Edward Kennedy's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention

July 28th 2004

The text of Sen. Edward Kennedy's speech Tuesday at the 
Democratic National Convention, as prepared:

Thank you. Thank you, Bob Caro, for that generous introduction. 

With the continuing support of the people of Massachusetts, I intend 
to stay in this job until I get the hang of it.

To my fellow delegates and my fellow Democrats, I've waited a very, 
very long time to say this: Welcome to my hometown!

To Americans everywhere whose aspirations have been kindled anew 
by this campaign we, who convene here tonight in liberty's cradle, 
say: Welcome home!

Welcome home for the ideals born in Boston and strengthened by 
centuries of service and sacrifice. Ideals like freedom and equality and 
opportunity and fairness and common decency for all -- ideals that all 
Americans yearn to reclaim. And make no mistake: Come November, 
reclaim them we shall by making John Kerry president of the 
United States.

These fundamental ideals light the fire in each of us to do all we can 
and then more to see that next January, John Kerry has a nice new 
home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It fills me with pride to have our Democratic Convention in this city this 
hallowed ground that gave birth to these enduring American ideals. 
Like my grandfather and my brother before me, I have been privileged 
to serve this place where every street is history's home: The Old North 
Church, where lanterns signaled Paul Revere; The Old State House, 
where John Adams said independence was born; The Golden Steps, 
where waves of new immigrants entered this new land of liberty and 
opportunity, including all eight of my own great-grandparents from 

Here in New England, we love our history, and like all Americans, we 
learn from it. We breathe it deep, because it sustains us, it guides us, 
it inspires us. It was no accident that Massachusetts was founded as 
a commonwealth, a place where authority belongs not to a single 
ruler, but to the people themselves, joined together for the common 
good. The old system was based on inequality. Loyalty was demanded, 
never earned. Leaders ruled by fear, by force, by special favors for the 
few. Under that old, unequal system, the quality of your connections 
mattered more than the content of your character. Your voices were 
not heard. Your concerns did not matter. Your votes did not count.

The colonists knew they could do better, just as we know we can do 
better today but only if we all work together, only if we all reach out 
together, only if we all come together for the common good. Now, it 
is for us, the patriots of this new century, to do that, to shape our own 
better future and make it worthy of our past, to choose a leader 
worthy of our country and that leader is John Kerry.

Today, more than two centuries after the embattled farmers stood 
and fired the shot heard "round the world," the ideals of our founders 
still resonate across the globe. Young people in other lands inspired by 
the liberty we cherish linked arms and sang "We Shall Overcome" 
when the Berlin Wall fell, when apartheid ended in South Africa, and 
when the courageous protests took place in Tiananmen Square.

The goals of the American people are every bit as high as they were 
more than 200 years ago. If America is failing to reach them today, 
it's not because our ideals need replacing, it's because our President 
needs replacing.

We bear no ill will toward our opponents. In fact, we'd be happy to 
have them over for a polite little tea party. I know just the place, 
right down the road at Boston Harbor.

For today, like the brave and visionary men and women before us, 
we are determined to change our government. I've served for many 
years in the Senate and have seen many elections. But there have 
been none more urgent or more important than this one. Never 
before have I seen a contrast so sharp or consequences so profound 
as in the choice we will make for president in 2004.

So much of the progress we once achieved has been turned back.

So much of the goodwill America once enjoyed in the world has been 
lost. But we are a hopeful nation, and our values and our optimism 
are still burning bright.

Those same values and optimism are what brought our forebears 
across a harsh ocean and sustained them through many brutal 
winters that inspired patriots from John Adams to John Kennedy 
to John Kerry, and their strong belief that America's best days 
are still ahead.

There's a reason why this land was called 
"the American experiment." If dedication to the common good were 
hardwired into human nature, we would never have needed a 
revolution. If each of us cared about the public interest, we wouldn't 
have the excesses of Enron. We wouldn't have the abuses of 
Halliburton. And Vice President Cheney would be retired to an 
\undisclosed location.

Soon, thanks to John Kerry and John Edwards, he'll have ample 
time to do just that. Our country demands a great deal from us, 
and we rightly demand a great deal from our leaders. America 
is a compact, a bargain, a contract. It says that all of us are 
connected. Our fates are intertwined. Fifty states, one nation. 
Our Constitution binds us together.

Yet in our own time, there are those who seek to divide us. 
One community against another. Urban against rural. City 
against suburb. Whites against blacks. Men against women. 
Straights against gays. Americans against Americans.

In these challenging times for our country, in these fateful times 
for the world, America needs a genuine uniter, not a divider 
who only claims to be a uniter. We have seen how they rule: 
they divide and try to conquer. They know the power of the 
people is weakened when our house is divided. They believe 
they can't win, unless the rest of us lose. We reject that 
shameful view.

The Democratic Party has a different idea. We believe that all of 
us can win. We believe we are one nation, under God, indivisible, 
with liberty and justice for all. And when we say all, we mean all.

Today in this global age, our goal of the common good extends far 
beyond America's borders. As President Kennedy said in 1963 in 
his quest for restraint in nuclear arms: "We can help make the 
world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic 
common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe 
the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all 

Interdependence defines our world. For all our might, for all our 
wealth, we know we are only as strong as the bonds we share 
with others. The dangers of terrorism and nuclear proliferation 
our greatest challenges are shared by all nations. And our 
greatest opportunities -- from achieving lasting peace and 
security, to building a more prosperous society, to ending the 
ravages of disease and the despairs of poverty -- can all be 
seized. But only if the world works together, and only if America 
helps to lead in the right direction. And John Kerry has the skill 
and the judgment and the experience to lead us on that 
great journey.

The eyes of the world were on us and the hearts of the world 
were with us after September 11th until this administration 
broke that trust. We should have honored, not ignored, the 
pledges we made. We should have strengthened, not scorned, 
the alliances that won two World Wars and the Cold War.

Most of all, we should have honored the principle so 
fundamental that our nation's founders placed it in the very 
first sentence of the Declaration of Independence: that 
America must give "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

We failed to do that in Iraq. More than 900 of our servicemen and 
women have already paid the ultimate price. Nearly 6,000 have 
been wounded in this misguided war. The administration has 
alienated longtime allies. Instead of making America more secure, 
they have made us less so. They have made it harder to win the real 
war on terrorism, the war against al-Qaida. None of this had to happen.

How could any president have possibly squandered the enormous 
goodwill that flowed to America from across the world after 
September 11th?

Most of the world still knows what we can be, what only we can be, 
and they want us to be that nation again.

America must be a light to the world, and under John Kerry and 
John Edwards, that's what America will be.

We need a president who will bind up the nation's wounds. We need 
a president who will be a symbol of respect in a world yearning to 
be at peace again. We need John Kerry as our president.

Time and again in America's history, we as Democrats have offered 
new hope of a stronger, fairer, more prosperous future for all our 
people, a society that feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, and 
cares for the sick so that none must walk alone.

When the elderly faced poverty and sickness that threatened their 
golden years, we created Social Security and Medicare.

When the voices of many citizens went unheard and their lives were 
blighted by bigotry, we fought for equality and justice for civil rights 
and voting rights and the rights of women, for the cause of 
Americans with disabilities.

When higher education was beyond the reach of veterans returning 
home from war, we created the G.I. Bill of Rights and we have 
continued ever since to make college more affordable for millions 
more Americans.

When men and women needed protection in the workplace, we 
demanded safe conditions for their jobs. We insisted on the right to 
higher pay for working overtime. We guaranteed the right to form a 
union. We pledged a fair minimum wage, so that no one in America 
who works for a living should have to live in poverty.

Only leaders who know this history and abide by the ideals that 
shaped it deserve to be trusted with our nation's future. 
Sometimes, as in recent years, they have fooled us with their 
rhetoric. But we will not let them fool us twice.

In the White House, inscribed on a plaque above the fireplace in 
the state dining room, is a prayer -- a simple but powerful prayer 
of John Adams, the first president to live in that great house. 
It reads: "I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house 
and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but the honest and 
wise ever rule under this roof." 

In November, we will make those words ring true again.

All of us who know John Kerry know that he is a fitting heir to these 
ideals. I have known John Kerry for three decades. I have known him as 
a soldier, as a peacemaker, as a prosecutor, as a Senator, and as a 
friend. And in every role he has shown his strengths. He was the right 
man for every tough task and he is the right leader for this time 
in history.

John is a war hero who understands that America's strength comes 
from many sources, especially the power of our ideas. He knows 
that a true leader inspires hope and vanquishes fear.

This administration does neither. Instead it brings fear. Fear of rising 
costs for health care and for college, fear of higher unemployment and 
lesser pay, fear for the future of Social Security and Medicare, fear of 
greater bigotry, fear of pollution's stain on our magnificent natural 
heritage, fear of four more years of dreams denied and promises 
unfulfilled and progress rolled back.

In the depths of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt inspired the nation 
when he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Today, we 
say the only thing we have to fear is four more years of George Bush.

John Kerry offers hope, not fear. The hope of real victory against 
terrorism and true security at home. Of good health care for all 
Americans. Of Social Security that is always there for the elderly. 
Of schools that open golden doors of opportunity for all our children. 
Of an economy that works for everyone. 

That's the kind of America we'll have with John Kerry in 
the White House.

The roots of that America are planted deep in the New England soil. 
Across this region are burial grounds, many so humble you find them 
without intending to. You're in a town like Concord, Massachusetts, 
or Hancock, New Hampshire. You're visiting the old church there, and 
behind the chapel you find a small plot. Simple stones bearing simple 
markers. The markers say "War of 1776."

They do not ask for attention. But they command it all the same. These 
are the patriots who won our freedom. These are the first Americans, 
who enlisted in a fight for something larger than themselves -- for a 
shared faith in the future, for a nation that was alive in their hearts but 
not yet a part of their world.

They and their fellow patriots won their battle. But the larger battle for 
freedom, justice, equality and opportunity is our battle too, and it is 
never fully won. Each new generation has to take up the cause. 
Sometimes with weapons in hand; sometimes armed only with faith and 
hope, like the marchers in Birmingham or Selma four decades ago.

Sometimes the fight is waged in Congress or the courts; sometimes on 
foreign shores, like the battle that called one of my brothers to war in 
the Pacific, and another to die in Europe.

Now it is our turn to take up the cause. Our struggle is not with some 
monarch named George who inherited the crown. Although it often 
seems that way.

Our struggle is with the politics of fear and favoritism in our own time, 
in our own country. Our struggle, like so many others before, is with 
those who put their own narrow interest ahead of the public interest.

We hear echoes of past battles in the quiet whisper of the sweetheart 
deal, in the hushed promise of a better break for the better connected. 
We hear them in the cries of the false patriots who bully dissenters into 
silence and submission. 

These are familiar fights. We've fought and won them before. And with 
John Kerry and John Edwards leading us, we will win them again and 
make America stronger at home and respected once more in the world.

For centuries, kings ruled by what they claimed was divine right. They 
could not be questioned. They could not be challenged. The people's 
fate was not their own. But today, because of the surpassing wisdom 
of our founders, the constant courage of the patriots of the past, and 
the shared sacrifice of generations of Americans who kept the faith, 
the power of America still rests securely in citizens' hands. 
In our hands.

True to our highest and noblest ideals, we intend to use that power. 
We will use it wisely and well. We will use it, in the poet's words my 
brothers loved, "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." We will 
use it to heal, to build, to hope, and to dream again. And in doing so, 
we will truly make our country once more 
America the Beautiful.

Thank you very much.
John Kerry

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