As I watched former Vice President Al Gore's endorsement of Barack Obama last night, I was amazed that he had given a better speech than any he had given when he was running for President. He no longer sounded as though he were speaking to us as children, but had taken on the demeanor of a man invigorated and inspired by a movement now rapidly spreading across this great nation.
As a citizen who did not vote for this man, I found myself cheering when he spoke of the doubters in the 1960 election of John F Kennedy, and again when he spoke of questions our future generations might ask about our present decision in 2008. I may very well have voted for him in that past election if he had spoken like this at that time.
Al Gore Endorses Barack Obama:
"I speak to you this evening as a citizen of the United States. I speak to you also as a citizen of the world because the outcome of this election will affect the future of our planet. For America to lead the world through the dangers we are facing, to seize the opportunities before us, we've got have new leadership. Not only a new President, but new policies. Not only a new head of state but a new vision for America's future.
I want to begin with a few words to my fellow Democrats: We have just concluded an historic contest among the strongest field of candidates any political party has ever offered for the Presidency of this country. An inspiring group of men and a woman with experience and vision, confidence and boldness. Their vigorous competition has attracted record numbers of voters in every part of America, reinvigorated our Democracy and helped to rekindle the spirit of our country.
And now we've made our choice. As the general election begins, let us remember our obligation to honor the highest values of our Democracy, and conduct this campaign in a spirit of respect for the Republican nominee. (boos in the crowd) No, no, in that case I'm glad I brought it up, because as Senator Barack Obama has said, John McCain is deserving of that respect. He has demonstrated bravery in war and as a prisoner of war, and has served in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for many years. Moreover he has demonstrated a willingness to debate some critical issues, including the climate crisis that many Republicans have refused to discuss at all.
But even as we acknowledge his long experience, we must and we will make our case that America simply cannot afford to continue the policies of the last eight years for another four. And we all know that a long tenure in Washington D.C. is not the same as judgment, wisdom and vision. Nevertheless, the other party seems to think that age and experience are factors that will work in their favor during this campaign. But our shared experience as a nation tells us otherwise.
I remember when one prominent Republican wondered out loud whether the Democratic nominee, and I quote, "really is grown up enough to be President." Another used the phrase, quote, "naïve and inexperienced." Yet another said, quote, "the United States cannot afford to risk the future of the free world with inexperience and immaturity in the White House," end quote. Who are they talking about? Every single one of those quotations came from the campaign of 1960, when the Republicans attacked John Fitzgerald Kennedy for allegedly lacking the age and experience necessary to be President.
Richard Nixon's slogan in that campaign was, "experience counts." To which John F. Kennedy responded, and I quote, "To exclude from positions of trust and command, all those below the age of 44, would have kept Jefferson from writing the Declaration of Independence, Washington from commanding the Continental Army, Madison from fathering the Constitution, and Christopher Columbus from even discovering America."
On January 20th 1961, as a 12 yr old boy, I stood in the snow in front of the capitol as john Fitzgerald Kennedy took the Oath of Office. I know what his inspiration meant to generation, and I feel that same spirit here in this auditorium tonight, building all over this country, this year. I feel your determination, after two terms of the Bush/Chaney administration, to change the direction of our country.
In looking back over the last eight years, I can tell you that we have already learned one important fact since the year of 2000, take it from me, elections matter. If you think the next appointments to our Supreme Court are important, you know that elections matter. If you live in the city of New Orleans, you know that elections matter. If you, or a member of your family are serving in the active military, the National Guard or Reserves, you know that elections matter. If you're a wounded veteran, you know that elections matter. If you've lost your child, if you're struggling with your mortgage, you know that elections matter. If you care about a clean environment, if you want a government that protects you instead of special interests, you know that elections matter. If you care about food safety, if you like a T on your BLT, you know that elections matter. If you bought poison, lead filled toys from China, or adulterated medicine made in China, if you bought tainted pet food made in China, you know that elections matter. After the last eight years, even our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter.
And this election matters more than ever because America needs change more than ever. After eight years of lost jobs and lower wages, we need change. After eight years of incompetence, neglect and failure, we need change. After eight years in which our constitution has been dishonored and disrespected, we need change. After eight years of the worst, most serious foreign policy mistakes in the entire history of our nation, we need change.
In September of 2002, I argued strongly that the invasion of a country that had not attacked us would be a mistake, and would divert attention, resources and resolve from the effort to track down and capture those who had attacked us. I argued that the occupation of Iraq would be dangerous and harmful for our country, and I well remember how few elected officials were willing to take that position in favor of protecting our national security by remaining focused on the right objective. But I remember that an eloquent legislator in Springfield Illinois, named Barack Obama, spoke up boldly and clearly with the force of reason and logic that joined in opposition to that blunder.
To those who still do not understand, that the withdrawal of troops in the search for Bin Laden in order to launch a misguided invasion of Iraq was a mistake, it's time to say: we need a change. To those who to continue making that same mistake, over and over again indefinitely, it is important for us to say loudly and clearly, with our votes this November, we need change. We intend to have change.
(Crowd chants "We Need Change")
To those who want to continue borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf, and burn it in ways that destroy our planet's environment, it's time to say: we need change. Barack Obama knows that we are too dependent on foreign oil and carbon fuels, and purposed a plan to create millions of good, new jobs in renewable green energy, conservation and efficiency. Here in Detroit, you know we need to revise our automobile industry with a commitment to plug in hybrids, and low emission vehicles to solve the climate crisis and create the jobs of the future. The future is ours, not to predict, but to create, but make no mistake, we need to change our policies on climate.
Not too many years from now, the next generation will look back on the decisions we've make this coming November, and the policies we put in place in January of next year. Were we to ignore the warnings of the scientists around the world, and look the other way as the entire polar ice caps melt before our very eyes, and the consequences we've been warned about unfolded, our children might then well ask: What were they thinking? Why didn't they act, why didn't they chose change when they had a chance? It is my deep hope that they will ask another and very different question. I want then to look back on this historic year, and ask: How did Americans in 2008 find the moral courage to rise and successfully solve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve? How did they find the strength to change?
As Americans we know that our Democracy often moves very slowly, but we also know that when we must, we can shift gears quickly and suddenly pick up the pace to respond boldly to a great challenge. That's what the greatest generation did to win World War II, and then came home to start the Marshall Plan, unify Europe, create the United Nations , and create the basis for peace and prosperity for decades.
Many people have waited for some sign that our country is awakening once again. How will we know when a massive wave of reform and recovery and regeneration is about to take hold and renew our nation? What would it look like if such a change were beginning to build? I think we might recognize it as a sign of such change if we saw millions of young people getting involved for the first time in the political process. I think we might just recognize it if we saw that new generation casting aside obsolete and hurtful distinctions and reaching out to one another across the ancient divisions that have frustrated action in the past. I think we would know this change was coming if a new generation rejected the special interest politics of the past and the big money that fueled it, and instead used the internet to get small donations and unite Americans in a common effort to realize our common destiny.
If we saw it coming, we'd recognize it by the words "hope" and "change." Perhaps we would recognize it if we heard a young leader rise up to say, "We're not a red state America or a blue state America, we are the United States of America." We would know that change was on the way if that young leader reached out, not only to the supporters of the other candidates in his party, but also beyond party lines to Republicans, Independents and said to us all, "America, our time has come."
I think we would recognize it in candidate, who in response to those doubting our ability to solve the climate crisis and create a bright future, inspired millions to say, "Yes, we can." We have such a nominee, we have such a leader. Yes we can. Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States, Barack Obama."