We gather tonight in Boston where 228 years ago, people fought to establish American freedom. At that time, the first person to die in the Revolutionary War was a Black man from Barbados, Crispus Attucks, who is buried not far from this Fleet Center. Forty years ago, in 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party stood at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City fighting to preserve voting rights for all Americans and all Democrats, regardless of race or gender. Hamer’s stand led to Dr. King marching in Selma, which inspired the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Twenty years ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson stood at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, again, appealing to the preservation of those freedoms.
Tonight, we stand with those freedoms at risk and our security as citizens in question. I have come here tonight to say, that the only choice we have to protect and preserve our freedoms at this point in history is the election of John Kerry as the president of the United States.
I stood with both John Kerry and John Edwards on over 30 occasions during the primary season. I debated them. I watched them. I observed their deeds. I am convinced that they are men who say what they mean and mean what they say.
I am also convinced that at a time, when there is a vicious spirit in the body politic of this country that attempts to undermine America’s freedoms – our civil rights, and civil liberties – we must leave this city and go forth and organize this nation toward victory for John Kerry and John Edwards in November. This is not just about winning an election, it’s about preserving the principles upon which this nation was founded.
Look at the current view of our nation worldwide and the results of our unilateral foreign policy. We went from unprecedented international support and solidarity on September 12, 2001, to hostility and hatred as we stand here tonight. How did we squander the opportunity to unite the world for democracy and to commit to a global fight against hunger and disease? We did it with a go-it-alone foreign policy based on flawed intelligence. We were told that we were going into Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction. We’ve lost hundreds of soldiers. We’ve expended over 200 billion dollars at a time when we face record state deficits. And when it became clear, that the weapons were not there, the president sought to shift the purpose of the war and to challenge our patriotism.
We are also faced with the prospect, in the next four years, that two or more of the Supreme Court Justice seats will become available. This year, as we celebrated the anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education, this court voted 5 to 4 on critical issues of women’s rights and civil rights. It is frightening to think that the gains of the civil and women’s rights movements of the last century could be reversed if this administration sits in the White House for four more years.
This is not about a party. It is about living up to the promise of America.
The promise of America says that we will guarantee quality education for all children, and not spend more for metal detectors than computers in our schools.
The promise of America guarantees health care for all of its citizens, and does not force seniors to travel to Canada to buy prescription drugs they cannot afford here.
The promise of America provides that those who work in our health care system can afford to be hospitalized in the very beds that they clean everyday.
The promise of America is government that does not seek to regulate your behavior in the bedroom but to guarantee your right to provide food in the kitchen.
The promise of America is that we stand for human rights – whether it’s fighting slavery in Sudan, AIDS in Lesotho, or police brutality in this country.
The promise of America is one immigration policy for all who seek to enter our shores, whether they come from Mexico, Haiti, or Canada.
The promise of America is that every citizen’s vote is counted and protected, and election schemes do not decide elections.
I often hear the Republican party preach about family values, but I can tell them something about family values. Family values don’t just exist for those with two-car garages and retirement plans. Family values exist in homes with only one parent in the household making a way against the odds.
I stand here tonight, the product of a single parent home, from the depths of Brooklyn, New York. My mother was a domestic worker who scrubbed floors in other people’s homes for me. And because she scrubbed those floors, I was proud to stand as a presidential candidate.
Those are family values.
I recall that a few days after the September 11 terrorist attacks I was in a radio station that played “America the Beautiful,” as sung by Ray Charles.
As you know, we lost Ray several weeks ago, but I can still hear him singing: “Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains majesty, above the fruited plain.”
We must leave here committed to making Ray Charles’ song a reality and to making America beautiful for everyone.
Good night, God bless you all, and God bless America!