Proven leadership is important for the future of our country and our party.
Ours is a party of diverse points of view, but there is far more that unites us than divides us. The Senate minority leader brings these viewpoints together. That leader must have a clear understanding of the unique roll of the Senate. He must understand the issues. He must listen to the views of his colleagues, respect their differences and have the skill to mold a consensus. He must recognize and use the talents abundantly represented on our side of the aisle. He must be willing to give his colleagues a voice in shaping the direction of the party and in communicating that direction to the public. He must demonstrate that he can discern when he is the best spokesman on an issue and when someone else is.
The last four years have been difficult ones for Democrats, but we traveled a long distance in that time. We have undertaken the painstaking task of rebuilding our party, learned to be mindful of each other's views, and committed ourselves to finding the ground that unites us all. I have worked patiently and diligently to these ends. I am proud of the strides we have made. Our hard work has paid off. Although we are a minority in the Senate, our views are mainstream America. We gained two Democratic seats in the last election in spite of the victory of a popular president. We now stand poised to capitalize on our past efforts, and in the next two years to present a more unified voice than ever before.
We must continue to be the party of economic growth and opportunity, the party that offers a helping hand to those who want to work to better themselves. We must ensure that America's economy remains second to none. That means investing in the future: in education, research and development, our infrastructure and our people.
As Democratic leader, I will be guided by these principles. We must tackle the deficit crisis head on, and do so in a fair and evenhanded way. We must avoid making penny-wise, pound- foolish cuts in programs upon which our future depends. We must stretch our defense dollar further. The rate of growth in the defense budget must be restrained in some areas, while putting greater emphasis on our conventional readiness. We must not risk a nuclear confrontation because we lack the resources to fight a conventional war. We must ensure the effectiveness of our defense dollar by continuing to press for elimination of waste and for procurement reform in the Pentagon. And we must ask that our NATO allies pick up a greater share of the burden of defending Europe, mindful of the restraints imposed by the economies of these countries and their own internal political dynamics.
The Democratic leader must face these issues and build a consensus on a vision of the future and with the perspective of leadership experience in the legislative arena. I have both that vision and that perspective and look forward to serving my colleagues as we move to become a Senate majority in 1986.