Elizabeth Dole withdraws
Wednesday, October 20, 1999
(The text below was obtained from the Elizabeth Dole Campaign.)
Press Conference, St. Regis Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Good morning everyone, and thank you for coming. Nine months ago, I embarked upon a very personal exploration, one designed to help me decide whether to seek my party's presidential nomination. Wherever I've traveled, I have found audiences hungry for a different kind of leadership, one that looks beyond focus groups and tracking polls, to what is timeless and decent and true.
At the same time, I have sensed a longing for community and a desire on the part of grassroots Americans to be part of something bigger than themselves. More than 30 years ago, as a young woman from Salisbury, North Carolina, I harbored similar feelings. Determined to be part of the events of my time, I embraced the idea of public service as a noble calling. It was to help rekindle in others my own sense of youthful idealism that I left the Red Cross last January.
In the months since, much has been made of the symbolism of my candidacy. I've been all but overwhelmed by women of all ages who have invested me with their hopes and dreams, and who have contributed generously of their time, talent and resources. But along with the symbolism there was also substance -- the substance of ideas, and the challenge to overcome conventional or dangerous thinking. To those who question American involvement in the world, I have repeatedly said that where our national interests and our national values intersect, we must never be afraid to lead.
In the aftermath of the Cold War, I have argued for a relationship with Russia that is based on reformist policies, not personalities. In an era when weapons of mass destruction include computer viruses as well as North Korean missiles, I've insisted on making technology our friend as well as our protector. That means proceeding with construction of a missile defense system.
Closer to home, it means realizing the promise of the Internet, while denying it to pornographers and others who would deaden the souls of our young people. I am proud of having offered an early, comprehensive plan to address the farm crisis, and of insisting that our children be protected from merchants of death -- whether they sell dope on a street corner, or a sawed off shotgun over the counter. Higher teacher pay for better performance, a return of discipline to the classroom with a zero tolerance policy for disruptive students, reestablishment of parental control in the schools -- these are just some of the educational reforms for which I have contended.
Of course, running for president is an education in itself. At times I have felt as if there were two entirely separate campaigns underway. Outside the Beltway, real people by the thousands turned out to discuss their schools and health care, tax cuts and the state of our defenses. In the real America, it's more important to raise issues than to raise campaign funds.
Iíve tried to run a non-traditional campaign rather than a traditional one, bringing countless first time voters into the political process as we seek together to make history. Itís confusing to many Americans who are part of my huge crowds and share the enthusiasm that this is not a measure of success.
This is not all that I have learned. I have learned that the current political calendar and election laws favor those who get an early start and can tap into huge private fortunes, or who have a pre-existing network of political supporters. Steve Forbes has unlimited resources. Governor Bush has raised over $60 million, and has about $40 million on hand. Both are starting to run TV ads next week.
Already I have attended over 70 fund raising events. My schedule through early December would have taken me to a total of 108 fund raising events across America. Even then, these rivals would enjoy a 75 or 80 to 1 cash advantage. Perhaps I could handle 2 to 1 or 10 to 1, but not 80 to 1!
I hoped to compensate by attracting new people to the political process, by emphasizing experience and advocating substantive issues. But important as these things may be, the bottom line remains money. In fact, it's a kind of "Catch 22." Inadequate funding limits the number of staff at headquarters and in key states. It restricts your ability to communicate with voters. It places a ceiling on travel and travel staff. Over time, it becomes nearly impossible to sustain an effective campaign. Wherever you go, you find yourself answering questions, not so much about guns in the classroom, or China in the World Trade Organization, but money in the bank and ads on the air waves.
All my life, I've been accustomed to challenging the odds. But the first obligation of any candidate is to be honest -- honest with herself and honest with her supporters. Last Sunday, a five hour flight from Seattle gave me an opportunity to do some hard thinking. I thought about the rumor I?d had to answer for two weeks that I was dropping out and the damage it had done to my fund raising. I thought a lot if there was any other avenue not yet explored for raising money. When I arrived home I told Bob that this time the odds are overwhelming. It would be futile to continue, and he reluctantly agreed. Any other decision would be less than honest to an outstanding campaign team, led by the very able Tom Daffron and backed by thousands of volunteers and donors whose enthusiasm gave us a powerful grassroots presence despite our limited resources. I can never fully convey my gratitude to each of you -- or to the endless stream of young people, many of you who had turned away from public service but were eager to apply your energies and idealism on my behalf.
God has blessed me in so many ways. Those blessings have included friends like Earl Cox and Margaret Kluttz who led the 18-month Draft Dole movement; as well as my outstanding National Finance Chair, Bonnie McElveen Hunter. Throughout I have been able to count on my dear family and especially my precious husband, who urged me to share my vision of a better America in the new millennium.
In the words of the poet, "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time." Today marks the latest, but by no means the last chapter in a story of service that began many years ago. The road ahead beckons. To my friends I say take heart: we will meet again and often, in the unending struggle to realize America's promise as a land whose greatness lies, not in the power of her government, but in the freedom of her people.
At the beginning of this remarkable century, Theodore Roosevelt challenged his fellow citizens to accept their obligations as freedom's champion and defender. As I leave the race, never were words more apt than Teddy Roosevelt's tribute to the man -- or woman -- in the arena: "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
God willing, there are many arenas in which to fight, many ways to contribute. So while I may not be a candidate for the presidency in 2000, I'm a long way from the twilight. Thank you all for your friendship, your encouragement, and above all, your willingness to dare mighty things. Bless you, and may God bless America.