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BOSTON, MA • JULY 29, 2004

Thank you so much, Jim. Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

My fellow Americans I'd like to share with you tonight my story of how I came to know and love John Kerry. It was April 1968, I was being airlifted out of Vietnam on a stretcher. At that moment Ensign John Kerry was headed in a different direction. He was on a Navy ship in the Pacific requesting transfer into Vietnam, into the line of fire. He had graduated from college. The world was his oyster. There were a lot of other things he could have done with his life. But he wanted to serve because he had been raised to believe that service to one's country is honorable, is noble and is good.

While John Kerry was earning a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, I was being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. I was 25 years old. My body was broken and my faith was shattered. I remember one day on leave from the hospital a friend of mine was pushing me and we were going around the city. I was in my new wheelchair. Right there in front of the White House we hit a little bump and dumped me right on the street, right there on the curb. There were cigarette butts and trash around and I remember trying to lift myself up out of the street. I was angry in those days at war, saddened that veterans were not getting good care and frustrated that people in power were not listening.

Those were difficult days for me and they were difficult days for my country. But I ultimately realized that although I had lost a lot I still had a lot left. I resolved to make something of my life. I decided to run for the state senate in my home state of Georgia. I won but when I got there in 1971 I was a lone voice. Then I heard this young veteran on TV speaking about the war. It was John Kerry. He put everything I was feeling into words. Tonight I'd like to let you know that 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. John Kerry's fellow crewmates, the men I'm honored to share this stage with tonight, are living testimony to his leadership, his courage under fire and his willingness to risk his life for his fellow Americans. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no greater act of patriotism than that.

As I look back over the last 36 years, I realize John Kerry's service to his country did not end in Vietnam, it began there. Since Vietnam John Kerry's life has become an object lesson in what was once described as the true definition of patriotism, the long and steady dedication of a lifetime. And when we make John Kerry our next president of the United States he will put America back on the long and steady road toward the vision of the country we fought for, a vision of the country we can become once again. A country that doesn't alienate our allies but works with them. A country that doesn't lose jobs but creates them. A country that doesn't limit educational opportunity but expands it. A country that doesn't make health care less available but more affordable. A country that doesn't spoil our environment but protects it. A country that's strong, a country that's respected once again. A country that is worthy of generations of sacrifice and worthy of our children's highest hopes. That is the America John Kerry volunteered to fight for, that's the America John Kerry will lead.

When John Kerry declared he was going to be a candidate of the highest office in our land the presidency of the United States on a hot, steamy day in Charleston, S.C. a little less than a year ago, I joined the band of brothers at his side. After the ceremony, I grabbed John's arm and pressed a little Bible into his hand. It was the Bible I once read from as a child. I knew that he would need the strength that it provided, the guidance it provided and the comfort it had to offer in the days ahead. At first, he said he was afraid he might lose it. He refused to take it. But I insisted. I told him, hold onto this. You'll need it like your country needs you now. He looked at me with those kind of long, sad eyes and said, I won't let you down. My fellow Americans, John Kerry has never let me down. And he won't let you down either. Why, why? Because he is an authentic American, an authentic American hero. He is the captain of our ship of state. And he will be the next president of the United States.

In every hour of challenge our country has faced, in every hour of danger there have been American heroes who have answered this country's call. Just blocks from where we are tonight some 230 years ago, a little group, a small group called the Sons of Liberty assembled to demand democracy and a voice in their future. Mere steps from where we are now a former slave named Crispus Atticus gave his life for freedom. And around the corner from where we are tonight a beacon of light shows and showed on that fateful day from the Old North Church that sent Paul Revere on a mission to save this country's people from danger.

Those were fateful hours for our young country. Tonight I am 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. Ladies and gentlemen, tonight John Kerry is able to answer this nation's call.


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