm for the dream and our
willingness to believe has been cooled by leaders who have betrayed our trust.
This campaign is
grounded in the belief that we can and should trust again. As such its not so
much a fight against George Bush as a fight for what America can be.
The year 1992 offers
a chance to end the feeling that our economic future is impaired.
President Bush simply
has not done all he could or should be doing.
In truth he reminds
me of some managers I've known in business; great person to be around; all his
employees love him. But the business is losing money, and all he's offering is
excuses as to why nothing can be done. It is time for America to change
Still, President Bush
is not the enemy. A more difficult enemy for us to defeat is our own pessimism
-- particularly in the Democratic Party -- that any effort matters, that
anything we do will change the dangerous direction which America is heading
I want the Democratic
Party to become a can-do party again. We should become the party that put
America back to work as we did during the Depression. We should become the party
that reached out to those bent low and raised our sights up to the moon as we
did in my generation. It is time again for us to do great things. If we do, we
can stand at the dawn of the next century proud of what we gave the Class of
Proud that we got our
economy moving again by investing in our nation, spurring its growth, and
corralling the deficit.
Proud that we changed
our system of financing health care so that medical care is established as a
right, and no American -- young or old -- is ever priced out of the care they
Proud that we created
an America where no child is hungry for food, but every child is hungry for
Proud that we built
schools that work because they had the resources and freedom to get the job done
Proud that we
transformed our communication system into a bridge between the work of our
schools and the work of our homes and a window onto new worlds of learning.
This campaign is not
just about America taking care of the business at home. It is about a new role
for America in the world.
nature of the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union will soon
be a distant memory. Still present will be the perennial dangers of
totalitarianism, national piracy and unchecked aggression.
It is crucial that
America give new attention as well to an old conflict: the conflict between
developed and undeveloped nations.
In this bipolar
conflict between the haves and have-nots the United States will have a special
dual role. We must compete hard with those nations that are our equals. But at
the same time we must not relinquish our role as the champion of individual
freedoms. We must work hard to give citizens of less developed nations the
opportunity to participate in a growing international economy ... not as an act
of charity but as act of enlightened self interest.
As we compete with
our equals, America's President must fight the battle at home AND our President
must use the authority given by Congress to fight a trade war which is
endangering our economy and those of the non-developed world. In particular, and
most difficult, will be our friends and allies, the Japanese whose adversarial
policies undermine much more than the economic prosperity of Americans.
Restrictive, purely nationalistic trade policies by developed nations will make
life more miserable for the growing number of people on this planet who are
unable to support themselves.
In addition to
helping to settle economic conflicts America must lead the effort on population
control, global warming, soil loss, deforestation and the status of the world's
children. On this short list of issues we must lead not impede progress on this
It is crucial for
America's President to understand the power of our words. When President Reagan
called the Soviet Union an evil empire he did much to bring down these
totalitarian regimes. And as the wall of secrecy drops on Eastern Europe and the
Soviet Republics we are seeing that the evil was worse than most imagined. Our
words can cut the lies from the mouths of those who speak them and embolden
people to act. And we still must be prepared to speak and act -- in China, where
repressive acts have been rewarded not with condemnation, but with
most-favored-nation trade status. And in Vietnam, where the cruelties of the
communist takeover sixteen years ago are only now beginning to become apparent.
As we wonder whether
to raise our voices to oppose the world's remaining dictators and to defend the
right of all men and women to be free, we should remember this: Vaclav Havel,
Lech Walesa, and Nelson Mandela came to America to thank us for saving them, not
for saving ourselves. The cause of the Cold War was not just to defend America;
it was to liberate four hundred million people.
In the 1990s and
beyond we will need new strategies and new partnerships to lead America through
the intense economic competition, ethnic strife, shifting coalitions and
proliferation of weapons. What should not change is the rudder that has guided
America for the past forty-five years. The essence of our success was America's
willingness to pay a price to secure the freedom of others.
I am proud and
grateful for the effort made by the architects and implementers of the policies
of containment. Friday night America heard President Bush -- a proud man has
been fighting cold war battles for most of his thirty-five years in public life
-- take the first concrete step beyond containment.
It was an exciting
and serious moment. Exciting because we are heading in the direction of
increased freedom, stability and prosperity. Serious because we need to change
our military force structure with an alert mind that focuses on our safety and
security. It is also a serious moment because we are aware that the next battle
will be an economic fight, and we are not yet fully prepared for the effort.
Perhaps the most important change we need is that our political leaders are
going to have to risk a little if we hope to gain a lot.
symbolizes the sense of new purpose we need to demand of our leaders than the
building that stands behind me -- Nebraska's State Capitol. It was built by
Nebraskans at the start of the Great Depression. If ever a people had the right
to give up it was the people who built this building.
But just look at what
they did. They built this building with cash. They built it to last and to be
enjoyed beyond their lifetimes. They were not motivated by a depreciation
schedule or the desire to brag about their accomplishment on their campaign
brochures. They built this building for generations yet unborn. And they did
something else we should notice and emulate -- they built it to inspire.
This building turns
our eyes and spirits upward. It should occur to us that if God gave the
Nebraskans of our past the strength and courage to overcome pessimism and build
for greatness, then we ought not doubt our capacity to do the same.
It requires us to
believe. It requires us to risk. Most of all it requires us to look towards and
work for the future.
The words of a martyr
to the cause of freedom should guide our work today:
"It may be that
the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; in that case, we shall gladly stop
working for a better future. But not before."
Let us go now ... and begin the good work of building greatness in America again.
Source: Field Guide to the 1992 Presidential Campaign Democracy in Action
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