FROM THE 2004 REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
NEW YORK • AUGUST 30, 2004
Thank you, Lindsey, and, thank you, my fellow
I’m truly grateful for the privilege of addressing
you. This week, millions of Americans, not all Republicans,
weigh our claim on their support for the two men who have
led our country in these challenging times with moral courage
and firm resolve.
So I begin with the words of a great American from the other
party, given at his party’s convention in the year
I was born.
My purpose is not imitation, for I can’t match his
eloquence, but respect for the relevance in our time of his
rousing summons to greatness of an earlier generation of
In a time of deep distress at home, as tyranny strangled
the aspirations to liberty of millions, and as war clouds
gathered in the West and East, Franklin Delano Roosevelt
accepted his party’s nomination by observing: “There
is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations
much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This
generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”
The awful events of September 11, 2001 declared a war we
were vaguely aware of, but hadn’t really comprehended
how near the threat was, and how terrible were the plans
of our enemies.
It’s a big thing, this war.
It’s a fight between a just regard for human dignity
and a malevolent force that defiles an honorable religion
by disputing God’s love for every soul on earth. It’s
a fight between right and wrong, good and evil.
And should our enemies acquire for their arsenal the chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons they seek, this war will become
a much bigger thing.
So it is, whether we wished it or not, that we have come
to the test of our generation, to our rendezvous with destiny.
And much is expected of us.
We are engaged in a hard struggle against a cruel and determined
Our enemies have made clear the danger they pose to our
security and to the very essence of our culture...liberty.
Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of
Like all wars, this one will have its ups and downs. But
we must fight. We must.
The sacrifices borne in our defense are not shared equally
by all Americans.
But all Americans must share a resolve to see this war through
to a just end.
We must not be complacent at moments of success, and we
must not despair over setbacks.
We must learn from our mistakes, improve on our successes,
and vanquish this unpardonable enemy.
If we do less, we will fail the one mission no American
generation has ever failed...to provide to our children a
stronger, better country than the one we were blessed to
Remember how we felt when the serenity of a bright September
morning was destroyed by a savage atrocity so hostile to
all human virtue we could scarcely imagine any human being
capable of it.
We were united.
First, in sorrow and anger.
Then in recognition we were attacked not for a wrong we
had done, but for who we are - a people united in a kinship
of ideals, committed to the notion that the people are sovereign,
not governments, not armies, not a pitiless, inhumane theocracy,
not kings, mullahs or tyrants, but the people.
In that moment, we were not different races. We were not
poor or rich. We were not Democrat or Republican, liberal
or conservative. We were not two countries.
We were Americans.
All of us, despite the differences that enliven our politics,
are united in the one big idea that freedom is our birthright
and its defense is always our first responsibility.
All other responsibilities come second.
We must not lose sight of that as we debate who among us
should bear the greatest responsibility for keeping us safe
We must, whatever our disagreements, stick together in this
great challenge of our time.
My friends in the Democratic Party - and I’m fortunate
to call many of them my friends - assure us they share the
conviction that winning the war against terrorism is our
government’s most important obligation.
I don’t doubt their sincerity.
They emphasize that military action alone won’t protect
us, that this war has many fronts: in courts, financial institutions,
in the shadowy world of intelligence, and in diplomacy.
They stress that America needs the help of her friends to
combat an evil that threatens us all, that our alliances
are as important to victory as are our armies.
And, as we’ve been a good friend to other countries
in moments of shared perils, so we have good reason to expect
their solidarity with us in this struggle.
That is what the President believes.
And, thanks to his efforts we have received valuable assistance
from many good friends around the globe, even if we have,
at times, been disappointed with the reactions of some.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of my Democratic friends.
And they should not doubt ours.
Our President will work with all nations willing to help
us defeat this scourge that afflicts us all. War is an awful
business. The lives of a nation’s finest patriots are
sacrificed. Innocent people suffer. Commerce is disrupted,
economies are damaged.
Strategic interests shielded by years of statecraft are
endangered as the demands of war and diplomacy conflict.
However just the cause, we should shed a tear for all that
is lost when war claims its wages from us. But there is no
avoiding this war. We tried that, and our reluctance cost
us dearly. And while this war has many components, we can’t
make victory on the battlefield harder to achieve so that
our diplomacy is easier to conduct.
That is not just an expression of our strength.
It’s a measure of our wisdom.
That’s why I commend to my country the re-election
of President Bush, and the steady, experienced, public-spirited
man who serves as our Vice-President, Dick Cheney. Four years
ago, in Philadelphia, I spoke of my confidence that President
Bush would accept the responsibilities that come with America’s
distinction as the world’s only superpower.
I promised he would not let America “retreat behind
empty threats, false promises and uncertain diplomacy;” that
he would “confidently defend our interests and values
wherever they are threatened.”
I knew my confidence was well placed when I watched him
stand on the rubble of the World Trade Center, with his arm
around a hero of September 11th, and in our moment of mourning
and anger, strengthen our unity and summon our resolve by
promising to right this terrible wrong, and to stand up and
fight for the values we hold dear.
He promised our enemies would soon hear from us. And so
So they did.
He ordered American forces to Afghanistan and took the fight
to our enemies, and away from our shores, seriously injuring
al Qaeda and destroying the regime that gave them safe haven.
He worked effectively to secure the cooperation of Pakistan,
a relationship that’s critical to our success against
He encouraged other friends to recognize the peril that
terrorism posed for them, and won their help in apprehending
many of those who would attack us again, and in helping to
freeze the assets they used to fund their bloody work.
After years of failed diplomacy and limited military pressure
to restrain Saddam Hussein, President Bush made the difficult
decision to liberate Iraq. Those who criticize that decision
would have us believe that the choice was between a status
quo that was well enough left alone and war. But there was
no status quo to be left alone.
The years of keeping Saddam in a box were coming to a close.
The international consensus that he be kept isolated and
unarmed had eroded to the point that many critics of military
action had decided the time had come again to do business
with Saddam, despite his near daily attacks on our pilots,
and his refusal, until his last day in power, to allow the
unrestricted inspection of his arsenal. Our choice wasn’t
between a benign status quo and the bloodshed of war.
It was between war and a graver threat. Don’t let
anyone tell you otherwise. Not our critics abroad. Not our
And certainly not a disingenuous film maker who would have
us believe that Saddam’s Iraq was an oasis of peace
when in fact it was a place of indescribable cruelty, torture
chambers, mass graves and prisons that destroyed the lives
of the small children held inside their walls.
Whether or not Saddam possessed the terrible weapons he
once had and used, freed from international pressure and
the threat of military action, he would have acquired them
The central security concern of our time is to keep such
devastating weapons beyond the reach of terrorists who can’t
be dissuaded from using them by the threat of mutual destruction.
We couldn’t afford the risk posed by an unconstrained
Saddam in these dangerous times.
By destroying his regime we gave hope to people long oppressed
that if they have the courage to fight for it, they may live
in peace and freedom.
Most importantly, our efforts may encourage the people of
a region that has never known peace or freedom or lasting
stability that they may someday possess these rights.
I believe as strongly today as ever, the mission was necessary,
achievable and noble.
For his determination to undertake it, and for his unflagging
resolve to see it through to a just end, President Bush deserves
not only our support, but our admiration.
As the President rightly reminds us, we are safer than we
were on September 11th, but we’re not yet safe. We
are still closer to the beginning than the end of this fight.
We need a leader with the experience to make the tough decisions
and the resolve to stick with them; a leader who will keep
us moving forward even if it is easier to rest. And this
President will not rest until America is stronger and safer
still, and this hateful iniquity is vanquished. He has been
tested and has risen to the most important challenge of our
time, and I salute him.
I salute his determination to make this world a better,
safer, freer place.
He has not wavered. He has not flinched from the hard choices.
He will not yield.
And neither will we.
I said earlier that the sacrifices in this war will not
be shared equally by all Americans. The President is the
first to observe, most of the sacrifices fall, as they have
before, to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. We
may be good citizens, but make no mistake, they are the very
best of us.
It’s an honor to live in a country that is so well
and so bravely defended by such patriots.
May God bless them, the living and the fallen, as He has
blessed us with their service.
For their families, for their friends, for America, for
mankind they sacrifice to affirm that right makes might;
that good triumphs over evil; that freedom is stronger than
tyranny; that love is greater than hate.
It is left to us to keep their generous benefaction alive,
and our blessed, beautiful country worthy of their courage.
We should be thankful -- for the privilege.
Our country’s security doesn’t depend on the
heroism of every citizen. But we have to be worthy of the
sacrifices made on our behalf.
We have to love our freedom, not just for the material benefits
it provides, not just for the autonomy it guarantees us,
but for the goodness it makes possible.
We have to love it as much, if not as heroically, as the
brave Americans who defend us at the risk, and often the
cost of their lives.
No American alive today will ever forget what happened on
the morning of September 11th.
That day was the moment when the pendulum of history swung
toward a new era.
The opening chapter was tinged with great sadness and uncertainty.
It shook us from our complacency in the belief that the
Cold War’s end had ushered in a time of global tranquility.
But an absence of complacency should not provoke an absence
of confidence. What our enemies have sought to destroy is
beyond their reach. It cannot be taken from us. It can only
My friends, we are again met on the field of political competition
with our fellow countrymen.
It is more than appropriate, it is necessary that even in
times of crisis we have these contests, and engage in spirited
disagreement over the shape and course of our government.
We have nothing to fear from each other.
We are arguing over the means to better secure our freedom,
and promote the general welfare.
But it should remain an argument among friends who share
an unshaken belief in our great cause, and in the goodness
of each other.
We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always.
Let us argue our differences.
But remember we are not enemies, but comrades in a war against
a real enemy, and take courage from the knowledge that our
military superiority is matched only by the superiority of
our ideals, and our unconquerable love for them.
Our adversaries are weaker than us in arms and men, but
weaker still in causes. They fight to express a hatred for
all that is good in humanity.
We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is
invincible. Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together.
Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our
President and fight.
We’re Americans, and we’ll never surrender.
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