THE SKIPPER TAKES COMMAND
John Kerry claims his Party
Friday, July 30, 2004
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
The fourth and final day of the 44th Democratic National Convention in Boston was, as had been the case with the previous three day's sessions, gaveled to order by Convention Permanent Chairman Bill Richardson promptly at 4 PM EDT (2000 UTC) on Thursday 29 July 2004. Unlike on the previous three days, however, Governor Richardson made some opening remarks: Let me welcome the American People to witness our deliberations in this great city of Boston (although the striking thing about this Convention, as with all of the more recent Major Party National Conventions, was the complete lack of anything that, in reality, approached even the barest meaning of the term "deliberation". To the sterility that this thought immediately invoked, my memories of having watched- only two months before- the National Convention of the Libertarian Party held in Atlanta, Georgia or, for that matter, even remembering the rather contentious Convention of a quite dysfunctional Reform Party in Long Beach, California nearly four years ago was actually something of a tonic).
I believe that we are succeeding in spelling out our candidates' vision for an America that is strong at home and respected in the world, Richardson continued, how this Party embodies the values of America's working families and our proposals to breathe life into these values. Most immediately, we are here to ensure the election of John Kerry and John Edwards as the next President and Vice President of the United States. With this spirit of unity and purpose I see here this week, I know we will succeed.
Next, the Invocation was offered by Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel in Boston, after which the Presentation of Colors was made by the New England Joint Services Color Guard and the assembled were led in the Pledge of Allegiance by Ana Cruz of Tampa, Florida. The National Anthem was then sung by Sergeant Dan Clark of the Massachusetts State Police.
House candidate James Socas of Virginia was the first speaker of the day: This year we are going to make history and deliver our Commonwealth for John Kerry and John Edwards. But we're not doing it just for them: we're doing it for Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and James Madison... This country is headed in the opposite direction of all the principles they stood for and fought for and died for... the principle of a Commonwealth- the idea that we are all in this together... This White House thinks Americans are consumers, not citizens- prisoners of our pocketbooks, tied only to our tax cuts. They sell us short... This year, we will take back our country!
Toledo, Ohio Mayor Jack Ford was the next to speak: No Republican President in recent history has won an election without Ohio. But you know what this means for Ohio Democrats: we must, and we will, do everything possible to win this election- and we will win Ohio... More than anyone else, working families are shouldering the burden of spiraling health care premiums, higher gas prices, rising child care expenses and wages that don't keep up with what it takes to make ends meet... now, more than ever, we need a President who stands for America's working families... The time for talk is almost over, the hour of action is upon us and tonight the man and the hour will meet and that man will be the next President of the United States, John Kerry!
After another performing organization in the FleetBoston Celebrity series, the Kwong Kow Chinese School Drum Ensemble, performed before the assembled, the speaker was Congresswoman Corinne Brown of Florida. The same Corinne Brown, she noted, that spoke out in the House of Representatives about the travesty of the Election of 2000 and whose words of protest were stricken from the Congressional Record. Understand me, in November of 2000- in my district alone- 27,000 votes were kicked out by faulty machines: those votes went uncounted- 27,000 votes in an area I represent that votes 98 percent Democratic. What's more, many voters were wrongly purged from registration lists for a variety of unacceptable reasons. I want to preserve for all people the right to vote and the right to have their vote counted... This November, give this Administration what millions of Americans have gotten for the last 3 1/2 years- a pink slip!
Former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor of New York City in the Democratic Primary that ended up being postponed by the September 11th terrorist attacks, was next at the podium: My family came from Puerto Rico on the wings of hope and opportunity. We didn't learn about the American Dream by reading about it in a textbook- we learned it by living it, by working hard and playing by the rules. But today that dream seems in danger: families work hard, but the rules seem stacked against them. They don't understand why we build firehouses in Baghdad and shut them down in Brooklyn... Electing John Kerry is just as important today as electing John Kennedy was in 1960... Now I've noticed our President speaks a bit of Spanish... well, I have a message for our President in a language he professes to understand: (after first saying this is Spanish) Mr. President, your policies are bad in any language!
Former Missouri Senator Jean Carnahan was the next speaker: I am here to bear witness to the lives of two extraordinary men... I stood next to them during some of the darkest days in our Nation's history. I saw them fight for the things that were necessary and right for America... I'm proud to say to my young grandson: I served in the United States Senate with John Kerry and John Edwards. For Democrats, this is a ticket to victory. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay followed his State's former (and first female) Senator: Children will continue to be left behind if the Federal Government fails to meet its obligations. John Kerry and John Edwards will not rest until every child has a chance for a good education... John Kerry and John Edwards have a real economic plan that creates good opportunities for all Americans and strengthens the middle class... I want a government whose priorities are children and strong, healthy families.
New York City's Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields took to the podium- recounting the fact that she grew up in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1950s into the 1960s, she noted that she had lived with the indignities and the injustices of a segregated society. I know struggle, but I also know about hope and how it can lead to success... As a teenager, I marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I withstood the fire hoses and the vicious dogs and I was jailed with him. For Dr. King, Equal Opportunity, Civil Rights and Social Justice were the birthright of each and every American, just as they are the fundamental belief of John Kerry and our Democratic Party... I am among the millions of New Yorkers who will never forget the terror of 9/11. We still live with scars that may never heal, so we need leaders who will support and protect our right to a safe and secure city and a strong, respected America.
Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey followed: We need a proven leader who has the experience, the knowledge and the intellect to navigate the immense challenges of our century. We need John Kerry... a leader who will leave no First Responder behind... we will no longer settle: our time has come! He was followed by Congressman Jim Davis of Florida: Like you, I am hungry for a President who restores respect to the White House and that's what John Kerry and John Edwards offer to the American People... John Kerry offers a new era of respect for our allies, a return to a time when the word of an American President was taken for the truth.
Congressman Steve Israel of New York spoke next: Once again we turn to a leader from Massachusetts. Whether it was the minutemen of the Revolution or Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and his Civil War regiment of free Blacks or the young Naval lieutenant John F. Kennedy in World War II, it was leaders from this State who gave us hope and inspiration. They not only led by courageous example, they understood the importance of personal responsibility and the duty of all to do our part. Today such a leader is John Kerry... He understands that we cannot send our troops into battle one day and, the next day, cut their hazardous duty pay.
Congressman Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, who had won his Party's nomination for a Special House Election in a Primary held on September 11th despite the planes used in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center having taken off from the city where the Congressional District in question happened to be located, followed: We came here seeking a President who respects the primacy of the United States Constitution and its bedrock principles- Liberty, Justice and Equality. We came here seeking a President who believes in rewarding hard work, not merely the accumulation of wealth, and who understands the human cost of shipping American jobs overseas ...America has found its leader and he is my colleague from the Massachusetts delegation- the distinguished Senator John Kerry... he will chart a course that will not only show America's power, but America's power to do good.
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island came to the podium: John Kerry has a plan to increase the size of the Army so that our military is not stretched too thin and a plan so that our National Guard 's men and women are not called away from their families and jobs for more time than needed... and he will embrace the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to prevent another terrorist attack in this country. We face great challenges around the world and here at home, but John Kerry has faced great challenges before. Under his leadership, and with his wisdom and courage, we will prevail!
Congressman John Lewis of Georgia followed the video presentation of the Democratic National Committee's 'American-made ad' contest: My fellow Americans, Lewis began, tonight the spirit of History is upon all of us and this spirit of History sees a great Nation, a proud People, cast in shadow- the shadow of a man, a President, who has divided a Nation against itself and turned the world away from a friend. In the past four years, our President has embraced the politics of division and despair over the politics of hope, the politics of the possible, he has turned our friend and our allies against us- he has dimmed the lights of that noble city sitting on a hill, the foundation of our great Nation has been shaken... Our Nation and our world needs John Kerry and John Edwards to rebuild our house... John Kerry and John Edwards will remove the shadow from our Nation... It does not matter that our foremothers and our forefathers all came to this great land in different ships: we are all in the same boat now. In the final analysis, we are one People, one family, one house- the American house!
Anna Burger, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees' International Union, accompanied by Terri Murphy, a Registered Nurse and SEIU member. Ms. Burger declared: With your help, and John Kerry in the White House, together we will create a health care system that puts people over profits. With your help, we will ensure that the first thing a doctor asks you is "where does it hurt?" instead of "where is your insurance card?" The next speaker was Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota:
No social program in America is more important than a good job that pays well and this great political Party has always stood for jobs and opportunity for all Americans... Our country needs to stand up for the interests of family farmers and ranchers, for rural counties and small towns that are struggling all across America. Several decades ago, when America's cities were suffering, our country created urban renewal programs and model cities programs to save our cities. Now America needs to save our Heartland... Doing the right thing in rural America will make all of America stronger.
Richard Trumka, Secretary-General of the AFL-CIO, was the next speaker: Last month, our suicidal trade policies sent another 11,000 manufacturing jobs overseas: that makes 2.7 million good jobs shipped out over the last 3 1/2 years... that's not only self-destructive trade policy, it's bad economic policy and it is insane defense policy. Trumka was followed by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan: John Kerry understands that, just as the current Administration has squandered the budget surpluses of three years ago, so has their go-it-alone Foreign Policy squandered the goodwill of much of the world and estranged us from our allies. John Kerry understands that, in order to win the war against International Terrorism, we must unite the world community against a common foe and not alienate the people of the world so they sit on the sidelines of this struggle. John Kerry knows that America is at its strongest and best when we are respected not only for our military power but for the wisdom and restraint with which we use it. John Kerry knows that, as the world's only superpower, we must be super-wise in how we use that power.
Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California spoke next: John Kerry knows that a healthy military is the first step to an expertly trained military. The Pentagon should administer quality and comprehensive health screenings prior to deployment. John Kerry has a plan for our armed services that strengthens our military and set us upon the right path to a strong national defense. With John Kerry as President, we will have a stronger and safer America. She was followed by Senator Barbara Boxer of California: We know that, with the Kerry/Edwards team- with their new leadership and the new leadership in Congress, America will be respected in the world again and the American Dream will stop slipping into the fog of a distant memory. Governor Gary Locke of Washington followed Senator Boxer: What we need is leadership and vision and John Kerry and John Edwards are those leaders and they have that vision!
At this point, Convention Chairman Richardson announced the start of the Vice-Presidential Nomination Process. The only candidate for whom nomination papers were filed, of course, was Senator John Edwards and he was formally nominated by Charlotte, NC Mayor Harvey Gantt, who noted that I've only known John Edwards for ten years and yet we share so much. We were both born in South Carolina before we moved north- which, for us, was North Carolina. We have both been activists and eyewitnesses to marked social changes in our region...This is a man who knows from whence he has come: he knows education can make a difference in people's lives, he knows a decent job paying a livable wage can help strong families... No, I haven't known John Edwards my whole life but the lives we've lived and the values we share have taught me that you can be a soulmate before you meet. He cares about building a more united America- one America; his vision is an America devoid of the lines between the 'have's and the 'have not's... In the 1990s, I ran two Senate campaigns in North Carolina which many of you remember. My opponent [meaning then-Senator Jesse Helms: REB-A] ran a campaign of divisiveness. I firmly believed that an appeal to our best instincts as citizens, harnessing our hopes and our aspirations, could free us from the perils of poverty and ignorance and bigotry. The fact that my State chose, as its Senator, John Edwards has vindicated the beliefs I held in those earlier campaigns. His positive campaign, his optimistic outlook and his can-do spirit have infused us all and invigorated us all: he appeals to our best hopes, not our worst fears... I'm pleased as a friend and proud as a North Carolinian to nominate John Edwards as the Vice President of these United States of America.
Senator John Breaux seconded Edwards' nomination for the second spot on the ticket: John Edwards is a true son of the South but the truth is that John Edwards can speak to all Americans in every part of America, regardless of whatever accent he might have... John Edwards can also speak to those who are the unfortunate and the forgotten Americans: John Edwards can give them hope that, one day, with a government of new leadership, that they, too, can be part of the American Dream and not part of that other America- isolated, neglected and ignored. Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona gave the final speech on behalf of Edwards' nomination, in which he decried the Bush political landscape, a landscape built on division and misguided personal privilege.
After these speeches, Permanent Chairman Bill Richardson returned to the podium: In just over three months, America will vote. America will vote for strength at home and respect in the world, led by the two nominees of this Democratic Party... Let us waste no more time, there's work to do! Richardson then called on North Carolina to move the nomination of John Edwards for Vice-President by acclamation, a motion adopted viva voce.
Three members of Congress were the next speakers before the Convention: in order, they were Congressman Michael Michaud of Maine, Congressman Mark Udall of Colorado and Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Frank made the most fiery comments of the three: I want to begin, on behalf of the National Stonewall Democrats- the Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Bisexual wing of the Democratic Party- with an apology: I am sorry that the thought of two women who are in love seeking, in Florida, to solemnize that love in a Marriage so disorganized my Republican colleagues that they decided to put aside the business of America, that they decided a couple weeks ago that we couldn't deal with homeland security or a highway bill or education or health care, and they had to try and knock a big hole in the U.S. Constitution, so I guess I want to try to calm them down- I'm going to come clean. You hear them talk about the Gay Agenda- and I'm going to be honest with you now: the fact is, we who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered- we do have an agenda and here it is: we think we should be able to fight for our country, like John Kerry... we believe people ought to be able to be hired for a job and be judged solely on how well they do the work and not how somebody else thinks about who they are. We even go so far as to believe that a 15-year-old who is different, in a lot of ways, sexually from others ought to be able to go to high school without getting beaten up... and we even believe- it's true- that, when two people are in love and they are willing to be morally and legally committed to each other and financially responsible to each other- if they are prepared to get married, it's a good thing for the stability of society- we believe that... And I add one last thing: with the differences between the two political Parties on issues important to us as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people- so important, when Ralph Nader tells us there is no significant difference between the Parties, he trivializes our lives... I am proud, on behalf of the National Federation of Stonewall Democrats to tell people how proudly we will vote for John Kerry and John Edwards.
The next speaker before the Convention was the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Kweisi Mfume, a former Congressman from Maryland: The tragic irony is that, while the President proclaims the goal of building Democracy in Iraq, democratically eligible voters are still being illegally purged and stripped of their constitutional voting rights... Let's make sure we protect Democracy here at home!... On the matter of choice, one of the most personal decisions that a woman has to make, we believe that a woman must make that decision with her God and not have it made for her by her government...
We mean it when we say that Racism and Sexism and Anti-Semitism are wrong. We know, as a matter of critical fact, that Black bigotry can be just as cruel and evil as White bigotry- that, regrettably, bigots still come in all colors- and we understand that Gay-bashing and Immigrant-bashing and Union-bashing deplete us as a Nation and rob us, at the end of the day, of our ability to make true and lasting change.
At 6:30 PM EDT (2230 UTC), the Convention briefly recessed for some 25 minutes. When the proceedings resumed, Permanent Chairman Richardson introduced the 42 Democratic women Members of Congress as they all took the stage. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York was their spokesperson: Senator Kerry, she began, your troops have reported for duty!... We will make Nancy Pelosi the first woman Speaker in the history of the Congress... Women have the power to decide this next election and, when we do, we will take back our country and stand up for the values important to you... Women know how to balance the budget: we do it at home and we do it with our checkbooks... We expect a government to respect our bodies, our lives and our choices... When women vote, John Kerry will win!
After a film about the issue of the District of Columbia not being allowed to vote in Federal elections and, thereby, have voting representation in Congress, D.C.'s Territorial Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton took to the podium: There are 39 people at this great Convention who appear no different from other delegates, but they are different... You will lose your voting representation in Congress and many citizenship rights if you decide to live in the capital of the Free World... our local laws can be nullified against our democratic will... no American should be paying taxes without representation!
Governor Mark Warner of Virginia next took to the podium. When he offered a special 'Good evening' to my friends in Virginia, coming right after that presentation of the issue of D.C. Voting Rights, I couldn't help but think how both Alexandria and Arlington must be so very grateful for having been retroceded back in 1846. In Virginia, that Commonwealth's Chief Executive declared, we Democrats are the Party of balanced budgets, a fairer tax code and a stronger economic future. We've always said that you can't prepare for tomorrow until you get your fiscal house in order today- and that will be John Kerry's approach when we take back the White House this year... It has been a while since Virginia voted for a Democrat for President. Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years; Virginia has been wandering in the Republican desert for 40 years. But let me tell you: this Bush cannot lead us to the Promised Land.
Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina followed Governor Warner. He noted that his fundamentalist preacher father had taught him that if you make a dollar, you should save a nickel... that, when you leave the room, you turn out the lights to conserve energy. These were lessons of faith and conservatism. But, on Sunday mornings, when Dad called for the weekly offerings, he always asked the congregation to give liberally. So I learned, at an early age, that- in some things- we should be conservative and, in others, we should be liberal. Those values instilled in me are the same values shared by John Kerry and John Edwards.
Congressman Juanita Millender-McDonald of California was the next speaker: Nothing more reveals the values of a Nation than how it treats its children...When it comes to our children, America can- and must- do better... For the past four years, these children have been neither seen nor heard but Democrats say to America's children and their parents: we hear you, we see you and help is on the way... No child should go hungry in America. Ms. Millender-McDonald was followed by Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts: We need to stop nickel-and-diming our homeland security heroes- our firefighters and our local police; we need to protect our ports, our chemical plants, our nuclear facilities. When the safety of our homeland is at stake, it is time for a new leader... Are we ready to stand with our own captain, John Kerry, when- tonight- he declares "Let it begin here"?... Now is the time, this is the place, you are the people and Kerry/Edwards is the ticket: let it begin here!
John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO next appeared on the stage with three workers: one had his job outsourced overseas, another is a veteran and has a college degree but can't find a full-time job, the third was fired for attempting to organize his workplace. Workers' incomes are flat, Sweeney declared. Good jobs are hard to come by and it is all but impossible to find one that provides health care, let alone a secure pension.
As the 8 o'clock hour (0000 UTC) hour now approached, again- as had been the case the previous three evenings- the Convention was called to order. Mavis Staples sang America the Beautiful in lieu of the National Anthem. Once more, there were live video feeds of ordinary Democrats assembled at a number of locales around the country- Columbus, Ohio; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; Orlando, Florida and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware was the first of the Prime Time speakers: Tonight our country stands at the hinge of History and America's destiny is literally at stake. But we can shape that destiny if we seize the opportunities before us and Americans must decide who they trust the most to shape that destiny. The overwhelming obligation of the next President is clear: make America stronger, make America safer and win the death struggle between Freedom and Radical Fundamentalism... 9/11 was a moment of profound pain but also of enormous opportunity... I do not question the motives of this Administration but I profoundly disagree with their judgments... I believe this generation will look and wonder why this Administration has squandered the opportunities that were before it... For all of America's might, we are more alone in the world than ever before. As a result, we are less secure than we could or we should be... We were told by this Administration that we would pay no price for going it alone but that is so obviously wrong. Because we waged a war in Iraq virtually alone, we are responsible for the aftermath, virtually alone... Americans are bigger and better than the last four years have had the world believe about us... Instead of walking alone, we must lead: it is only leadership if someone follows- and no one is following.
Biden was followed by retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, the first of the remaining unsuccessful presidential contenders to speak this evening:
I'm an American soldier, our country has been attacked, we are at war, our Nation's at risk and we are engaged in a life-and-death struggle against terrorists who are seeking nuclear and biological weapons. As we are gathered here tonight, our armed forces are in combat. Our freedoms were won in war, our freedoms have been protected- generation after generation- by the selfless service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform ...I want all Americans to see our Party and how we respect our men and women who serve!
In this spirit, Clark asked the Convention to give a round of applause for those who have served/are serving in military service and their families and, later, to observe a brief moment of silence for those who have died while serving their country. War. I've been there- so has John Kerry, Clark declared. I've heard the thump of enemy mortars, I've seen the tracers fly. Bled on the battlefield, recovered in hospital. Received and obeyed orders, sent men and women into battle. Awarded medals, comforted families, attended funerals. And this soldier has news for you: anyone who tells you that one political Party has a monopoly on the best defense of our Nation is committing a fraud on the American People... A safe America, a just America- that's what we want, that's what we need- and, with John Kerry and John Edwards, that's what we will achieve.
Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the last of the unsuccessful 2004 Democratic presidential contenders to address the Convention, took to the dais-- of the Kerry/Edwards ticket, he said: They're not only going to win the Popular Vote, as Al Gore and I did, they're actually going to get to take office and move America forward... John Kerry and John Edwards have practical, progressive and sensible plans... but all of us know that those plans won't mean much unless we can restore the American People's sense of personal security, shattered on September 11th, 2001 when we were brutally attacked by Islamist terrorists who hate us more than they love their own lives... make no mistake: this war...is a war of values: our enemies reject our values- our founding faith that every child on earth is endowed by our Creator with the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness... We must support our brave troops, they are the new "Greatest Generation": they've liberated Afghanistan and Iraq from murderous tyrannies. They're fighting tonight in both of those nations to defeat terrorists and allow democratic governments to grow there. John Kerry and John Edwards are committed to finishing that work.
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California took to the podium: I am honored to stand before you as the Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives... Tonight we will hear from the next President of the United States. John Kerry is an exceptional leader and he will make an outstanding President... But let me be very clear: our work will not be complete unless we elect a Democratic Congress... Now hear this: every day, in every debate, in every vote, House Democrats are fighting to bring prosperity, opportunity and security to every corner of America... Republicans have sent our troops into battle in Iraq without a plan and have cut veterans' benefits without remorse... Democrats are leading the way and turning red States into blue... The American People have wisely rejected the cynical tactic of Fear in time of war, in time of economic downturn and in the ongoing struggle against all forms of discrimination: Democrats do not exploit Fear to divide and distract the Nation.
After a performance by singer Willie Nelson, former Clinton Administration Secretary of State Madeleine Albright came to the dais: In recent years, we have seen arise a new and evil tide: Terrorism... Our adversaries have nothing to offer their followers except hatred, destruction and death. America is a champion of Liberty, Prosperity and Peace. John Kerry knows that it is not enough just to say that America wants to defeat terror and rid the world of evil. Wanting something is not the same as doing something- you have to have a strategy that works... [Kerry] will respond firmly to the present danger while acting wisely to prevent a future generation of anti-American terrorists from arising and gaining a foothold around the world. He will use intelligence to shape policy, not twist intelligence to justify policy... In our confrontation with terror, John Kerry will not seek a truce, he will not expect surrender and he will not settle for stalemate- his goal will be victory. Under his leadership, we will persist until we prevail. Now, some believe that our country should never take action unless the world agrees. John Kerry believes that America must always explain its purposes and strive to gain the world's support and he knows that, if we want others to help with the dangers that most threaten us, we must help with the dangers that most threaten them. But have no doubt: John Kerry will do whatever it takes to defend America, whether others approve or not.
After a performance by the singer Carole King, Teresa Heinz Kerry's son, Andre Heinz, came to the podium and, after a few remarks, introduced his step-sisters, John Kerry's daughters Vanessa and Alexandra who introduced a short film about their father. After the film had ended, men who had served with Senator Kerry aboard the swift boats in Vietnam some 35 years before came out on stage, after which Jim Rassman, a Green Beret lieutenant whose life was saved by a swift boat under John Kerry's command in Vietnam, took to the podium and stated: Nobody asked me to join this campaign: I volunteered. Rassman thereafter introduced Vietnam veteran and former Senator from Georgia, Max Cleland.
Cleland recalled his experiences as a Vietnam veteran, disabled by war, frustrated and angry, when he first saw John Kerry- as a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War- on TV. He put everything I was feeling into words... Even before I met John Kerry, he was my brother. Even before I knew John Kerry, he was my friend. Even before I spoke with John Kerry, he gave me hope. The Bible tells me that no greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friends... Ladies and gentlemen, there is no greater act of Patriotism than that.
Cleland noted that John Kerry's service to his country did not end in Vietnam- it began there... In every hour of challenge our country's faced, in every hour of danger, there have been American heroes who have answered this country's call... tonight, I'm honored to introduce to you another son of Liberty, a brother in arms, a man called by destiny at this fateful hour in our Nation's history. He is my brother, he is my friend, he is my hero. Tonight, John Kerry is able to answer his Nation's call!
With that, Senator John Kerry came down an aisle on the floor of the Convention itself, glad-handing happy delegates as he made his way to the stage while Secret Service men intensely doing their necessary work in these times moved him along. He strode over to the podium and acknowledged the cheering assembled.
I'm John Kerry, the Massachusetts Senator and former US Navy junior officer finally began, 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...
Referring to the Convention to which he was speaking being in his home State, Kerry noted that 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, all of you, for a welcome home I will never forget...
After giving a brief outline of his childhood (in which he jokingly noted that, in the military hospital in which he was born during World War II, he was actually born in its west wing), he talked of his father's diplomatic service and how he was once grounded by his father because he rode his bike into the Soviet sector of divided Berlin before the Wall. He noted that, while there, 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 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...
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, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House...
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 United States... We are a nation at war, a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have known before... [the Republicans] 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 and we will- we're the optimists; for us, this is a country of the future- were the "can do" people... So, tonight, in the city where America's freedom began... on behalf of the 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...
Of 11 September 2001, Kerry noted that it was the worst day we have ever seen but it brought out the best in all of us... There were no Democrats, there were no Republicans, there were only Americans- and how we wish it had stayed that way... Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so, saying that we 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... 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. We need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden... 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 not hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or any institution a veto over our national security and I will build a stronger military... and we will end the back door draft of the National Guard and Reservists...
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... 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"... Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9/11 Commission has given us a path to follow... as President, I will not evade or equivocate, I will immediately implement all the recommendations of that commission...
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.
Senator Kerry pointed to a giant American flag mounted within the rafters of the FleetCenter: You see that flag up there? We call her Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes Forever. I fought under that flag... That flag flew from the gun turret 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...
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... In this campaign, we welcome people of faith. America is not "us" and "them"... I don't want to claim that God is on our side... I want to humbly pray that we are on God's side!
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!
Senator Kerry stepped back from the podium and acknowledged the cheers of delirious Democrats. Soon he was joined by his running mate, Senator Edwards for the inevitable "arms together raised" moment. Then came the candidates' life-mates, their wives, on the stage for yet another traditional end of Convention tableau. The children of the candidates joined them before (cue the balloons!) all disappeared in a storm of multi-colored confetti and various and sundry Democratic Party functionaries.
The benediction was given by the Rev. Father John Ardis of the Paulist Center in Boston before Governor Richardson moved that the Convention be adjourned sine die. It was so adopted viva voce. At 11:25 PM EDT (0325 UTC), the 2004 Democratic National Convention became mere fodder for future historians.