FROM THE 2004 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
BOSTON, MA • JULY 26, 2004
Thank you very much. My name is Jimmy Carter,
and I am not running for president. (Cheers, applause.) But
here's what I will be doing -- everything I can to put John
Kerry in the White House with John Edwards right there beside
him. (Cheers, applause.)
Twenty-eight years ago, I was running for president, and
I said then I want a government as good and as honest and
as decent and as competent and as compassionate as are the
American people. I say this again tonight, and that's exactly
what we will have next January with John Kerry as president
of the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)
As many of you may know, my first chosen career was the
United States Navy where I served as a submarine officer.
At that time, my shipmates and I were ready for combat and
prepared to give our lives to defend our nation and its principles.
At the same time, we always prayed that our readiness would
preserve the peace. I served under two presidents -- Harry
Truman and Dwight Eisenhower -- men who represented different
political parties; both of whom had faced their active military
responsibilities with honor. (Cheers, applause.)
They knew the horrors of war, and later, as commanders in
chief, they exercised restraint and judgment. And they had
a clear sense of mission. (Applause.) We have a confidence
-- we had a confidence that our leaders, both military and
civilian, would not put our soldiers and sailors in harm's
way by initiating wars of choice unless America's vital interests
were in danger. (Cheers, applause.) We also were sure that
these presidents would not mislead us when issues involved
national security. (Cheers, applause.)
Today -- today our Democratic Party is led by another former
naval officer, one who volunteered for military service.
He showed up when assigned to duty -- (cheers, applause)
-- and he served with honor and distinction. He also knows
the horrors of war and the responsibilities of leadership.
And I am confident that next January he would restore the
judgment and maturity to our government that nowadays is
sorely lacking. (Cheers, applause.) I am proud -- I am proud
to call Lieutenant John Kerry my shipmate, and I'm ready
to follow him to victory in November. (Cheers, applause.)
As you all know, our country faces many challenges at home
involving energy, taxation, the environment, education and
To meet these challenges, we need new leaders in Washington
whose policies are shaped by working American families instead
of the super- rich and their armies of lobbyists in Washington.
But the biggest reason to make John Kerry president is even
more important. It is to safeguard the security of our nation.
(Applause.) Today our dominant international challenge is
to restore the greatness of America -- (cheers, applause)
-- based on -- based on telling the truth, a commitment to
peace, and respect for civil liberties at home and basic
human rights around the world. (Cheers, applause.)
Truth is the foundation of our global leadership, but our
credibility has been shattered, and we are left increasingly
isolated and vulnerable in a hostile world. Without truth,
without trust, America cannot flourish. Trust is at the very
heart of our democracy, the sacred covenant between a president
and the people. When that trust is violated, the bonds that
hold our republic together begin to weaken.
After 9/11, America stood proud, wounded but determined
and united. A cowardly attack on innocent civilians brought
us an unprecedented level of cooperation and understanding
around the world.
But in just 34 months we have watched with deep concern
as all this good will has been squandered by a virtually
unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculations. (Cheers,
Unilateral acts and demands have isolated the United States
from the very nations we need to join us in combatting terrorism.
Let us not forget that the Soviets lost the Cold War because
the American people combined the exercise of power with the
adherence to basic principles based on sustained bipartisan
support. We understood the positive link between the defense
of our own freedom and the promotion of human rights. But
recent policies have cost our nation its reputation as the
world's most admired champion of freedom and justice. (Cheers,
What a difference these few months of extremism have made.
The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its
friends, and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming
a confused and disturbing strategy of preemptive war. With
our allies disunited, the world resenting us, and the Middle
East ablaze, we need John Kerry to restore life to the global
war against terrorism. (Cheers, applause.)
In the meantime, the Middle East peace process has come
to a screeching halt. From the first time since Israel became
a nation, all former presidents, Democratic and Republican,
have attempted to secure a comprehensive peace for Israel
with hope and justice for the Palestinians. The achievements
of Camp David a quarter century ago and the more recent progress
made by President Bill Clinton are now in peril.
Instead, violence has gripped the Holy Land, with the region
increasingly swept by anti-American passions. This must change.
Elsewhere, North Korea's nuclear menace, a threat far more
real and immediate than any posed by Saddam Hussein, has
been allowed to advance unheeded, with potentially ominous
consequences for peace and stability in Northeast Asia.
These are some of the prices our government has paid with
this radical departure from basic American principles and
values that are espoused by John Kerry. (Applause.) In repudiating
-- in repudiating extremism, we need to recommit ourselves
to a few common-sense principles that should transcend partisan
First, we cannot enhance our own security if we place in
jeopardy what is most precious to us; namely, the centrality
of human rights in our daily lives and in global affairs.
Second, we cannot maintain our historic self-confidence
as a people if we generate public panic. (Applause.)
Third, we cannot do our duty as citizens and patriots if
we pursue an agenda that polarizes and divides our country.
Next, we cannot be true to ourselves if we mistreat others.
And finally, in the world at large we cannot lead if our
leaders mislead. (Cheers, applause.)
You can't be a war president one day and claim to be a peace
president the next -- (cheers, applause) -- depending on
the latest political polls. (Cheers, applause.)
When our national security requires military action, John
Kerry has already proven, in Vietnam, that he will not hesitate
to act. And as a proven defender of our national security,
John Kerry will strengthen the global alliance against terrorism
while avoiding unnecessary wars. (Applause.)
Ultimately, the basic issue is whether America will provide
global leadership that springs from the unity and the integrity
of the American people or whether extremist doctrines, the
manipulation of the truth will define America's role in the
world. At stake is nothing less than our nation's soul. (Applause.)
In a few months, I will, God willing, enter my 81st year
of my life. (Cheers, applause.) And in many ways, the last
few months have been some of the most disturbing of all.
But I am not discouraged. I really am not. I do not despair
for our country. I never do. I believe tonight, as I always
have, that the essential decency and compassion and common
sense of the American people will prevail. (Applause.)
And so I say to you -- and so I say to you and to others
around the world, whether you wish us well or ill, do not
underestimate us Americans.
(Cheers, applause.) We lack neither strength nor wisdom.
There's a road that leads to a bright and hopeful future.
What America needs is leadership. (Cheers, applause.) Our
job -- our job, my fellow Americans, is to ensure that the
leaders of this great country will be John Kerry and John
Edwards. (Cheers, applause.)
Thank you, and God bless America. (Cheers, applause.)
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