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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Ralph Nader Speaks to National Press Club

Aired February 23, 2004 - 10:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go ahead and listen in to Ralph Nader for a moment.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In times past, the naysayers were organized commercial powers whose unbridled greed and authoritarian structures were denounced by Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in quite memorable statements.

It took a strengthened populace against the malefactors of great wealth to overcome these corporate naysayers and abolish slavery, open the vote to women, the unions to workers, the cooperatives to farmers, to temper the large mine owners, industrialists, railroads and bankers.

NADER: In this manner, American history surged forward and upward.

Today there's a compelling necessity for a new strengthening of the people to reform and recover their public elections from the grip of private financing, to rescue our public authorities from the corporate government of big business that prevails today in Washington, D.C.

These mass concentrations of power, privilege, wealth, technology and corporate immunity have placed their rampaging global quest for maximum profits in the way of progress, justice and opportunity for the very millions of American workers who made possible these corporate profits but who are falling behind, both excluded and expendable.

Their labors have gone unrequited as these unpatriotic corporations abandon our country and shift industries abroad, along with what is left of their allegiance to our country and our community. The dreaded supremacy of corporatism over civil institutions, stomping both conservative and liberal values alike, has broken through any remaining barriers by the two major political parties -- the two-party duopolies.

Corporatism has turned federal and state departments and agencies into indentured servants for taxpayer-funded subsidies, budget-busting contracts of great lucrative scope and dwindling law and order against the widely publicized corporate crime wave.

This resistant corporate crime wave has looted and drained trillions of dollars from millions of workers, their pensions, and from small investors. There has been ample media publicity and documentation of such crimes, abuses and frauds of these unprecedented self-enrichments of top executives at the expense of their fiduciary duties to both their own companies and their shareholder-owners.

NADER: Has the president supplied the required law enforcement resources for action? Scarcely. He is, as in so many other domestic matters, otherwise preoccupied. Very few of these corporate bosses have been brought to justice and jailed.

Lincoln's new birth of freedom and government of the people by the people for the people in his memorable Gettysburg Address must indeed not perish from this land. Only an organized, self-confident people lifting their expectation levels and applying their time, energy and talent can achieve Lincoln's foreshadowed horizons where freedom from fear, shift of power and just solutions can become realities in everyday life for Americans.

Comparing the Republican Lincoln's assurance in a period of great peril and daily destruction in those years in the 1860s -- contrast with the costly politics of fear, peddled daily by the obsessive Republican incumbent of today, George W. Bush, playing politics with national security.

Elections should place aspirations in motion. Only in this way will they have meaning for people's lives. Movements for change come from more voices and choices, more debates and proposals, more organizing and more respect for the voters in the electoral arena, so they have a broader opportunity to vote for whom they choose to vote for.

At the same time, there ought to be higher levels of responsibility by voters themselves for their own governments. The civil liberties and their exercise by a pluralistic, not a duopolistic, system of political parties and candidates, regenerate, reanimate a passive electorate accustomed to betrayal and in large numbers not even voting.

Movements for change also come from the perceived neglected necessities of the American people in a land of skewed plenty, where the rich have so much and the rest of America is denied the just rewards for their labors.

KAGAN: We've been listening in to Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate announcing yesterday he will run again once again for president this year. Not the kind of news a lot of Democrats were looking for.

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