Former Sen. Edwards Delivers Remarks on Caucus Results in Iowa

Thursday, January 3, 2008
CQ Transcripts

FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.: Thank you. Thank you.

The one thing that's clear from the results in Iowa tonight is the status quo lost and change won. 

(APPLAUSE) 

And now we move on. We move on from Iowa to New Hampshire and to the other states to determine who's best suited to bring about the change that this country so desperately needed. 

Because what we've seen here in Iowa is we've seen two candidates who thought their money would make them inevitable. But what the Iowa caucus-goers have shown, is if you're willing to have a little backbone, to have a little courage, to speak for the middle class, to speak for those who have no voice. 

(APPLAUSE)

If you're willing -- if you're willing to stand up to corporate greed, that message and the American people are unstoppable. No matter how much money is spent, no matter how much...

(APPLAUSE)

And we are so proud of this cause. But I want all of us to remember tonight while we're having all these political celebrations, that just a few weeks ago in America, Nataline Sarkisian (ph), a 17- year-old girl who had a -- needed a liver transplant, and whose insurance company decided they wouldn't pay for her liver transplant operation. 

EDWARDS: Finally, her nurses spoke up on her behalf. Her doctors spoke up on her behalf. Ultimately, the American people spoke up on her behalf by marching and picketing in front of her health insurance carrier.

And, finally, the insurance carrier caved in and agreed to pay for her operation. And when they notified the family just a few hours later, she died. She lost her life. Why? Why?

James Lowe was born 51 years ago in the United States of America with a severe cleft palate, which kept him from being able to speak. And he lived for 50 years in the greatest, most prosperous nation on the planet, not able to speak because he didn't have health-care coverage and couldn't pay for a simple operation. Why?

Doug Bishop, who's actually behind me tonight, Doug and his family worked at the Maytag plant in Newton -- Newton, Iowa. For generations, for generations, they worked. They sacrificed. They did everything you're supposed to do in America.

And then recently, this plant closed. And the jobs went overseas. Why? The reason is because corporate greed has got a stranglehold on America. And unless and until we have a president in the proud tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, who has a little backbone, who has some strength, who has some fight, who's willing to stand up to these people, nothing will change.

We will never have the America that all of us dream of. The promise of America, which has been available to so many of us, will not be available to our children and our grandchildren. And I take this very personally.

I watched my grandmother, who I loved dearly, work year after year after year in the mills. And we lived in the same neighborhood. She would cook for us, leave the house, walk her way to the mill, work her shift, and come back home and take care of us again.

My grandfather, who was partially paralyzed, would go to work the graveyard shift in that mill and come back in the morning, when we'd have breakfast together.

EDWARDS: My father, who's here with me tonight, worked 36 years in the mills -- hard, tedious work; hard, tedious work.

Why did he do it? Why did he struggle and sacrifice? Why did your parents and grandparents struggle and sacrifice? They did it so that you could have a better life. 

My parents did it so that I could have a better life. 

And we, all of us to whom the torch has been passed, we carry an enormous responsibility. And that responsibility transcends politics and transcends elections.

It's our responsibility to ensure that we leave America better than we found it; that we give our children a better life than we've had.

And this is what I see in America today. I see an America where last year, the CEO of one of the largest health insurance companies in America made hundreds of millions of dollars -- in one year.

I see an America where ExxonMobil's profits were $40 billion just a couple of years ago. Record amounts -- record profits. 

All of that happening at the same time that this picture of America emerges. Tonight, 47 million Americans will go to bed knowing that if their child gets sick, they'll have to go to the emergency room and beg for health care. 

Tomorrow morning, women will go to their doctor and be diagnosed with breast cancer, just like Elizabeth was. But unlike Elizabeth, they'll have no health care coverage. And as a result, they know that they can't go to the emergency room and get chemotherapy. 

What are they supposed to do? What are they supposed to do?

You can literally see the fear and terror in their eyes. 

Tomorrow morning, 37 million of our own people will wake up literally worried about feeding and clothing their own children.

I went to a shelter here in Des Moines just a few weeks ago, where they took single moms with their children who had no place to live.

EDWARDS: And I said: Do you ever have to turn people away? Yes, a few months ago, they had to turn 70 to 75 families away in one month. And I said: These are moms with kids -- yes -- some of them with three or four children. 

And I said: Well, where did they go when you sent them away? They went back to the street, back to their homes. Thirty-five million people in America went hungry last year in the richest nation on the planet.

And tonight, 200,000 men and women who wore our uniform proudly and served this country courageously as veterans will go to sleep under bridges and on grates. We're better than this. The United States of America's better than this.

And what happened tonight is the Iowa caucus-goers said, we want something different. We are going to stand up, we are going to rise up, we're going to create an America that all of us believe in. 

Because the truth is, when we speak up, when we speak up for James Lowe and the millions like him who live in the darkness, when we speak up against corporate greed and for the 37 million Americans who live in poverty, when we speak up for single moms who have no place to live with their children, when we speak up for hundreds of thousands of veterans who served this country proudly and are homeless with no place to live at night, when we do that together, as a nation -- and Iowa caucus-goers did it tonight -- when we do it, America's a better place.

It says something about who we are. It says something about our character. Because when we do, America rises up. America becomes what it's capable of being. And what began -- and it is not over -- what began tonight in the heartland of America is the Iowa caucus- goers said: Enough is enough. 

We are better than this. We are going to bring the change that this country needs.

EDWARDS: And you have created and started a wave of change, a tidal wave of change that will travel from here to New Hampshire to Nevada to South Carolina, all across this country.

(APPLAUSE)

Because we know the torch has been passed to us. We stand proudly on the shoulders of our parents and grandparents and all those generations who came before us. And we take our responsibility seriously.

And this tidal wave of change that began tonight in Iowa and that will sweep across America, when that wave is finished, when it is done, every one of us are going to be able to look our children in the eye and say, we did what our parents did for us and what our grandparents did for us. Which is: We left America better than we found it, and we gave our children a better life than we had. 

That's what this is about. That's what this change is about. 

Continue on. This march of change continues on. God bless you. Thank you for everything you've done. Stay with us in this fight. We are in this fight together. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

END

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