Wesley Clark
Manchester City Democratic Committee's Annual Flag Day Dinner
Radisson Hotel-Center of New Hampshire
Manchester, NH
June 12, 2005
[Applause] Thank you. Thank you so much. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you so much. [Applause] Oh, thank you for that introduction. And thank you all for this warm welcome. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, thank you. Thank you very much and thank you Paul for that introduction and all the help you gave me during the campaign up here.

Gert can't be with us tonight. I wish she could be, but she wishes you all well. We're all very excited about the fact that our son and our daughter-in-law are about to have a second youngster, and so we've been getting ready for the big arrival of that. And I want to thank everybody here who helped me in my first experience in the American political system as a candidate. It was a great experience. I loved being in New Hampshire and I loved your support.

And I want to thank especially Ambassador George Bruno, who got me started up here. George, thank you. [Applause] Mayor Syl Dupuis, thank you very much, Syl. Phil Cashan, who couldn't be here tonight. Jim Norman, Dan Lyman and so many of you all who came on board, who worked day and night, and it wasn't 93 degrees outside then.[Laughter] But you know, I came into the race, I'd heard a lot about New Hampshire. I'd just…I'd never really been up here and never had a chance to meet the people. It's some of the most wonderful people I've ever met in the world and we just loved it and I really thank you for that. I'm so glad to be here tonight with the party on Flag Day because when I look around and see the spirit that is here and the enormous commitment, and I want to congratulate the award recipients tonight, and especially Syl for you and your vision and your integrity and your leadership; it makes all of us very proud to be Democrats. And can we just give another applause for Syl and all the…both the awardists and the recipients please? [Applause] Thank you.

Now, I came up here the first time right after I announced and we did a town hall meeting. And we came up with a lot of staff and I'd never been in a race before. We didn't have big money. We didn't have a lot of big name consultants. We just had a lot of people out here who cared and who brought us into the race. And it really is what Syl said, it's not just about winning. Although winning is certainly important. But it is about helping people come together and articulate their ideas and state their convictions and help move America in another direction. And I'll tell you this - if Florida, or Ohio, had had the good sense that New Hampshire did on this last Election Day, we'd have a Democrat in the White House today. [Applause]

Now tomorrow is Flag Day and I want to recognize our veterans here tonight who served under that Flag. If you served in uniform for our country would you please stand up and let us recognize you and applaud your service. Thank you. [Applause] Veterans, thank you. Democrats are proud of you and I think all Americans are proud of you. But I want to recognize one more thing. You know, tonight, more than two years after the statue of Saddam Hussein was taken down in Baghdad, we're still in Iraq and we're still in Afghanistan. And we've got more than 150,000 Americans on the ground in those two countries and they're fighting. They're in danger. They're away from their families. And they're there because we, our country, asked them to go there. They're serving us. They're protecting us. They're our heroes in uniform, they and their families. And I just think we need to take a moment to reflect on their courage, their sacrifice, and to pray for their safety. [Silence]

Now right here is the American Flag. That's our symbol of unity in America. It's the symbol for our values and our ideals. It's the symbol for our liberties. It's the symbol for our military and economic might. It's the story of…it's in our national anthem. It's that powerful. And we're probably the only nation in the world that sings about our flag in our national anthem. And for many of use who served in uniform and fought for our freedoms, it's the symbol that represented all that we believed in. It's the first thing we saw every morning. We were taught to salute it. And I remember the first time I saluted it in uniform and a shiver ran up and down…through my spine because I realized what it meant to stand and salute that flag as it was raised. It's an object of respect and even reverence. It flies above our capitols. It flies above our sporting events. And it graces the coffins of our veterans. And I have to tell you tonight that there are those in the other party who would seek to take that flag and use it for partisan advantage. They'd seek to portray our party as somehow less worthy, less patriotic, less committed. And I'm here to tell you they couldn't be more wrong. [Applause] Our party is filled with people who revere that flag, who served it in uniform, who pledged allegiance to it their whole lives and who are standing for office, or working in politics or in business or in government or in uniform because they believe in that flag and the ideals it represents. And that flag belongs to us. It belongs to all Americans and no one is going to take that flag away from us! [Applause] That's ours! You know it.

But, you know, our country's at a crossroads today. America's in a time of transition and it's a very difficult time for our country. For two generations after World War II, we had a policy that unified America and led the world. It was a party…a policy of bringing people together around international principles and international institutions. We built the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the International Monetary Fund. We had the Bretton Woods agreement. We led our alliances. We were a victor of World War II, but even with 50% of the world's Gross Domestic Product and a nuclear monopoly, we realized we couldn't do it alone in terms of world leadership or in terms of making Americans safe. And we asked others to join us and they did. And they joined us not just because we were mighty and powerful and had a great military and a great economy. They joined us because of our values. Our values, our ideals, gave us the power to persuade. They brought others to our side. They gave us the strength to lead and lead we did. There was a period of the Cold War and we created a strategy of deterrence and containment and we preserved freedom and promoted world economic development. People my age, we never thought we'd see the end of the Cold War, but we knew we had to stand firm. And then suddenly, one day in November of 1989, it was over. The Berlin Wall came down and when it came down we knew in our hearts we'd won the Cold War. Within two years our adversary the Soviet Union was gone. We won and we didn't have a big victory parade. We knew better than that. There was a lot of work to do and it was really just an opening that gave us the chance to promote our ideals and vision for the whole world. But we'd won. We won without ever firing a shot, directly, against the Soviet Union. And within two years our adversary the Soviet Union was gone, broken up. We'd won, but we'd lost our adversary and we'd lost the organizing principle that had guided us for over 40 years. It had guided American foreign policy. It had guided more emphasis on science and mathematics in the classroom, research in business. It had guided so many principles and practices of American life. And just like that it was gone. It was a new world order, that's what President George H. Bush said. Harvard historian Francis Fukuyama pronounced the "end of history." But, in fact, it was the beginning of a period of transition. We took advantage of a global opening of trade and technology, of the internet, telecommunications revolutions, the creation of the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the emergence of India and China in the world economic community, the end of the Iron Curtain. We built an unrivalled prosperity in America. 22 million jobs we created. We'd never seen anything like it. Foreigners would come abroad by the tens of thousands, to study in America, to learn our business methodology. They wanted to emulate us. We were at the very apex of power. But we didn't understand the risks that we had incurred with this global opening - the risks to our economy, our health, and even to our global safety. And 9/11 suddenly came crashing in on us and then we knew those risks. It was a terrible and tragic day. It was a terrible, tragic day that caught America, still in the period of transition, still without a strategy for dealing with the global opening that we'd created by our success in the Cold War. And that's where we are today.

Our President took us to war in Afghanistan. Well, we should have gone there. The Taliban were the base for al Qaeda. We went in there. We got the Taliban regime out. I'm sorry we didn't stay to finish the job with the right forces to catch Osama bin Laden. But our President wanted to do more. He took us on. We went to Iraq. He used fear, the fear of the American people, to motivate us into a war that was purely elective, that wasn't very well planned. And that resulted in very rapid battlefield success and has led to two years plus of difficulty and 1700 American deaths, $200 billion in the aftermath. Now, we're in it. The strategy of keeping the worst people from getting the worst weapons, how's it done? Well that was the President's articulation of the strategy. But to be honest, this administration allowed North Korea to gain the nuclear weapons that the Clinton administration had prevented North Korea from gaining. Iran is today moving out, apparently, with its nuclear plans… with our administration, our government, won't even talk to the Iranians about it. And instead, we're inside Iraq, working hard with great men and women on the ground there in uniform, risking their lives and some say, in some cases, sacrificing, to bring freedom to Iraq. But how does it fit in the larger strategy? That's the issue. Where are we going in this country? I'm an optimist. I believe we can deal with the Middle East. And I do believe that we can deal with the challenges of terrorism if we but return to the principles that made us great as a nation. We've got to work with allies. We've got to stand on the principles of international law, on respect for others. And protecting our own interests? Sure, but using force only, only, only as a last resort. [Applause]

And then we've got to do something more. We've got to have a vision, a strategy, to take us forward. That's what America's looking for today and we don't have it. We had deterrence. We had containment. But we lost it when we won the Cold War, and we've been transitioning and searching for over a decade. I think it's time for a new American strategy. Call it a strategy of American leadership. And I mean leadership the way General Dwight D. Eisenhower meant leadership. We learned his definition when I was a cadet at West Point. He said leadership is the art of persuading the other person to want to do what you want them to do. That's the kind of American leadership that I believe the world is looking for today - the art of persuasion. [Applause]

We've got some big challenges out there - the emergence of China is an event unprecedented in American history. We've always had the largest integrated market in the world, really almost since the American Revolution, but certainly since the beginning of the 20th century when we were the world's greatest economic power. The English and the Germans and, to some extent, even the French financiers in the late 19th century saw the promise of America and they invested, wholesale, certainly in places like New Hampshire and Massachusetts, but all across this country. In coal and steel and iron and railroads, they helped build America. And we became the mightiest nation in the world because we had the largest market in the world. In China, we have a nation of 1.3 billion people, four times the American population, modernizing at the rate of 25 million a year. And I used to teach economics, and of course we always taught the law of supply and demand, but we didn't teach enough of was the law of scale. You have to go to some of my friends down in Arkansas at Wal-Mart to find out about the law of scale. Because when you're dealing with an economy as large as China, with those vast numbers of people who need things, there's just no question that China, as it develops and grows, as it must to meet its own people's needs, will accumulate the power, the influence, the capital, the technology, the universities, the material, and even the weapons systems to affect America - to constrain our freedom of action diplomatically, I hope never to threaten America militarily, but the economic challenge. I don't think there's ever been a time in American history when the welfare and livelihood of ordinary Americans has been so dependent, across this country, on our relations abroad and in the future particularly, how we relate to the emergence of a Chinese economic superpower in the Pacific. It's a new era for America and it's a new challenge. And I would submit to you that it's a challenge that we should devote American leadership to meeting. How do we do it? Well, internationally we need to build our base, rebuild our base, with Europe. They're our natural partners in the world. Together with Europe we still have almost half the world's Gross Domestic Product. They're the group of countries that most share our values. They share our history, our culture. We're bound together in common institutions, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We've got to tighten up that trans-Atlantic bond and we've got to work on international institutions. We want to look forward to a world where there will never be a recourse to force, or the threat of force, to settle disputes between nations. [Applause]

And that means we need to strengthen international law and those institutions like the United Nations, which serve international law. And we need to be working more closely with India. Because India, after all, is the largest democracy in the world. They're almost the size of China. They're developing rapidly. They're an important counterweight and in their own right, they're a great nation. And finally we need to be tending our own institutions here at home, especially the Armed Forces of the United States. I can't tell you how it distresses me to see the recruiting problems of the United States Army. And what it feels like when I talk to my friends in uniform and they tell me, "You know, sir, we're behind the war, but the country's not behind the army." And I understand it. I understand how parents feel. But we've got to make our legislators and our President understand. We believe in a volunteer force and we expect him to have the leadership to guide our country the right way in foreign affairs without wrecking the military institutions that keep us safe. [Applause]

You see part of this strategy of American leadership really is work here at home because if you think of the challenges of the competitions abroad, the friendly competition, the rivalry with China, the choices faced by businessmen in America, we know we've got a lot of what the weight lifters would call heavy lifting to do in America. And it starts with education in America. We've got to have the finest educational systems in the world, bar none, and we've got to help every boy and girl in America live up to their full potential from preschool on through adulthood. [Applause]

We've got to fix our healthcare systems in America. We've got the finest medical technology in the world but what good does that do when you've got 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance and you have our businesses who are fleeing our own country because of the rising cost of healthcare. We can fix this system. All we need is some leadership to do it. And its high time we had an energy policy that served the interests, the true interests, of the American people. We've got the technology. We need to move toward energy independence in this country. [Applause]

And we've got to work the business environment in this country. This should be the country that is the most creative, innovative country in the world. We want every great young person around the world who has an idea, who has a passion for business, who wants to create a new organization, we want them here. We want to welcome them to this country. We want to make them American citizens and we want to keep them here. And we want every American young person to have a chance to participate in that business environment. We have to take the lead to set it. We want a business environment that has the spark of creativity like no other environment in the world but also the spark of caring because, as we knew in United States army, the army really is only about people and business really only is about people. And if we don't take care of our people in America, we'll have neither jobs, nor a great business environment. So, we need the leadership to do it right in this country. [Applause]

And finally, we've got to protect the very basics of American life. We've got to protect our freedom and our liberty. I can't tell you how important it is that as Americans we all have the courage to speak out. I'm proud of Howard Dean. I'm proud of our Democratic Party. I'm proud of the fact that we are a party representing Americans, speaking out across this country and we're going to stand together as a party. [Applause]

There will always be differences in people across America. We're a nation of diversity and diverse ideas, but one thing that Americans should be sure of is that Democrats do know who they are, what they stand for. We stand for taking care of each other. We stand for diversity, respect and dignity. We stand for equal opportunity. We stand for a strong America with the use of force as a last resort. We stand for a strong business environment that takes care of people and helps every man and women in America live up to their full potential. That's really it. And we have these values and we value each other in America very strongly and we'll fight for what we believe. That's what we are as Democrats. It causes me a great deal of pain when I look at the terrible politicization that's going on in American life today. I think we've got to rise above that. I think we've got to pull together as a nation to face the challenges ahead. I think it's time, and I think the American people know it's time, for the name calling, the demonization, the ugly naked partisan side of politics to stop. We're all in this country together. We all support that flag. We believe in each other. We want our success abroad. We want our success at home. This is our country and we love it, each and every American. So, I'm calling on us tonight, here at Flag Day in New Hampshire to rise above partisan politics. To instead reach down to what's fundamental in American life, our values, our convictions, what we have in common and let's move forward with this country, with a real march towards American leadership, with a dialogue about what's really important, abroad and at home and a strong resolve that we will never, never give in on the protection of the freedom and the liberty that that flag represents. [Applause]

Thank you. Thank you very much. It's Flag Day in New Hampshire and it's a great day. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. It's been a great honor to be with you. [Applause]

Source: http://www.securingamerica.com/