CLAIMS HIS PRIZE
But, once you have it, it's
what you then do with it
Friday, August 29, 2008
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
The final day- Thursday 28 August 2008- of the 45th Democratic National Convention took place at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, normally a stadium that is home to the National Football League's Denver Broncos. Before the session was formally called to order, there were a number of preliminary speeches that got underway shortly after 3:30 PM local time (5:30 PM Eastern [2130 UTC]).
First came John Kuniholm, an Iraq war veteran who had lost an arm in that conflict and who opined that we need a president with the judgment to make tough decisions about where and when to risk American lives. He was followed by Wes Moore, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, who declaimed that this election is about seizing History and that Barack Obama seeks not faith in him, but faith with him.
The next speaker was Nathaniel Fick, a veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq who, of the latter, said I don't want to retreat, I want to win but, even though a one-time Republican who had voted for Senator McCain in the 2000 presidential nomination contests in that Party, now supported Barack Obama for President. Finally, he was followed by John Estrada, a 34-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, who told the assembled I am here in support of Barack Obama's vision for our national security.
Barack Obama had the judgment to know our forces should have been focused on Afghanistan where they could have been fighting terrorism at its core after 9/11. Barack Obama is a reliable advocate for our veterans... As the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, my obligation was to protect the Marines, sailors and their families. My obligation didnít stop when I retired and thatís why I support Barack Obama.
There was now a reminder of the kind of times in which we live when a video was now shown to the assembled regarding how best to evacuate the stadium in case of an emergency. Then Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois came to the podium: If you want change, it is time for Latinos and for immigrants to rally behind the next President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Tonight, I ask my friends in the Latino community, in the immigrant community, please join me- because Barack Obama is the change we need. John McCain? McCain means more of the same, the same failed policies and empty promises for Latinos. I remember when John McCain said he would stand up for immigrants, until right-wing extremists told him to sit down: so he sat down...
Hard work. Family. Faith. That's the America I know: that's the immigrant community I know. But, most important, when Barack Obama occupies the White House, that is the community our President will defend and respect by fighting for comprehensive immigration reform.
Reform that keeps mothers and children and families together: reform that brings hard-working people out of the shadows of disgrace and into the sunlight of dignity, that enforces our laws, keeps our borders secure, and our Nation safe.
Gutierrez was followed by David Plouffe, chair of Barack Obama for President; Ray Rivera, Colorado director of Barack Obama for President and, then, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois: In 145 days, George W. Bush will no longer be President of the United States and, if we do everything we must do for the next 67 days, my friend of many years, Barack Obama, will take his place.
Imagine that day: January 20, 2009. You are on the West Lawn of the Capitol, warmed by the throngs of excited people, all ages and colors. With his hand on the Bible that Michelle holds, Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States. At that moment, the narrative about our country instantly changes.
It was 4 PM local time in Denver (6 PM Eastern [2200 UTC]) when Permanent Chair Nancy Pelosi came forward to formally gavel the final session of the Convention to order. The Invocation was offered by Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. The Presentation of Colors was by the Disabled American Veterans, the Pledge of Allegiance was led by gymnast Shawn Johnson, who had so recently won an Olympic Gold Medal in Beijing and the National Anthem was sung by Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson.
After another of those 'Barack Obama in his own words' videos (this one from his claiming "victory" in the Iowa Caucuses back on 3 January 2008), the chair of the Convention Host Committee, Denver Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth came forward to speak to the assembled.
The vice-chairs of the Convention now came forward to move a number of resolutions honoring both the State of Colorado and the City/County of Denver which had hosted the Convention: these were Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO; Susan Turnbull; former Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas Lottie Shackelford, Congressman Mike Honda of California and Mark Brewer.
Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado now came to the podium, pointing out that this year, the road to the White House cuts straight through the heart of the American West. The Colorado Governor was followed by three Congressmen from his State, in order: Ed Perlmutter, John Salazar (the older brother of the State's one Democratic U.S. Senator, Ken Salazar) and Diana DeGette.
There now came a video about Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean under the title of 'A Chairman with a 50-State Strategy', after which former Governor Dean himself came forward to speak: Not too long ago, many of us wanted to know what happened to our Party: we were on the short end of the last two elections, we were in the minority in the House and Senate. But we had hope- a plan: "Show up."
We knew if we knocked on doors and told people what we believe, they would respect us and vote for us. Thatís exactly what you did- and because you did, today, our Party competes in all 50 states...
Barack Obama and Joe Biden both know that this is not just about turning red states blue: itís about turning our country around. We canít afford four more years of the same- no matter how many times John McCain tries to hide from it, itís a fact: John McCain has voted with George Bush and his policies 95 percent of the time over the past year. John McCain is not a maverick, John McCain is a 'yes man'.
The next event was a Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. kicked off by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who is the last survivor among all those who spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington 45 years ago this very day (the highlight of which was Dr. Kings famous 'I Have a Dream' speech; Lewis was chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee [SNCC, or "snic"] at the time). Lewis was followed by a video tribute to Dr. King and then Rev. Bernice King, Dr. King's daughter, introducing her brother, Martin Luther King 3d.
While waiting to come to the podium, I could not help thinking how proud my father would be: proud of Barack Obama, proud of the Party that nominated him and proud of the America that will elect him. On this day, exactly 45 years ago, my father stood on the National Mall in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln and proclaimed 'I have a dream! ... That one day, this Nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed'.
We're all children of the dream, and he is in all our hearts and minds. But not only that, he is in the hopes and dreams, the competence and courage, the rightness and readiness of Barack Obama. But my father would be quick to remind us that realizing his dream is not Barack Obamaís job alone: America needs more than a great President to realize my fatherís dream.
What America needs is a great America. Let me paraphrase my father: the ultimate measure of a nation is not where it stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where it stands in times of challenge and controversy.
There was now a video shown of what was, in effect, a campaign commercial, ending with the Obama/Biden logo and the slogan 'For the Change We Need'. After this, there was a live musical performance by will.i.am accompanied by John Legend and the Agape Choir which had performed at an earlier session of the Convention back at the Pepsi Center. The performance incorporated portions of speeches by Senator Obama and centered on the refrain 'Yes, we can!'
Colorado director of the Barack Obama for President campaign Ray Rivera now came to the podium to address the crowd about some new technology. Here's a new way to stay connected with the campaign, text messaging. Last week, we announced Joe Biden for Vice President by text message: tonight, weíre taking it to another level.
Take your phones out now. Letís see them! If you look at the jumbo screen, you will see our interactive map that shows which States have the most people signed up for text messaging. Letís find out which state can sign up the most supporters... Letís light up the map and letís light a path for America's future!
There now came a live musical performance by Sheryl Crow which took us up to 8 PM on the East Coast: Prime Time- cable news network "look in" time.
The first speaker in this segment was Congressman Mark Udall of Colorado, candidate for the U.S. Senate and the son of 1976 Democratic presidential contender Morris "Mo" Udall (with whom I once had breakfast, in a dormitory 'dining commons' while I was a sophomore at Boston University and while the elder Udall was campaigning on-campus going into the Massachusetts Presidential Primary being held on 2 March of that year).
No matter the odds, no matter the problems, the younger Udall now said, we have to stick together as one Nation again, putting our partisan differences behind us and putting the best interests of America first. In the spirit of the West, we can move forward, but itís going to take leaders who are strong enough to stand up for whatís right, bold enough to bring new ideas and sweep away the worst of Washingtonís old ways.
Leaders like Barack Obama, who has spent his whole life standing up for working men and women. Leaders like Joe Biden, who worked with my dad, whoís never forgotten where he comes from, whoís never stopped working to keep us safe.
As my dad said: 'Every generation has had to change this country to make it work'. This is our time: this is our moment to change the course of history.
He was followed by Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, who stated that I am here tonight not just as the governor of Virginia who knows the people of my state need a better partner in White House, not just as a Democrat who is tired of politics as usual, but most importantly as an American who wants to see American values guiding our country again. For eight years weíve seen what happens when a President lets Washington values become more important than American values...
Maybe for John McCain the American Dream means seven houses: and if thatís your America, John McCain is your candidate. But, for the rest of us, the American Dream means one home in a safe neighborhood, with good schools and good health care and a little money left over every month to go out for dinner and save for the future. Does that seem like too much to ask? John McCain thinks it is.
The next speaker was Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who had been the Chair of the 2004 Democratic National Convention: You know, John McCain says you're all here to follow a celebrity- it's time someone told him you're here to elect a President!
John McCain is the first candidate in history who thinks he can win by telling voters they're not thinking for themselves: well, John McCain voted with George Bush 95 percent of the time- was that thinking for himself?... America is ready for change, but John McCain has only changed his mind... John McCain may pay hundreds of dollars for his shoes, but we're the ones who will pay for his flip-flops.
Next came a live musical performance by Stevie Wonder, accompanied by Unity and Harmony.
After yet another video presentation, and to the strains of the 'Let the sun shine in' refrain of the Fifth Dimension's hit version of Aquarius from 'Hair!', former Vice President Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee, strode to the podium.
Gore spoke to the assembled in a declamatory but earnest, where not also authoritative, style: to him, it was- with rare exceptions- all serious business; there were few "applause lines": Today, we face essentially the same choice we faced in 2000: though it may be even more obvious now, because John McCain, a man who has earned our respect on many levels, is now openly endorsing the policies of the Bush-Cheney White House and promising to actually continue them.
The same policies all over again? Hey, I believe in recycling, but that's ridiculous.
With John McCainís support, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have led our nation into one calamity after another because of their indifference to fact, their readiness to sacrifice the long term to the short term, subordinate the general good to the benefit of the few and short-circuit the rule of law.
If you like the Bush-Cheney approach, John McCain's your man: if you want change, then vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden...
There is no better example than the climate crisis. As I have said for many years throughout this land, weíre borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the future of human civilization. Every bit of that has to change... Sea levels are rising, fires are raging, storms are stronger. Military experts warn us our national security is threatened by massive waves of climate refugees destabilizing countries around the world and scientists tell us the very web of life is endangered by unprecedented extinctions.
We are facing a planetary emergency which, if not solved, would exceed anything weíve ever experienced in the history of humankind. In spite of John McCainís past record of open-mindedness on the climate crisis, he has apparently now allowed his Party to browbeat him into abandoning his support of mandatory caps on global warming pollution. And it just so happens that the climate crisis is intertwined with the other two great challenges facing our nation: reviving our economy and strengthening our national security. The solutions to all three require us to end our dependence on carbon-based fuels...
Almost a hundred years ago, Thomas Edison said 'Iíd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we donít have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that'... So how did this no-brainer become a brain-twister? Because the carbon fuels industryóbig oil and coalóhave a 50-year lease on the Republican Party and they are drilling it for everything it's worth...
This Administration and the special interests who control it lock, stock and barrel after barrel, have performed this same sleight-of-hand on issue after issue. Some of the best marketers have the worst products and this is certainly true of todayís Republican Party. The Party itself has on its rolls men and women of great quality but the last eight years demonstrate that the special interests who have come to control the Republican Party are so powerful that serving them and serving the national well-being are now irreconcilable choices...
There are times in the history of our Nation when our very way of life depends upon awakening to the challenge of a present danger, shaking off complacency to rise, clear-eyed and alert, to the necessity of embracing change.
A century and a half ago, when America faced our greatest trial, the end of one era gave way to the birth of another. The candidate who emerged victorious in that election is now regarded by most historians as our greatest President. Before he entered the White House, Abraham Lincolnís experience in elective office consisted of eight years in his state legislature in Springfield, Illinois, and one term in Congress: during which he showed the courage and wisdom to oppose the invasion of another country that was popular when it started but later condemned by History...
In 2008, once again, we find ourselves at the end of an era with a mandate from History to launch another new beginning and, once again, we have a candidate whose experience perfectly matches an extraordinary moment of transition. Barack Obama had the experience and wisdom to oppose a popular war based on faulty premises... His experience has taught him something that career politicians often overlook: that inconvenient truths must be acknowledged if we are to have wise governance...
Late this evening, our Convention will end with a Benediction. As we bow in reverence, remember the words of the old proverb: 'when you pray, move your feet'. Then let us leave here tonight and take the message of hope from Denver to every corner of our land and do everything we can to serve our Nation, our world- and, most importantly, our children and their future- by electing Barack Obama President of the United States of America.
As the 9 PM Eastern Time hour approached, there was a live performance by Michael McDonald.
The next speaker at the podium after this was Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower. I stand before you tonight, not as a Republican or a Democrat, but as an American, she told the assembled. Noting that she grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where her grandparents had bought a farmstead (while Ike was still in the White House, by the way), she stated that her hometown was also where Abraham Lincoln gave his historic Address. On the killing fields of Pickettís Charge, our country came of age and assured for all time that our nation would survive as one. Yet, today, the divisions in our country are deep and wide...
Once, during the Eisenhower Administration, Ike was under fire from his critics for moving too slowly in responding to political pressure. After a visit to the Oval Office by Robert Frost, the famous American poet sent the president a note: 'the strong', he wrote, 'say nothing until they see'.
I believe that Barack Obama has the energy and the temperament to lead this country. He knows that we can either advance on the distant hills of hope or retreat to the garrisons of fear. As our standard bearer, he can mobilize a demoralized America and inspire all of us to show up for duty... Barack Obama has already articulated a powerful vision for our nationís future and our standing in the world.
The task before our next President will be overwhelming but no undertaking will be more critical than bringing about a sense of national unity and purpose, built on mutual respect and bipartisanship. Unless we squarely face our challenges, as Americans together, we risk losing the priceless heritage bestowed on us by the sweat and the sacrifice of our forbears: if we do not pull together, we could lose the America that has been an inspiration to the world...
On December 1, 1862, in his Annual Message to Congress, Abraham Lincoln immortalized this thought when he said: 'We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth'. Let us respond this November to President Lincolnís challenge: let us restore the hope and bring the change that our Nation so desperately needs. Yes, we can!
Then came a program called 'A Tribute to Retired Generals', in which a number of retired Generals of the Army, Air Force and Marines and retired Admirals strode across the stage (including Wesley Clark, NATO Commander under President Bill Clinton and an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004). This procession was led by retired U.S. Air Force Major General J. Scott Gration who came to the podium:
Before I go any further, I have a confession to make, he told the assembled: until recently, I was a Republican- but youíll be happy to know that Iím looking forward to voting for Barack Obama in November... When I consider who should be commander-in-chief, I ask four questions, he explained: First, who has the judgment to make the right decisions about when to use force?... Second, who grasps the complex threats of the 21st century?... Third, who has the integrity, vision, values, and patriotism to inspire Americans to serve?... And fourth, who has the dedication to take care of our wounded warriors, veterans, and military families?
General Gration noted that, before his retirement from the military- when he had the opportunity to brief Senator Obama: He asked tough questions, and he didn't settle for easy answers.
The 2008 Democratic Party vice-presidential nominee, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, next came to the podium to reiterate some of the themes of his Acceptance Speech of the night before and link them to the preceding program honoring military men and women at the highest level.
There now came a program entitled 'America's Voices', which consisted of a series of short speeches by ordinary Americans- some of them disgruntled Republican voters- who explained why they were supporting Barack Obama. First came Roy Gross, a truck driver from Taylor, Michigan; followed by Monica Early, an insurance agent from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, who discussed how she became an Obama supporter after, on her own, checking out what she described as a "scary e-mail" she had received about Obama (doubtless, she was referring to the very kind of stuff I myself wrote about at the end of my Commentary of this past 20 June); there was Janet Lynn Monaco, a pet store owner from Melbourne, Florida; Teresa Asenap, a public school worker from Albuquerque, New Mexico; Pamella Cash-Roper, a retired nurse from Pittsboro, North Carolina and, finally, one Barney Smith- who lost two different jobs in his hometown of Marion, Indiana and who probably had the best line of the Convention, when he said We need a President who puts Barney Smith before Smith Barney.
Ray Rivera, the Colorado director of the Barack Obama for President campaign, returned to the podium to address the assembled about the progress of his getting pledges of support via text message. Then came a musical interlude consisting of the piped-in sounds of McFadden & Whitehead's Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now.
As the 10 PM Eastern, over-the-air broadcast television network, hour approached, Senator Dick Durbin approached the podium to introduce his Senate colleague from the Land of Lincoln. Four years ago in Boston, Durbin began, I introduced a friend: an Illinois state senator most people had never heard of with a name most people couldnít pronounce. Thirty minutes later, Barack Obamaís keynote address had changed politics in America, touching the hearts and inspiring the dreams of a nation.
Tonight, Barack Obama will accept our nomination to be President of the United States. His journey from that moment to now has taken him to every corner of this nation. Like another son of Illinois, he has spoken to a divided people about the better angels of our nature: to a country weary of the politics of division and deadlock, he has brought a message of unity and change...
I have been close to Barack Obama for many years but now, after this long campaign, so many of us know this man. We know how he thinks- we know his values; we know that Barack Obamaís journey has never been far from the pain and struggle so many Americans face today and that life has tested him and prepared him to lead this nation we all love.
Barack Obama had the good judgment to know that we should not risk the lives of our brave soldiers in the wrong war. Barack Obama has the wisdom to know that we should never risk our freedoms and privacy to the overreaching hand of government. Barack Obama has the good sense to know that the future of our nation is in the hands of hardworking Americans, not in the selfish grasp of the politically powerful. Barack Obama knows that Americaís best days are still to come.
Tonight, after this convention ends and the lights of this great stadium go dark, will come the morning light and the dawning of a new day. We have gathered here this week to dedicate ourselves to that new day: we should take the message from this Mile High City to every corner of this great land- that, with this election, the greatness of America can return.
America can move beyond the failed policies and broken promises of the last eight years. America can turn the page and welcome a new generation of leadership. Yes, America can. And, yes we can.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden will lead us to that better place and we will be by their side every step of the way.
After Senator Durbin finished his introduction, a video 'bio-pic' of the life story of, and influences on, the Party's newest nominee was shown and, once this had ended, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois himself strode confidently to the podium.
With profound gratitude and great humility, Obama told the Convention: I accept your nomination for the Presidency of the United States. Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey and especially the one who traveled the farthest - a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Then, the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nominee- the first African-American to be nominated by one of the two Major Parties for the Highest Office in the Nation, launched into the main portion of his Acceptance Speech, beginning by reminding the assembled of the Keynote Address he had delivered in Boston as a State Senator then running for the United States Senate in 2004:
Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story - of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that, in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to. It is that promise that has always set this country apart: that, through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family- to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.
That's why I stand here tonight, because for 232 years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women - students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.
We meet at one of those defining moments: a moment when our Nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more... These challenges are not all of government's making- but the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush. America, we are better than these last eight years: we are a better country than this...
Tonight, I say to the American People- to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land: Enough! This moment, this election, is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive, because next week- in Minnesota- the same Party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight: on November 4th, we must stand up and say 'eight is enough'.
Now let there be no doubt: the Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and our respect- and, next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his Party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.
But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time: Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? I don't know about you- but I'm not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change...
Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year?... It's not because John McCain doesn't care- it's because John McCain doesn't get it.
For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is: you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps: even if you don't have boots, you're on your own. Well it's time for them to own up to their failure: it's time for us to change America.
You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country... We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job - an economy that honors the dignity of work. The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great - a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.
Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree... When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed...
I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.
What is that promise? It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect... Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves... Our government should work for us, not against us- it should help us, not hurt us: it should ensure opportunity, not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.
That's the promise of America: the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one Nation- the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper. That's the promise we need to keep- that's the change we need right now: so let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.
Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it. Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America. I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech, jobs of tomorrow.
I will cut taxes - cut taxes! - for 95% of all working families, because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class. And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.
Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and John McCain has been there for 26 of them... Now is the time to end this addiction and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution- not even close!...
America, now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy... Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American... and as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.
Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent. Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations- and now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.
Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime: by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow- but I will also go through the Federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less, because we cannot meet 21st Century challenges with a 20th Century bureaucracy.
And, Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money... Yes, Government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient: yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair, but we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents- that Government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.
Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility - that's the essence of America's promise. And just as we keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad.
If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have...
John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell but he won't even go to the cave where he lives: and, today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration- even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we're wallowing in deficits- John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war. That's not the judgment we need- that won't keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.
You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq: you don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington; you can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice- but it is not the change we need.
We are the party of Roosevelt- we are the party of Kennedy: so don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country- don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, have built and we are here to restore that legacy. As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this Nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home...
These are the policies I will pursue and, in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain- but what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes, because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.
The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook: so let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag: they have not served a Red America or a Blue America: they have served the United States of America.
So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first...
We may not agree on abortion- but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.
I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.
This, too, is part of America's promise: the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.
I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as 'happy talk': they claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected: because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters- if you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.
And you know what? It's worked before because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about Government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty: if your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.
I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office: I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington. But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring: what the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me- it's about you...
You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what History teaches us: that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington- change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American People demand it, because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership- a new politics for a new time. America, this is one of those moments...
This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich; we have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong; our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. Instead, it is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain: that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen- that better place around the bend...
And it is that promise that, 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on the Mall in Washington- before Lincoln's Memorial- and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream. The men and women who gathered there could have heard many things: they could have heard words of anger and discord- they could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.
But what the people heard instead - people of every creed and color, from every walk of life - is that, in America, our destiny is inextricably linked: that, together, our dreams can be one. 'We cannot walk alone', the preacher cried, 'and, as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead: we cannot turn back'.
America, we cannot turn back: not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for; not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save; not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend.
America, we cannot turn back: we cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise, that American promise, and- in the words of Scripture- hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.
Having finished his address, it was time for the usual "national ticket arm-in-arm" moment which traditionally ends all National Conventions. Senator Obama was, first, joined on the stage by his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters; then Joe and Jill Biden came onto the stage; finally, the entire extended Biden family had gathered thereon. Streamers were dropped and confetti rained (there were no balloons, given that this was an open-air stadium) and then the newest Democratic Party candidates for President and Vice-President left the stage with their families... to me, as I watched all this on television, it had all (despite the flag-waving and cheering by the crowd, along with the shooting off of fireworks) seemed strangely subdued on that stage: pragmatic rather than programmed-- perhaps purposely designed to reflect a seriousness of purpose that does not usually flow from the final speech of a Convention into the more joyous displays of final victory in claiming the nomination prize that more often follow-- Obama's own smiles seemed wan, as if he were now carrying a burden he had never ever before lifted (his running mate, Joe Biden, by contrast, was positively beaming)-- even the accompanying symphonic music seemed ominous:
I don't think I have had a feeling about a Convention- of either Major Party- at its closing like this since the (in)famous and altogether awkward "handshake that wasn't" when Ted Kennedy- however reluctantly, or not- joined Jimmy Carter onstage back in 1980... it was only now that I suddenly realized that, back when Senator Obama had praised Hillary Clinton, she wasn't shown on screen and, apparently, wasn't even there!... no wonder there wasn't that final "national ticket being embraced by erstwhile rivals" moment, nor was there a "national ticket with all the Party leaders" moment... it seemed that this was, at its end, more Barack Obama's Convention than the Democratic Party's... maybe that's exactly what it was supposed to be
The Benediction was offered by Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland in Central Florida, who added a little "twist" to the usual formula for ending such a thing. Normally the person leading the Benediction (as is the case with the Invocation) simply ends his or her prayer with the formulation attached to his or her own Faith... but Pastor Hunter did something just a little bit different here, yet noticeably so. The pastor had just finished the portion of his Benediction where he had beseeched the Almighty to Grant that all of us citizens will continually do our part to contribute to the common good so that we can truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Now I interrupt this prayer for a closing instruction, the pastor then told the assembled: I want to personalize this- I want this to be a participatory prayer- and so, therefore, because we are in a country that is still welcoming all faiths, I would like all of us to close this prayer in a way your faith tradition would close your prayer: so, on the count of three, I want all of you to end this prayer- your prayer- the way you usually end prayers. Ready? 1- 2- 3...
After this, Permanent Chair of the Convention Nancy Pelosi came to the podium to entertain a motion to adjourn the 45th Democratic National Convention sine die-- it was duly seconded by the rather larger than usual crowd inside the stadium and approved viva voce and, with that, on Thursday 28 August 2008, at 9:09 PM local time in Denver (11:09 PM Eastern Time [0309 UTC, 29 August 2008]), one of the most historic National Conventions (along with one of the most interesting presidential nominating processes in American History) came to an end.