FROM THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Legislative
September 11, 2004 • Washington, DC
As we remember too painfully, it
was three years ago today, in a single instant, that
our lives and our land were changed forever. Three years
ago today, 3,000 innocent people were lost in the worst
day we’ve ever seen.
Today has been a day of remembrance and tribute. But what
really matters is what we do tomorrow and the day after
to honor their lives. We honor their lives by never forgetting
what they meant to us. We honor their lives by bringing
their killers to justice and making sure this never happens
again. And we honor their lives in the work we do every
day to build a stronger America.
That’s why you’re here. That’s
what the CBC is all about.
And that’s why I’m running
I don’t have to tell you -- this is the most important
election of our lifetime. Everything is on the line: our
jobs, our health care, our role in the world, the character
of our country – the Supreme Court of the United
States. The stakes are high and the choices are clear.
On issue after issue, the other side has been trying to
muddy the waters to keep us from seeing the real differences
and the real choices in this election.
But on every issue, from Iraq to Social Security, from
fiscal discipline to education, from voting rights to affirmative
action, we know the truth. And John Edwards and I are going
to fight every day to show the difference between their
tired, old, negative politics of the past and a new direction
Nobody understands those differences
more than the 39 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
You live with those choices every day and you see the
having on our families and communities. You see the impact
they have on your ability to legislate and to represent
the people you serve back home. And in this room are some
of the best ideas to make our nation stronger. But over
the last four years, you’ve been shut out of the
debate. They’ve refused you meetings and put a “do
not enter” sign on the White House door.
Well, my friends, it’s time to open the doors and
let all Americans back in. Because we deserve a president
who doesn’t just meet with the people he agrees with.
And we deserve a president who’s not afraid to sit
down with the NAACP, the Black Caucus or the Leadership
Conference on Civil Rights. We deserve a president who
wants to sit down with them and recognizes how important
it is to governing our country. We deserve a president
who doesn’t go to Dr. King’s gravesite one
day and the next day appoints a right-wing judge to the
federal court. When I’m president, no one’s
going to have to twist my arm to remind me that your voices
matter and they must be heard.
We’ve been partners on the legislative battlefield
for a long time now. Long before this president showed
up, we’ve been fighting to bring hope and opportunity
to those who for too long have been left out. Long before
this president recognized the global threat of AIDS, we
worked together to meet this challenge with the moral and
economic might of America.
Your dedication and your service
live out the teaching of the Scripture in ways that others
should take example from: “It is not enough, my brother, to say you have
faith, when there are no deeds…Faith without works
is dead.” As you know, my friends, we are taught
to walk by faith not by sight.
And when we look around us – when
we look around our neighborhoods and towns and cities
all across this country, we see faith to be lived out,
and so many deeds to be done.
We see jobs to be created. We see
families to house. We see violence to stop. We see children
to teach – and
children to care for. We see too many people without health
care and too many people of color suffering and dying from
diseases like AIDS and cancer and diabetes.
We look at what is happening in America today and are
forced to ask: Where are the deeds?
The fact is, the wrong choices of
the Bush Administration – reduced
taxes for the few and reduced opportunities for the middle
class and those struggling to join it – are taking
us back to two Americas -- separate and unequal. Our cities
and communities are being torn apart by divisive and destructive
forces: crumbling schools robbing our children of their
potential…rising poverty…rising crime, drugs
and violence. Lost jobs, health care costs through the
roof, the surplus gone, our alliances shredded, our influence
They see what we see but their answer
is to say we’ve
turned the corner or that the job is getting done or that
this is the best that we can do. They’ve even mocked
the very notion that there are two Americas. Well, they
should spend time with struggling families in the hills
of Appalachia … or in public housing in Detroit … or
in the barrios of East LA and then tell us our journey
to build one America is finished.
As Congressman Jefferson knows, a
few days ago I had the pleasure of speaking to the 124th
annual session of the National Baptist Convention in
New Orleans. I reminded them that four years ago, this
president came to office calling himself a “compassionate conservative.” Well
in the story of the Good Samaritan, we are told of two
men who pass by or cross to the other side of the street
when they come upon a robbed and beaten man. They felt
compassion, but there were no deeds. Then the Good Samaritan
gave both his heart and his help. [Luke 10]
It is clear: For four years, this
president has talked about compassion, but he’s walked right by. He’s
seen people in need, but he’s crossed over to the
other side of the street. For four years, we've heard a
lot of talk about values. But values are not just words.
They're what we live by. They're about the causes we champion
and the choices we make.
This election all comes down to one decision: Do we want
four more years of wrong choices for our country, or do
we want to move America in a new direction?
Of all the president’s wrong choices, the most catastrophic
one is the mess he’s made in Iraq. It’s not
that I would have done one thing differently in Iraq, I
would have done almost everything differently. It was wrong
to rush to war without a plan to win the peace. It was
wrong not to build a strong international coalition of
And because we went it alone, we
are bearing the burden and paying almost all the cost
by ourselves. Almost all the casualties are the sons
and daughters of America. And 90 percent of the costs
are being met by Americans – the
total so far: $200 billion and rising every day. That’s
$200 billion we’re not investing in health care and
education That’s $200 billion we’re not investing
to make sure no child is left behind. That’s $200
billion we’re not investing in incentives to create
and keep good jobs in the United States of America. That’s
$200 billion we’re not investing in homeland security
to keep cops on the street, to protect our airports, our
subways, our bridges and tunnels. Is that compassionate?
Is that the right choice? Well, 52 days from now we’re
going to move America in a new direction.
At that convention in New York, the
Bush Administration actually said that outsourcing jobs
is good for this nation. That shouldn’t be a surprise because that’s
what they’ve done for four years, and, if they have
the chance, that’s what they will do for four more
years. In the last three years, America has lost 1.6 million
jobs. And African-American unemployment is nearly 10 percent – double
the rate for whites. That’s more than a twenty-five
percent increase since this president took office.
My friends, the promise of a better
America is not being met when in the last year alone,
a million more people have fallen into poverty…when one-third of African
American children are living in poverty or when half the
black men in New York City are out of work. Is that compassionate?
Is that right? Well, 52 days from now we’re going
to move America in a new direction.
It has been said before, but it is
so true: The best poverty program is a job. That is why,
as President, I will set a new direction. We’re going to close the tax loopholes
that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas. Instead,
we’re going to use common sense and reward companies
that create and keep good jobs here in America. And we
are going to do more to bring hope and jobs and businesses
back to our hardest-pressed urban and metropolitan areas.
At that convention in New York, this
president actually promised the American people that
after four years of failure, he now had a plan to get
health care costs under control. Well, if you weren’t
suspicious enough of a plan announced two months before
an election, we only had to wait twenty-four hours to
find out what he meant. The day after he spoke, he raised
Medicare premiums by 17 percent -- the biggest increase
in Medicare premiums in the history of the program.
Under the Bush Administration, 5
million Americans have lost their health insurance, including
400,000 African Americans. We know that people of color
are significantly more likely to suffer diseases like
cancer and asthma and diabetes and AIDS. And what’s this administration’s
answer? At a time when the need is greatest, they have
cut funding for Medicaid and children’s health insurance.
Instead of working to close disparities, they have closed
the Office of Minority Health at CDC. That’s the
wrong choice and the wrong direction for America.
This president believes when it comes
to health care, the big drug companies come first, the
insurance companies come second, and the American people
come last. That’s
the wrong choice and the wrong direction for America.
As President, I will set a new direction.
to put hard working families first. Our plan will take
on the waste and greed in the health care system and save
the average family up to $1,000 a year on their premiums.
Our plan will cover all children – automatically
-- day one. Go to school, you’re covered. Go to day
care, you’re enrolled. Every child in America will
be covered. When I am president, America will stop being
the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand
that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the
connected, and the elected, it is a right for all Americans.
At that convention in New York, this
president actually talked about demanding accountability
from everybody in education -- except his own administration.
We know that you can’t really get the job done in our classrooms
when too many children, especially children of color, are
forced to attend overcrowded and crumbling schools and
are being taught by overworked and underpaid teachers.
The promise of a better America is not being met when only
50 percent of African Americans are finishing high school
and only 18 percent are graduating college. The promise
of a better America is not being met, when, fifty years
after Brown v. the Board of Education, in too many parts
of our country we still have two school systems – separate
and unequal. That’s the wrong choice and the wrong
direction – and we’re going to change it.
As President, I will set a new direction.
We know the answer to closing the achievement gap is
both higher expectations and greater resources. You cannot
promise to leave no child behind and then leave the money
behind. John Edwards and I have a plan to invest in our
future, provide the needed funding and put a good teacher
in every classroom – so
that all our children will have the chance to develop their
Fifty years after the Brown decision, we are also reminded
that now, more than ever, we need a Supreme Court that
will protect our hard won victories.
It was just four short years ago
that the Court – by
one vote – decided the outcome of the race for president.
It was less than a year ago that the Court – by one
vote – decided the fate of affirmative action. One
vote can make the difference for millions of Americans,
and over the next four years the President of the United
States may well appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices.
I will appoint judges who follow the Potter Stewart standard, “The
mark of a good judge is a judge whose opinion you can read
and have no idea if the judge was a man or a woman, Republican
or Democrat, a Christian or a Jew. You just know he or
she was a good judge.”
And good judges know that the right
to vote is the most sacred of all American rights. Good
judges will stand up for the Voting Rights Act – and so must we. Let me
make one thing clear: We’re not going to stand by
and allow another million African American votes to go
uncounted in this election. We’re not going to stand
by and allow acts of voter suppression.
We are hearing the same things you are hearing. What they
did in Florida in 2000, they may be planning to do in battleground
states all across this country this year. Well, we are
here to let them know that we will fight tooth and nail
to make sure that this time, every vote is counted and
every vote counts.
We have many deeds to do here at
home. But we must also set a new direction for America’s leadership in the
world. The U.S. and the UN Security Council now face a
testing moment of truth – they must decide whether
to take action to halt the killing in Darfur or remain
idle in the face of the second African genocide in 10 years.
Now that the Secretary Powell has finally acknowledged
that genocide is underway, we all want to know one thing:
what is President Bush going to do about it? The toothless
resolution the Bush Administration brought to the Security
Council is not an acceptable response.
If I were president, I would act
now. As I’ve said
for months, I would not sit idly by. We simply cannot accept
another Rwanda. The United States should ensure the immediate
deployment of an effective international force to disarm
militia, protect civilians and facilitate delivery of humanitarian
assistance in Darfur. The Sudanese Government has thus
far rejected such a force. The U.S. should lead the United
Nations to impose tough sanctions now. The Government of
Sudan must understand that the world will act, if they
do not, and that the United States is prepared to support
the African Union with crucial capabilities of our own,
if necessary, to halt the genocide.
So, we’ve got work to do. We have to march. We have
to do the hard work of changing people’s minds. We
have to expand opportunity and close the gaps of inequality
that impede the progress of our nation. Together, we can
stop being what W.E.B. DuBois called, “a nation within
a nation.” Our job, between now and November is to
end the division between the fortunate America and the
forgotten America. We must come to together to build one
America – because we know as Dr. King told us, that
what’s good for black America is good for all America.
As I said before, this is the most
important election of our lifetime. If you believe that
this country is heading in the right direction, you should
keep them in office. But if you believe, like I think
you do, that we can’t
afford for more years of the wrong choices and the wrong
direction, then join with us for an America that’s
stronger at home and respected in the world.
And let me say this: The black vote
is going to be critical this year. We can’t afford to sit this one out or
leave it up to our neighbor – and we won’t.
We can’t afford to take any vote for granted – and
we won’t. We can’t afford four more years.
My friends, I need your vote. And I need your help. And
I’m asking for it now.
We have 52 days left until the election.
The clock is ticking. Together, we can make the right
choices. We can come together. We can fulfill the promise
of a better America. There are those who want to divide
us into red states and blue states. Not me. I want to
unite us as one America – red,
white and blue.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States