| Less than a mile from where I'm standing,
near the banks of the
Mississippi River, there once stood the Pittsburgh
Company. It was there for a hundred years.
In its heyday, it
employed 4,000 people and turned out thousands
of tons of glass a
year. It seemed that just about everybody
in town worked for what
we called PPG. We didn't grow corn or wheat
here in Crystal City;
we made glass.
Today, I want to be as clear as that glass
about who I am and why
I am running for President of the United States.
I have come back to my hometown because for
me, this is where
the world of possibility and hope all began,
a world I want to open
for all Americans.
I was raised here in Crystal City - I’m a small-town
boy. I had a
paper route, and every afternoon I delivered
copies of the Daily
News Democrat to the doorsteps of my neighbors.
I could tell the
time of day or night by the trains that passed
near our home.
As a boy, I used to explore the bluffs to the
south of town, looking
for fossils and arrowheads. When I was a little
grandfather and I sometimes took a .22 and
went down to the river
and shot at logs floating by. We watched the
great river ebb and
flow. We felt its incredible force and marveled
at its beauty. Later,
when the river flooded the town's main intersection
under six feet of
muddy water, we also saw its destructive power.
Crystal City had only one stoplight then, but
it had a rich array of
ethnic families. Among others, I remember
the Auddifreds, the La
Prestas, the Trautweins, the Pouliezoses,
the Fortneys, the
Ryans, the Shapiros, the Cooks, the Salvos,
the Evans - families
drawn by the factory that used their special
But no one ever asked where you were from -
we were all just from
When it came to race, the town was a little
ahead of its time. The
little league was integrated before the schools.
As a teenager, I
remember our team walking out of restaurants
in the boot heel of
Missouri because they wouldn't serve our black
disturbed me then, and still angers me now.
For me, the only thing
deserving of hate is hate itself.
Many of you here knew my parents. They believed
in America and
its promise. And they gave me the confidence
of my own
My father never went to college. At 16, he
quit high-school and
went to work for the railroad to support his
widowed mother and two
sisters, and later got a job here at the local
bank, "shining pennies"
as he called it. He worked his way up assistant
manager, vice-president - until eventually
he was the majority
Now that's the American dream.
But my father struggled in ways that few could
know - today we
would call him disabled - he suffered from
calcified arthritis of the
lower spine. I never saw him drive a car,
or throw a ball, or walk
farther than a few blocks. My mother dressed
him every morning
and I tied his shoes, attached his suspenders,
picked up the paper
from the doorstep.
I once asked him, as a son sometimes asks his
father, what had
been his proudest moment. He said that during
the years of the
Great Depression he had never foreclosed on
a single home; he
always managed to work something out. He also
told me that the
color of someone's skin could never predict
whether he would repay
his loan on time. He'd say, "Character is
where you find it."
My mother was as exuberant as my father was
reserved. She and
my father married late in life, and I was
their only child. I was also
her greatest project.
She graduated from Central Methodist College,
and then became a
fourth grade teacher. Teaching for her was
not only about
transmitting knowledge, but also imparting
values - every day she
began her class with a lesson about some character
trait such as
honesty, courage, integrity or trust. Decades
after she left
teaching, men and women would knock on our
front door to
express their thanks and appreciation for
the dedicated Miss
Crowe, my mother.
Here in Crystal City, she taught Sunday school,
led summer bible
study and organized dances in our basement.
As Ernestine can
testify, I still can't get beyond the same
awkward two-step she
taught in our living room.
And it was just behind where I am standing
now, on the hardwood
gymnasium floor of Crystal City high, that
I found my first great
love. The feel of the leather ball in your
hands, the squeak of your
sneakers on the floor, the swish of the net
- I loved everything about
the game of basketball.
I wasn't the most talented player in the world,
but I had three
strengths: I had a sense of where I was on
the court; I had quick,
sure hands; and I could out-work anyone. I
would practice for more
hours than I care to remember in that gym.
I would shoot set shots
from five different areas on the floor and
not quit until I had made 25
in a row from each spot. I loved the fact
that on that gleaming
wooden floor, hard work paid off and dreams
It was there that I also absorbed the idea
that a team is not just
about winning. It is not about applause, or
endorsements, or even
championship rings. It's about shared sacrifice;
it's about giving up
something small for yourself in order to gain
something large for
It's the same for our country.
I got my education at Princeton and Oxford,
and after leaving
school, I played professional basketball for
the New York Knicks.
For 10 years I crisscrossed the country, learning
from my travels and from my teammates, white
and black. When I
decided it was time to stop running around
in short pants, I took up
Thomas Jefferson's challenge of being a citizen-
In 1978, I ran for the U.S. Senate in my adopted
state New Jersey
and won. For 18 years I was privileged to
represent New Jersey.
With its mixture of different races and ethnic
combination of old cities and new townships,
its glacial lakes and
long Atlantic shore, New Jersey is a microcosm
of America. As a
Senator, I saw my role as both representing
my state and the best
interests of our country. I worked hard...
followed my conscience...
tried not to hog the spotlight... and reached
across party lines to
get things done. I attempted to do big things
without ever losing
sight of the little things. I sought to find
a balance between public
and private interest. I tried to help people
where they lived their
In 1996, I decided to leave the Senate and
resume the private
citizen side of Jefferson's equation. In the
last three years, I have
taught at Stanford, Maryland and Notre Dame.
I lived in California
for a year and worked in the private sector.
I wrote and spoke. I
thought and I traveled and I listened -always
listened. I realized that
I had a strong sense of where America is and
where we need to go,
and I had a passionate conviction that I could
help us get there. So,
I talked with Ernestine and our daughter,
Theresa Anne, for they
more than anyone else would be affected by
my decision. And then
I began what for me has been a joyous journey.
We are at a special moment in American history,
not just because
we are on the eve of a new millennium, but
because our country
and the world are changing at a dazzling rate.
There are 2 billion
more people in the world market today than
only 10 years ago.
More of our jobs are dependent on exports
than ever. Interest rates
in Crystal City are set by millions of individual
who everyday render their verdict on the economic
health of the
The nature of work itself is changing. The
new global economy
values knowledge above all. Indeed, capital
follows knowledge. In
such a world, physical distance disappears,
increases, natural resources can be better
entrepreneurial spirit is once again pushing
But, the positive effects of globalization
and technological change
are falling on us unequally. The economy soars,
but some of us are
slipping behind. Median family income seems
stuck; personal debt
and bankruptcy are at all-time highs; one
out of five children live in
poverty; and while kings and dictators come
to this country for the
best health care treatment in the world, you
and I both know that
this care is not available for the 45 million
citizens who have no
health insurance at all.
Is this who we want to be?
Is this our best self as Americans?
The numbers tell us that we are living at a
time of unprecedented
prosperity. But what are we doing with that
prosperity? After 10
years of a robust economy, are the important
things truly better?
Our healthcare system? Our schools? Our civic
life? Our family
life? Our children's future?
In so many ways we have failed to use our prosperity
the well-being of all our citizens. Shouldn't
we be fixing our roof
while the sun is shining? Shouldn't we be
shoring up our foundation
before the rain gets in? Now, above all, is
not the time for
complacency. I feel an urgency to seize this
moment in history, to
strengthen the weak and to challenge the strong
to lead us into our
full greatness as a nation.
We are at the end of what has been called,
Century." We started it as a minor power,
we end it as the
undisputed giant among nations. For the first
time in human
history, one nation can truly become a light
into the future. We
believe that the values of life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness
are not just American values - but human values.
But first we must embody those values at home.
What we need in America is a deeper prosperity;
deeper not only in
the sense that it touches the people who have
been left out - that it
saves family farms caught in the whirlwind
of change, that it brings
a hot breakfast to children who go to school
without it, that it brings
security to worried seniors - but deeper in
the sense that we have a
prosperity that adds up to more than the sum
of all our
possessions; a prosperity that makes us feel
rich inside as well as
The Dow Jones is at record heights, but as
reminded us, such numbers are not the measure
of all things. They
do not measure what is in our heads and our
hearts. They do not
measure a young girl's smile or a little boy's
first handshake or a
grandmother's pride. They convey nothing about
friendship or the
self-fulfillment of helping a person in need.
They tell us little about
the magic of a good marriage or the satisfaction
of a life led true to
its own values. They can't comfort us when
strikes or supersede the pleasure of a job
well done. They say
nothing whatsoever about us being "one nation,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for
To me, the American Dream is not just for the
lucky among us. It is
not just an ideal to wish on. It should be
a possibility available to
Isn't it just common sense that we make sure
every child in
America is covered by healthcare? Isn't it
just common sense that
we protect our natural world from destruction,
and do what it takes
to achieve racial unity? Isn't it common sense
that all our schools
should perform well, and that more Americans
should do better
What others may call idealism is a common sense
reality I know
we can achieve.
I'm more interested in leadership than polls
and politics. And I
believe we need a new kind of leadership in
America, a leadership
that puts the people front and center - not
the president. A
leadership that understands the people's fears
as well as their
hopes. A leadership that respects the people
as well as challenges
We must unleash the potential of Americans
as public citizens, for
only then will America be the place that it
can be. We must put
every American on the train of that deeper,
broader prosperity - for
only then will justice ring.
Does this goal mean that I believe government
can solve all our
A growing private sector and caring community
essential parts of the equation. Government
cannot be all things to
all people all the time. Nor should it do
trifling things much of the
time for some people. But it should do some
large and essential
things all of the time for the whole nation.
I believe in self-reliance and I think initiative
deserves its reward, but
I also know that disaster can strike any of
us, and when it does, it's
important to know that someone's there to
cannot guarantee any of us happiness, but
government can help
give people the tools to pursue that happiness.
What do I mean by "government can?”
I mean we can.
We the people.
To see what we can do, you need look no further
than a few feet
over my shoulder. Around the corner from the
principal's office there
is a plaque which commemorates the building
of Crystal City High
School. It was constructed in 1939, and the
top of the plaque reads
WPA -- Works Project Administration. Government
built this school
at the end of the Great Depression, it put
people to work and
helped educate the children of this town.
At the bottom of the
plaque there is the name of the treasurer
of the school board:
It is William Warren Bradley - my father.
He was a Republican, but he knew that problems
party affiliation and must be solved by all
Americans of good will.
No one asked the men who laid the brick and
mixed the cement
whether they were Democrats or Republicans.
They had a big job
to do, and that was all they needed to know.
We can do big jobs again - together.
But today, so many Americans - young and old
- are fed up with
national politics. Our campaigns often end
up doing the very
opposite of what they intend. Instead of engendering
optimism, they breed mistrust and cynicism.
Just last week in
Iowa, after I spoke about political involvement,
once again making
our nation better, a woman came up to me and
said, "It all sounds
so wonderful, if only it could be true."
People feel their voices are not heard, that
they're drowned out by
the power of big money. And it hurts me to
have to say that such a
view is not all wrong. It represents a healthy
skepticism about the
process. Yes, the American people have a right
to be skeptical.
But I have a right to try to change that skepticism.
All of us know that in a democracy as in life,
the smallest hope can
make all the difference; the mightiest river
begins with a single drop
of water. That is how it all starts.
With its numberless streams and tributaries
coming together, the
Mississippi River is like democracy itself.
We're small and
individual when we go our own way, but we're
unstoppable when we flow together. One of
the reasons I am
running for president is to restore trust
in public service and
confidence in our collective will - only then
will the river of
democracy flow as it should.
To that end, I am trying to run a different
kind of presidential
campaign. I'm calling us to renew our faith
in each other. I am
listening to America, not to the pundits.
I am raising money from
ordinary citizens, not from special interest
PACs. I'm hoping that
by Election Day, we will be choosing between
two people whom we
esteem, not the candidate we can still tolerate.
Today, I'm telling the American people that
if they elect me, I'll
define more clearly America's role in the
world. I'll guard the
economic fundamentals of our prosperity and
invest in our common
future. I'll use the growth of the new economy
and do some of the
big things that need to be done in this country:
We can reduce childhood poverty. We can increase
the number of
Americans with quality healthcare. We can
mute the voice of big
money in our elections. And we can enact long
control. If we do these things, we will be
safer, healthier and more
in control of our future.
Time and again, I will urge Americans to bridge
the divide of
prejudice so that the America of the new millennium
than skin color or eye shape to the individual.
Finally, together we can bolster the economic
security of working
families and thereby set the table for future
economic growth. We
will do fewer things, but they will be essential
things, and we will do
them more thoroughly.
In the end, when more of us have a world of
possibilities, all of us
will be stronger.
There are two kinds of politicians: those who
talk and promise, and
those who listen and do. I know which one
As president, you must listen and consult,
study and examine,
pray and plan. But in the end, you must be
guided by the compass
of your own convictions, and do what's right
as you are given to see
the right, and then trust that the people
I believe America should be made whole, but
I don't want to erase
our differences. It's those differences that
give us our uncommon
energy and wonderful creativity. The beautiful
paradox of America is
That we are many, that we are individual, that
we are different, but
that we are also one - one people, one family,
I still see an America of endless possibility.
An America that is as
generous as it is prosperous, that is as decent
as it is strong. An
America that is, as Abraham Lincoln said,
"The last best hope of
We may be at the end of a millennium, at the
end of two centuries
of American history, but we still have it
in our power, as Thomas
Paine said, "To begin the world [all] over
The leadership that is called for at this moment
goes beyond a
presidency, and into every home and heart.
The renewal of the
American Dream has to shine so bright that
we can dream dreams
we never thought possible before.
I have confidence in this Dream because it
is the theme of my life -
because without a famous family name or great
wealth, I was given
the encouragement and love and the opportunity
that enabled me to
forge a path on my own.
I've never forgotten the people who were my
support, many in this
town to whom I will always be grateful. They
Americans who did extraordinary things for
Americans are like that - ordinary people doing
They inspired me and gave me hope and confidence.
And I want
that hope, that encouragement, that sense
of possibility to be a
reality for everybody.
I want the American Dream for all of us - at
Ladies and gentlemen, it can happen.
Come with me.
Let us walk toward that dream together.