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Daschle: 'We will get America back on the right track'

Tom Daschle
Tom Daschle: "We will do the right thing. And we will do right by America".

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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle spoke Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention. This is a transcript of his speech.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

I want to thank you all. And I thank the people of my home state of South Dakota for the honor of representing you in the United States Senate.

Over the next few weeks, I will be driving from town to town, talking to South Dakotans, one of my favorite things to do every August. I listen to farmers and ranchers and teachers, tribal leaders, police officers, small-business owners, moms and dads, people who are struggling and others who are doing well. They don't agree on every issue. But the common thread that binds them together is a love of our country.

They understand that we have a moral responsibility to create a better future for our children and our grandchildren. And they want a stronger America here at home.

South Dakotans reject the defeatist view that we have to have enough money to build Iraq, but we can't afford to take care of the needs here at home.

They wonder how we can build new schools in Iraq, while so many American schools are crumbling.

And it doesn't make sense to them that we're paying over $2 for gasoline at home, while American taxpayers are funding a-nickel-a-gallon gas in Iraq.

Americans aren't asking for special deals from Washington. They simply want their government to do right by America.

Doing right by America means that we don't just talk about our values; we live them. And we honor the fundamental difference between right and wrong.

John Kerry's entire life has been an inspirational example of doing right by America. When our generation was called to serve in Vietnam, he answered that call. He risked his life to save the life of others and led his small band of brothers to safety.

He didn't talk about patriotism; he lived it.

When he came home from the war, he dedicated his life to public service. He worked first as a prosecutor, putting criminals behind bars. And as a United States senator, John Kerry has stood up to the drug companies and fought to lower prices for seniors.

And he has continued to fight for his brothers in arms. I know. We fought side by side for veterans health care, justice for victims of Agent Orange, and a full accounting of all America's POWs and soldiers missing in action.

We've done that.

John Edwards has spent his life fighting for the little guy. He's done his best to make things right when negligence caused terrible harm to children and families.

And in the United States Senate, he has dedicated himself to making sure that American families are treated fairly by HMOs and insurance companies.

John Kerry and John Edwards both understand that by doing right by America means accepting the moral responsibility of making America stronger and smarter and more secure.

It means changing the way we do business in Washington.

Today, the middle-class squeeze has become a way of life for millions of American families. Family incomes haven't risen in four years, but family expenses are soaring.

Gas prices are up 22 percent. College tuition is up 28 percent. Health care premiums are up 36 percent.

In the Kerry administration, the needs of regular families will be moved from the back burner to the front burner.

Boardroom priorities won't crowd out the kitchen-table values, and the era of Enron and Halliburton undermining our common purpose will come to an end.

John Kerry and John Edwards and all Democrats will work to expand the circle of opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. We will fix America's tax code to reward companies keeping good-paying jobs here, not shipping them overseas.

We will work to lower the cost of health care. Every American should have the same health care options, the same price as members of Congress do. And we will work to provide every senior with a real prescription drug benefit that actually lowers costs to seniors instead of handing billions of dollars to big drug companies and the HMOs. We're going to do that.

We will invest in the new technologies that are the key to reducing America's dependence on imported oil, and we will make sure that our troops have the pay and the equipment and the health care they deserve, and that our allies do their fair share to honor the commitment to America's veterans.

Tonight, thousands of miles from here, brave men and women are serving in Iraq. Many are members of the National Guard and the Reserve, from South Dakota and every state in our great nation. We owe them our profound thanks.

But words alone are not good enough. Thousands will return home with no health insurance because their jobs don't provide it or they simply can't afford it.

We reject the claim that we can't afford to provide our troops with access to affordable health care. We reject that.

When our soldiers do right by America, we must do right by them.

America can do better. And we will, with President John Kerry and Vice President John Edwards. And I pledge -- I pledge, as the next majority leader of the United States, we will get America back on the right track. On November 2, Democrats will take back the United States Senate.

We'll take back the Senate with Barack Obama, and Tony Knowles, and Ken Salazar, and Inez Tennenbaum, and Brad Carson, and Erskine Bowles, and all of our newly elected Democratic senators. We're going to do that.

And with John Kerry and John Edwards, and with our colleagues in the House, and with all the support of hardworking, patriotic Americans across our great land, we will answer our country's call. We will do the right thing. And we will do right by America.

Thank you all very, very much. Thank you.

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