Transcript: Illinois Senate Candidate Barack Obama
FDCH E-Media Tuesday, July 27, 2004; 11:09 PM
Candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois, Barack Obama, delivered the
keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston Tuesday
night. Here is a transcript of his remarks.
Thank you so much. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Dick Durbin. You make us all proud.
On behalf of the great state of Illinois...
... crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep
gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is
a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this
stage is pretty unlikely.
My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in
Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin- roof shack.
His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.
But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard
work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical
place, America, that's shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to
so many who had come before him.
While studying here my father met my mother. She was born in a town on
the other side of the world, in Kansas.
Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression.
The day after Pearl Harbor, my grandfather signed up for duty, joined
Patton's army, marched across Europe. Back home my grandmother raised
a baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they
studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA and later moved west,
all the way to Hawaii, in search of opportunity.
And they too had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream born of
My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an
abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an
African name, Barack, or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America,
your name is no barrier to success.
They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they
weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich
to achieve your potential.
They're both passed away now. And yet I know that, on this night, they
look down on me with great pride.
And I stand here today grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware
that my parents' dreams live on in my two precious daughters.
I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story,
that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no
other country on Earth is my story even possible.
Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not
because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military,
or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise,
summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold
these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...
... that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That is the true genius of America, a faith...
... a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we
can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed
and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think,
without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and
start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate
in the political process without fear of retribution; and that our votes
will be counted -- or at least, most of the time.
This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and
our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we
are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers and the promise of
And fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, independents,
I say to you, tonight, we have more work to do...
... more work to do, for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois,
who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to
Mexico, and now they're having to compete with their own children for
jobs that pay 7 bucks an hour; more to do for the father I met who was
losing his job and chocking back the tears wondering how he would pay
$4,500 a months for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits
that he counted on; more to do for the young woman in East St. Louis,
and thousands more like her who have the grades, have the drive, have
the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college.
Now, don't get me wrong, the people I meet in small towns and big cities
and diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solves all
of their problems. They know they have to work hard to get a head. And
they want to.
Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you: They
don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.
Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that
government alone can't teach kids to learn.
They know that parents have to teach, that children can't achieve
unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets
and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting
white. They know those things.
People don't expect -- people don't expect government to solve all their
problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight
change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has
a decent shot at life and that the doors of opportunity remain open to
all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.
In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to
lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man
is John Kerry.
John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith and service because
they've defined his life. From his heroic service to Vietnam to his years
as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United
States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again,
we've seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His
values and his record affirm what is best in us.
John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So instead
of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he offers
them to companies creating jobs here at home.
John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can
afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have
John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren't held hostage
to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields.
John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our
country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic
liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us.
And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option
sometimes, but it should never be the first option.
You know, a while back, I met a young man named Seamus (ph) in a VFW
hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, 6'2", 6'3",
clear eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he'd joined the Marines and
was heading to Iraq the following week.
And as I listened to him explain why he had enlisted -- the
absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to
duty and service -- I thought, this young man was all that any of us might
ever hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Seamus
(ph) as well as he's serving us?
I thought of the 900 men and women, sons and daughters, husbands
and wives, friends and neighbors who won't be returning to their own
hometowns. I thought of the families I had met who were struggling to get
by without a loved one's full income or whose loved ones had returned
with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but still lacked long-term
health benefits because they were Reservists.
When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn
obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they
are going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the
soldiers upon their return and to never, ever go to war without enough
troops to win the war, secure the peace and earn the respect of the world.
Now, let me be clear. Let me be clear. We have real enemies in
the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued. And they
must be defeated.
John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate
to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam,
President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might
to keep America safe and secure.
John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it's not enough for
just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism,
there's another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are
all connected as one people.
If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that
matters to me, even if it's not my child.
If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription
and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life
poorer, even if it's not my grandparent.
If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of
an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.
It is that fundamental belief -- it is that fundamental belief -- I am my
brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work.
It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come
together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one.
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us,
the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of
Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a
conservative America; there's the United States of America.
There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and
Asian America; there's the United States of America.
The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red
states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for
Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God
in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our
libraries in the red states.
We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay
friends in the red states.
There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots
who supported the war in Iraq.
We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes,
all of us defending the United States of America.
In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate
in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?
John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm
not talking about blind optimism here, the almost willful ignorance
that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't think about it,
or health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it.
That's not what I'm talking. I'm talking about something more
substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom
songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of
a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope
of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny
kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.
Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty,
the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us,
the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that
there are better days ahead.
I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working
families with a road to opportunity.
I believe we can provide jobs for the jobless, homes to the homeless, and
reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.
I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we
stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and
meet the challenges that face us.
America, tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel
the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do,
if you feel the same hopefulness that I do, if we do what we must do,
then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon,
from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John
Kerry will be sworn in as president. And John Edwards will be sworn in
as vice president. And this country will reclaim it's promise. And out
of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.
Thank you very much, everybody.
God bless you.