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Remarks of Senator John Kerry at the Massachusetts State Convention

Location: Lowell, MA

"A New Patriotism for America"

Nikki, I am so grateful for your generous and personal introduction - it means the world to me. I know you and Paul have shown me great kindness and support through the years and I've been proud to join some of the fights he fought in the United States Senate.

Everyone in this arena joins me in thanking you and Paul for your contributions to the life of our state and our country, and we thank you for your continued presence and leadership in our Party.

I want to say a word about another very special lady - Willie Mae Allen.  Her first year at this convention she looked around and counted 46 minority delegates out of four thousand - and she knew something was wrong.  Look around this arena today - the diversity that is here - the diversity we celebrate - was made possible because of the Willie Mae Allen Amendment - twenty years old this year.  Willie Mae, we all join in saying thank you  to an extraordinary woman.

It is good to be home in Massachusetts.  I have walked and worked alongside so many of you from the struggle to stop the Vietnam war, through long years from the first Earth Day to the newest judicial confirmation battle to prevent a far right takeover of the Constitution and the courts. I have been proud to serve as a prosecutor here, grateful to serve as your Lieutenant Governor, and honored to represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States Senate. 

And with your help, I hope to take our values, our vision, and our commitment to progress straight to the White House.
My friends: Let me make something clear: I worked with aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin - for real. I know something about aircraft carriers and I'm glad the President thanked our men and women in uniform for their service.

But having a skilled Navy pilot land you on an aircraft carrier doesn't make up for a failed economic policy - it doesn't make up for union-busting - for degrading our environment - for standing in the way of civil rights --  and it won't convince America to let you privatize Social Security.

It doesn't make up for leaving 12 million children behind with the stroke of a pen by denying them a child care tax credit so people earning more than $315,000 a year get another tax cut. You know what it took to make up for that? It took the outrage of Democrats to pass an amendment 2 days ago to undo the unfairness the Republicans were willing to overlook.

My fellow Democrats: We need to bring that sense of outrage to the center of our effort to win back the White House. This is not the normal contest of Democrats versus Republicans. This is a contest between common sense American values and extreme ideologues whose agenda is to dismantle 50 years of Democratic achievement and we're not going to let them do it.
Last week I read in the New York Times that some people were frustrated that they couldn't tell the difference between us and them.

Well, I say to them: Take out the earplugs, open your eyes - sit up and listen up: the differences could not be more clear - the agenda could not be more compelling - and the stakes could not be higher.

2 and a half million jobs lost in two years. They promised with their first tax cut a million jobs would be created. A million were lost.

Now they come with another tax cut - 54% of it goes to 1% of America - they accelerate the highest rate cuts for the wealthiest Americans and wait for the trickle down. Well, I know a lot of hard working Americans who are tired of getting trickled on.

Our agenda is as clear as it is different and fairer. We want to create jobs now by giving a middle class tax cut that puts money in the pockets of all  now; by restoring confidence in our economy with fiscal responsibility - by investing in schools, cities, transportation, housing, rural communities - and put Americans back to work now.  We want to make clear that with retirement accounts wiped out, unemployment compensation denied, COPS programs cut, surpluses blown, deficits as far as the eye can see, the one American who deserves to be laid off is George W Bush.

They want to criminalize the right of women to choose, take us back to the days of back alleys, gag doctors and deny families the right to plan and be aware of their choices - we want to protect the constitutional right of privacy and make clear that at the center of this struggle is our commitment to have a Supreme Court that will protect the equal rights, the civil rights, and the right to choose in this nation.

At the center of this struggle is our commitment not to go backwards on the Family and Medical Leave Act, on the Violence Against Women Act, on Title Nine, on Affirmative Action and to make clear that when I am President of the United States - there will be no John Ashcroft trampling on the Bill of Rights.

The Republicans talk about family values - but that's all it is, talk! And as we know, talk is cheap. I believe it's time we really valued families by doing more than making speeches about children, giving bills fancy names and then refusing to fund them.

The President dares to call his education bill 'The No Child Left Behind Act' but with the stroke of a pen he turned it into an unfunded mandate denying teachers, children and parents the resources needed to do the job. I will criss-cross this country and I will hold this President accountable for making a mockery of the words "Leave No Child Behind"!

I'm running for President because instead of spending $50,000 a year for a young person's jail cell, we should be investing $10,000 a year for a young person's future with early childhood education, child care, Head Start, Smart Start, Healthy Start, a real start on the road to full citizenship.

The President talks about compassionate conservatism but where is the compassion in denying workers safety standards in the workplace; attacking the 40 hour work week and prevailing wage; where is the compassion in opposing a minimum wage increase let alone a living wage and remaining content to let people work for less than poverty levels in America?

I will remind those Republicans content to give speeches about the heroes of New York City that every one of those firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical personnel who rushed up the steps to give their lives so that others might live - they were all members of organized labor and they believed in the right to bargain - the right to organize - and the right to strike and they deserve a President who protects the rights of working people.

They talk about homeland security but cut the funding for cops and firefighters - We should not be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in New York City. If we can find the money to build schools, roads, hospitals, provide books in Iraq, we can do it here at home.

They march us backwards on the environment - seeking to undo clean air and clean water protections, they walk away from global warming, they can't wait to develop wetlands and drill in national monuments.

But we are committed to making our legacy for the environment a great issue of our time. I am proud to have lead the fight John McCain and I lost to raise fuel efficiency standards on our cars - and I am proud to have lead the fight we won to stop drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

But now we must engage in the greatest challenge of all - We must decide that just as President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon in the 1960's, we will  'go to the moon' right here on earth by declaring that never again will young American soldiers, men and women, be held hostage to our dependency on Middle East oil. We need a President who will boldly set America on the path to energy independence. God only gave us 3% of the world's oil reserves! There is no metaphysical or miraculous way for us to drill our way out of a 60% foreign oil dependency - We have to invent our way out of it and I want American jobs and American ingenuity leading the way!

44 percent of all our lakes and rivers are unfishable and unswimmable - it's time to recreate the partnership and jobs to clean them up.

It is time to rejoin the world and offer an alternative to the Kyoto Treaty - time for America to rejoin the world community and take back the lead in creating jobs to clean up the environment - lifting less developed nations instead of exploiting them.  

They stand by while 44 million Americans go without health care and the cost of prescription drugs go through the roof.
I'm running for President because it is long since overdue that the United States of America stops being the only industrialized nation on this planet that doesn't have health care available for all of its citizens.

I'm running to make health care in America a right and not a privilege - to help every American afford the same health care the President, Vice President, and Members of Congress give themselves. If it's good enough for us, it's good enough for every American.

For all the issues where they are taking us backwards or taking us nowhere at all, the Republicans are betting Americans will forgive them in 2004 because of national security and the war on terrorism. 

Well, I have news for them: We as Democrats will not cede this issue to them.  I am running for President because after September 11th, we need a President who has the experience and the vision to make this country safer, stronger and more secure.

President Clinton said it best: the 2002 elections proved that strong and wrong beats weak and right. Well I am running for President to lead a Democratic Party that has a foreign policy that is strong and right. 

I am running for President because as committed as I am to having the most powerful military on the face of this planet, even the United States of America needs friends and allies on this planet and we better get about the business of making them.

And there's another difference critical to our politics.

They are content to let more and more money distort the American agenda and diminish the quality of our own democracy. With George Bush in the White House, we have seen a "get mine and get out" ethic that glorifies a creed of greed. Enron executives bilk the retirement savings of ordinary investors, and for months the Administration resists reform.  Polluters are given a free pass. 

Powerful corporations enjoy sweetheart deals at the expense of everyday Americans.  Lobbyists come in from the cold to write laws favoring the companies that pay their lavish bills.  Insiders ride a revolving door between the White House and major industries.  Failed CEOs get golden parachutes while their employees get pink slips.  And, for the first time in this nation's history, the most privileged among us get enormous tax breaks during a time of war.

I'm running for President to bring leadership to the White House that puts country before campaign contributions.
When I am President we will ask all our people to serve, to give something of themselves, to give something back - because more than ever, the real question we face is not what America can offer to us, but what each of us owes to America.
More than any other nation, America is not just a place on the globe but an idea - and at the heart of that idea is a belief in the dignity and duty of every citizen - that all of us have something to offer and each of us has a responsibility to contribute.

But beyond Washington, here in Massachusetts and in towns, suburbs, and cities everywhere in this nation, our people think their government has turned away from that ideal.  They think elected officials no longer ask them to enlist in a cause greater than themselves.  They think their leaders have given up balancing rights with responsibilities.  They think that our political debates too often descend into combat between entitlement and abandonment.

And they're right.

Americans deserve a government that has as much faith in the ideals of America as they do.  The deserve leaders for whom duty, honor, and responsibility are principles, not punch lines.

Today, in the aftermath of September 11th, with middle class Americans struggling and with America facing budget deficits and environmental destruction, we need a new patriotism - a progressive patriotism - that demands not only change at the top, but a spirit of service to harness the faith, the energy and the commitment of people of all ages in communities all across the country. A new patriotism that focuses on what we can give, not just what we can get.  I'm running for President  to remind this president that the American flag and patriotism doesn't belong to any political party - it belongs to all of us as Americans.

We're going to remember that GOTV doesn't stand for "go on TV," it means talking to Americans one-on-one and reminding them what's at stake.

And we're going to embrace our best traditions.  America doesn't need a Democratic Party that says "yes but less" or "yes but slower" to Republican policies that take us backward. It doesn't need a Democratic Party that is satisfied with defending our past achievements from Republican attack without also pursuing high ambitions for the future. I say to you: America doesn't need two Republican parties.

America doesn't need a Democratic Party that says "yes but less" or "yes but slower" to Republican policies that take us backward. It doesn't need a Democratic Party that is satisfied with defending our past achievements from Republican attack without also pursuing high ambitions for the future. I say to you: the one thing America doesn't need is a second Republican Party.

America needs a Democratic party that stands up for America - that stands up for jobs -  stands up for our rights - stands up for the environment - stands up for a secure America -  stands up for Social Security - stands up for health care for all.  You can  lead the way - now let's go out of here and win - let's make America safer, stronger, and more secure.

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