Kerry: We are here to make America stronger
Part 1 - Introduction
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark speaks on behalf of veteran Kerry.
CNN's Bill Schneider on Kerry's challenge: defining his image.
Watch an excerpt of the biographical video to be shown in tonight's session.
Sen. John Kerry on Thursday accepted the Democratic presidential nomination at the party convention in Boston. Here is a transcript of his remarks.
We are here tonight because we love our country.
We are proud of what America is and what it can become.
My fellow Americans: We are here tonight united in one simple purpose -- to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.
A great American novelist wrote that you can't go home again. He could not have imagined this evening. Tonight, I am home. Home, where my public life began and those who made it possible live. Home, where our nation's history was written in blood, idealism and hope. Home, where my parents showed me the values of family, faith, and country.
Thank you, all of you, for a welcome home I will never forget.
I wish my parents could share this moment. They went to their rest in the last few years, but their example, their inspiration, their gift of open eyes, open mind, and endless world are bigger and more lasting than any words.
I was born in Colorado, in Fitzsimmons Army Hospital, when my dad was a pilot in World War II. Now, I'm not one to read into things, but guess which wing of the hospital the maternity ward was in? I'm not making this up. I was born in the West Wing!
My mother was the rock of our family as so many mothers are. She stayed up late to help me do my homework. She sat by my bed when I was sick, and she answered the questions of a child who, like all children, found the world full of wonders and mysteries.
She was my den mother when I was a Cub Scout and she was so proud of her 50-year pin as a Girl Scout leader. She gave me her passion for the environment. She taught me to see trees as the cathedrals of nature. And by the power of her example, she showed me that we can and must finish the march toward full equality for all women in our country.
My dad did the things that a boy remembers. He gave me my first model airplane, my first baseball mitt and my first bicycle. He also taught me that we are here for something bigger than ourselves; he lived out the responsibilities and sacrifices of the greatest generation to whom we owe so much.
When I was a young man, he was in the State Department, stationed in Berlin when it and the world were divided between democracy and communism. I have unforgettable memories of being a kid mesmerized by the British, French and American troops, each of them guarding their own part of the city, and Russians standing guard on the stark line separating East from West. On one occasion, I rode my bike into Soviet East Berlin. And when I proudly told my dad, he promptly grounded me.
But what I learned has stayed with me for a lifetime. I saw how different life was on different sides of the same city. I saw the fear in the eyes of people who were not free. I saw the gratitude of people toward the United States for all that we had done. I felt goose bumps as I got off a military train and heard the Army band strike up "Stars and Stripes Forever." I learned what it meant to be America at our best. I learned the pride of our freedom. And I am determined now to restore that pride to all who look to America.
Mine were greatest generation parents. And as I thank them, we all join together to thank that whole generation for making America strong, for winning World War II, winning the Cold War, and for the great gift of service which brought America 50 years of peace and prosperity.
My parents inspired me to serve, and when I was a junior in high school, John Kennedy called my generation to service. It was the beginning of a great journey -- a time to march for civil rights, for voting rights, for the environment, for women and for peace. We believed we could change the world. And you know what? We did.
But we're not finished. The journey isn't complete. The march isn't over. The promise isn't perfected. Tonight, we're setting out again. And together, we're going to write the next great chapter of America's story.
We have it in our power to change the world again. But only if we're true to our ideals -- and that starts by telling the truth to the American people. That is my first pledge to you tonight. As president, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House.
I ask you to judge me by my record. As a young prosecutor, I fought for victim's rights and made prosecuting violence against women a priority. When I came to the Senate, I broke with many in my own party to vote for a balanced budget, because I thought it was the right thing to do. I fought to put a 100,000 cops on the street.
And then I reached across the aisle to work with John McCain, to find the truth about our POW's and missing in action, and to finally make peace with Vietnam.
I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a vice president who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States.
My fellow Americans, this is the most important election of our lifetime. The stakes are high. We are a nation at war -- a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have ever known before. And here at home, wages are falling, health care costs are rising, and our great middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends; they're working two jobs, three jobs, and they're still not getting ahead.
We're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America. We're told that new jobs that pay $9,000 less than the jobs that have been lost is the best we can do. They say this is the best economy we've ever had. And they say that anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can't do better.
We can do better and we will. We're the optimists. For us, this is a country of the future. We're the can do people. And let's not forget what we did in the 1990s. We balanced the budget. We paid down the debt. We created 23 million new jobs. We lifted millions out of poverty and we lifted the standard of living for the middle class. We just need to believe in ourselves -- and we can do it again.
So tonight, in the city where America's freedom began, only a few blocks from where the sons and daughters of liberty gave birth to our nation -- here tonight, on behalf of a new birth of freedom -- on behalf of the middle class who deserve a champion, and those struggling to join it who deserve a fair shot -- for the brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day and the families who pray for their return -- for all those who believe our best days are ahead of us -- for all of you -- with great faith in the American people, I accept your nomination for president of the United States.
I am proud that at my side will be a running mate whose life is the story of the American dream and who's worked every day to make that dream real for all Americans -- Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. And his wonderful wife, Elizabeth, and their family. This son of a mill worker is ready to lead -- and next January, Americans will be proud to have a fighter for the middle class to succeed Dick Cheney as vice president of the United States.
And what can I say about Teresa? She has the strongest moral compass of anyone I know. She's down to earth, nurturing, courageous, wise and smart. She speaks her mind and she speaks the truth, and I love her for that, too. And that's why America will embrace her as the next first lady of the United States.
For Teresa and me, no matter what the future holds or the past has given us, nothing will ever mean as much as our children. We love them not just for who they are and what they've become, but for being themselves, making us laugh, holding our feet to the fire, and never letting me get away with anything. Thank you, Andre, Alex, Chris, Vanessa and John.
And in this journey, I am accompanied by an extraordinary band of brothers led by that American hero, a patriot named Max Cleland. Our band of brothers doesn't march together because of who we are as veterans, but because of what we learned as soldiers. We fought for this nation because we loved it and we came back with the deep belief that every day is extra. We may be a little older now, we may be a little grayer, but we still know how to fight for our country.
And standing with us in that fight are those who shared with me the long season of the primary campaign: Carol Moseley Braun, General Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich, Joe Lieberman and Al Sharpton.
To all of you, I say thank you for teaching me and testing me -- but mostly, we say thank you for standing up for our country and giving us the unity to move America forward.
Part 2 - Military