Fred Harris 1972 Announcement Speech


Upon Delivery

Friday, September 24, 1971

10:30 a.m.


Statement of U.S. Senator Fred R. Harris

at press conference, caucus room,

old senate office building

washington, d.c.


My father is a small farmer in southwest Oklahoma. My wife, LaDonna, is a militant woman and an activist member of the Comanche Indian Tribe. Our daughter, Kathryn, is a college senior.


My father has less than a high school education. He works twice as hard as most Americans. He knows he pays more than his fair share of taxes, while a lot of rich people do not. He is a proud man. He has always been able to take care of his own, through hard work. Now, as is true of most small farmers and working men and women, he is worse off economically than he has been since the Depression. Everything he buys costs more, but his own real income is less.


My mother suffered a stroke three years ago and has been in a coma since then. My father cannot pay my mother's medical bills. And he's hurt and angry about that.


He knows it doesnít have to be that way.


My wife grew up in a home where Comanche was the first language. She resents the fact that maximum security prisons are mostly peopled by blacks, chicanos, American Indians, Puerto Ricans and poor people. She never believed that

George Jackson was shot in the top of the head from a guard tower. Something told her that the Attica hostages didn't die at the hands of the prisoners. She was right.


My daughter wonders why a government that can trace Angela Davis to a motel room canít stop the heroin traffic. She says aloud what a lot of older people havenít yet put into words: human values are the most important, and America needs something to believe in.


I have listened to black people in San Francisco, old people in Miami, students in Des Moines, small farmers in Oklahoma, working men and women in Akron, activist women in New York and Vietnam veterans in Albuquerque.


Two strong impressions emerge:


--A lot of people can't believe America has ever been to the moon. That's because they doubt the credibility of government. And because it seems so illogical to them that our nation could spend so much money on space when so many of our people here on earth can't buy medical care.


--Most people donít believe that it makes much difference what politician is elected. They don't really believe things are going to change.


1972 is a crucial year. America wonít be the same in 1976. I intend to try to turn this country around before it's too late.


I am a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.


People have a right to believe that if they get interested in a presidential campaign things will change.


I believe that a President can call this country back to the greatness that is in us. I mean to try.


I mean to give people a voice through the campaign itself. I intend to hold hearings on the problems of the elderly. I mean to visit the hospital wards with Vietnam veterans. I mean to go into the prisons and to walk the streets where working men and women live. A campaign itself can give power to the powerless. I mean to do that.


We can have a better distribution of income. We can have a better distribution of power. We can have a return to idealism in foreign policy.


Now is the time.


Source:   Harris for President News Release

Courtesy: Fred Harris Collection, Carl Albert Congressional Archives,

          University of Oklahoma