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Public Statements

Kerry's Remarks at Robert Kennedy Endorsement Event

Location: New York, NY

September  17,  2003
New York, NY -

"Thank you Bobby for your support and your kind words.  Bobby Kennedy is an environmental hero - someone who hasn't just talked about preserving our environment but gone out and done it.

I'm running for President because I want to give Bobby Kennedy and all the other environmental defenders out there less to do - because under George Bush they are working overtime. 

George Bush is the kind of politician who would cut down a tree and then climb on its stump to give a speech about conservation.  Since he has made it easier to clear cut acres of forests, we can expect plenty more speeches about the environment.  But the American people won't be fooled by his rhetoric.  They know his record.

This President has not only refused to act, he has set back the cause of environmental protection in ways that will do lasting damage to America's communities and natural heritage. 

President Bush broke a campaign promise to reduce the harmful carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming from power plants.  Instead of enforcing the law, he's taking environmental cops off the beat and letting power plants pollute our air.  Instead of renegotiating the Kyoto Treaty to improve it, he simply repudiated it - and took a fateful step toward isolating America in the world.  He's made taxpayers instead of polluters pay for clean ups.  He's stood in the way of our efforts to make cars cleaner and more fuel efficient.  And despite all our efforts to stop him, he continues to want to open up our most pristine and sacred national resources to destructive development and drilling.

The difference between us and George Bush is one of vision.  Where we see a pristine wilderness or a scenic coast, George Bush sees an oil field.  Where we see a beautiful mountaintop, George Bush sees a strip mine.  Where we see a pristine old growth forest, George Bush sees toothpicks.  And where we see an opportunity to join the global community to fight global warming, George Bush sees a chance to curry favor with his buddies in the oil business.

Under President Bush, America's environment has become threatened, endangered, and imperiled.  I'm running to make America safer, stronger, and more secure.  And we know protecting our environment is central to that cause.

Our commitment to the environment is a compact with our children, our grandchildren and the generations beyond.  To keep clean the water they drink, the air they breathe, the yards and parks in which they play and laugh, and the communities in which they live.

We need to strengthen environmental protection, not roll it back. We need to strengthen the Clean Air Act and reduce mercury, sulfur, nitrogen and carbon emissions. We need to clean up more toxic sites and reduce the harmful chemicals being released into our air, water and land. And we need to lead the world in reducing, not creating, the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

If we care about the national security of America, we can settle for nothing less than energy security for America. The dollars we spend at the pump can too easily be diverted to finance the very terrorists that would seek to destroy us. The threats that America faces today don't just come from gun barrels, they come from oil barrels - and we need to disarm that danger.

Its time we stood up to say that energy security is national security - and by putting big oil's interests before the national interest - George Bush and Dick Cheney have harmed our environment, cost us jobs, and made our country more vulnerable to blackmail by hostile powers.  I have put together a comprehensive, detailed plan to end America's reliance on Mideast oil within the next decade.  It's right for our security.  Right for our economy.  Right for our environment.

We have the technology to manufacture cars with far better gas mileage - and we can and must do it now. And not a single American will have to give up driving an SUV or a pick-up truck. But at the same time, we need to repeal the outrageous one hundred thousand dollar tax break for the purchase of luxury gas-guzzlers like Hummers. This was not intended to subsidize lavish and inefficient machines. Americans have the right to drive whatever car they want - but at a time of international threats, and in a generation of long term danger, they don't have the right to have the government finance more dependence on foreign oil.

As President, I will put environmental justice center stage.  For too long, poor and minority communities have been overlooked when it came to the environment.  For too long, they've felt they didn't have the power to fight back.  And for too long, polluters thought they could get away with breaking the law as long as it was in someone else's back yard.  Those days need to end.  Under a Kerry Administration, no community will have their environment overlooked.  They will have the power to fight back.  And the polluters won't get away with it any more.

We have a moral responsibility to pass a healthy and safe world on to our children and children's children.  Unfortunately, this Administration puts politics and corporate profits ahead of protecting our environment.  Time and again, they have sacrificed science and the truth to George Bush's aides in the White House crossed out scientific references to climate change in an official EPA report.  And according to reports, they replaced that language with text from a pseudo-study funded by the American Petroleum Institute. 

Two years ago today, a week after the attacks on September 11th, the head of the EPA went before the nation to say the air around Ground Zero was - quote - "safe to breathe."  Now we are learning that was far from the whole truth.  It was not supported by real facts.  In fact, it was a whitewash.  Political appointees in the White House edited the EPA findings and changed the conclusions for reasons that have nothing to do with real science. 

New Yorkers are tough.  Anyone who's ever taken the subway knows it.  And on September 11th this city was tested as never before.  You were a shining example of courage to the rest of our country and the world.  New Yorkers are tough enough to take the truth and to be trusted with the truth.  On 9-11 you earned that at the very least.

New Yorkers bore the burden of their loss, shared in the struggles of recovery and reconstruction, honored and remembered the victims - and they deserved better than a dangerous lie.  Firefighters and construction workers and parents of school children all relied on these Bush Administration findings.  They thought they were getting an assurance of safety - instead they got an environmental cover-up. 

Today, I join the leaders in this city who have called for an immediate investigation in both Congress and the Department of Justice on whether environmental health was compromised by White House interference.  Americans deserve a safe environment - and they deserve an Administration that tells the truth.

Standing here with a dedicated American like Bobby Kennedy - someone with a vision and the courage to make it happen - I am reminded of what his father achieved and the legacy he passed down to all of us.  Thirty-five years ago, I was onboard a ship crossing the Pacific from Vietnam.  The first sound we heard on our radios as we neared shore was the crackle of coverage from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.  It was the night Robert Kennedy's crusade ended.

And I remember clearly the words spoken a few days later by Senator Ted Kennedy - his brother and my colleague in the US Senate.  Here, in this city, he quoted George Bernard Shaw and issued a challenge that echoes across the years: "Some
men dream things that are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not?"

Why not protect our coasts and our rivers and our forests?

Why not preserve our environment so our great grandchildren can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and know they too live in a land called "America the Beautiful?"

Why not bring environmental justice and safety and health to all our communities, so that all Americans enjoy their natural birthright?

That is what my campaign is all about.  That is why I am so honored to have Bobby Kennedy's support.  And that's why I am ready to be a President who will give Americans - today and tomorrow - the environment they deserve."

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