Senator Christopher Dodd speaks at the Democratic National Convention
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CHRISTOPHER DODD: Mr. Chairman, delegates, fellow Americans.
Sixteen years ago, a governor from Arkansas traveled north to Connecticut. He spoke on my behalf at a convention nominating me to serve in the United States Senate. Tonight, I am honored to return the favor.
I place in nomination for the presidency of the United States a man I have called my president for nearly 4 years – and my friend for more than 20 – William Jefferson Clinton.
America remembers that cold and brilliant January day 44 months ago. A young governor, raised in the small town of Hope, Arkansas, brought new hope to a nation hungry for renewal and change. Remember what it was like then. Americans were struggling. Men and women needed jobs. Student test scores were falling. Crime rates were rising. Parents looked in on their sleeping children – and in the quiet of the night, worried that, no matter how hard they worked, those they most loved might inherit a lesser life in a lesser land.
President Clinton identified with the difficulties confronting America’s families. Remember, this is a man who never had the joy of knowing his own father. He was raised by a wonderful mother, in a home that had more than its share of problems. So when this president speaks about tough times facing America’s families, he knows what he’s talking about. That is why he offered a bold and brave strategy to put America back on track. He invited men and women of both political parties to work together to make America work again. Because he knew that for Americans to do their best, their leaders must do better, and appeal to the best in each of us.
But there were those in Congress who decided to seek advantages instead of common ground. They said interest rates would soar, unemployment would increase, a deeper recession would hit, and so the president’s plan for recovery had to be passed.
Tonight, let me say it plainly: “Mr. President, you did the right thing. You did the right thing for America.” Today, our economy is stronger and more prosperous than it has been in more than three decades. But as we all know, the effort is not finished. People today work long, hard hours to pay their bills, and they have a chance to move ahead because President Clinton took a stand – while his opponents turned away.
It is for you, the American people, that President Clinton has cut the deficit for four straight years. That hasn’t happened in more than a century and a half.
It is for you, the people of this country, that the president has brought down interest rates, so more Americans can own a home, start a business, and send a child to college. It is for you, the people of this nation, that President Clinton has cut taxes, so fifteen million American families can keep more in their pockets.
And now it is for you, the people, that President Clinton has created more than 10 million new jobs. Ten million. That is his most important contribution to our people – who all deserve an opportunity to succeed. Then he did something that no other American president has ever dared to do: He took on the gun lobby in America. And he won.
He signed Jim and Sarah Brady’s bill, and stopped more than 60,000 outlaws from buying handguns. He banned deadly assault weapons, because the guns that deal death should not be as easy to buy as the bread that sustains life.
Now our president is taking on tobacco.
On this he heard another chorus of caution: “Don’t oppose this special interest, it’s a fight you can’t win.” Some even tried to claim that cigarettes are no more harmful to a child’s health than a glass of milk.
But every day in America, 3,000 children start smoking. One thousand of them will die earlier than they should. That will change now – because this president had the courage to say no more advertising to the young, no more selling to the young, no more “Joe Camel.”
Four days ago, he began a train journey across America – an America that he has helped to change. It is not a perfect America, but it is a nation on the march again, approaching a new century with new confidence. For the next 70 days, our people will listen to a debate about the direction of our country. But this autumn of campaign does not have to be a season of conflict. On this August evening, in this hall, I ask each and every one of you to pledge with me that this campaign will be worthy of the people we seek to lead, and of the land we love. Let us do our part to restore civility to America’s political discourse. Let us lead by example. Let us not dishonor our democracy. The American people are fed up with relentless assaults on people’s reputations.
This has to stop – and stop now. Stop attacking the president’s family. Stick to the issues. We may at times oppose one another, but we must always respect each other. Let us begin now. I begin by thinking of the Republican candidate for president who two weeks ago spoke so movingly of his own past, and so let me say to Senator Robert Dole, on behalf of the thousands here in this United Center: Thank you from a generation of Americans, living in freedom because of your sacrifices.
I have served with Senator Robert Dole in the legislative branch for 20 years. It is not Bob Dole’s reputation that I question, it is his agenda for America. Sometimes a fine person has flawed ideas. This is such a time.
So for the next few moments, I want to discuss the differences between Senator Dole and the man we will nominate tonight – profound differences on matters affecting our lives. You have the right to know – because these differences will decide your future.
Remember, it was Senator Dole who said no to the family and medical leave act. I should know: I wrote the bill with two Republican senators. For seven years, the single biggest obstacle to its passage was Senator Bob Bole, but President Clinton said yes, and now 42 million Americans can stay at home with a new child or a sick family member without living in fear that they will lose their jobs. During a family crisis, no one should be forced to choose between their family and their work. Mr. President, you did the right thing. You did the right thing for America.
Remember, Senator Dole said no to raising the minimum wage. President Clinton said yes.
It’s time to honor an honest day’s work with a living wage. Mr. President, you did the right thing. You did the right thing for America.
Remember that last year, Senator Bob Dole said that he was “proud to be one of 12 members of Congress to vote against creating Medicare in 1965.” And remember last year, Senator Bob Dole and Speaker Gingrich voted to cut Medicare by $270 billion. But for the president’s veto pen, they would have succeeded.
Now ask yourselves, who do you trust to protect Medicare? Mr. President, you did the right thing. You did the right thing for America. Remember that Senator Dole says we should close the Department of Education and voted to cut $30 billion for safer schools, higher standards, and college loans.
President Clinton is expanding Head Start, getting guns and drugs out of our schools, and offering every student the same opportunity he had to earn a college education. Mr. President, again you did the right thing. You did the right thing for America.
Remember, Senator Dole has tried to turn a woman’s wrenching personal choice into a constitutional crime. President Clinton believes that this important decision is between that woman, her conscience and her doctor.
President Clinton, you’re doing the right thing – the right thing for America. Now, at the 11th hour, Senator Dole proposes a flawed economic plan that will either explode the deficit, or lead to withering cuts in Medicare, education, and the environment. President Clinton has put our economic house in order, and he offers a plan to lead us into a new era of growth and jobs, while honoring our abiding commitment to the elderly, the young and the earth we inhabit.
Mr. President, you are doing the right thing. The right thing for America. A few hours ago, this young president arrived here in Chicago. A few hours from now, he will accept the nomination of our party. Then he will depart, and begin a new journey into the heart of America.
And for that journey, he has the courage, the vision and the commitment to bring all Americans together to the threshold of a new century.
The choice, my fellow citizens, is yours. We’re here tonight, proud to offer you our choice. I proudly place in nomination before this convention and this country the name of America’s president – William Jefferson Clinton. Thank you.