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Text: Bill Bradley Addresses Democratic Convention

eMediaMillWorks
eMediaMillWorks
Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Following is the transcript of former Senator Bill Bradley's speech to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

BRADLEY: Let me get right to the point. We're all here to elect the next president of the United States, Al Gore.

(APPLAUSE)

For 15 months I ran for president. It was a joyous journey and I have the scars to prove it. Ernestine and I have met so many wonderful people along the way who gave so much to the effort. We'll never forget you or the hopes that we shared. And I promise we'll stay true to the causes that bound us together.

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

But now we're in a general election, and it's absolutely essential that we get behind Al Gore.

(APPLAUSE)

I support him. I endorse him. I'll work hard for him. Our country needs a Democratic president, a Democratic Congress, and most important, a Democratic conscience. Electing Al Gore and Joe Lieberman is the right thing to do for our country.

(APPLAUSE)

When you run against someone, you get to know him very well. I learned that Al Gore is a man of wide-ranging intellect with a deep desire to serve, profound preparation for the job, and a strong sense of loyalty and a life view infused with tolerance and rooted in religious faith.

It's a choice. Are we going to go back to the politics of the haves and have-nots, or are we going to invest in the future of America?

(APPLAUSE)

Democrats can do great things, because we're the party of hope, we're the party of change. Democrats don't shy away from opportunities and difficulties that are the new age, we respond to them with new ideas and new actions. We don't window dress diversity; we are the party of diversity.

(APPLAUSE)

We don't declare ourselves compassionate; we've been acting compassionately for decades.

(APPLAUSE)

We don't just talk about prosperity; we make it happen.

(APPLAUSE)

Don't read my lips; watch what we do.

(APPLAUSE)

Watch what we've always done. Watch what the values of our parties has always been, the convictions that Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson stood for, that Jimmy Carter lives for even now, that Bill Clinton still fights for; the ideals of Jack and Bobby and Martin, the ideals they died for.

(APPLAUSE)

It's a choice. Are we going to go back to the politics of the haves and have-nots, or are we going to invest in the future of America?

(APPLAUSE)

Democrats can do great things, because we're the party of hope, we're the party of change. Democrats don't shy away from opportunities and difficulties that are the new age, we respond to them with new ideas and new actions. We don't window dress diversity; we are the party of diversity.

(APPLAUSE)

We don't declare ourselves compassionate; we've been acting compassionately for decades.

(APPLAUSE)

We don't just talk about prosperity; we make it happen.

(APPLAUSE)

Don't read my lips; watch what we do.

(APPLAUSE)

Watch what we've always done. Watch what the values of our parties has always been, the convictions that Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson stood for, that Jimmy Carter lives for even now, that Bill Clinton still fights for; the ideals of Jack and Bobby and Martin, the ideals they died for.

(APPLAUSE)

As Democrats, we look where there's triumph and progress, but also where there's suffering and neglect. We know that in our hearts that compassion is a necessary ingredient of a just society. But as Democrats, we're not conservative with our compassion.

(APPLAUSE)

At our best, we give it generally--we give it generously. We give it in civil rights. We give when we raise the minimum wage. We give it when we protect the beauty and purity of our mountain streams and great wilderness. We give it when we open ourselves to the dreams of new immigrants who are expanding the dimensions of our identity once again.

(APPLAUSE)

My grandfather was an immigrant. And he never got tired of telling his grandson--me--what America meant to him. And he said America was great because it was free and because people cared about each other. That's also why the Democratic Party is great--we push forward the boundaries of freedom and turn caring into action.

(APPLAUSE)

I believe initiative deserves its reward.

Wealth is an appropriate reward for effort. We should always have our eyes on our dreams, but I also believe that the task of leadership is to make sure that all Americans have a chance to fulfill their dreams.

Tonight there are 44 million Americans without health insurance. That's 44 million Americans who can't take their sick baby to a doctor, who don't have anyone to attend to their dying parents, who can't get medical help so they can stay on the job. So let's think again, 44 million Americans. That equals more than all the people living in 12 of our states, from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.

Whether your Democrat or Republican or independent, can we be so insensitive to say that their plight is of no concern to us? Would we write-off the health of all the people living in 12 of our 50 states?

AUDIENCE: No.

BRADLEY: Unlikely. Unlikely.

Yet, because the uninsured are not concentrated in any one area, they seem invisible to us. But the Democratic dream must include them and fulfill the promise of health care for all.

(APPLAUSE)

My friend, Senator Paul Wellstone, tells the story...

(APPLAUSE)

... about a fourth-grade teacher in a poor area of Minnesota. The teacher walked into the classroom one day and said, ``How many of you in here had a big breakfast today?''

And 10 of the 20 kids raised their hands. He said, ``How many of you in here had any breakfast today?'' Six more kids raised their hands. He said, ``What about the other four, what about you?'' Silence. Finally, one little girl, somewhat self-consciously, raised her hand and said, ``It wasn't my turn to eat today.''

When the founders of our republic said that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were the unalienable rights of all Americans, they didn't say anything about taking turns.

(APPLAUSE)

They didn't say that it was your turn today to have life and liberty, but not tomorrow, that it was your turn tomorrow to pursue happiness, but not today. The whole point of the American ideal is that opportunity is always present for all of us. Yet the chance that this chance is being denied to millions of working families who are trapped in a prison of poverty.

Tonight, one-fifth of the children in this country are ill-fed, ill-housed and ill-educated. When there's a natural disaster--a hurricane, a flood--we don't talk about repairing a roof here, a window there, a house here, a bridge there. We make an enormous investment in restoring things the way they were before the disaster struck. Child poverty is such a disaster.

Most of us would never turn our backs on a starving child. Yet every day we ignore 13 million poor children in this country. If all of them were gathered in one place, it would create a city bigger than New York, and we would then see child poverty for the slow-motion national disaster that it is. If we don't end child poverty in our lifetime, shame on me, shame on you, shame on all of us.

(APPLAUSE)

But our ability to end child poverty and provide health care for all depends on our will to defeat the special interests and return politics to the people.

Democracy, from it's very beginnings, has always been a vulnerable form of government: vulnerable to armies from without and tyrants from within, vulnerable to the complacency of citizens and the secret maneuverings of powerful groups, and vulnerable to the influence of money.

Every generation has to fight for democracy in its own way. Our fight is campaign finance reform.

(APPLAUSE)

Let the Democratic Party take up the torch of reform and once again return politics to the people.

(APPLAUSE)

Is tackling these problems an unrealistic goal in these times of unprecedented prosperity? No. To those who've called our goals unrealistic I say, No. I don't call these goals unrealistic, I call them common sense. I call them Democratic. I call them American.

(APPLAUSE)

I've been on the road in America for 30 years, as a basketball player, a U.S. senator, a writer, a speaker and a presidential candidate. And over those 30 years I've come to have a sense of who the American people are. And basically I think we're a good people, I think there's goodness in most of us, and if we'd simply see the goodness in our neighbor it would be a form of connection that would make us feel less cynical, less fearful, less isolated.

And all of those connections together is really our untapped potential as a country. I mean, whenever I see somebody, for example, who can see beneath skin color or eye shade or sexual orientation to the individual, I think all of us could be that good.

Martin Luther King once said that the reason the civil rights movement didn't occur sooner than it did in America was because of the silence of good people.

What we Democrats must be about is asking good people to come forward and join us so our voices can be heard.

(APPLAUSE)

During the presidential primary, I was thrilled by the thousands of young Americans across the country who volunteered for our effort. Since the primaries, I've heard from so many parents who told me that the experience gave their children something to believe in that was larger than themselves. It allowed them to see that there is honor in working for a better world, that it's not naive to appeal to the better side of our nature, that it's all right to have faith in your neighbor, in the people, in humankind.

To all those young people who believe that America can be just, I say: Never give up and never, never sell out.

(APPLAUSE)

You don't have to give up. You don't have to give up your idealism to be successful in America.

You don't have to become complacent.

To the contrary, you should be outraged by the undermining of our democracy, the poverty of so many American children, the absence of health care, the shame of racism. And if you get angry enough and you're smart enough and you work hard enough, you can change things. And make no mistake about that.

(APPLAUSE)

I believe that America is a great country. But I also believe it can be a greater country and so do many other Americans. There's a great wave beginning in this country. I saw it and felt it practically every day for over a year.

And when it breaks, it will carry the trappings of political privilege with it, it will vanquish the insidious bond between big money and political decisions, it will break the grip of political lies on our imagination, it will put people back into politics and usher in a new day full of hope and honesty, full of humanity and caring, a day that Americans yearn for, a day the Democratic leadership can help bring about, a day that will come.

Let us have the courage to make that day come now.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.


© 2000 The Washington Post Company


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