REMARKS OF SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, AT A "CHANGE WE NEED" RALLY
Copyright ©2008 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-202-216-2706.
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you! Thank you, Pueblo! Thank you!
What an unbelievable crowd on an unbelievable day here in Pueblo, Colorado!
I like this weather. I'm telling you, it was a little cooler the last time I was in Colorado. It is beautiful today. And I am just thrilled to be here today.
And I just, I want to thank all of you for being here. But I have some special thank yous I've got to make. First of all, one of the finest governors in the United States, give it up for Bill Ritter! (Applause, cheers.)
I want to thank one of my dearest friends. He and I actually came in together at a time when it was tough for Democrats. And right away, he made his mark on issues across the board, working in a bipartisan fashion. He's one of the finest men I know, in addition to being one of the finest senators. Give it up for Ken Salazar! (Applause, cheers.)
Not to be outdone, you've got one of the finest young members of Congress in his brother John Salazar! (Applause, cheers.) Your own congressman.
Although he's not here, I want to make sure everybody knows that it's not sufficient to vote for Obama, you've got to vote for Mark Udall to become the next United States senator from Colorado! (Applause, cheers.)
I want to thank one of my dearest friends. He was one of my earliest supporters, a national co-chair, former mayor, former secretary of Transportation, Federico Pena! (Applause, cheers.) Plus, I just like saying his name. (Laughter.) Federico! Love that guy.
And finally, one of the greatest military commanders that we've had in a generation, somebody who has served us with such great distinction in our military and now continues to serve in all sorts of not-for-profit and public interest ways, please give a huge round of applause to General Wesley Clark. (Applause, cheers.)
Colorado, I have just two words for you -- three days, three days! (Applause, cheers.) After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George W. Bush -- (boos) -- you don't have to boo, you just have to vote -- (applause, cheers) -- twenty-one months of a campaign that's taken us from the rocky shores of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are three days away from bringing fundamental change to the United States of America! (Applause, cheers.)
In three days, you can turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street.
In three days, you can choose policies that invest in our middle class and create new jobs, grow the economy so that everybody has a chance to succeed, not just the CEO but the secretary, not just the factory owner but the men and the women on the factory floor.
In three days, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election, that tries to pit region against region and city against town and Republican against Democrat, that asks us to fear instead of hope.
In three days of this defining moment in history, all of you can give this country the change that we need.
You know, we began this journey in the depths of winter nearly two years ago on the steps of the old state capitol in Springfield, Illinois where Abraham Lincoln once served. And back then, we didn't have a lot of money, we didn't have many endorsements, we weren't given much of a chance by the polls or the pundits. And we knew how steep our climb was going to be.
But I also knew this. I knew that the size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics. I was convinced that Democrats and Republicans, Americans of every political stripe, they were hungry for new ideas and new leadership and a new kind of politics -- (cheers) -- one that favors commonsense over ideology, one that focuses on getting things done, one that values what we have in common instead of what drives us apart. (Applause, cheers.)
Most of all, I knew the American people. I knew the American people were decent and generous and willing to work hard, willing to sacrifice on behalf of future generations. And I was convinced that when we come together, like we're together today, our voices are more powerful than the most entrenched lobbyists or the most vicious political attack or the full force of the status quo in Washington. Nothing can beat the people when they come together! (Applause, cheers.)
And 21 months later, my faith in the American people has been vindicated. That's how we've come so far, how we've come so close because of you. That's how we're going to change this country, with your help. And that's why we can't afford to slow down or sit back or let up one day, one minute or one second in these final three days. (Applause, cheers.) Not now, not when so much is at stake.
We've got to win Colorado! And we're going to win this election!
Yes, we can!
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Yes, we can!
SEN. OBAMA: Si, se puede!
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Si, se puede!
SEN. OBAMA: We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Seven hundred and sixty thousand workers have lost their jobs since the beginning of the year. Businesses and families can't get credit. Home values are plummeting. Pensions are disappearing. It's even harder to make the mortgage or fill up your gas tank or just keep the electricity on at the end of the month.
At this moment, the last thing we can afford is four more years of the tired, old, stale economic theories that say we should give more and more money to billionaires and millionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down on everybody else. (Boos.
The last thing we can afford is four more years where no one in Washington is willing to regulate what happens on Wall Street because lobbyists kill it. And so you end up having bankers and financial institutions running wild and dragging down the rest of the economy in the process.
See, those economic theories are what got us into this mess in the first place. They haven't worked. It is time for change, and that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America!
Now, Senator McCain has served this country honorably. He can point to a few moments over the past eight years where he's broken from George Bush. But when it comes to the economy, when it comes to the issue that's most important in this election, the plain truth is is that John McCain has stood with this president every step of the way. He has not been a maverick, he has been a sidekick -- (applause, cheers) -- voting for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that he once said were irresponsible, voting for the Bush budgets that took us from record surpluses into record deficits, calling for less regulation, 21 times just this year, at a time when everyone else, I think, began to understand that we needed to increase regulation in our financial markets to protect consumers.
After 21 months and three debates, John McCain still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing he'd do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy -- not one thing. Think about it. You've been watching a lot of ads from John McCain. You can't tell me that you know what he plans to do with the economy because he hasn't told you. All he's been doing is talking about me. (Applause, cheers.) That's what he's doing.
But let me tell you, when John McCain wants to give a $700,000 tax cut to the average Fortune 500 CEO, that's not change. That's what George Bush did. It's not change when he wants to give $200 billion to the biggest corporations, $4 billion to the oil companies, even though ExxonMobil made record profits again last quarter, broke their own record from the previous quarter and the quarter before that, $300 billion to the same Wall Street banks that got us into this mess.
It's not change when John McCain comes up with a tax plan that doesn't give a penny of relief to more than 100 million middle-class Americans.
You know, my daughters, Malia and Sasha, are here today. And they always have trouble -- (applause, cheers) -- they have trouble every year deciding what they want to be for Halloween. (Laughter.) John McCain doesn't have that problem because he goes out and trick- or-treats as George Bush! (Applause, cheers.)
Now, the truth is actually President Bush is sitting out the last few days before the election. But earlier today, Dick Cheney -- (boos) -- you don't have to boo, just vote -- (cheers) -- earlier today, Dick Cheney came out of his undisclosed location -- (laughter) -- and he hit the campaign trail. And he said that he is, and I quote, "delighted to support John McCain."
So I'd like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement -- (laughter, cheers) -- because he really earned it. That endorsement didn't come easy. Senator McCain had to vote with George Bush 90 percent of the time and agree with Dick Cheney to get it. McCain had to serve as Washington's biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq and supports economic policies that are no different from the last eight years. So Senator McCain worked hard to get Dick Cheney's support.
But here's my question for you, Colorado. Do you think Dick Cheney is "delighted" to support John McCain because he thinks John McCain is going to bring change to Washington?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No!
SEN. OBAMA: Do you think John McCain and Dick Cheney have been talking about how to really shake things up, get rid of the lobbyists and put Halliburton on the sidelines and put an end to the old-boys club in Washington?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: No!
SEN. OBAMA: Come on, Colorado, we know better! After all, it was just a few days ago that Senator McCain had said that he and President Bush share a common philosophy. And we know that when it comes to foreign policy, John McCain and Dick Cheney share a common philosophy also, one that thinks that empty bluster from Washington is going to fix all our problems and that a war without end in Iraq is the way to defeat Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorists who are in Afghanistan and Pakistan and who are the ones that killed 3,000 Americans.
So George Bush may be in an undisclosed location now, but Dick Cheney's out there on the campaign trail because he'd be "delighted" to pass the baton to John McCain. He knows that with John McCain you get a twofer -- George Bush's economic policies and Dick Cheney's foreign policy. And that is a risk that the American people cannot afford to take. (Applause, cheers.) It's time for change, and that's why I'm running for president of the United States! (Applause, cheers.)
Look, Pueblo, we've tried it John McCain's way, we've tried it George Bush's way, we've tried it Dick Cheney's way. It hasn't worked. And John McCain knows that, which is why his campaign said that if we keep on talking about the economy we're going to lose. That's why I'm talking about the economy, right? (Applause, cheers.)
On the other hand, that's why John McCain's spending these last few weeks calling me every name in the book, everything but a child of God -- (laughter) -- because that's how you play the game in Washington. When you can't win on the strength of your ideas, then you try to make a big election about small things. So I expect that we're going to see a lot more of that over the next few days, more slash-and-burn, say-anything-do-anything politics that's designed to distract us and divide us, to tear us apart instead of bringing us together. Well, that's not the kind of politics the American people need right now.
Colorado, at this moment in this election, we have the chance to do more than just beat back this kind of politics in the short term. We can end it once and for all. We can prove that the thing that's more powerful than that kind of politics is the will and determination of the American people. We can change this country. (Applause, cheers.)
Yes, we can!
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Yes, we can!
SEN. OBAMA: Si, se puede!
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Si, se puede!
SEN. OBAMA: We can prove we're not as divided as our politics would suggest, that we're more than a collection of red states and blue states, we're the United States. (Applause, cheers.) We can build a future that we know is possible, as one people and as one nation. That's why I'm running for president.
Now, I know these are difficult times. I know many of you are anxious out there by your futures. But I also know that we've faced difficult times before. The American story has never been about things coming easy, it's been about rising to the moment when the moment was hard. It's about rejecting fear and division for unity of purpose. That's how we overcame war and oppression. That's how we won the great struggles for civil rights and womens rights and workers rights. That's how we'll write the next great chapter in the American story.
Now, understand if we want to meet the challenge of this moment that we need to get beyond the old ideological debates between left and right. We need commonsense. That's what Bill Ritter's about. That's what the Salazar brothers are about. (Cheers.) They understand that the job of an elected official, whether it's a president or a council member, is to solve problems, deliver for the people, don't spend all your time bickering, stay off the cable news shows.
You know, and I watch sometimes those shows, and I realize, you know, you're arguing about the past. We need to be talking about the future! (Applause, cheers.) We don't need bigger government or smaller government, we need a better government, a smarter government, a more competent government, one that upholds the values that we hold in common as Americans.
The choice in this election isn't between tax cuts and no tax cuts, it's about who you give tax cuts to.
It's about whether you believe we should only reward wealthy people or whether we should also reward the work and the workers who create it.
Now, there's been a lot of misinformation, Pueblo, so I want to be real clear here. I will give a tax break to 95 percent of Americans who work every day and get taxes taken out of their paycheck every week. (Applause, cheers.) That's my tax plan, to give you a break.
I'll help pay for this by asking the folks who are making more than $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying back in the 1990s under Bill Clinton.
Now, let me just see a show of hands. How many people make less than a quarter-million dollars a year? Raise your hand.
I think that's the majority there.
So no matter what John McCain may claim, here are the facts. If you make under one-quarter million (dollars), you will not see your taxes increase one single dime, not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains tax, no tax. We don't need to raise taxes on the middle class.
But we do need to make sure that we are growing the economy from the bottom up. That's what Bill Clinton did. He created 22 million new jobs. And by the way, we created more millionaires and more billionaires because they actually had customers for their businesses. That's what we need to do again. That's what I'm going to do as president of the United States of America! (Applause, cheers.)
We need jobs in America. And when it comes to jobs, the choice in this election is not between putting up a wall around America or standing by and doing nothing.
And the truth is, we're not going to be able to bring back every job that's been lost here in Pueblo. Manufacturing's changed, technology has changed. But that doesn't mean we should just sit on our hands. We certainly shouldn't do what John McCain is suggesting, keep on giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. We should be giving those tax breaks to companies that invest right here in Pueblo! That invest in Colorado! That invest in the United States of America! (Applause, cheers.)
We've got to compete on the global stage. We shouldn't be afraid of trade with other countries, but we should make sure that other countries aren't taking advantage of us. We should make sure that they've got labor agreements and environmental agreements, that they're not manipulating their currency but they're letting our products into their markets.
And you know what we also have to do? We've got to think about creating jobs to our infrastructure. We need to rebuild roads and bridges, schools -- (applause, cheers) -- lay broadband lines in rural communities so companies will locate there. We can create 2 million new jobs creating a 21st century infrastructure.
And we can invest $15 billion a year, taking the lead from Governor Ritter, in investing in renewable sources of energy in a new energy economy -- (applause, cheers) -- 5 million new energy jobs over the next decade, jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced, jobs making solar panels and wind turbines and building the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow, not in Japan, not in South Korea, but right here in Pueblo, right here in the United States of America. (Applause, cheers.) That's our future!
When it comes to health care, we don't have to choose between a government-run health system and the unaffordable one we have now. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change under my plan is that we'll lower premiums. We'll work with your employer to save you money.
Now, if you don't have health insurance, you'll be able to get the same kind of health insurance that members of Congress get for themselves.
We'll invest in prevention and new technologies that can lower costs and reduce errors, making people healthier. And as someone who watched his mother spend the final months of her life arguing with insurance companies because they said that he cancer was a preexisting condition, they didn't want to pay for her treatment, I will stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most. It is wrong, and it will end when I am president of the United States of America. (Applause, cheers.)
If we want to build for the future, then we are going to have to give every child in America -- every child -- a world-class education. (Applause, cheers.) And the choice is not between more money and more reform. Our schools need both.
As president, I want to invest in early childhood education to close the achievement gap.
I want to recruit an army of new teachers. I want to pay all our teachers more money and give them more support. (Applause, cheers.) We'll demand higher standards and more accountability.
And we will make a deal with every young person who is here, every young person in America. We say to young people, if you're willing to be a part of national service, whatever it is, serving in the military, serving in the Peace Corps, serving in a homeless shelter or a veterans home, whatever national service you choose, we will make sure that you can afford to go to college. No ifs, ands or buts. (Applause, cheers.) We will make that investment in you because you're investing in America.
And finally, when it comes to keeping this country safe, we don't have to choose between retreating from the world and fighting a war without end in Iraq. It's time to stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqi government sits on a huge surplus and we have crying needs here at home.
As president, I will end this war! I will end it!
I'll ask the Iraqi government to step up for their future. And I will finally finish the fight against bin Laden and al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. They shouldn't still be sending out videos. They shouldn't still be training terrorists to attack us. We should have never taken our eye off the ball. (Applause, cheers.)
And I will never hesitate to defend this nation. But I will make sure that our service men and women have the best training and the best equipment when they deploy into combat and that they receive the care and the benefits that they have earned when they come home. (Applause, cheers.) No more homeless veterans. No more begging for disability payments. Treat our veterans with honor and with respect! That's what we owe them, and that's what I will do as president.
Now, Pueblo, I won't stand here and pretend that any of this is going to be easy. You know, Bush and Cheney, they dug a deep hole. Now they're trying to hand the shovel to McCain. (Laughter.
The costs of this economic crisis, the costs of the war in Iraq means that Washington's going to have to tighten its belt, just like families are having to tighten their belt, just like businesses are having to tighten their belt. We've got to put off spending on things that we don't need.
As president, I'm going to go through the federal budget line by line. I'll work with John Salazar and Ken Salazar. We're going to eliminate programs that we don't need, make the ones that we do need work better and cost less. That's what Bill Ritter has to do. He has to balance his budget.
But as I said, from the day we began this journey, the change we need is not going to come from government alone. It will come from each of us doing our part in our lives, in our own communities. It's going to come from each of us looking out for each other as well as ourselves and our families.
We need a new era of responsibility. (Applause, cheers.) Now, government is going to have to lead on energy independence, but each of us has to do our part to make our homes, our businesses more energy efficient.
We've got to put more money into our schools, but I can't turn off the TV set and make sure that your child does their homework. That's your job. (Applause, cheers.) We've got to have parents taking responsibility to instill in their children a thirst for knowledge.
We need a return to responsibility, but we also need a return to civility. You know, we can argue and debate our positions passionately, but all of us have to summon the strength and the grace and the humor to bridge our differences, to unite in common effort. Look at this crowd -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Democrat, Republican, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, disabled, not disabled. (Applause, cheers.) All of us have to come together to move this country forward!
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!
SEN. OBAMA: In this election, we can't afford the same old political games. We can't afford the same tactics that pit us against each other, make us afraid of one another. Despite what our opponents may claim, there are no real or fake parts of this country. There is no city or town that's more pro American than anywhere else. We are one nation, all of us proud, all of us patriots. (Applause, cheers.)
All the men and women who serve in our battlefields, some are Democrats, some are Republicans, some are independents. But they've fought together, and they've bled together, and some have died together under the same proud flag. They have served the United States of America. (Applause, cheers.)
And we have to have that same attitude in our political lives, in our communities, in our homes.
You know, it won't be easy, Colorado. It won't be quick. But you and I know that this is the time. This is the time to change our country. (Applause, cheers.) I know some of you may be cynical, some of you may be fed up with politics. Some of you standing out there, you were kind of curious. You're thinking, oh, you know, these politicians, they say all this stuff before an election, nothing ever happens.
You have every right to be frustrated, every right to be cynical. But despite all of this, I ask of you what's been asked of the American people at every difficult time throughout our history. I ask you to believe, not just in my ability to bring about change but in yours.
I know this change is possible. I've seen it. I've seen it over the last 21 months. In this campaign, I've had the privilege to witness what's best in America. I've seen the faces of men and women that I've met at countless rallies and town halls across the country, men and women who speak of their struggles but also of their hopes and their dreams.
I had a rally in Fort Lauderdale a little while ago. And it was a great rally. A few days later, I get an e-mail from a woman named Robin (sp) who had attended this rally. And she explained in her e- mail that sometime after our event, her son, who was in high school, nearly went into cardiac arrest and was diagnosed with a heart condition that could only be treated with a procedure that cost tens of thousands of dollars. And her insurance company refused to pay it, and the family just didn't have that kind of money.
So in her e-mail, Robin (sp) wrote, Senator Obama, I ask only this of you. On the days where you feel so tired you can't think of uttering another word to the people, think of us. When those who opposed you have you down, reach deep and fight back harder. (Applause, cheers.)
Colorado, that's what hope is. That's what this election is all about. That's what kept some of our parents and grandparents going when times were tough, what led them to say, maybe I can't go to college, but if I save a little bit each week, maybe my child can go to college. Maybe I can't own my own business, maybe I've got to work at a factory or work on the ranch, but I tell you what, if I work really hard, maybe my child can open up a business of her own or have a ranch of her own.
It's what led those who could not vote to say, if I march and organize, maybe my child or grandchild, they can vote, or maybe they can run for Congress, or maybe they can run for U.S. Senate, or maybe they can run for president of the United States of America!
Pueblo, that's what hope is! That thing inside that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that there are better days ahead if we're willing to work for it, if we're willing to shed our fears, if we're willing to reach deep inside ourselves when we're tired, when we're discouraged, when cynicism is creeping up on us and we come back and we fight harder.
Now, don't believe for a second this election is over. Don't think for a minute that power will concede anything without a fight. We're going to have to work like our future depends on it in these last few days because it does!
But I know this, Colorado. The time for change has come. We have a righteous wind at our backs. And if in these last few days you will knock on some doors for me, if you will make some phone calls for me, if you will find out where to early vote for me, if you'll stand with me and fight by my side, then I promise you we will not just win Pueblo, we will not just win Colorado, but you and I together we're going to win this election, we are going to win this election, and we are going to change the country, and we are going to change the world!
Thank you, everybody! God bless you! God bless the United States of America!