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Kerry Remarks at the UNITY 2004 Conference

FDCH e-Media
Thursday, August 5, 2004; 12:10 PM

Remarks made by Senator John F. Kerry at the UNITY 2004 Conference in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

KERRY: Good morning. Thank you very much.

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I was backstage watching, and I knew this organization was growing, but I was stunned to watch President Sotomayor grow right before our eyes.

(LAUGHTER)

It's wonderful, truly wonderful, to be here with you this morning. Thank you for the privilege of letting me come here.

I've actually -- I'm grateful to you because I've been bouncing around on a bus for several days, and you got me off the bus for a few hours. I'm glad to be here.

And I want to try to leave as much time as I can for questions. I think that's, perhaps, the most important part of this exchange and this sharing.

I don't know how many of you noticed it, but the television reports that three banks were robbed in Davenport, Iowa, while we were there yesterday.

(LAUGHTER)

I just want to assure you that both President Bush and I have very firm alibis.

(LAUGHTER)

And, as you know, I'm going back to Saint Louis later today to get on a train, so half of my trip is on a bus, half of my trip is on a train. That's what we in politics call fair and balanced, ladies and gentlemen.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you, President Sotomayor, for a gracious introduction.

As you know, right after our convention, John Edwards and I set off on a journey to meet face to face with people all across our country and to share our plan, a specific plan, for a stronger America at home and a more respected America in the world.

(APPLAUSE)

But more importantly, we wanted to go out and listen to what people have to say to us. And today, I am honored to take a detour from our westward journey to come back east, because I want to share with you my own views about our country and our future, but I also want to hear your ideas, which will be expressed through the questions asked. And hopefully we'll even have a chance to chat a little before I leave.

As Americans, we are living in a time that has been transformed by 9/11, but we have to keep it in its perspective and treat it properly. Ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and repeated increases in the threat levels are constant reminders that our soldiers and our homeland are still in harm's way. As journalists, you're all operating in that new world.

But I also believe that, new as it may be, there are enduring principles that apply here. We won't win this struggle by hiding or ignoring the facts. You have a critical part to play, not as partisans, but as truth-tellers.

Because the key to victory in the war on terror is not just the power of our arms, but the power of our ideals, our principles, the power of our values that we need to transfer across the world.

(APPLAUSE)

The information, the commentary, the debate that you bring to the eyes and ears of America and to the world are critical to an informed public making the right decisions and critical to correcting the wrong ones.

We're in this fight because we are a democracy, and we have to win it as a democracy. And one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of our democracy is and always will be and always has been, going back to the founding fathers, the freedom of the press.

(APPLAUSE)

You have another great power and a privilege in this decisive time. As Americans prepare to decide the direction of our free society, not just for the next four years but perhaps for decades to come, you will report and referee the arena of a great national campaign.

KERRY: You know the questions that people are asking because you hear them every single day: Who has the right plan to win the war on terror and make America safe? Who has a real plan for a stronger America that will create good-paying jobs? Who has a realistic plan to hold down the cost of health care and open up access to health care to all Americans?

Who is being straightforward about taxes, about the need to cut taxes for the middle class and roll back an unaffordable, unwise tax cut for individuals who make over $200,000 a year so that we can invest...

(APPLAUSE)

... in education and health care and cut the deficit in half in four years?

And, above all, who is truly committed to bridging the divides in this country that continue to separate, sometimes willfully, intentionally and politically, that continue to separate race from race, group from group and region from region?

Some people, as I said the other day, may see America as red states and blue states. I believe we need leadership that sees America as one country -- red, white and blue, period.

(APPLAUSE)

These are the questions that are important to Americans, and they're important to communities of color and to every part of our nation. As the motto of Frederick Douglass's North Star newspaper proclaimed in 1848, "Right is of no sex. Truth is of no color. God is the father of us all, and we are all brethren."

We're really going -- John Edwards and I are determined that we are really going to unite the country. We're going to put in place the policies that will bring us together and move America forward. I will be a president who listens to and meets with the Civil Rights Conference of the United States, I will meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, meet with the Hispanic Caucus, reach out to the people of this country and bring them to the table, the American table.

(APPLAUSE)

We are being told this week, again and again, that we've turned a corner. We're being told to look at the results. Ladies and gentlemen, I agree. Let's look at the record.

Have we turned the corner when 44 million Americans, 4 million more than four years ago, don't even have basic health coverage in America?

Have we turned the corner when we've lost nearly 1.8 million private-sector jobs?

Have we turned the corner when we're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America and the jobs that are taking their place pay $9,000 less, on average, than the jobs that have been lost?

KERRY: My friends, just saying that you've turned the corner doesn't make it so; just like just saying there are weapons of mass destruction...

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

... doesn't make it so; just saying you can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so; just saying "Mission accomplished" doesn't make it so.

Slogans don't matter to Americans, not to the Americans I'm meeting out in the streets of our country. Results matter. And results are what make a difference in the lives of people.

John Edwards and I and all of you here, we all believe in America. We're all Americans. And we believe that America can do better.

Our plans for America embrace all Americans.

Now, I'm also aware -- how could you live in America and not be aware -- of the special challenges facing people of color. Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, in too many painful ways, America is still a house divided.

Too many Americans continue to be separate and unequal in health status, educational status, living standards, access to capital, schools, all of the things that make a difference. And despite all the legal gains -- and that journey isn't finished either -- America cannot be fully America when millions still face barriers to the ability to live up to their God-given potential.

How, for example, can we accept a situation where 50 percent of African-American men in New York City are without a job? How can we accept the fact that at some cities in America, 40 percent of Hispanic kids are dropping out of school? How can we accept the fact that one out of five Asian-Americans attempting to buy or rent a home faces discrimination?

This is unworthy of a nation that values equality, and we have to change it.

(APPLAUSE)

I believe with all my heart that America can do better and that we will. And the best way to lift up those who've been left out is to honor the united values that we share, show the true face of America: faith, family, hard work, responsibility, opportunity for all.

KERRY: Those are the things that the Americans that I meet who are out there playing by the rules, struggling, getting up every day, taking care of their kids, trying to get ahead, some of them working two or three jobs and still not quite able to grab ahold of the brass ring.

Those are the things that we have to do so that every child, every parent, every worker has an equal shot at living up to their God-given potential. That is the heart and soul of my plan for a stronger America, my friends.

Now, we're not just talking about it. The details of that plan were just released two days ago in book form, that John Edwards and I have put together. The book is detailed and clear. I hope everything about it is straightforward. I know the title is. It's simply called, "Our Plan for America: Stronger at Home, Respected in the World." And you can download the entire volume at johnkerry.com.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Now, I'm not going to turn this into a John Kerry book-reading. But let me highlight some of this plan, if I may.

The plan has three basic parts. The first part focuses on security.

I will fight this war on terror with the lessons I learned in war. I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as president of the United States.


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