Well, things worked out a little different from the way I thought,
but let me tell you, I still love New York.
My fellow Democrats and my fellow Americans, I have come here tonight
not to argue as a candidate but to affirm a cause. I'm asking you--I am
asking you to renew the commitment of the Democratic Party to economic
I am asking you to renew our commitment to a fair and lasting prosperity
that can put America back to work.
This is the cause that brought me into the campaign and that sustained
me for nine months across 100,000 miles in 40 different states. We had
our losses, but the pain of our defeats is far, far less than the pain
of the people that I have met.
We have learned that it is important to take issues seriously, but
never to take ourselves too seriously.
The serious issue before us tonight is the cause for which the Democratic
Party has stood in its finest hours, the cause that keeps our Party young
and makes it, in the second century of its age, the largest political party
in this republic and the longest lasting political party on this planet.
Our cause has been, since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the cause
of the common man and the common woman.
Our commitment has been, since the days of Andrew Jackson, to all
those he called "the humble members of society--the farmers, mechanics,
and laborers." On this foundation we have defined our values, refined
our policies and refreshed our faith.
Now I take the unusual step of carrying the cause and the commitment
of my campaign personally to our national convention. I speak out of a
deep sense of urgency about the anguish and anxiety I have seen across
I speak out of a deep belief in the ideals of the Democratic Party,
and in the potential of that Party and of a President to make a difference.
And I speak out of a deep trust in our capacity to proceed with boldness
and a common vision that will feel and heal the suffering of our time and
the divisions of our Party.
The economic plank of this platform on its face concerns only material
things, but it is also a moral issue that I raise tonight. It has taken
many forms over many years. In this campaign and in this country that we
seek to lead, the challenge in 1980 is to give our voice and our vote for
these fundamental democratic principles.
Let us pledge that we will never misuse unemployment, high interest
rates, and human misery as false weapons against inflation.
Let us pledge that employment will be the first priority of our economic
Let us pledge that there will be security for all those who are now
at work, and let us pledge that there will be jobs for all who are out
of work; and we will not compromise on the issue of jobs.
These are not simplistic pledges. Simply put, they are the heart
of our tradition, and they have been the soul of our Party across the generations.
It is the glory and the greatness of our tradition to speak for those who
have no voice, to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations
and fulfill the aspirations of all Americans seeking a better life in a
We dare not forsake that tradition. We cannot let the great purposes
of the Democratic Party become the bygone passages of history.
We must not permit the Republicans to seize and run on the slogans
of prosperity. We heard the orators at their convention all trying to talk
like Democrats. They proved that even Republican nominees can quote Franklin
Roosevelt to their own purpose.
The Grand Old Party thinks it has found a great new trick, but 40
years ago an earlier generation of Republicans attempted the same trick.
And Franklin Roosevelt himself replied, "Most Republican leaders have
bitterly fought and blocked the forward surge of average men and women
in their pursuit of happiness. Let us not be deluded that overnight those
leaders have suddenly become the friends of average men and women."
"You know," he continued, "very few of us are that
gullible." And four years later when the Republicans tried that trick
again, Franklin Roosevelt asked "Can the Old Guard pass itself off
as the New Deal? I think not. We have all seen many marvelous stunts in
the circus, but no performing elephant could turn a handspring without
falling flat on its back."
The 1980 Republican convention was awash with crocodile tears for
our economic distress, but it is by their long record and not their recent
words that you shall know them.
The same Republicans who are talking about the crisis of unemployment
have nominated a man who once said, and I quote, "Unemployment insurance
is a prepaid vacation plan for freeloaders." And that nominee is no
friend of labor.
The same Republicans who are talking about the problems of the inner
cities have nominated a man who said, and I quote, "I have included
in my morning and evening prayers every day the prayer that the Federal
Government not bail out New York." And that nominee is no friend of
this city and our great urban centers across this Nation.
The same Republicans who are talking about security for the elderly
have nominated a man who said just four years ago that "Participation
in social security should be made voluntary." And that nominee is
no friend of the senior citizens of this Nation.
The same Republicans who are talking about preserving the environment
have nominated a man who last year made the preposterous statement, and
I quote, "Eighty percent of our air pollution comes from plants and
And that nominee is no friend of the environment.
And the same Republicans who are invoking Franklin Roosevelt have
nominated a man who said in 1976, and these are his exact words, "Fascism
was really the basis of the New Deal." And that nominee whose name
is Ronald Reagan has no right to quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The great adventures which our opponents offer is a voyage into the
past. Progress is our heritage, not theirs. What is right for us as Democrats
is also the right way for Democrats to win.
The commitment I seek is not to outworn views but to old values that
will never wear out. Programs may sometimes become obsolete, but the ideal
of fairness always endures.
Circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue.
It is surely correct that we cannot solve problems by throwing money at
them, but it is also correct that we dare not throw out our national problems
onto a scrap heap of inattention and indifference. The poor may be out
of political fashion, but they are not without human needs. The middle
class may be angry, but they have not lost the dream that all Americans
can advance together.
The demand of our people in 1980 is not for smaller government or
bigger government but for better government. Some say that government is
always bad and that spending for basic social programs is the root of our
economic evils. But we reply: The present inflation and recession cost
our economy $200 billion a year. We reply: Inflation and unemployment are
the biggest spenders of all.
The task of leadership in 1980 is not to parade scapegoats or to
seek refuge in reaction, but to match our power to the possibilities of
progress. While others talked of free enterprise, it was the Democratic
Party that acted and we ended excessive regulation in the airline and trucking
industry and we restored competition to the marketplace. And I take some
satisfaction that this deregulation was legislation that I sponsored and
passed in the Congress of the United States.
As Democrats we recognize that each generation of Americans has a
rendezvous with a different reality. The answers of one generation become
the questions of the next generation. But there is a guiding star in the
American firmament. It is as old as the revolutionary belief that all people
are created equal, and as clear as the contemporary condition of Liberty
City and the South Bronx.
Again and again Democratic leaders have followed that star and they
have given new meaning to the old values of liberty and justice for all.
We are the party. We are the party of the New Freedom, the New Deal
and the New Frontier. We have always been the party of hope. So this year
let us offer new hope, new hope to an America uncertain about the present,
but unsurpassed in its potential for the future.
To all those who are idle in the cities and industries of America
let us provide new hope for the dignity of useful work. Democrats have
always believed that a basic civil right of all Americans is their right
to earn their own way. The party of the people must always be the party
of full employment. To all those who doubt the future of our economy, let
us provide new hope for the reindustrialization of America. And let our
vision reach beyond the next election or the next year to a new generation
of prosperity. If we could rebuild Germany and Japan after World War II,
then surely we can reindustrialize our own nation and revive our inner
cities in the 1980s.
To all those who work hard for a living wage let us provide new hope
that the price of their employment shall not be an unsafe workplace and
a death at an earlier age.
To all those who inhabit our land from California to the New York
Island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulfstream waters, let us provide
new hope that prosperity shall not be purchased by poisoning the air, the
rivers and the natural resources that are the greatest gift of this continent.
We must insist that our children and our grandchildren shall inherit
a land which they can truly call America the beautiful.
To all those who see the worth of their work and their savings taken
by inflation, let us offer new hope for a stable economy. We must meet
the pressures of the present by invoking the full power of government to
master increasing prices.
In candor, we must say that the Federal budget can be balanced only
by policies that bring us to a balanced prosperity of full employment and
And to all those overburdened by an unfair tax structure, let us
provide new hope for real tax reform. Instead of shutting down classrooms,
let us shut off tax shelters.
Instead of cutting out school lunches, let us cut off tax subsidies
for expensive business lunches that are nothing more than food stamps for
The tax cut of our Republican opponents takes the name of tax reform
in vain. It is a wonderfully Republican idea that would redistribute income
in the wrong direction. It is good news for any of you with incomes over
$200,000 a year. For the few of you, it offers a pot of gold worth $14,000.
But the Republican tax cut is bad news for the middle income families.
For the many of you, they plan a pittance of $200 a year, and that
is not what the Democratic Party means when we say tax reform.
The vast majority of Americans cannot afford this panacea from a
Republican nominee who has denounced the progressive income tax as the
invention of Karl Marx. I am afraid he has confused Karl Marx with Theodore
Roosevelt--that obscure Republican president who sought and fought for
a tax system based on ability to pay. Theodore Roosevelt was not Karl Marx,
and the Republican tax scheme is not tax reform.
Finally, we cannot have a fair prosperity in isolation from a fair
society. So I will continue to stand for a national health insurance.
We must not surrender to the relentless medical inflation that can
bankrupt almost anyone and that may soon break the budgets of government
at every level. Let us insist on real control over what doctors and hospitals
can charge, and let us resolve that the state of a family's health shall
never depend on the size of a family's wealth.
The President, the Vice President, the members of Congress have a
medical plan that meets their needs in full, and whenever senators and
representatives catch a little cold, the Capitol physician will see them
immediately, treat them promptly, fill a prescription on the spot. We do
not get a bill even if we ask for it, and when do you think was the last
time a member of Congress asked for a bill from the Federal Government?
I say again, as I have before, if health insurance is good enough
for the President, the Vice President and the Congress of the United States,
then it is good enough for you and every family in America.
There were some who said we should be silent about our differences
on issues during this convention, but the heritage of the Democratic Party
has been a history of democracy. We fight hard because we care deeply about
our principles and purposes. We did not flee this struggle. We welcome
the contrast with the empty and expedient spectacle last month in Detroit
where no nomination was contested, no question was debated, and no one
dared to raise any doubt or dissent.
Democrats can be proud that we chose a different course and a different
platform. We can be proud that our Party stands for investment in safe
energy instead of a nuclear future that may threaten the future itself.
We must not permit the neighborhoods of America to be permanently
shadowed by the fear of another Three Mile Island.
We can be proud that our Party stands for a fair housing law to unlock
the doors of discrimination once and for all. The American house will be
divided against itself so long as there is prejudice against any American
buying or renting a home.
And we can be proud that our Party stands plainly and publicly and
persistently for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Women hold their rightful place at our convention, and women must
have their rightful place in the Constitution of the United States. On
this issue we will not yield, we will not equivocate, we will not rationalize,
explain or excuse. We will stand for E.R.A. and for the recognition at
long last that our nation was made up of founding mothers as well as founding
A fair prosperity and a just society are within our vision and our
grasp, and we do not have every answer. There are questions not yet asked,
waiting for us in the recesses of the future, but of this much we can be
certain because it is the lesson of all our history: Together a president
and the people can make a difference. I have found that faith still alive
wherever I have traveled across this land. So let us reject the counsel
of retreat and the call to reaction. Let us go forward in the knowledge
that history only helps those who help themselves.
There will be setbacks and sacrifices in the years ahead but I am
convinced that we as a people are ready to give something back to our country
in return for all it has given to us.
Let this be our commitment: Whatever sacrifices must be made will
be shared and shared fairly. And let this be our confidence: At the end
of our journey and always before us shines that ideal of liberty and justice
In closing, let me say a few words to all those that I have met and
to all those who have supported me, at this convention and across the country.
There were hard hours on our journey, and often we sailed against the wind.
But always we kept our rudder true, and there were so many of you who stayed
the course and shared our hope. You gave your help, but even more, you
gave your hearts.
Because of you, this has been a happy campaign. You welcomed Joan,
me and our family into your homes and neighborhoods, your churches, your
campuses, your union halls. When I think back of all the miles and all
the months and all the memories, I think of you. I recall the poet's words,
and I say: What golden friends I have.
Among you, my golden friends across this land, I have listened and
I have listened to Kenny Dubois, a glassblower in Charleston, West
Virginia, who has ten children to support but has lost his job after 35
years, just three years short of qualifying for his pension.
I have listened to the Trachta family who farm in Iowa and who wonder
whether they can pass the good life and the good earth on to their children.
I have listened to the grandmother in East Oakland who no longer
has a phone to call her grandchildren because she gave it up to pay the
rent on her small apartment.
I have listened to young workers out of work, to students without
the tuition for college, and to families without the chance to own a home.
I have seen the closed factories and the stalled assembly lines of Anderson,
Indiana and South Gate, California, and I have seen too many, far too many
idle men and women desperate to work. I have seen too many, far too many
working families desperate to protect the value of their wages from the
ravages of inflation.
Yet I have also sensed a yearning for new hope among the people in
every state where I have been. And I have felt it in their handshakes,
I saw it in their faces, and I shall never forget the mothers who carried
children to our rallies. I shall always remember the elderly who have lived
in an America of high purpose and who believe that it can all happen again.
Tonight, in their name, I have come here to speak for them. And for
their sake, I ask you to stand with them. On their behalf I ask you to
restate and reaffirm the timeless truth of our Party.
I congratulate President Carter on his victory here.
I am confident that the Democratic Party will reunite on the basis
of Democratic principles, and that together we will march towards a Democratic
victory in 1980.
And someday, long after this convention, long after the signs come
down, and the crowds stop cheering, and the bands stop playing, may it
be said of our campaign that we kept the faith. May it be said of our Party
in 1980 that we found our faith again.
And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days,
in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have
special meaning for me now:
"I am a part of all that I have met....
Tho much is taken, much abides....
That which we are, we are--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those
whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures,
the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy - August 12, 1980