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Kerry Remarks at the UNITY 2004 Conference

I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history.

I lay out a strategy to strengthen our military, to build and lead strong alliances and reform our intelligence system. I set out a path to win the peace in Iraq and to get the terrorists, wherever they may be, before they get us.

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To strengthen our homeland security, we're going to do what we should've been doing for the last three years: protecting our ports, securing our chemical and nuclear power plants, and supporting our police officers, our firefighters and our EMTs.

Let me tell you something. Color-coded warnings aren't enough if we continue to let 95 percent of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected.

The second part of the book focuses on expanding economic opportunity. It offers a real plan to keep and create good-paying jobs in America, to end tax breaks that reward companies for shipping American jobs overseas, to revitalize manufacturing and to encourage investment in the new industries of the future.

That's what we did in the 1990s. Don't forget it. Don't forget it.

After years of talk about deficits and deficit reduction and line-item vetoes and constitutional amendments, without one vote from the other side, we passed the Deficit Reduction Act. We had the lowest inflation, the lowest unemployment. We not only balanced the budget, we paid down the debt for two years in a row. And we created 23 million news jobs, and every sector of American society was lifted up in its income.

That's why John Edwards and I intend to restore fiscal discipline, not only by rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, but by closing tax loopholes that are nothing more than corporate welfare, and by making government live by the same rules that most families in America try to live by: pay as you go. We will restore that to the American political system.

(APPLAUSE)

Third, our plan focuses on strengthening families.

John and I don't want working families to just get by. We want them to get ahead. That's why 98 percent of Americans will pay lower taxes under our plan, with additional tax breaks to the middle class and those struggling to get into the middle class to help them cover health care, child care and college.

In the past week, four years into a presidency, our opponents haven't offered a plan of their own or a defense, a real defense of their record. Instead, after four long years, what we've been given is a new slogan.

KERRY: In the past week, four years into a presidency, we've suddenly been told, again and again, that America has turned the corner.

Well, you know, the last president who used that slogan, who told us that prosperity was just around the corner, was Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression.

Now, we've been called pessimists, we've been called pessimists, for pointing out the facts and being honest about the struggles of hardworking families in America.

Here is my answer to that: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying that America can't do better than we are doing today.

You know and I know that just saying that you're turning the corner on the war on terror, on jobs and opportunity, on building one America, doesn't make it so.

We've got a lot of work to do, folks. We've got a lot of work to do. And we need to bring everybody to the table in order to do it.

The vision and values that John Edwards and I have for our country, for our plan for America, can actually bring our country together again. We can build stronger communities. We can secure equality and strengthen opportunity. We can demand and support responsibility from everybody.

For us, these values are not just words. They're about results. They're about the causes that we champion and the people that we fight for.

(SPEAKING IN SPANISH)

Values are more than just words.

(APPLAUSE)

They're about good jobs. They're about our families. They're about schools for our children that aren't separate and unequal. They're about good prescription drug coverage for all of our seniors. And they are about respecting our parents and Social Security and Medicare and bringing a nation together, not splitting it apart.

John Edwards and I have a record to stand on, and we have a real agenda to make America stronger.

Let me tell you what values mean to me and John Edwards. Values mean having an opportunity agenda for America. It means bringing capital, small-business capital, small-business opportunities, micro- lending, other kinds of loans.

Aida Alvarez, who I worked with when she was in the Clinton administration at the Small Business and I was chairman of Small Business, can tell you -- and she's here; she'll be able to share with you the kinds of things that we can do to put capital into the hands of people that the banks say no to, to put capital into communities that people somehow look at and think, "Oh, we're not going to be paid back."

We can bring this opportunity, rather than cut the amount of lending that's taking place, especially in our central cities and in the surrounding metropolitan areas.

KERRY: Values mean funding for homeland security and port security so that the people in our metropolitan areas are able to move around freely and safely with a sense of security, with good jobs and live without fear.

Creating opportunity also means creating good-paying jobs. That means investing in science and technology.

Front page of the New York Times, I think two months ago, big story: United States of America losing its lead in graduate students, people graduating with graduate degrees in science, in biology, in technology, in engineering -- the very areas that we need to be able to create the jobs for the future.

More than a million Americans who were working three years ago have lost their jobs. African-American unemployment is now at 10 percent, double the rate for whites. And the new jobs that are being created in America pay you less than the jobs that they're shipping overseas.

John and I have a plan to create and keep good-paying jobs right here at home.

And when I am president, no longer will our tax code continue to require American workers to subsidize the loss of their own jobs. That's going to stop.

(APPLAUSE)

We're going to close the tax loopholes that actually pay companies to move jobs overseas. We're going to reward companies that create the jobs here, with a manufacturing incentive, with a science and technology and research and development incentive.

And we're going to bring -- this is important -- we're going to bring fundamental fairness back to the American workplace, a place where today companies, unfortunately, some of them, despite great CEOs around the nation, hire people to stop people from even organizing to be able to try to do better in their lives. That's not the American way.

Values also mean giving all our children a first-rate education.

KERRY: Today, 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, we still see two school systems in America, one for the well-off and one for the left-out. Too many children of color are being told they have to lift themselves up in schools that are literally falling down.

And for us, values means opening those doors of opportunity. It means following through on the promises of education.

You can't reform education in America without the resources to do it, so teachers have a class size where they could actually teach and kids have after-school programs where they can actually be safe and learn. And I believe that's critical.

(APPLAUSE)

I used to be a prosecutor, my friends, and I used to talk to those kids who were in trouble, 14 and 15, 16 years old. There wasn't a kid I met in the system, not one, who didn't look at me and tell me the story of neglect or abuse. They were there in the system because adults weren't there sufficiently in their lives.

How do you break that cycle? How do you stop running a farm system for prisons? I'll tell you how: with leadership, with priorities, with values that know where you have to invest.

And I am determined, as president, that we're going to stop being content in this country to spend $50,000 a year to house a young person in prison for the rest of their life when we should be investing $10,000 a year in Head Start, Early Head Start, Smart Start, early childhood education, and give kids the best possible start in life. That's a clear value.

(APPLAUSE)

I'll tell you something else values tell me -- and this is what my parents taught me: Values mean making health care affordable and accessible for all Americans.

In the last four years, 4 million of our fellow citizens have lost their health insurance. Forty-four million Americans don't even have it.

Everywhere I go, people look at me with tears in their eyes, "Senator, my husband lost his job. I've got breast cancer. I have to go to chemotherapy. Every day I go to work even though I feel sick and I want to crawl up in a corner and feel like I'm going to die because I'm terrified of losing my health insurance."

The truth is that nearly 60 percent of Hispanics and 43 percent of African-Americans went without health coverage for all or part of the last two years. And today, people of color are significantly more likely to suffer or die from diseases like cancer or AIDS and diabetes. And the life expectancy for Native Americans is 17 years shorter than it is for other Americans, largely because of poor health.

America can do better than that, and we will.

KERRY: When I'm in the White House...

(APPLAUSE)

When I am in the White House, we are going to stop being the only industrial nation on the face of this earth that doesn't understand health care is not a privilege for the wealthy or the connected or the elected, it is a right for all Americans. And we're going to make it affordable and accessible.

(APPLAUSE)

I pledge to you, on day one that I am permitted to send a bill to Congress, day one of my presidency, I'm sending health care -- a bill to make health care affordable and accessible to all Americans.

We have a plan to cut the waste and greed. We can lower the premiums by $1,000 per family.

And it also means that we will make it easier for businesses to compete in the world, because $1,200 to $1,700 of every automobile made in America is just health care. And if we can lower that cost by $1,000, we become more competitive in the world.

I also believe that it means affirming or reaffirming the truth, the bringing together of America means reaffirming the truth that America is now and always has been a nation of immigrants.

Within the first 100 days of my administration, I will send Congress a reform bill that lets immigrants earn legalization and encourages family reunification while protecting our borders in ways that are fairer and more effective.


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