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Gore Addresses NAACP National Convention in Baltimore, MD

Aired July 12, 2000 - 10:49 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And with that we take you back now to Baltimore, where Vice President Al Gore is beginning his remarks to the NAACP Convention.


VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... I want to thank my fellow Tennesseans who are here in the Tennessee delegation.


Maxine (ph), thank you, and Vasco (ph), thank you. And my colleagues in the Cabinet, Alexis Herman and Rodney Slater and Togo West.

And I want to also introduce to you the finest presidential campaign manager in the history of this country, Donna Brazile. And I don't know where she got to.


Right here. Thank you.

Speaking of Baltimore, I want to congratulate a daughter of Baltimore, Vashti McKinsey (ph), for becoming the first woman bishop of the AME Church in over 200 years. What a breakthrough for women and what a breakthrough for the AME.


God bless you, Bishop.

This, of course, is the home of the NAACP, and incidentally one of my team members and colleges for so many years who is also here is the Cabinet -- is the secretary of the Cabinet in our administration, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., and I wanted to acknowledge Goody (ph).


I am a member of the NAACP. It's good to be home.


I have come here, not just in an election year, but year after year.


I have worked with you. I have stood with you. I am proud to have won some battles alongside you. You are American heroes, because for 91 years now, you've been the foot soldiers for justice and freedom.


For 91 years now, you have been dedicated to lifting every child, leveling every barrier, and leaving no one behind. For 91 years now, you have fought for a prosperity that runs much deeper than our material possessions. It runs to the way we treat one another, the way we respect one another, the way we cherish equality, seek freedom and love truth that sets us free.

W.E.B. Du Bois described the NAACP's mission this way: The discovering and redress of cases of injustice. The NAACP has always championed the people, not the powerful, the weak and the weary, not the well off and the well connected.

So to you, and to those who can hear my voice, I want to say it as plainly as I can: I'm running for president because I want to fight for you. I want to help those who have not had their fair share of justice, opportunity, equality and the American dream.


We've got to the move forward together. I want to serve the people, not the powerful. I want to take on the special interests on behalf of working families. I don't want to work for those who make excuses for the way things are instead of striving for the way things are supposed to be.

Bill Lucey (ph), my fellow Tennessean, described the achievements of the last eight years, and I appreciate that. I don't want you to forget what it was like eight years ago when there was very high unemployment, there were deficits in the range of $300 billion a year and constant arguments for cutting this and that, and always the wrong things. The national debt had quadrupled in only a dozen years and we had problems getting worse across the board.

I know very well that you gave Bill Clinton and me a chance to bring change to this country. So thank you, once again, for 1992 and for 1996.


And after the election, together we set our hands to a time of recession and doubt. We assembled a diverse team that did indeed look like America and reflected the excellence as well as diversity of America. And with that team, we began making changes and crafted a new plan to lift up those who needed help and to strengthen our country by getting the hope and opportunity to those who missed it the most. What we did was to challenge the old ways. And I don't want you to forget either that it didn't come without a struggle. It didn't come without a fight. It didn't come without a cliff-hanging vote in the House of Representatives that we barely won by one vote. It didn't come without a tie vote in the Senate which I had the honor and privilege of breaking as vice president, making possible a one-vote margin in both houses of Congress.


The other side predicted that our new way would fail, would cause a disaster for the country. Their predictions make for humorous reading now, when you set them beside the outstanding record that Bill Lucey reminded you of, because they were -- the other side was headed in the wrong direction. And they still are.

They remind me of the elderly gentleman who had a specific health problem that caused his wife to worry about his driving, and she tried to get him to stop, but he wouldn't stop. You may know someone like this. And he took the keys and headed out the driveway and headed out toward the interstate highway.

And she worried and sat by the phone, and finally she called him on his car phone and said: Honey, please be careful, I just heard a bulletin on the radio. Somebody's driving the wrong way on the interstate.


And he said: There is not just one, there's hundreds of them out here.


You know who I'm talking about. They're headed the wrong way. They need to turn around and get with the program, because we now have evidence of exactly why the approach that President Clinton and I have recommended and fought for is good for our country and good for all of our people.

Instead of a triple-dip recession, and the deepest recession since the 1930s, we've since a tripling of the stock market.

Instead of the biggest deficits in history, we've got the biggest surpluses in history.

Instead of high unemployment, we've got the lowest African- American unemployment in the history of the statistics and the strongest economy in the 211 history of the United States of America. We're making progress. We're headed in the right direction.


We need to keep going in the right direction, and I am here to say: You ain't seen nothing yet. We're going to keep going. We're going to keep building. We're going to keep growing. We're going to keep working together and climb to a higher place, a better place, with even more jobs, where nobody's left behind.


I want to -- I want to say that this distinguished audience includes not only our host mayor, but Mayor John Street of Philadelphia.

And I didn't see you, Mr. Mayor, but God bless you. Thank you, thank you for being here, thank you.


Dr. Earl Richardson (ph) of Morgan State University.


And I believe that there's some Congressional Black Caucus members here. I haven't visited with them yet. But, Peter Angelos, thank you for your leadership and your presence here also.


Now when I say you ain't seen nothing yet, I want you to know that I don't offer you generalities. I want to offer you some specifics.


I believe that it is time to invest in people. I pledge to you that I will bring about, as president, with your help, a continuation of the economic plan that has been good for our people. I don't want to go back to the giant deficits that are caused by focusing on massive tax cuts for the wealthy. I want tax cuts that are targeted to the people who need them, that are affordable, that are focused on education and health care and child care and raising children and strengthening families.


I believe we need more empowerment zones so that we can lift up the communities that have not shared in this prosperity yet.

Alvin Brown, (ph), my executive director of the empowerment zone program, has worked with me all over this country, and we have brought jobs to the places where they are most needed.

I want a specific program to clean up contaminated brown fields, good properties in good locations that need to be cleaned up and used to attract new jobs.


Now, let me tell you why they're not being cleaned up. I'm going to go and visit one here in the Baltimore area that the local leadership has tried mightily to get -- to turn into a magnet for opportunity and hope. There is national legislation pending right now that would do that. And the Democrats support it. And many moderate Republicans support it. Certainly people around the country support it.

Why isn't it passing? Well, it is because there are powerful and wealthy special interests that have entered into a secret agreement that was made public, to the embarrassment of those who signed it, and the Republican leadership in the Senate pledged not to allow legislation to go forward that would clean up brown fields because some of the big polluters in this country didn't want it to go forward, and they secured a pledge that it would be tied to a special interest provision to help the polluters.

Now, I believe that the bipartisan majority in the Congress that supports this, the bipartisan majority in the country that is overwhelmingly in favor of it, has the right to say to the Republican leadership and to the titular head of the Republican Party nationally: Put the people first. Let's pass this legislation and bring some jobs to the inner city. Let's don't just talk about it, let's actually do it by passing the legislation.


But instead of passing legislation to revitalize our community, this Congress keeps blocking progress and trying to pass these massive giveaways to the powerful and the special interests.

I think you can also see it when you look at the need we all feel to honor our fathers and mothers by protecting Medicare and Social Security. I think it's time to put them both off-budget in an ironclad locked box. Don't treat them as piggy banks for other things.


And I will tell you this, I am against raising the retirement age and cutting benefits to the seniors who deserve the help that Social Security and Medicare provide. I am opposed to privatizing Social Security and diverting the money into the stock market.


I want incentives to invest on top of Social Security. I'm for Social Security plus, not Social Security minus.

I also believe that we have a national responsibility to recognize that opportunity means knowledge, and knowledge means learning, and learning means respecting our schools and investing in them. I think it's time to start treating our teachers like the professionals they are, and reduce the class size, and modernize the schools, and put more money along with new accountability and reform into our public schools.


And I'm against draining money away in the form of vouchers that offer a false promise because they don't pay the tuition, they just give the illusion, and they actually divert money from the public schools.


And why in the world won't the Congress pass the legislation with bipartisan support, again, to give local communities help in modernizing the facilities? These school buildings in many places are falling down around the students and the teachers.


I have been to schools where there are no playgrounds anymore because the playground has been covered up with trailers. I've been to schools where the facilities are so overcrowded they have to feed lunch in shifts, with first shift in some cases starting at 9:30 in the morning. I've been to schools where the desks have to be rearranged to avoid the ceiling tiles falling on the heads of the students, as they sit at their desk trying to study. I've been at schools where teachers are burdened with 35 students in the classroom.

You know, here we are in an information age when 60 percent of the businesses in America have good jobs that pay good money. And they can't fill them because they can't find the people with the education and the skills that are necessary to fill those jobs. Here we have a debate every single year in America now about whether or not we are going to bust out of the limits on immigration. And I'm for immigration -- don't get me wrong. We are a nation of immigrants. But it ought to be an alarm bell when we have the employers with the best jobs in this country coming every single year, year-after-year, saying we have to go half way around the world to find people with a college education who can come in and take these good jobs. We need to educate our own people with the skills needed to seize the jobs of the future and build the future of this country.

Welcome immigrants, yes, but educate our own people and make the investments. Don't just put all the attention on a tax break for the wealthy when our people need good schools and well-trained teachers.


We hear all these people talking about how one way to control crime is to fix up the neighborhoods because it changes attitudes. And yes, that's right, broken windows need to be fixed so they don't convey a message of disorder and tolerance of evil-doing. But if that theory works on crime, why doesn't it work on schools? What message do we send these young people if they walk into a school that's falling down and in disrepair. We need to tell them, not just with words, but with our actions that education is important, and that public education is going to get a commitment and investment.

But this Congress is not only blocking that legislation, they actually tried to repeal our plan to hire 100,000 new teachers. Well, they get an "F" for effort on education, as far as I'm concerned.

And in order to have a strong America, we also need to have a healthy America. It is unconscionable that we have 44 million of our citizens who don't have health care in the midst of the greatest prosperity we've ever had. We ought to start by making a commitment, and I make you this commitment: You elect me president, I'll make sure that every child in America has full health care within the next four years.

And then we'll move step by step toward universal health insurance for all of our people.


Your health should not depend on your wealth.

I believe that one of the places to start is by saying to our seniors, we understand that the costs of prescription medicine is higher now. We understand that when you go to the doctor, they're writing out these prescriptions that work but they're expensive.

I've talked to seniors who go to their medicine chest and take the pill bottles out and they put them on the breakfast table and they go through each one and then make decisions without consulting the doctor on which ones they are going to stop taking, which ones they're going to cut the dosage in half on.

I asked one of them, didn't you consult the doctor? And she said, "No, he'd just tell me not to do it." I talked with a woman who said that she was eating macaroni and cheese every meal for the last several weeks because it was on sale and it was the only thing she could afford after she paid her prescription drug benefit -- bill.

Now, we have an opportunity right now to pass legislation. And it is central part of my platform. I believe that it is time to improve the Medicare program by adding a prescription drug benefit for our seniors and giving them the help they need to buy their medicine so they can follow doctor's orders.


But we can't stop there, because we have a set of problems in our health care system that are bedeviling our people and need to be addressed.

I'll give you an example. I talked just yesterday in Arkansas, in Little Rock, with a doctor who is a specialist in breast cancer. And she had a patient whose case she described to the crowd that was gathered there at the medical center. She had a test that came back positive for breast cancer; it struck fear in her heart, obviously. And she went for a second opinion. And this specialist said, "Well, you know, it looks to me like this might be an unusual case where you might not need a mastectomy, because it might be localized and we might be able to do it with this other treatment, but you need an MRI," one of those expensive tests that's the successor to the cat scan. And her insurance company said, "No, we won't pay for that."

The doctor ordered it, but the insurance company nixed it, and they appealed. Who did they appeal to? The insurance company. The insurance company said, "We stand by the earlier decision that we made ourself."

Now, the tragedy was in this case, they went ahead with the surgery and afterwards they were able to conduct the biopsy and found indeed that mastectomy was not necessary. But it was performed because the insurance company wanted to save money on the test.

I talked with a couple out in the state of Washington whose little child, six months old -- Dillon (ph) and Christine Malone (ph) were their names, their child was named Ian (ph). He had a birth trauma and brain damage that caused him to have difficulty swallowing. And he needed a nurse and needed to be suctioned out regularly. And the insurance company said, "We're going to stop paying for that."

And they appealed and they said, "Well, the doctor said it's necessary. I've paid the insurance premiums every month, you are obligated to give me the health care. I've kept my end of the contract. Why don't you keep your end of the contract?"

But they wouldn't do it. And there's no law to make them do it. And in the dialogue with these parents, the company actually advised them to consider giving up their son for adoption, because Medicaid would then pay the bills that they were trying to avoid.

I'm telling you -- I'm telling you -- we need a law that takes these medical decision away from the accountants that work for the insurance companies...


... and gives the decisions back to the doctors and the nurses and the health care professionals, because they are the ones who know what they're talking about. These accountants don't have a license to practice medicine and they don't have a right to play God.

We need a real patients' bill of rights, and we need to make it the law of the land. But this other group on the other side, they refuse to pass it. It failed by a one-vote margin -- one vote.

So let me tell you, it is time for some change.

Another change that's needed. We need to stop the violence and make our streets safe and battle the scourge of drugs and get the guns out of the schools and out of the neighborhoods.

It's time for this Congress to stop blocking progress and pass a bill that closes the gun show loophole, and has mandatory child safety trigger locks, and gets these guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn't have them.

This Congress is blocking progress even on hiring more prosecutors to enforce the gun law that's are already on the books.

And I know how much power is arrayed on the other side. I saw Charlton Heston on television the other night. And he named me enemy number one, target number one. Held up a gun, said something about prying his cold dead fingers off it or something like that. Well, it didn't surprise me because two weeks earlier he had said that if my opponent was to be elected, then Heston and his group will be working right out of the Oval Office in the White House. But I advised him not to pack his bags yet because...


... because the last time -- the last time Moses took advice from a bush his people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, and he may not be packing his bags right now.



At least he shouldn't be. We've got a few things to say and do. We've got some work to do.


He shouldn't count on it.

Now speaking -- speaking of counting -- speaking of counting, it's wrong what the leader of the Republican Party and this Congress are doing in blocking an accurate census because they don't want to count every one that they don't think they can count on. I want to count everyone. I want to count all the people of this country.

And incidentally, let me say one other thing on a very, very serious issue. I have worked very hard on health care issues here at home, and I've worked on foreign policy, and I formed a commission with South Africa and President Thabo Mbeki, and I have made more trips to Africa than I've made to Asia. And one things that I have learned long since is that our entire world needs to get up and get moving and confront this AIDS pandemic, especially on the continent of Africa. It is a horrific challenge to our conscience, to our souls. We have to solve it.


But now let me tell you, again, speaking about counting: There is a remedy for all these challenges and all these problems, and that is to make sure that when the votes are counted that we have a majority of the votes, and I want to talk to you a little bit about that.

And I want you to also think about the Congress, because I want you to consider how much we can get done by taking back the Congress, how much justice will be redeemed when John Conyers is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee...


... how much economic progress can be made when Charlie Rangel is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee...


... how much progress we can have when we get that leadership crew that shut down the Congress twice and send them once again on a midnight train and get them out of the nation's capital.

And I want to make one further point, and this is connection with one of the things that I want to ask you to do on my behalf.

I just happened to see some of your convention on Monday...


... Monday afternoon. And I read about it in the newspaper, and I know that you heard some nice sounding words on Monday afternoon. But I remembered what scripture teaches in the book of James, Chapter 2, Verse 18: Yea, a man may say thou has faith and I have works. Show me thy faith without thy works and I will show thee my faith by my works.


That is my text for today. Now, look more closely at this text. Throughout the history of this great nation, many have said much about the great issues of the day but far fewer have had the courage and conviction to act on their words. Without the courage to act, Frederick Douglas would have been just a newspaper editor; Harriet Tubman might never have built the underground railroad; Dr. King might never have left the comfortable pulpit at Ebenezer; Rosa Park would still be riding on the back on the bus.

You know from a hard history and a long struggle that talk is cheap. It's deeds that matter.

Talk doesn't cost much. The true test is standing up to the powerful interests and fighting for the progress that our people deserve. I want you to know I won't be silent. I will lead the fight for our people. I will lead the fight for justice. I'll lead the fight for campaign finance reform. I'll lead the fight for the progress we need.

KAGAN: We have been listening to Vice President Al Gore, as he addressed the NAACP Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. He is having his chance. On Monday, his opponent in the upcoming presidential election had his chance to address the same convention, George W. Bush. Today, the vice president touched on topics like education, Medicare, health care, and gun control, and tries to draw as many favorable comparisons as he could to the Texas governor.



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