Senator John Edwards
Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting
Washington, DC
February 2, 2007

Introduction (Read by DNC Vice Chair Susan Turnbull)

Sister DNC members, brother DNC members and friends, it's my great pleasure to introduce our next guest, John Edwards.  [cheers, applause].  For the past two years, John has been traveling the country to draw attention to the struggles of working Americans.  He started a poverty center at the University of North Carolina.  He joined with grassroots organizations in six states to pass minimum wage ballot initiatives last November, and he has helped unions organize thousands of workers across the country.  During the last election cycle, John campaigned tirelessly on behalf of Democratic candidates, traveling to 39 states.  John continues to speak out for those who don't have a voice and to fight for the values at the core of the Democratic party.  I am honored he is joining us today; please join me in giving a warm welcome to our friend, John Edwards.
[Applause.  Music: "This Is Our Country" by John Mellencamp.]

EDWARDS:  Thank you very much.  First I want to take a moment to recognize the loss of a powerful voice, the loss of Molly Ivins, who all of us loved and respected.  [applause].

And my wife Elizabeth is also here with me today.  [applause]  And she's wearing her red dress pin to recognize women's heart issues.  That and the loss of Molly just emphasizes how enormously important it is for us to address women's health issues in this country.  [applause].

I'm very proud to be here with all of you.  But why are we here?  Why -- are we here?

We're here because today somewhere in America an eight-year old little girl will go to bed hungry.  She should be drawing pictures, she should be learning multiplication, but instead she'll go to bed crying because her father lost his job years ago and hasn't been able to get another job.

It doesn't have to be that way.

We are here today because somewhere in America, a housekeeper who works in a hotel is walking the picket line in front of that hotel with her union brothers and sisters to try to get decent health care, decent benefits, to try to have a better life, to be able to send her child to college so that her child can have a better life than she's been able to have.  [applause].

And somewhere today, somewhere in America a young man will have an envelope in his hand, a college acceptance letter, and he'll fold the letter, he'll put it back in the envelope, and he'll put that envelope back in the desk drawer because he knows that even with his part-time job and even with his mom working three jobs, he still can't afford to go to college.

It doesn't have to be that way.  [applause].

Today, today somewhere in America, somewhere in America, a mother will be working in the kitchen; she'll be folding her dishtowel, putting it on the cabinet, and she'll hear a knock at the door, and she'll go and she'll open the door and at the door will be a chaplain and an officer with the name of her precious son on their lips, her son who volunteered, enlisted after September the 11th because he loved his country.

It doesn't have to be that way.  It doesn't have to be that way.  [applause].

And half a world away, today, half a world away, a 5-year old boy will lay in a refugee camp with his 2-year old sister on top of him, his arms wrapped around holding his sister close.  They both watched their parents killed and he knows that he has to keep her close.  He knows that tomorrow and the next day and the next day he will carry his sister every single place he goes because she's all the family he has left.

It doesn't have to be that way.  It doesn't have to be that way.  [applause].

We're here today because today somewhere in America a father will come home from working second shift, he'll go in to see his precious little girl, give her a kiss good night, which is what he always does and he'll feel the fever on her forehead, and he'll pick her up although he's bone tired, he'll pick her up, put her in the car, drive to the local emergency room and sit in the emergency room and beg for the health care that his daughter needs.

It doesn't have to be that way.  It doesn't have to be that way.  [applause].

That's why we're here.  Because today everywhere in America, people need us to stand up for them, people need us to stand up for what's right.

And so I ask you now, will you stand up for that man in the emergency room who's holding his eight-year old daughter?  Will you stand up for him?  Will you stand up with him?  [applause, cheers].

Will you stand up with that young boy half a world away holding his two-year old sister on his chest?

Will you stand up with that young man who wants to go to college and can't get the chance to go?

And will you stand up with mothers and fathers who have children serving in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Will you stand up for them?  Will you stand up for America?  Will you?  [applause continues].

Because, because if we don’t stand up, who will?

Forty years ago, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King spoke at Riverside Church in New York.  He spoke about the escalation of the war in Vietnam, and in his words he said there come times when standing silent, when you know you should speak out, is a betrayal.  It's a betrayal of yourself; it is a betrayal of your country.  Silence, silence is betrayal.

That time has come again.  We cannot stand silent.

They have to hear you.  Can they hear you?

I believe it is a betrayal, a betrayal for us to not speak out against the escalation of this war in Iraq.  [applause].

It is a betrayal for this president to send more American men and women to die in Iraq when he knows that this is not going to succeed.  It will not be successful in stabilizing Iraq, and it is not right, through our silence, for us to enable this president to escalate this war.  We cannot stand by quietly and silently and allow him to escalate this war.  [applause].

Silence, silence is a betrayal.  It is a betrayal not to stop this president's plan to escalate the war when we have the responsiblity, the power and the ability to stop it.  We cannot be satisfied with passing nonbinding resolutions that we know this president will ignore.  [applause].  We have the power to stop the escalation of this war.  We have to use our power.  We have to be strong.  We have to stand up for what's right.  [applause continues].

And one more thing, while I'm at it.

This president describes himself as "the decider."  I have news for you, Mr. President.  You're not the decider.  The American people are the "decider," and they have decided about you a very long time ago.  [applause].

So, the American people are speaking out.  Our leaders can do no less.

We have to stand up against George Bush's escalation of this war.  George Bush is counting on us not to stand up; he's counting on us not to fight against this escalation with everything we have.  He's counting on a Democratic Party that will not press what we know is right.

Silence is betrayal.

Opposing this escalation with all the vigor and tools and strength that we have is a test of political courage.  And you'd better believe that George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, they don't think we're up to it.  They don't think we have the backbone and courage to stand up to them.  They don't think we're in this to stop the escalation of this war and to bring our men and women home from Iraq.  They're counting on us to be weak, to be political and to be careful.

This is not the time for political calculation.  This is the time for political courage. It is the time to stand up and stand up for what we know is right.  [applause].

Being honest and changing course in Iraq is the first step in trying to restore America's moral leadership in the world.  And the world needs us, they need us so badly.  We are the only stabilizing force in the world, and all of us see the chaos that results when we can't provide that stabilization.

This is the time for political courage – and not only when it comes to speaking up about the war in Iraq, but speaking up about what's happening right here in the United States of America.

We have 37 million at least Americans who wake up every single day living in poverty.  One out of five of our children wake up every day living in poverty in the richest nation on the planet.

The causes of poverty are many.  They're complex; we know that.  The solution will have to be comprehensive.  The question is can we leave politics aside and can we have the backbone and guts to stand up for these 37 million people, to stand up for millions of children who are worried about having food, who are worried about having a decent place to live, who are worried about having a decent life in front of them.  [applause].  Will we have the courage to stand up for these kids who need us to stand up for them and all these forgotten Americans across the country who need us?  It's who we are.  We cannot walk away from our people.  We cannot walk away from the heart and soul of what the Democratic party is and should be.  [applause continues].

And when it comes to 47 million of our own people who don't have health care, silence is betrayal.

These 47 million are silent victims of a health care system that's dysfunctional, and getting worse every single day.  We cannot allow America's health care policy to be set by big insurance companies and big pharmaceutical companies.  We have to stand up on behalf of of all those Americans who are standing in line at free health clinics, who are borrowing medicine from other members of their family because they can't pay for their own medicine.

And by the way while we're at it when we finally, can the Democratic party finally quit talking about "access to health care" when we know what that means is not universal care?  Can we finally say we stand now and forever for every single man, woman and child in America having health care, universal health care?  [applause].  We will leave no one behind.  We will not allow a single family or a single child in America to not have health care coverage and to not have the health care that they need and deserve.  [applause continues].

And it's time we stood up for an energy policy that's not dictated by the profits big oil companies -- and an environmental policy that's promoted by polluters.  Today, not tomorrow, today we have got to move America away from this addiction to oil, to move towards energy independence, to do something about the huge moral issue facing our planet of climate change.  [applause].

We're better than this.  The United States of America is better than this.

We are not, we are not the country that we saw at the Superdome after Katrina hit New Orleans.

We are not the country of Abu Ghraib.

We are not the country of Guantanamo.

We are not the country of government behind closed doors.

We are not the country of a government that spies on its own people.

The United States of America is better than that, our people are better than that, and we, those of us in this room, we're Democrats.  We are party of action – not reaction.  We are a party of principle – not appeasement.  We have reached this point in our history where we have to leave behind half-measures, broken promises, sweet rhetoric.  The time is for action.  The time is for courage.  The time requires us to have the backbone and courage to do what's right for America and do what's right for the world.

It is time for us to stand up for the real promise of America, where everybody, no matter where you live, who your family is, what the color of your skin, every single American gets a real chance, a real opportunity.  And it is time for our party, our Democratic party to stand with the people who made America great, men and women who worked with their hands, who worked in the factories, worked in the mills; it is time--and I'll tell you one thing, the unions, the men and women of organized labor, they will never lack the backbone to stand up for their workers.  They will right injustice when they see it, they will fight with courage and passion, and I'll speak to this Democrat.  I am proud to stand with them.  [applause].  Will you stand with the men and women of organized labor who are out there fighting for us every single day, who are fighting for working men and women all across this country?  Will you?  Will you stand with them?  Will you stand with them proudly?  [applause continues].

It is time, it is time to be patriotic about something other than war.  It is not tomorrow, not tomorrow, now to speak out now, to take action now.

We don't have to wait and see if the promises of this campaign will be met in 2009.

Tomorrow begins today.  We can take responsibility for this country today.  We can take action today.

Because somewhere in America, everywhere in America, people are counting on us to stand up for them, so let's stand together.  We have always been the party who stood with working men and women, we have always been the party who stood with the needy, we have always been the party who stood with the frail, with the children, with the elderly.  That's who we are.

Brothers and sisters in times like these, we don't need to redefine the Democratic party, we need to reclaim the Democratic party.  [applause].

God bless you all, God bless the Democratic party, and God bless the United States of America.  It's my great privilege to be will all of you today.  Thank you very much and thank you for what you're doing.  [applause].


Time: 17min15sec.

prepared remarks