2/10/2005

John Edwards: The Flickering Light of America

From a recent speech:
You know all these political experts out there question what you and I and the Democratic Party believe in. They say that we don't believe in anything. That we don't stand for anything. Well, tonight I want to talk about what we believe.
We believe in hope over despair, possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism. We believe in doing what is right even when others say it can't be done. And we believe in fighting desperately for people who don't have a voice. That's what the Democratic Party has always believed in and that's what we will always believe in. That's what you and I believe in.
We know the difference between right and wrong. And it's right to talk about the two different Americas we still live in. We've got one for those who have been blessed and have lived the American Dream. And another for those who are struggling to get by. It's time to build the one America we all believe in.
Do we believe that any child in our country should go without health care just because their parents can't afford to go to the doctor? That's not we believe in. We have to strengthen our health care system.
Do we believe one child should go to a school with computers while another goes to a school without enough books? That's not what we believe in. We have to strengthen our schools. We can start by expanding early childhood education and treating our teachers and those who work in our schools with the dignity and the respect that they deserve.
Do we believe in an America that is satisfied with two economies—one for wealthy insiders and one for the rest of us? That's not what we believe in. I'll tell you what's right. It's right to want to build one economy that honors work, not just wealth.
...That is why I have launched the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We don't pretend to have all the answers, but I can promise you this: We will ask the hard questions. Can we combat poverty in a way that also honors our core beliefs in hard work, responsibility, family? Can we find ways to build more homes and fewer shelters, more small businesses and fewer minimum-wage jobs? Can we find a way for government and charities and religious groups to work as more effective partners and honor America's traditions? Can we work to end drug addiction and teen pregnancy? Can we restore the promise of America for those living in poverty?
...Here's what we believe: When our soldiers come home—they deserve a country that will honor their service. We believe that no one who has worn the uniform should have to beg for their back pay. We believe that no veteran should have to pay a registration fee to get the health care they are entitled to—they paid that fee when they put on the uniform of the United States of America. And we believe that no soldier who's just returned from serving their country in Iraq should be homeless—they earned their right to a home!
That's what you and I believe in—as Americans. So don't tell me Democrats don't stand for anything. We do. We stand for work and opportunity. We know when something's right. And we know when something's wrong.
It's wrong when our neighbors work full-time and they still live in poverty. It's wrong when too many towns are forgotten because the jobs are gone. It's wrong when our children give up on a dream because our schools are broke. It's wrong when our men and women return home from a war and have to fight for the health care to recover from their wounds. And it's wrong when we let a young person in another country thousands of miles away grow up hating us, never knowing or believing in the good of our country.
So don't tell me we Democrats don't believe in anything and don't know where to go. Because we do.
I know the soul of this party and so do you. It lies deep inside each of us and goes to the core of what we believe not just as Democrats—but as Americans. Everyone—-and I mean everyone—deserves a fair chance. And we have a moral responsibility to help those who are doing everything right, but are still struggling.
We have been given minds to think with. But we've also been given hearts to inspire us. When we try to lead with just our minds, we are neglecting the better half of our nature.
So don't tell me Democrats don't stand for anything. Because we do. What we believe is that you should never look down on anybody, we should lift people up. We don't believe in tearing people apart. We believe in bringing people together. What we believe—what I believe—is that the family you're born into and the color of your skin in our America should never control your destiny.
Let's turn the page. Let's move forward. Let's build that one America we all believe in.

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