FROM THE 2004 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
BOSTON, MA • JULY 29, 2004
I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty.
We are here tonight because we love our country. We're proud
of what America is and what it can become.
My fellow Americans, we're here tonight united in one purpose:
to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.
A great American novelist wrote that you can't go home again.
He could not have imagined this evening. Tonight, I am home.
Home where my public life began and those who made it possible
live. Home where our nation's history was written in blood,
idealism and hope. Home where my parents showed me the values
of family, faith and country. Thank you. Thank you, all of
you, for a welcome home I will never forget.
I wish my parents could share this moment. They went to
their rest in the last few years. But their example, their
inspiration, their gift of open eyes, and open mind, and
endless heart, and world that doesn't have an end are bigger
and more lasting than any words.
I was born, as some of you saw in the film, in Fitzsimmons
Army Hospital in Colorado, when my dad was a pilot in World
War II. Now, I'm not one to read into things, but guess which
wing of the hospital the maternity ward was in? I'm not kidding.
I was born in the West Wing.
My mother was the rock of our family as so many mothers
are. She stayed up late to help me with my homework. She
sat by my bed when I was sick. She answered the questions
of a child who, like all children, found the world full of
wonders and mysteries.
She was my den mother when I was a Cub Scout and she was
so proud of her 50-year pin as a Girl Scout leader. She gave
me her passion for the environment. She taught me to see
trees as the cathedrals of nature. And by the power of her
example, she showed me that we can and must complete the
march towards full equality for all women in the United States
My dad did the things that a boy remembers. He gave me my
first model airplane, my first baseball mitt, my first bicycle.
He also taught me that we are here for something bigger than
ourselves. He lived out the responsibilities and sacrifices
of the greatest generation to whom we owe so much.
And when I was a young man, he was in the State Department,
stationed in Berlin when it and the world were divided between
democracy and communism. I have unforgettable memories of
being a kid mesmerized by the British, French and American
troops, each of them guarding their own part of the city
- and Russians standing guard on that stark line separating
East from West. On one occasion, I rode my bike into Soviet
East Berlin. And when I proudly told my dad, he promptly
But what I learned has stayed with me for a lifetime. I
saw how different life was on different sides of the same
city. I saw the fear in the eyes of people who were not free.
I saw the gratitude of people towards the United States for
all that we had done. I felt goose bumps as I got off a military
train and I heard the Army band strike up "Stars and
Stripes Forever." I learned what it meant to be America
at our best. I learned the pride of our freedom. And I am
determined now to restore that pride to all who look to America.
Mine were "greatest generation" parents. And as
I thank them, we all join together to thank a whole generation
for making America strong, for winning World War II, winning
the cold war, and for the great gift of service which brought
America 50 years of peace and prosperity.
My parents inspired me to serve. And when I was in high
school, a junior, John Kennedy called my generation to service.
It was the beginning of a great journey - a time to march
for civil rights, for voting rights, for the environment,
for women, for peace. We believed we could change the world.
And you know what? We did.
But we're not finished. The journey isn't complete. The
march isn't over. The promise isn't perfected. Tonight, we're
setting out again. And together, we're going to write the
next great chapter of America's story.
We have it in our power to change the world. But only if
we're true to our ideals - and that starts by telling the
truth to the American people. As president, that is my first
pledge to you tonight. As president, I will restore trust
and credibility to the White House.
I ask you to judge me by my record. As a young prosecutor,
I fought for victim's rights and made prosecuting violence
against women a priority. When I came to the Senate, I broke
with many in my own party to vote for a balanced budget because
I thought it was the right thing to do. I fought to put 100,000
police officers on the streets of America.
And then I reached out across the aisle with John McCain
to work to find the truth about our P.O.W.'s and missing
in action and to finally make peace in Vietnam.
I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us
into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct
secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental
laws. I will have a secretary of defense who will listen
to the advice of the military leaders. And I will appoint
an attorney general who will uphold the Constitution of the
My fellow Americans, this is the most important election
of our lifetime. The stakes are high. We are a nation at
war - a global war on terror against an enemy unlike we've
ever known before. And here at home, wages are falling, health
care costs are rising and our great middle class is shrinking.
People are working weekends, two jobs, three jobs - and they're
still not getting ahead.
We're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America. We're
told that jobs that pay $9,000 less than the jobs that have
been lost is the best that we can do. They say this is the
best economy that we've ever had. And they say anyone who
thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer:
There is nothing more pessimistic than saying that America
can't do better.
We can do better. We can do better and we will. We're the
optimists. For us, this is a country of the future. We're
the can-do people. And let's not forget what we did in the
1990's. We balanced the budget. We paid down the debt. We
created 23 million new jobs. We lifted millions out of poverty
and we lifted the standard of living for the middle class.
We just need to believe in ourselves and we can do it again.
So tonight, in the city where America's freedom began -
only a few blocks from where the sons and daughters of liberty
gave birth to our nation - here tonight, on behalf of a new
birth of freedom, on behalf of the middle class who deserve
a champion and those struggling to join it who deserve a
fair shot, for the brave men and women in uniform who risk
their lives and for their families who pray for their return,
for all those who believe that our best days are ahead of
us, with great faith in the American people, I accept your
nomination for president of the United States.
I am proud that at my side will be a running mate whose
life is the story of the American dream and who's worked
every day to make that dream real for all Americans, Senator
John Edwards of North Carolina and his wife Elizabeth and
their family. Thank you. This son of a millworker is ready
to lead and next January, Americans will be proud to have
a fighter for the middle class to succeed Dick Cheney as
vice president of the United States.
And what can I say about Teresa? She has the strongest moral
compass of anyone I know. She's down to earth, nurturing,
courageous, wise and smart. She speaks her mind and she speaks
the truth, and I love her for that, too. And that's why America
will embrace her as the next first lady of the United States.
For Teresa and me, no matter what the future holds or the
past has given us, nothing will ever mean as much as our
children, as you could sense listening to them. We love them
not just for who they are and what they've become, but for
being themselves, making us laugh, holding our feet to the
fire and never letting me get away with anything. Thank you,
Andre, Alex, Chris, Vanessa and John.
And in this journey, I am accompanied by an extraordinary
band of brothers led by that American hero, a patriot called
Max Cleland. Our band of brothers doesn't march because of
who we are as veterans, but because of what we learned as
soldiers. We fought for this nation because we loved it and
we came back with the deep belief that every day is extra.
We may be a little older, we may be a little grayer, but
we still know how to fight for our country.
And standing with us in that fight are those who shared
with me the long season of the primary campaign: Carol Moseley
Braun, Gen. Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Bob
Graham, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman, Al Sharpton. To all
of you, I say thank you for teaching me and testing me, but
mostly, we say thank you for standing up for our country
and for giving us the unity to move America forward.
My fellow Americans, the world tonight is very different
from the world of four years ago. But I believe the American
people are more than equal to the challenge. Remember the
hours after Sept. 11, when we came together as one to answer
the attack against our homeland. We drew strength when our
firefighters ran up stairs and risked their lives, so that
others might live. When rescuers rushed into smoke and fire
at the Pentagon. When the men and women of Flight 93 sacrificed
themselves to save our nation's capital. When flags were
hanging from front porches all across America, and strangers
became friends. It was the worst day we have ever seen, but
it brought out the best in all of us.
I am proud that after Sept. 11 all our people rallied to
President Bush's call for unity to meet the danger. There
were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were
only Americans. And how we wish it had stayed that way.
Now I know that there are those who criticize me for seeing
complexities, and I do, because some issues just aren't all
that simple. Saying there are weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on
the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming mission accomplished
certainly doesn't make it so.
As president, I will ask the hard questions and demand hard
evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system
so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted
by politics. And as president, I will bring back this nation's
time-honored tradition: The United States of America never
goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because
we have to. That is the standard of our nation.
I know what kids go through when they are carrying an M-16
in a dangerous place and they can't tell friend from foe.
I know what they go through when they're out on patrol at
night and they don't know what's coming around the next bend.
I know what it's like to write letters home telling your
family that everything's all right when you're just not sure
that that's true.
As president, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned
in war. Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look
a parent in the eye and truthfully say: "I tried everything
possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's
way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American
people, fundamental American values against a threat that
was real and imminent." So lesson number one, this is
the only justification for going to war.
And on my first day in office, I will send a message to
every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be
asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.
I know what we have to do in Iraq. I know what we have to
do in Iraq. We need a president who has the credibility to
bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce
the cost to American taxpayers, reduce the risk to American
soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring
our troops home.
Here is the reality: That won't happen until we have a president
who restores America's respect and leadership so we don't
have to go it alone in the world.
And we need to rebuild our alliances, so we can get the
terrorists before they get us.
I defended this country as a young man and I will defend
it as president. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate
to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met
with a swift and a certain response. I will never give any
nation or any institution a veto over our national security.
And I will build a stronger military. We will add 40,000
active duty troops - not in Iraq, but to strengthen American
forces that are now overstretched, overextended and under
pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct antiterrorist
operations. And we will provide our troops with the newest
weapons and technology to save their lives and win the battle.
And we will end the backdoor draft of the National Guard
To all who serve in our armed forces today I say help is
on the way.
As president I will fight a smarter, more effective war
on terror. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal - our
economic as well as our military might; our principles as
well as our firepower.
In these dangerous days, there is a right way and a wrong
way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words. After
decades of experience in national security I know the reach
of our power and I know the power of our ideals.
We need to make America once again a beacon in the world.
We need to be looked up to, not just feared.
We need to lead a global effort against nuclear proliferation,
to keep the most dangerous weapons in the world out of the
most dangerous hands in the world.
We need a strong military. And we need to lead strong alliances.
And then, with confidence and determination, we will be able
to tell the terrorists: You will lose and we will win. The
future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to freedom.
And the front lines of this battle are not just far away,
they're right here on our shores. They're at our airports
and potentially in any city or town. Today our national security
begins with homeland security. The 9/11 Commission has given
us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans and
the 9/11 families. As president, I will not evade or equivocate,
I will immediately implement all the recommendations of that
commission. We shouldn't be letting 95 percent of our container
ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected.
We shouldn't be leaving nuclear and chemical plants without
enough protection. And we shouldn't be opening firehouses
in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.
And tonight we have an important message for those who question
the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction
for our country. Before wrapping themselves in the flag and
shutting their eyes to the truth and their ears, they should
remember what America is really all about. They should remember
the great idea of freedom for which so many have given their
lives. Our purpose now is to reclaim our democracy itself.
We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak
their minds and say America can do better, that is not a
challenge to patriotism, it is the heart and soul of patriotism.
You see that flag up there. We call her Old Glory. The Stars
and Stripes forever. I fought under that flag, as did so
many of those people who are here tonight and all across
the country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind
my head. And it was shot through and through and tattered,
but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets
of men that I served with and friends I grew up with. For
us that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and
what we believe in. Our strength. Our diversity. Our love
of country. All that makes America both great and good.
That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong
to any ideology. It doesn't belong to any party. It belongs
to all the American people.
My fellow citizens, elections are about choices. And choices
are about values. In the end it's not just policies and programs
that matter. The president who sits at that desk must be
guided by principle.
For four years we've heard a lot of talk about values. But
values spoken without actions taken are just slogans. Values
are not just words. Values are what we live by. They're about
the causes that we champion and the people that we fight
for. And it's time for those who talk about family values
to start valuing families.
You don't value families by kicking kids out of after-school
programs and taking cops off the streets so that Enron can
get another tax break.
We believe in the family value of caring for our children
and protecting the neighborhoods where they walk and they
And that is the choice in this election.
You don't value families by denying real prescription-drug
coverage to seniors so big drug companies can get another
We believe in the family value expressed in one of the oldest
commandments: "Honor thy father and thy mother." As
president, I will not privatize Social Security. I will not
cut benefits. And together we will make sure that senior
citizens never have to cut their pills in half because they
can't afford life-saving medicine.
And that is the choice in this election.
You don't value families if you force them to take up a
collection to buy body armor for a son or daughter in the
service, if you deny veterans health care or if you tell
middle-class families to wait for a tax cut so the wealthiest
among us can get even more.
We believe in the value of doing what's right for everyone
in the American family.
And that is the choice in this election.
We believe that what matters most is not narrow appeals
masquerading as values, but the shared values that show the
true face of America. Not narrow values that divide us, but
the shared values that unite us - family, faith, hard work,
opportunity and responsibility for all - so that every child,
every adult, every parent, every worker in America has an
equal shot at living up to their God-given potential. That
is the American dream and the American value.
What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steel
worker that I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas
and the equipment in his factory was literally unbolted,
crated up, and shipped thousands of miles away along with
that job? What does it mean when workers I've met have had
to train their foreign replacements? America can do better.
And tonight we say: Help is on the way.
What does it mean when Mary Ann Knowles, a woman with breast
cancer that I met in New Hampshire, had to keep working day
after day through her chemotherapy, no matter how sick she
felt, because she was terrified of losing her family's health
insurance. America can do better. And help is on the way.
What does it mean when Deborah Kromins from Philadelphia,
Pa., works and she saves all her life and finds out that
her pension has disappeared into thin air and the executive
who looted it has bailed out on a golden parachute? America
can do better. And help is on the way.
What does it mean when 25 percent of our children in Harlem
have asthma because of air pollution? We can do better. America
can do better. And help is on the way.
What does it mean when people are huddled in blankets in
the cold, sleeping in Lafayette Park on the doorstep of the
White House itself, and the number of families living in
poverty has risen by three million in the last four years?
America can do better. And help is on the way.
And so we come here tonight to ask: Where is the conscience
of our country? I'll tell you where it is. I'll tell you
where it is. It's in rural and small-town America; it's in
urban neighborhoods and the suburban main streets; it's alive
in the people that I've met in every single part of this
land. It's bursting in the hearts of Americans who are determined
to give our values and our truth back to our country.
We value jobs that actually pay you more than the job that
you lost. We value jobs where, when you put in a week's work,
you can actually pay your bills, provide for your children,
lift up the quality of your life. We value an America where
the middle class is not being squeezed, but doing better.
So here is our economic plan to build a stronger America:
First, new incentives to revitalize manufacturing.
Second, investment in technology and innovation that will
create the good-paying jobs of the future.
Third, close the tax loopholes that reward companies for
shipping jobs overseas. Instead, we will reward companies
that create and keep good paying jobs where they belong,
in the good old U.S.A. We value an America that exports products,
not jobs. And we believe American workers should never have
to subsidize the loss of their own job.
Next, we will trade and we will compete in the world. But
our plan calls for a fair playing field. Because if you give
the American worker a fair playing field, there's no one
in the world that the American worker can't compete against.
And we're going to return to fiscal responsibility because
it is the foundation of our economic strength. Our plan will
cut the deficit in half in four years by ending tax giveaways
that are nothing more than corporate welfare. And will make
government live by the rule that every family has to live
by: Pay as you go.
And let me tell you what we won't do. We won't raise taxes
on the middle class. You've heard a lot of false charges
about this in recent months. So let me say straight out what
I will do as president: I will cut middle-class taxes. I
will reduce the tax burden on small business. And I will
roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who
make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in health care,
education and job creation.
Our education plan for a stronger America sets high standards
and it demands accountability from parents, teachers and
schools. It provides for smaller class sizes and it treats
teachers like the professionals that they are. And it gives
a tax credit to families for each and every year of college.
When I was a prosecutor, I met young kids who were in trouble,
abandoned, all of them, by adults. And as president, I am
determined that we stop being a nation content to spend $50,000
a year to send a young person to prison for the rest of their
life when we could invest $10,000 a year in Head Start, Early
Start, Smart Start, a real start to the lives of our children.
And we value health care that's affordable and accessible
for all Americans. Since 2000, four million people have lost
their health insurance. Millions more are struggling to afford
it. You know what's happening. Your premiums, your co-payments,
your deductibles have all gone through the roof.
Our health care plan for a stronger America cracks down
on the waste and the greed and the abuse in our health care
system. And it will save families $1,000 a year on premiums.
You'll get to pick your own doctor. And patients and doctors,
not insurance company bureaucrats, will make medical decisions.
Under our health care plan, Medicare will negotiate lower
drug prices for seniors. And all Americans will be able to
buy less expensive prescription drugs from countries like
The story of people struggling for health care is the story
of so many Americans. But you know what, it's not the story
of senators and members of Congress. Because we give ourselves
great health care and you get the bill. Well, I'm here to
say tonight, your family's health care is just as important
as any politician's in Washington, D.C.
And when I am president, we will stop being the only advanced
nation in the world which fails to understand that health
care is not a privilege for the wealthy and the connected
and the elected - it is a right for all Americans. And we
will make it so.
We value an America that controls its own destiny because
it's finally and forever independent of Mideast oil. What
does it mean for our economy and our national security when
we have only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, yet we
rely on foreign countries for 53 percent of what we consume?
I want an America that relies on its ingenuity and innovation,
not the Saudi royal family.
And our energy plan for a stronger America, our energy plan
will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and
the cars of the future, so that no young American in uniform
will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the
I've told you about our plans for the economy, for education,
for health care, for energy independence. I want you to know
more about them. So now I'm going to say something that Franklin
Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech:
Go to johnkerry.com.
I want to address these next words directly to President
George W. Bush. In the weeks ahead let's be optimists, not
just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family,
not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity.
Let's respect one another. And let's never misuse for political
purposes the most precious document in American history,
the Constitution of the United States.
My friends, the high road may be harder but it leads to
a better place. And that's why Republicans and Democrats
must make this election a contest of big ideas, not small-minded
attacks. This is our time to reject the kind of politics
calculated to divide race from race, region from region,
group from group. Maybe some just see us divided into those
red states and blue states, but I see us as one America -
red, white and blue. And when I am president, the government
I will lead will enlist people of talent, Republicans as
well as Democrats, to find the common ground, so that no
one who has something to contribute to our nation will be
left on the sidelines.
And let me say it plainly: In that cause, and in this campaign,
we welcome people of faith. America is not us and them. I
think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago
and I want to say this to you tonight: I don't wear my religion
on my sleeve. But faith has given me values and hope to live
by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don't
want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln
told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side.
And whatever our faith, one belief should bind us all: The
measure of our character is our willingness to give of ourselves
for others and for our country.
These aren't Democratic values. These aren't Republican
values. They're American values. We believe in them. They're
who we are. And if we honor them, if we believe in ourselves,
we can build an America that is stronger at home and respected
in the world.
So much promise stretches before us. Americans have always
reached for the impossible, looked to the next horizon and
asked: What if?
Two young bicycle mechanics from Dayton asked, what if this
airplane could take off at Kitty Hawk? It did that and changed
the world forever. A young president asked, what if we could
go to the moon in 10 years? And now we're exploring the stars
and the solar system themselves. A young generation of entrepreneurs
asked, what if we could take all the information in a library
and put it on a chip the size of a fingernail? We did that
and that too changed the world.
And now it's our time to ask: What if?
What if we find a breakthrough to Parkinson's, diabetes,
Alzheimer's and AIDS? What if we have a president who believes
in science so we can unleash the wonders of discovery like
stem-cell research and treat illness for millions of lives?
What if we do what adults should do and make sure that all
of our children are safe in the afternoons after school?
What if we have a leadership that's as good as the American
dream, so that bigotry and hatred never again steal the hope
or future of any American?
I learned a lot about these values on that gunboat patrolling
the Mekong Delta with Americans, you saw them, who come from
places as different as Iowa and Oregon, Arkansas, Florida,
California. No one cared where we went to school. No one
cared about our race or our backgrounds. We were literally
all in the same boat. We looked out, one for the other. And
we still do.
That is the kind of America that I will lead as president,
an America where we are all in the same boat.
Never has there been a moment more urgent for Americans
to step up and define ourselves. I will work my heart out.
But my fellow citizens, the outcome is in your hands more
It is time to reach for the next dream. It is time to look
to the next horizon. For America, the hope is there, the
sun is rising. Our best days are still to come.
Thank you. Goodnight. God bless you and God bless the United
States of America.
to the 2004 Democratic National Convention Page