Rep. Dick Gephardt
St. Louis, MO
January 20, 2004
[transcript]

[Applause].  Thank you.  It's a beautiful day here in St. Louis.  I'd like to make a quick statement and then I'll take questions.

As I said last evening, I'd like to congratulate again the other candidates for their strong campaigns in Iowa.  The enormous voter turnout shows the great strength and determination of the Democratic party to reclaim the White House and I accept the results with the knowledge that I gave this campaign everything that I had in me.

Today my pursuit of the presidency has reached its end.  I'm withdrawing as a candidate and returning to private life after a long time in the warm light of public service.

I'd like to again thank the citizens of the 3rd congressional district for their support and the privilege and honor of serving them in the Congress for going on 28 years.  I'd also like to thank them for standing by me during this final campaign.  My life's work has been fighting for the honor and dignity of their life's work and I couldn't ask for anything better from life.

I'm going to return to Congress and dedicate my last remaining year to representing them with the best of my ability every day of my working life.  I've sought to bring positive change to the hard-working men and women of this country and my efforts will not cease in these final months.  I will continue to work for universal health care, pension reform, more teachers in the classroom, energy independence from Persian Gulf oil, and the trade policy that doesn't sacrifice American jobs in the pursuit of trade with countries that have no respect for the environment or the living conditions of their own people.  American workers can't compete with that and they shouldn't have to.

I'm proud of the campaign we waged.  It was fought on the principles of fairness for our workers, security for our seniors, and opportunity for our children.  My career in public office is coming to an end, but the fight is never over.

To all of you who have dedicated so many months and years to this effort, I hope and pray that you will stay in the arena of public life.  Never stop fighting for what you believe in and never stop believing that we can make a difference.  The towering strength of America is its endless reservoir of citizens who never tire of the sacrifice to make it better.  I love this country and I love my family.  The silver lining in all of this is that I'll finally get to see them at every opportunity rather than when opportunities could be found.  Jane, Matt Chrissy and Kate [cries] are my life.  To them I'll always be grateful.  God bless you all.  [applause].
 

[Question off mic.]
I haven't had a chance to do anything {?but} what I'm doing, and I've had a little trouble with that so [laughter] we'll figure out the rest at a later point.
 

[Question off mic.]
I am so proud of the help and support I got from America's working people and families and labor unions.  As you all know my support for working people and labor unions is, is in my heart and in my background and in my bones, and I cannot tell you, I will get choked up when I talk about what people did to help this campaign.  They even took their shirts off yesterday in 3 degree weather.  So this was an enormous effort that these folks gave to this campaign and it was a labor of love on both sides. I so believe{d?} in America's working people and what they mean to this country.  and not that they do everything right or that they're right on every issue, but the hard-working American citizens deserve support in what they try to do.

I come as you know from a family that struggled like many of them do today, and I will always be on their side and I will always be fighting their fight.

Yes.
 

[Question off mic.]
I doubt it.  I can't figure it out at this point.  I've got enough in front of me.  I'll figure it out maybe at some point, but I haven't spent a moment on it.  I've got enough to deal with right now.

Yes.
 

[Question off mic.]
I haven't thought about any of that.  I am so humbled by all of the help and all of the people who have been at my side, not only in this campaign but through my public life, and I simply am trying now to thank people as profusely as I can for all that they've done to help me.  That's all I can do right now.

Yes.
 

[Question off mic.]
I really have not had a moment to think about anything other than what I'm looking at right now, and I really--it is very important for me to convey to all of my friends and supporters my enormous appreciation for all that they've done to be at my side and to help in this effort, and I want to be able to do that and to do it effectively because I'm humbled by what they've done and that's what I'm going to try to do in the next day{s?}.

Yes.
 

[Question off mic.]
Missouri is not unlike any other state in the union.  The same issues that we all talked about in Iowa and all the other states would apply here.  I really believe that we're going to win back the White House in 2004.  I believe it with all my heart.  I think the American people are truly ready for a different direction of leadership and different leadership in this country and I think people know that we're in a difficult time both domestically and internationally and they're going to look for new leadership, and I believe a Democrat will be elected to the White House.

Yes.
 

[Question off mic.]
No, I've talked to most of the other candidates.  They've been very kind and generous and complimentary and I've appreciated their expressions in the last 12 hours.  Some of them I was able to talk to last night, others this morning, and I deeply appreciate their statements of--  I've talked to Wesley Clark, I've talked to John Edwards, I've talked to John Kerry, Joe Lieberman [pause], Howard Dean [laughter] -- no I talked to Howard probably first -- and I appreciate tremendously their expressions of friendship and support.  You really form a bond with people when you run even against them.  You go through a similar experience.  We are all committed to the same principles and we're all committed to winning this White House back, winning seats in the Congress, returning America to sound leadership, and we will continue to work together to do that.

Yes.
 

[Question off mic.]
Joe I haven't had a chance to analyze anything that happened in the past; I'm looking forward and I'm looking to what comes next and what I can do in the future.  I'm going to return as I said to do this job in the Congress, that I was elected to do by the wonderful people of the 3rd district and I'm going to do that to the best of my ability.  I'll leave it to others to try to sort through everything that happened in the past.  There are a lot of things that change in politics every day and we all learn.  I learn every day that I've been alive and I'm still learning today and I'm going to learn something new tomorrow.  That's part of what makes life so exciting and so wonderful.

Go ahead.
 

[Question off mic.]
Well obviously I want everybody to have the benefit that we had when we faced a crisis in our lives with good health insurance.  And I know that the folks that have been around me the last weeks know that this has been the core of my being and whether I'm in Congress or I'm a private citizen I'm always going to do everything I can to know that people who have a desperate crisis in their family have what we had, which is beyond my imagination in importance.

Yes.
 

[Question off mic.]
Well there are a lot of things.  I think having the trust and the confidence of the people of the 3rd district is the most important thing that I accomplished.  There are a lot of specifics, but I won't bore you with that.  It really is their trust and confidence.  And I have to say again, I've said this in St. Louis, I have a thing about the people that I represent.  They are the best people in the world.  You know everybody always says St. Louis is the best sports town and I believe it to be the best sports town but it's much deeper than that.  They are the best sports fans because they're fabulous people--they're kind, they're generous, they're friendly and they are trusting, and I've had their trust for twenty-, almost 28 years and that's the best thing.

Yes.
 

[Question off mic.]
That's right.
[Question continues]
I haven't had a moment to think about any of this.
[Question continues]
It has a big role to play but all the states have a big role to play.  We've never had a process that's this frontloaded, this compressed, and so this contest is important every day when there are events.  You have seven states on that February 3rd day so it's got to, it could have an enormous impact and Missouri, I think, has the most delegates on that day so it will have an important role.  But your always surprised by what happens in politics.  As I said I learn every day and so to make some pronouncement about which day and which state is going to be the most important I don't think is the kind of prognostication that I can {?do}.

Thank you very much.  Thank you all.
 
 

some reactions...
McAULIFFE
Washington, D.C. Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terry McAuliffe issues the following statement:

"Today, I join Democrats across the country in thanking Congressman Richard Gephardt for his years of public service to America. Throughout his career, Congressman Gephardt has been a tireless advocate for the working families of America fighting to ensure that the lives of working class Americans would be better. It was under his leadership as the Democratic Leader of the House that America saw its best economic growth in decades. The American worker doesn't have a stronger ally than Congressman Gephardt.

"Dedicating his life to public service with a strong commitment to diversity, Congressman Gephardt is one of the most successful Democratic leaders of the last 50 years. Despite leaving the race, it is clear that Congressman Gephardt has a lot more to give to the Democratic Party, and I look forward to working with him to ensure that a Democrat resides in the White House in 2005."
 

CLARK
General Wesley Clark's Statement On Richard Gephardt

Manchester - "Congressman Gephardt should be proud of all that he has accomplished for his country. He has dedicated himself to serving the public and he has represented the people of Missouri with distinction.

Congressman Gephardt has run his campaign for President as he has led his life: with honor. He has been a strong, national leader of the Democratic Party and a powerful voice for those Americans who have needed someone to stand up for them.

As Leader of the Democrats in Congress, working Americans knew they had a true friend in Congressman Gephardt and a man that would stand up for them on principal.

Richard Gephardt is a true leader and statesman. It was an honor to be in this race with him and his voice will be missed."
 

EDWARDS
Senator John Edwards (D-NC) released the following statement today:

"For every American who works the late shift or the early shift, for every American who builds our cars or fixes our roads, for every American who takes care of the sick and educates our young people, Dick Gephardt has been your champion. He's been your champion in the House, throughout this campaign, and he always will be.

"Dick Gephardt is a gift. He's a gift to every Democrat, every American, and everyone running to take back the White House in 2004. I am proud to call him my friend, and hope that he continues to lend his voice and ideas in this campaign."
 

DEAN
CONCORD--Democratic presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean, M.D., issued the following statement responding to Congressman Gephardt's withdrawal from the presidential race:

 "Congressman Gephardt is a great American, and his presence in this race and this debate will be missed. I stood with Dick Gephardt in 1988, and have always thought extremely highly of him. He has dedicated a great deal of his life helping America, and has consistently stood for working people and the best principles of the Democratic Party.

                                                                "I wish him the best."
 

LIEBERMAN
ARLINGTON, VA -- Joe Lieberman issued the following statement on Rep. Dick Gephardt's withdrawal from the presidential campaign:

"Dick Gephardt is a valuable leader in our party and our country, and I am sorry to see him leave this race.  He has given so much to our nation over three decades of public service, stood up for working families at every turn, and he conducted a campaign of integrity, principle, and grace.  I have been proud to share so many stages with him over the past year, and have seen up close that he is a leader of deep convictions and undying optimism.

Though his time in public office may come to an end, I know his commitment to the fights he's always fought will continue.  I wish Dick, Jane and his whole family nothing but the best in the months and years ahead."