FROM THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
the NAACP Convention
July 15, 2004 • Philadelphia, PA
Thank you for that wonderful introduction.
I understand that you’ve been having trouble getting
Seriously, thank you for the invitation. Some people may
have better things to do, but there’s no place I’d
rather be right now than right here in Philadelphia with
As a campaigner, I know a little something about scheduling
conflicts and hostile environments. But when you’re
president of the United States, you can pretty much say
where you want to be. And when you’re president,
you need to talk to all the people – and that’s
exactly what I intend to do. I will be a president who
truly is a uniter, not one who seeks to divide our nation
by race, riches or any other label. You know, the president
may be too busy to speak to you now, but I assure you,
he’ll have plenty of free time after November 2nd.
Later today, John Edwards and I will embark on a series
of front-porch tours – going to the homes of ordinary
citizens across this nation and talking with them about
the values that matter most to them -- values you live
by everyday: Family. Responsibility. Service. Opportunity.
Inclusion. Fairness. Faith. And the most revolutionary
value of all – that we are all created equal.
What better place to kick off our front porch tour than
here in Philadelphia, on the front porch of American democracy.
What better neighbors to visit with first than the NAACP.
For 95 years you have met, marched, litigated, legislated,
registered, prayed, sang, gone to jail and challenged this
nation to live out the values that unite us -- the ideals
of equal opportunity, fairness and justice that are enshrined
in the Constitution. You have not always been greeted with
open arms. But you have never flinched from speaking truth
to power and you have never lost faith in the American
Dream. Who wouldn’t want to sit on the front porch
of neighbors like that? And, you know what, we have a lot
to talk about.
When I look around this city – when I look around
neighborhoods and towns and cities across this nation,
I see what so many of you see everyday.
We see jobs to be created.
We see families to house.
We see violence to stop.
We see children to teach – and children to care
We see too many people without health care and too many
people of color suffering and dying from chronic diseases
like asthma, cancer, AIDS and diabetes.
When we look at what is happening in America today, we
ask ourselves where are the deeds. Scripture teaches us: “It
is not enough, my brother, to say you have faith, when
there are no deeds … Faith without works is dead.”
Fifty years ago, Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP turned
their faith into deeds when you fought and won Brown v
Board of Education. Forty years ago, Lyndon Johnson, Dr.
King and the NAACP turned their faith into deeds when the
nation passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And next year
the nation will again be reminded that you turned faith
into deeds 40 years ago to push for the passage of the
Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Today, we have an administration in Washington that looks
at the challenges we face here and around the world and
says this is the best we can do. They say what we have
now is the best economy of our lifetimes. They have even
called us pessimists for speaking truth to power. Well,
I say the most pessimistic thing you can say is that America
can’t do better.
Don’t tell us 1.8 million lost jobs is the best
we can do, when we can create millions of new jobs. We
can do better…and we will.
Don’t tell us unemployment is not a problem, when
we see that African American unemployment is now above
10 percent – double the rate for whites. It is unacceptable
in the wealthiest nation on earth that we tolerate vast
and growing pockets of poverty -- from the hills of Appalachia
to the streets of Philadelphia. Making life better for
the working poor is part of my vision for a stronger America.
We can do better…and we will.
Don’t tell us crumbling and overcrowded schools
and underpaid teachers are the best we can do. We have
the means to give all our children a first-rate education.
We can do better…and we will.
Don’t tell us we have to accept racial profiling,
hate crimes, or the assault by right wing judges on our
precious civil rights progress. We can do better and we
Don’t tell us that in the strongest democracy on
earth, a million disenfranchised African Americans and
the most tainted election in history is the best we can
do. We can do better…and we will.
Don’t tell us in the richest country in the world,
that we can’t do better than 44 million people uninsured.
Nearly 60 percent of Hispanics and 43 percent of African
Americans lacked health insurance for all or part of the
last two years. We can do better…and we will.
W.E.B. Du Bois talked about the two Americas years ago.
He called it “a nation within a nation.” John
Edwards and I have talked about that divide for many years
Our job, between now and November is to end the division
between the fortunate America and the forgotten America.
We must come together to build one America.
During the course of this campaign I’ve met young
people who want nothing more than to be able to find a
job in the place they were raised. I’ve met steelworkers
and mineworkers and autoworkers who have seen their jobs
and equipment unbolted before their eyes and shipped overseas.
Some have even had to train their foreign replacements.
I’ve spent time with seniors who have worked for
a lifetime but can’t pay for their medicines or hardly
make ends meet. And I have talked with parents full of
hope and ambition for their children but they don’t
know what to do about classrooms that are overcrowded and
teachers who are underpaid. And they are worried that they
won’t be able to afford to send their kids to college.
My faith teaches me, “Where your treasure is, there
your heart will be also.” Let me tell you where my
heart is: it’s with the middle class who are the
heart of this country; it’s with the working families
who built this country; it’s with the veterans who
saved this country; with the cops and firefighters and
soldiers who protect this country; and it is with the children
who are the future of this country. They deserve a president
who believes in them, who shares their values, and who
will fight with every fiber of my being to uphold them.
John Edwards and I have the vision and values to bring
our country together again and build stronger communities.
For us and for you values are not just talk. They’re
not just words. Values are the way we make the lives of
all Americans better.
And I am running for president because I believe that
what matters most is not the narrow values that divide,
but the shared values that unite all of us in this country.
Let me tell you what values mean to me and John Edwards.
Values mean creating opportunity and fighting for good
paying jobs that let American families actually get ahead.
It means fighting for tax cuts for middle class families – to
help provide relief for Americans who are getting squeezed.
The wealthiest Americans don’t need more tax cuts,
but middle class families do. We will cut taxes for 98
percent of Americans. And we will add new middle class
tax cuts to help families pay for health care, college
tuition and child care – they’ll help hard
working Americans get ahead.
Creating opportunity also means creating good-paying jobs.
More than a million Americans who were working three years
ago have lost their jobs. African-American unemployment
is now at 10 percent – double the rate for whites.
And the new jobs finally being created pay an average of
$9,000 less a year.
We have a plan to keep and create good paying jobs here
at home. Did you know that right now your tax dollars are
being used to ship jobs from Philadelphia and Baltimore,
Detroit and Boston overseas? That’s inexcusable.
When I am president, no longer will American workers have
to subsidize the loss of their own jobs.
Values also mean giving all our children a first-rate
education, with smaller classrooms and better paid teachers.
Today, we see two school systems in America: one for the
well off and one for the left out. For us and for you values
mean opening the doors of opportunity to all our children.
John Edwards and I have a plan to invest in our future,
provide the needed funding and put a good teacher in every
classroom – so that finally and truly no child is
Values mean making health care affordable and accessible
for all Americans. In the last four years, four million
people have lost their health insurance. Millions more
are struggling to afford it. When I am in the White House
we are going to change that. We are going to stop being
the only industrial nation on the face of the earth that
doesn’t understand that health care is not a privilege
for the wealthy, the connected or the elected. Health care
is a right for all Americans.
We’ve got a plan to get the waste and greed out
of our health care system and help families save up to
$1,000 on their premiums.
Values mean making our country independent of Mideast
oil. We’ve got a plan to invest in new technologies
and alternative fuels and protect our environment, so that
no young American in uniform is ever held hostage to our
dependence on oil from the Middle East.
Values mean building a strong military and leading strong
alliances, so no young American is ever put in harm’s
way because we needlessly insisted on going it alone. In
our Administration, we’ll never go to war because
we want to; we’ll only go to war because we have
Finally, I believe in the value of American leadership
in the world. Today, a massive humanitarian crisis is unfolding
in Darfur, Sudan, where 300,000 people or more may die
in the coming months. This administration must stop equivocating.
These government sponsored atrocities should be called
by their rightful name – genocide. The government
of Sudan and the people of Darfur must understand that
America stands prepared to act, in concert with our allies
and the UN, to prevent the further loss of innocent lives.
The United States must lead the UN Security Council in
sanctioning the planners and perpetrators of genocide and
authorizing an international humanitarian intervention.
As president, I will bring the full weight of American
leadership to address this crisis and to promote the democratic
hopes of people throughout Africa, Haiti and the Caribbean.
And no crisis challenges the American conscience more
than the growing global AIDS pandemic. This audience needs
no reminder of the bitter toll that AIDS has exacted here
at home. As president, I will make a commitment that by
2008, we will double the amount that America spends fighting
global epidemics like AIDS to $30 billion. Fighting AIDS
will make us safer, because societies ravaged by AIDS are
more likely to become failed states and havens for terrorists.
But more than that, fighting AIDS is a moral obligation.
How can we see the suffering of so many and turn aside
or do too little? If we do not help, who will?
This is the most important election of our lifetime. Our
health care is on the line. Our jobs are on the line. Our
children’s future is on the line. America’s
role in the world is on the line.
That is why we cannot accept a repeat of 2000. This November,
thanks to the efforts of the NAACP and heightened vigilance
across the nation, we are not only going to make sure that
every vote counts; we’re going to make sure that
every single vote is counted.
One way to do that is to fulfill the promise of election
reform by reauthorizing the expiring provisions of the
Voting Rights Act, and vigorously enforcing all our voting
rights laws. It is a great injustice to us all when African-Americans
are denied their fundamental right to vote. On Election
Day in your cities, my campaign will provide teams of election
observers and lawyers to monitor elections and enforce
I am also happy to report that we have included language
in our convention platform calling for legislative action
that will ensure that voting systems are accessible, independently
auditable, accurate and secure. We intend to enforce the
fundamental constitutional right of every American to vote – to
ensure that the Constitution’s promise is fully realized
and that, in disputed elections, every vote is counted
fully and fairly. We learned our lesson in 2000, and I
add my voice to those who have vowed: never again.
But this election is more in your hands more than in mine.
Over the next four months, we need you to do what nobody
in America does better -- register voters and get them
to the polls.
We can provide a new direction for America if we remember
that in all the great movements for civil rights and equal
rights, the environment and economic justice for all, we
have come together as one America to give life to our highest
When I was in Vietnam, I served on a small boat in the
Mekong Delta with men who came from places as diverse as
South Carolina and Iowa…Arkansas and California.
We were literally all in the same boat – and we came
together as one. No one asked us our politics. No one cared
where we went to school or what our race or backgrounds
We were just a band of brothers who all fought under the
same flag and all prayed to the same God. Today, we’re
a little older, we’re a little greyer. But we still
know how to fight for our country. And what we are fighting
for is an America where all of us truly are in the same
My friends, the America we believe in is calling us to
service once again, and we must answer.
The great poet Langston Hughes put it this way:
Let America be America again…Let it be the dream
it used to be…for those whose sweat and blood, whose
faith and pain, whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in
the rain must bring back our mighty dream again.
With your help, in 2004, we can…we must…we
will…bring back our mighty dream again.
Thank you and God bless you all.