Senator Edward Kennedy Speaks at the Democratic National Convention
[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
EDWARD KENNEDY: Thank you. In the great passages of my public life, on the great issues of our national life, I have spoken before to other Democratic Conventions, but what I feel in my heart tonight can hardly be expressed. It is a father’s sense of pride and joy and honor.
It seems like only yesterday that I was helping Patrick with his homework. Now as a member of Congress, he’s writing the legislation and fighting the fights, not only for his state of Rhode Island, but for working families who are the heart and strength and soul of the Democratic Party. John and Robert Kennedy summoned new generations to public service. How proud they would be, especially of so many of you gathered here who answered their call.
How proud they would be of a President who was touched in his youth by their example and who has brought our party back to victory and moved our country forward, President Bill Clinton.
And how proud they would be of the brilliant and brave First Lady who will march with President Clinton every step of the way from this convention city to another great victory this November, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
When I think of the attacks on her from the likes of Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh, I recall what was said of another great Democrat long ago. “We love her for the enemies that she has made.”
In 1996, we are proud of who we are, proud of where we stand, and proud of who leads us. No one in this convention hall has to point to the exit signs to tell the prejudiced, the extremist and the intolerant that they are not welcome here. We do not — we do not offer the illusion of inclusion, while forcing a Vice Presidential nominee to betray his own conscience and endorse a law that would deny equal opportunity to women and minorities.
Today in everything but name, the Democratic Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln. And where in truth do our opponents stand? We heard the orators at their convention all trying to sound like moderates, but this time we say to the American people, before you read their lips, you better read their Platform.
It is the radical wish list of the education cutting, environmental trashing, Medicare slashing, choice denying, tolerance repudiating, gay bashing, Social Security threatening, assault rifle coddling, government closing, tax loophole granting — there’s more.
There’s more to come. Minimum wage-opposing, Republican majority that dominated the delegations in San Diego. The image makers tried to pretend it was otherwise. They tried with all the tricks at their disposal to create a false Platform that would hide the real one, but a false platform built on thin air cannot hold up a lumbering elephant laden down with a heavy weight of the Dole-Gingrich record.
And a campaign that almost went up in smoke cannot be reclaimed by a convention of smoke and mirrors. I have served with Bob Dole in the Senate. I like and respect him as a person. But I take issue with his backward vision of America. They say there’s a new Bob Dole, but let’s not lose sight of the old Bob Dole. He wasn’t exactly a merry old soul.
He was the compliant partner in the so-called Gingrich revolution. Newt Gingrich thought it up, but Bob Dole swallowed it hook, line and sinker. And when our opponents put their ticket together, they left out the last name. Their real ticket is the famous Republican trio of reaction, Dole, Kemp and Gingrich.
Our opponents oppose the ban on assault weapons and the waiting period for handguns. You cannot be tough on crime if you’re soft on criminals getting guns. But that is exactly the position of Dole, Kemp and Gingrich.
Our opponents tried to cut funding and enforcement to clean up our environment. You cannot put the big polluters in charge of our air and water, but that is exactly the position of Dole, Kemp and Gingrich.
Our opponents, our opponents have called for a constitutional amendment to outlaw a woman’s right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest. You cannot close the gender gap while raising walls against the most basic of women’s rights, but that is exactly the position of Dole, Kemp and Gingrich.
Our opponents tried to enact the largest education cuts in American history and to end direct student loans for college. You cannot improve schools by attacking teachers, but that is the unacceptable and unworthy tactic of Dole, Kemp and Gingrich.
I believe that Bob Dole’s acceptance address was the first anti-teacher, anti-education speech ever delivered by a Presidential nominee of either major party.
I would rather have a Convention praised by those who teach our children than a convention beholden to Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson and all the others who preach narrow doctrines that have far more to do with politics than with faith. In the end, all they offer is warmed-over supply-side economics that devastated our economy in the past.
Bob Dole will not tell us how he would pay for his plan, but a secret plan to pay for a Dole tax cut is as dangerous as Richard Nixon’s secret plan to end the war. You and I know what our opponents would do. I have watched Bob Dole on the floor of the Senate vote to cut Medicare, not once, not twice, but time and time again. I know his votes. I know Bob Dole. And Bob Dole is no friend of Medicare.
Once, not so long ago, this was thought to be a lost election, and a lost chance for progress in economic justice.
But the lesson is, if we stand our ground, we can prevail.
And over the obstruction of Bob Dole and the bitter resistance of the Gingrich Congress, we have just passed an increase in the minimum wage. They wanted tax give aways to help those who make $200,000 a year or $2 million a year. We demanded at least $5.15 an hour for working men and women. We fought so hard for the minimum wage that it was said that we drove Bob Dole from the Senate. And we wish him a long, happy retirement. With the same kind of long, hard fight we also won health insurance reform.
Now the opponents who resisted and subverted it day after day are actually attempting to claim credit for it. Let them try. Who will ever believe that the Republicans were actually for health care reform?
In the next four years, we will repair the social contract so that working families will share fairly in the profits created by their talent, time and spirit so that all the gains will not be funneled into solely the stratospheric salaries for CEO’s.
We will end the shameful subsidies that pay American companies to close down plants and lay off workers in this country and move jobs to cheap labor overseas.
We will close the tax loophole for billionaire Benedict Arnolds who renounced their American citizenship to avoid taxes on the vast fortunes that they have earned in the United States of America. Let them go, but not before they pay the taxes that they owe. In the months ahead, if we hold our Democratic standard high, we will win and we will deserve to win. And in the years ahead, if we hold to our enduring principles, we will convert victory for our party into a renewed America for our people. Our day is different. We must match our answers to our times. But there is a powerful tie between values and vision, between past and future, between who we are and what we hope for our country.
Thirty-three years ago this summer, a young man from Boy’s Nation stood in the Rose Garden and shook the hand of a young President. That day Bill Clinton took my brother’s hand and now he is the young President who has taken up the fallen standard, the belief that America can do better, and we will do better with President William Jefferson Clinton leading us into the next American century.