President Barack Obama’s Acceptance Speech At The Democratic Party Convention

Barack Obama has accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president and delivered a rallying call to the party faithful in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Barack Obama

Obama argued he had rescued the economy from disaster and the recovery would be put in doubt by a Romney presidency.

He said: “Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace – decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come… On every issue, the choice you face won’t just be between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future… Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known.”

Obama’s speech followed a fulsome personal tribute to him from Vice-President Joe Biden. Obama’s wife, Michelle, introduced him to the convention.

  • Listen to Obama’s speech (47m)

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

  • Watch Obama’s speech
  • Watch the DNC video shown before Obama’s speech

Transcript of President Obama’s speech to the Democratic Party convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, as transcribed by the New York Times.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. (Sustained cheers, applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you.

Michelle, I love you so much. (Cheers, applause.)

A few nights ago, everybody was reminded just what a lucky man I am. (Cheers, applause.)

Malia and Sasha, we are so proud of you. (Cheers, applause.) And yes, you do have to go to school in the morning. (Chuckles.) (Laughter, applause.)

And Joe Biden, thank you for being the very best vice president I could have ever hoped for — (cheers, applause) — and being a strong and loyal friend.

Madam Chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.) [Read more…]

A MOMENT OF HISTORY IN AMERICA AS OBAMA CLAIMS THE PRESIDENCY

‘Yes, We Can’

President-elect Barack Obama has delivered an historic victory speech before a crowd of joyful, tearful supporters in Chicago.

The moment of history was clearly not lost on anyone as the first African-American to be elected President of the United States claimed the grand political prize of the world’s major superpower.

Barack Obama Claims Victory in Chicago, November 4-5, 2008

Obama’s speech echoed words and phrases of leaders from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King as he sketched a portrait of an American democracy which has risen above the bigotry of the past to put a black man in the Oval Office of the White House.

At the end of his speech, Obama was joined on stage by his wife, Michelle, the Bidens, and their respective family members.

  • Listen to Obama’s Victory Speech:

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Watch Obama:

This is the text of Barack Obama’s Victory Speech in Chicago:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics, you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to, it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington, it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime, two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years, block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers, in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends, though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn; I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down, we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security, we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright, tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America, that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing; Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons; because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America ¿ the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves, if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

New York Times Endorses Obama For President

New York Times Endorses Barack Obama for PresidentThe New York Times has given its 2008 presidential election endorsement to Senator Barack Obama.

The Times described Obama as a candidate who “has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change”, in contrast to Senator John McCain who “has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaig on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism”.

This is the text of the New York Times editorial.

Barack Obama for President

Hyperbole is the currency of presidential campaigns, but this year the nation’s future truly hangs in the balance.

The United States is battered and drifting after eight years of President Bush’s failed leadership. He is saddling his successor with two wars, a scarred global image and a government systematically stripped of its ability to protect and help its citizens — whether they are fleeing a hurricane’s floodwaters, searching for affordable health care or struggling to hold on to their homes, jobs, savings and pensions in the midst of a financial crisis that was foretold and preventable.

As tough as the times are, the selection of a new president is easy. After nearly two years of a grueling and ugly campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has proved that he is the right choice to be the 44th president of the United States.

Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems.

In the same time, Senator John McCain of Arizona has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism. His policies and worldview are mired in the past. His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgment that eclipsed the accomplishments of 26 years in Congress.

Given the particularly ugly nature of Mr. McCain’s campaign, the urge to choose on the basis of raw emotion is strong. But there is a greater value in looking closely at the facts of life in America today and at the prescriptions the candidates offer. The differences are profound.

Mr. McCain offers more of the Republican every-man-for-himself ideology, now lying in shards on Wall Street and in Americans’ bank accounts. Mr. Obama has another vision of government’s role and responsibilities.

In his convention speech in Denver, Mr. Obama said, “Government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves: protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.”

Since the financial crisis, he has correctly identified the abject failure of government regulation that has brought the markets to the brink of collapse.

The Economy

The American financial system is the victim of decades of Republican deregulatory and anti-tax policies. Those ideas have been proved wrong at an unfathomable price, but Mr. McCain — a self-proclaimed “foot soldier in the Reagan revolution” — is still a believer.

Mr. Obama sees that far-reaching reforms will be needed to protect Americans and American business.

Mr. McCain talks about reform a lot, but his vision is pinched. His answer to any economic question is to eliminate pork-barrel spending — about $18 billion in a $3 trillion budget — cut taxes and wait for unfettered markets to solve the problem.

Mr. Obama is clear that the nation’s tax structure must be changed to make it fairer. That means the well-off Americans who have benefited disproportionately from Mr. Bush’s tax cuts will have to pay some more. Working Americans, who have seen their standard of living fall and their children’s options narrow, will benefit. Mr. Obama wants to raise the minimum wage and tie it to inflation, restore a climate in which workers are able to organize unions if they wish and expand educational opportunities.

Mr. McCain, who once opposed President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy as fiscally irresponsible, now wants to make them permanent. And while he talks about keeping taxes low for everyone, his proposed cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the top 1 percent of Americans while digging the country into a deeper fiscal hole.

National Security

The American military — its people and equipment — is dangerously overstretched. Mr. Bush has neglected the necessary war in Afghanistan, which now threatens to spiral into defeat. The unnecessary and staggeringly costly war in Iraq must be ended as quickly and responsibly as possible.

While Iraq’s leaders insist on a swift drawdown of American troops and a deadline for the end of the occupation, Mr. McCain is still talking about some ill-defined “victory.” As a result, he has offered no real plan for extracting American troops and limiting any further damage to Iraq and its neighbors.

Mr. Obama was an early and thoughtful opponent of the war in Iraq, and he has presented a military and diplomatic plan for withdrawing American forces. Mr. Obama also has correctly warned that until the Pentagon starts pulling troops out of Iraq, there will not be enough troops to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, has only belatedly focused on Afghanistan’s dangerous unraveling and the threat that neighboring Pakistan may quickly follow.

Mr. Obama would have a learning curve on foreign affairs, but he has already showed sounder judgment than his opponent on these critical issues. His choice of Senator Joseph Biden — who has deep foreign-policy expertise — as his running mate is another sign of that sound judgment. Mr. McCain’s long interest in foreign policy and the many dangers this country now faces make his choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska more irresponsible.

Both presidential candidates talk about strengthening alliances in Europe and Asia, including NATO, and strongly support Israel. Both candidates talk about repairing America’s image in the world. But it seems clear to us that Mr. Obama is far more likely to do that — and not just because the first black president would present a new American face to the world.

Mr. Obama wants to reform the United Nations, while Mr. McCain wants to create a new entity, the League of Democracies — a move that would incite even fiercer anti-American furies around the world.

Unfortunately, Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, sees the world as divided into friends (like Georgia) and adversaries (like Russia). He proposed kicking Russia out of the Group of 8 industrialized nations even before the invasion of Georgia. We have no sympathy for Moscow’s bullying, but we also have no desire to replay the cold war. The United States must find a way to constrain the Russians’ worst impulses, while preserving the ability to work with them on arms control and other vital initiatives.

Both candidates talk tough on terrorism, and neither has ruled out military action to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But Mr. Obama has called for a serious effort to try to wean Tehran from its nuclear ambitions with more credible diplomatic overtures and tougher sanctions. Mr. McCain’s willingness to joke about bombing Iran was frightening.

The Constitution and the Rule of Law

Under Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the justice system and the separation of powers have come under relentless attack. Mr. Bush chose to exploit the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, the moment in which he looked like the president of a unified nation, to try to place himself above the law.

Mr. Bush has arrogated the power to imprison men without charges and browbeat Congress into granting an unfettered authority to spy on Americans. He has created untold numbers of “black” programs, including secret prisons and outsourced torture. The president has issued hundreds, if not thousands, of secret orders. We fear it will take years of forensic research to discover how many basic rights have been violated.

Both candidates have renounced torture and are committed to closing the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But Mr. Obama has gone beyond that, promising to identify and correct Mr. Bush’s attacks on the democratic system. Mr. McCain has been silent on the subject.

Mr. McCain improved protections for detainees. But then he helped the White House push through the appalling Military Commissions Act of 2006, which denied detainees the right to a hearing in a real court and put Washington in conflict with the Geneva Conventions, greatly increasing the risk to American troops.

The next president will have the chance to appoint one or more justices to a Supreme Court that is on the brink of being dominated by a radical right wing. Mr. Obama may appoint less liberal judges than some of his followers might like, but Mr. McCain is certain to pick rigid ideologues. He has said he would never appoint a judge who believes in women’s reproductive rights.

The Candidates

It will be an enormous challenge just to get the nation back to where it was before Mr. Bush, to begin to mend its image in the world and to restore its self-confidence and its self-respect. Doing all of that, and leading America forward, will require strength of will, character and intellect, sober judgment and a cool, steady hand.

Mr. Obama has those qualities in abundance. Watching him being tested in the campaign has long since erased the reservations that led us to endorse Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries. He has drawn in legions of new voters with powerful messages of hope and possibility and calls for shared sacrifice and social responsibility.

Mr. McCain, whom we chose as the best Republican nominee in the primaries, has spent the last coins of his reputation for principle and sound judgment to placate the limitless demands and narrow vision of the far-right wing. His righteous fury at being driven out of the 2000 primaries on a racist tide aimed at his adopted daughter has been replaced by a zealous embrace of those same win-at-all-costs tactics and tacticians.

He surrendered his standing as an independent thinker in his rush to embrace Mr. Bush’s misbegotten tax policies and to abandon his leadership position on climate change and immigration reform.

Mr. McCain could have seized the high ground on energy and the environment. Earlier in his career, he offered the first plausible bill to control America’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Now his positions are a caricature of that record: think Ms. Palin leading chants of “drill, baby, drill.”

Mr. Obama has endorsed some offshore drilling, but as part of a comprehensive strategy including big investments in new, clean technologies.

Mr. Obama has withstood some of the toughest campaign attacks ever mounted against a candidate. He’s been called un-American and accused of hiding a secret Islamic faith. The Republicans have linked him to domestic terrorists and questioned his wife’s love of her country. Ms. Palin has also questioned millions of Americans’ patriotism, calling Republican-leaning states “pro-America.”

This politics of fear, division and character assassination helped Mr. Bush drive Mr. McCain from the 2000 Republican primaries and defeat Senator John Kerry in 2004. It has been the dominant theme of his failed presidency.

The nation’s problems are simply too grave to be reduced to slashing “robo-calls” and negative ads. This country needs sensible leadership, compassionate leadership, honest leadership and strong leadership. Barack Obama has shown that he has all of those qualities.

Barack Obama’s Super Tuesday Speech

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dzHDzvTfzQ[/youtube]

Senator Kennedy Endorses Barack Obama For President

Senator Edward Kennedy has endorsed Barack Obama for this year’s presidential election.

The senior senator from Massachusetts, and the sole surviving brother of John and Robert Kennedy, was accompanied by JFK’s daughter, Caroline, who endorsed Obama in an op-ed piece in the New York Times on the weekend.

Kennedy paid tribute to Senators Hillary Clinton and John Edwards but said his choice was based on “the candidate who inspires me, who inspires all of us, who can lift our vision and summon our hopes and renew our belief that our country’s best days are still to come”.

This is the text and video of Senator Kennedy’s address:

Thank you, Caroline. Thank you for that wonderful introduction and for your courage and bold vision, for your insight and understanding, and for the power and reach of your words. Like you, we too “want a president who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again.” Thank you, Caroline. Your mother and father would be so proud today. Thank you, Patrick, for your leadership in Congress and for being here to celebrate and support a leader who truly has the power to inspire and make America good again, “from sea to shining sea.”

Thank you, American University.

I feel change in the air.

Every time I’ve been asked over the past year who I would support in the Democratic Primary, my answer has always been the same: I’ll support the candidate who inspires me, who inspires all of us, who can lift our vision and summon our hopes and renew our belief that our country’s best days are still to come.

I’ve found that candidate. And it looks to me like you have too.

But first, let me say how much I respect the strength, the work and dedication of two other Democrats still in the race, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. They are my friends; they have been my colleagues in the Senate. John Edwards has been a powerful advocate for economic and social justice. And Hillary Clinton has been in the forefront on issues ranging from health care to the rights of women around the world. Whoever is our nominee will have my enthusiastic support.

Let there be no doubt: We are all committed to seeing a Democratic President in 2008.

But I believe there is one candidate who has extraordinary gifts of leadership and character, matched to the extraordinary demands of this moment in history.

He understands what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “fierce urgency of now.”

He will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past. He is a leader who sees the world clearly without being cynical. He is a fighter who cares passionately about the causes he believes in, without demonizing those who hold a different view.

He is tough-minded, but he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”

I am proud to stand here today and offer my help, my voice, my energy and my commitment to make Barack Obama the next President of the United States.

Like most of the nation, I was moved four years ago as he told us a profound truth—that we are not, we must not be, just red states and blue states, but one United States. And since that time I have marveled at his grit and his grace as he traveled this country and inspired record turnouts of people of all ages, of all races, of all genders, of all parties and faiths to get “fired up” and “ready to go.”

I’ve seen him connect with people from every walk of life and with Senators on both sides of the aisle. With every person he meets, every crowd he inspires, and everyone he touches, he generates new hope that our greatest days as a nation are still ahead, and this generation of Americans, like others before us, can unite to meet our own rendezvous with destiny.

We know the true record of Barack Obama. There is the courage he showed when so many others were silent or simply went along. From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq.

And let no one deny that truth.

There is the great intelligence of someone who could have had a glittering career in corporate law, but chose instead to serve his community and then enter public life.

There is the tireless skill of a Senator who was there in the early mornings to help us hammer out a needed compromise on immigration reform— who always saw a way to protect both national security and the dignity of people who do not have a vote. For them, he was a voice for justice.

And there is the clear effectiveness of Barack Obama in fashioning legislation to put high quality teachers in our classrooms—and in pushing and prodding the Senate to pass the most far-reaching ethics reform in its history.

Now, with Barack Obama, there is a new national leader who has given America a different kind of campaign—a campaign not just about himself, but about all of us. A campaign about the country we will become, if we can rise above the old politics that parses us into separate groups and puts us at odds with one another.

I remember another such time, in the 1960s, when I came to the Senate at the age of 30. We had a new president who inspired the nation, especially the young, to seek a new frontier. Those inspired young people marched, sat in at lunch counters, protested the war in Vietnam and served honorably in that war even when they opposed it.

They realized that when they asked what they could do for their country, they could change the world.

It was the young who led the first Earth Day and issued a clarion call to protect the environment; the young who enlisted in the cause of civil rights and equality for women; the young who joined the Peace Corps and showed the world the hopeful face of America.

At the fifth anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps, I asked one of those young Americans why they had volunteered.

And I will never forget the answer: “It was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country.”

This is another such time.

I sense the same kind of yearning today, the same kind of hunger to move on and move America forward. I see it not just in young people, but in all our people.

And in Barack Obama, I see not just the audacity, but the possibility of hope for the America that is yet to be.

What counts in our leadership is not the length of years in Washington, but the reach of our vision, the strength of our beliefs, and that rare quality of mind and spirit that can call forth the best in our country and our people.

With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion.

With Barack Obama, we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay.

With Barack Obama, we will close the door on the old economics that has written off the poor and left the middle class poorer and less secure.

He offers a strategy for prosperity—so that America will once again lead the world in better standards of life.

With Barack Obama, we will break the old gridlock and finally make health care what it should be in America—a fundamental right for all, not just an expensive privilege for the few.

We will make the United States the great leader and not the great roadblock in the fateful fight against global warming.

And with Barack Obama, we will end a war in Iraq that he has always stood against, that has cost us the lives of thousands of our sons and daughters, and that America never should have fought.

I have seen him in the Senate. He will keep us strong and defend the nation against real threats of terrorism and proliferation.

So let us reject the counsels of doubt and calculation.

Let us remember that when Franklin Roosevelt envisioned Social Security, he didn’t decide—no, it was too ambitious, too big a dream, too hard.

When John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn’t say no, it was too far, maybe we couldn’t get there and shouldn’t even try.

I am convinced we can reach our goals only if we are “not petty when our cause is so great”– only if we find a way past the stale ideas and stalemate of our times – only if we replace the politics of fear with the politics of hope – and only if we have the courage to choose change.

Barack Obama is the one person running for President who can bring us that change.

Barack Obama is the one person running for President who can be that change.

I love this country. I believe in the bright light of hope and possibility. I always have, even in the darkest hours. I know what America can achieve. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it—and with Barack Obama, we can do it again.

I know that he’s ready to be President on day one. And when he raises his hand on Inauguration Day, at that very moment, we will lift the spirits of our nation and begin to restore America’s standing in the world.

There was another time, when another young candidate was running for President and challenging America to cross a New Frontier. He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic President, who was widely respected in the party. Harry Truman said we needed “someone with greater experience”—and added: “May I urge you to be patient.” And John Kennedy replied: “The world is changing. The old ways will not do…It is time for a new generation of leadership.”

So it is with Barack Obama. He has lit a spark of hope amid the fierce urgency of now.

I believe that a wave of change is moving across America. If we do not turn aside, if we dare to set our course for the shores of hope, we together will go beyond the divisions of the past and find our place to build the America of the future.

My friends, I ask you to join in this historic journey — to have the courage to choose change.

It is time again for a new generation of leadership.

It is time now for Barack Obama.

Democrats Say Bush Failed To Provide Plans For Future Of Iraq

President Bush “failed to provide either a plan to successfully end the war or a convincing rationale to continue it”, according to Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.

Delivering the Democratic Party response to Bush’s address, Reed said “an endless and unlimited military presence in Iraq is not an option”.

  • Listen to Senator Jack Reed’s Response to Bush:

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This is the text of Senator Jack Reed’s Response to President Bush’s Speech on Iraq.

Good evening.

I’m Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island, and I was privileged to serve in the United States Army for 12 years.

I opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. It was a flawed strategy that diverted attention and resources away from hunting down Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. And since then, too often, the President’s Iraq policies have worsened America’s security. Hundreds of billions have been spent. Our military is strained. Over 27,000 Americans have been wounded, and over 3,700 of our best and brightest have been killed.

Tonight, a nation eager for change in Iraq heard the President speak about his plans for the future. But once again, the President failed to provide either a plan to successfully end the war or a convincing rationale to continue it. The President rightfully invoked the valor of our troops in his speech, but his plan does not amount to real change. Soldiers take a solemn oath to protect our nation, and we have a solemn responsibility to send them into battle only with clear and achievable missions.

Tonight, the President provided neither.

As a former Army officer, I know the great sacrifices our soldiers and their families make. Our military can defeat any foe on the battlefield. Yet, as General Petraeus has repeatedly stated, Iraq’s fundamental problems are not military, they are political. The only way to create a lasting peace in Iraq is for Iraqi leaders to negotiate a settlement of their long-standing differences.

When the President launched the “surge” in January, he told us that its purpose was to provide Iraqi leaders with the time to make that political progress. But now, nine months into the surge, the President’s own advisers tell us that Iraq’s leaders have not, and are not likely to do so. Meanwhile, thousands of brave Americans remain in the crossfire of another country’s civil war.

So tonight, we find ourselves at a critical moment.

Do we continue to heed the President’s call that all Iraq needs is more time, more money, and the indefinite presence of 130,000 American troops — the same number as nine months ago? Or do we follow what is in our nation’s best interest and redefine our mission in Iraq?

Democrats believe it is time to change course. We think it’s wrong that the President tells us there’s not enough money for our veterans and children’s health care because he is spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. We have put forth a plan to responsibly and rapidly begin a reduction of our troops. Our proposal can not erase the mistakes of the last four and a half years, but we can chart a better way forward.

That is why our plan focuses on counter-terrorism and training the Iraqi army. It engages in diplomacy to bring warring factions to the table and addresses regional issues that inflame the situation. It begins a responsible and rapid redeployment of our troops out of Iraq. And it returns our focus to those who seek to do us harm: Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

An endless and unlimited military presence in Iraq is not an option. Democrats and Republicans in Congress and throughout the nation can not and must not stand idly by while our interests throughout the world are undermined and our Armed Forces are stretched toward the breaking point.

We intend to exercise our Constitutional duties and profoundly change our military involvement in Iraq. We ask Americans of good will of whatever party to join with us in this historic effort to restore the strength and security of the United States. I urge the President to listen to the American people and work with Congress to start bringing our troops home and develop a new policy that is truly worthy of their sacrifices.

Thank you.

Senator Barack Obama Announces Bid For President

Barack Obama, the Democratic Party junior Senator from Illinois, has formally declared his candidacy for the United States Presidential race in 2008.

Speaking in Abraham Lincoln’s home town of Springfield, Obama said he wanted to “build a more hopeful America”.

Obama is aiming to become the first black American to win a major party nomination and become President. He faces formidable opposition from Senators Hillary Clinton and John Edwards for the nomination. If successful, his Republican Party opponent could be Senator John McCain, Rudolph Giuliani or Mitt Romney. The presidential primary season is still a year away.

In his announcement speech, Obama said that what has stopped the US from meetings its contemporary challenges “is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics – the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.” [Read more…]

Democratic Party Response to State of the Union Address

Following President Bush’s State of the Union address, the Democratic response was delivered by Senator Jim Webb, the Virginian freshman whose election gave the Democrats control of the Senate.

This is the prepared text of Senator Webb’s response.

Good evening.

I’m Sen. Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown — an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the president’s message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and health care for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans. [Read more…]

A Democratic Blueprint For America’s Future: Kennedy

Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts)The Democratic Party should not be “timid” about proclaiming its beliefs and values, according to Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Kennedy urged his party to become “clones” of the Republican Party.

Kennedy proposed a program of social and economic reforms and called on corporations to do more to ease the burden on American workers: “One step we can and should take immediately to help families cope with the relentless and growing pressures of everyday life is to require all employers to give employees at least seven days of paid sick leave a year.”

This is the text of Senator Edward Kennedy’s address to the National Press Club.

Thank you, Sheila Cherry, for that gracious introduction. And thank you to the Press Club for inviting me here today.

I’m honored to be joined on the dais by two outstanding young persons who represent a new generation of leadership for the Democratic Party and our country.

Grant Woodard is a junior at Grinnell College in Iowa and President of College Democrats of America. He brilliantly organized “Students for John Kerry” in the Iowa Caucuses a year ago, and last fall he led a national effort to mobilize student voters.

Andrew Gillum is the youngest person ever elected to the City Commission in Tallahassee. He was elected while still a student at Florida A&M, and now, two years later, the Commission has chosen him as Mayor Pro-Tem of the city. Andrew served last fall as Florida director of the get-out-the-vote-campaign of People for the American Way.

These two young leaders have a passion for public service and a talent for inspiring others. After spending a few minutes with them, you’ll be reassured that the nation’s future is in good hands.

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I stood at this podium after another election in which Democrats lost ground – far too much ground – an unwelcome redistribution of power, with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress for the first time in nearly half a century.

2004 was nothing like that. It was more a replay of 2000. This time, a switch of less than 60,000 votes in Ohio would have brought victory. Unlike 2000, it would have been a victory against an incumbent President, and in a time of war.

Small swings in other states could also have given Democrats control of the Senate or the House, or even both. Obviously, it hurts to come so close in all three battles, and then fail by so little. We did many things right, but that is no cause for complacency.

I categorically reject the deceptive and dangerous claim that the outcome last November was somehow a sweeping, or a modest, or even a miniature mandate for reactionary measures like privatizing Social Security, redistributing the tax burden in the wrong direction, or packing the federal courts with reactionary judges. Those proposals were barely mentioned – or voted on – in an election dominated by memories of 9/11, fear of terrorism, the quagmire in Iraq, and relentlessly negative attacks on our Presidential candidate.

In an election so close, defeat has a thousand causes – and it is too easy to blame it on particular issues or tactics, or on the larger debate about values. In truth, we do not shrink from that debate.

There’s no doubt we must do a better job of looking within ourselves and speaking out for the principles we believe in, and for the values that are the foundation of our actions. Americans need to hear more, not less, about those values. We were remiss in not talking more directly about them – about the fundamental ideals that guide our progressive policies. In the words of Martin Luther King, “we must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

Unlike the Republican Party, we believe our values unite us as Americans, instead of dividing us. If the White House’s idea of bipartisanship is that we have to buy whatever partisan ideas they send us, we’re not interested.

In fact, our values are still our greatest strength. Despite resistance, setbacks, and periods of backlash over the years, our values have moved us closer to the ideal with which America began – that all people are created equal. And when Democrats say “all,” we mean “all.”

We have an Administration that falsely hypes almost every issue as a crisis. They did it on Iraq, and they are doing it now on Social Security. They exploit the politics of fear and division, while ours is a politics of hope and unity.

In the face of their tactics, we cannot move our party or our nation forward under pale colors and timid voices. We cannot become Republican clones. If we do, we will lose again, and deserve to lose. As I have said on other occasions, the last thing this country needs is two Republican parties.

Today, I propose a progressive vision for America, a vision that Democrats must fight for in the months and years ahead – a vision rooted in our basic values of opportunity, fairness, tolerance, and respect for each other.

These founding beliefs are still the essence of the American dream today.

That dream is the North Star of the Democratic Party – the compass that guides our policies and sets our course to freedom and opportunity, to fairness and justice – not just for the few, not just for some, but for all.

At our best, in all the great causes for which our party has stood, we have kept that dream alive for all Americans, even and especially in difficult times, and we will not fail to do so now.

Today, as we know too well, that dream is again in peril. The hopes of average Americans have faltered, as global forces cause the economy to shift against them. The challenge has been needlessly compounded, because Republican Congresses and Administrations have consciously chosen negative policies that diminish the American dream.

We cannot reclaim it by tinkering at the margins. No nation is guaranteed a position of lasting prosperity and security. We have to work for it. We have to fight for it. We have to sacrifice for it.

We have a choice. We can continue to be buffeted by the harsh winds of a shrinking world. Or we can think anew, and guide the currents of globalization with a new progressive vision that strengthens America and equips our citizens to move confidently to the future.

Our progressive vision is not just for Democrats or Republicans, for red states or blue states. It’s a way forward for the nation as a whole – to a new prosperity and greater opportunity for all – a vision not just of the country we can become, but of the country we must become – an America that embraces the values and aspirations of our people now, and for coming generations.

A newly revitalized American dream will, of course, be expressed in policies and programs. But it is more than that. It is a challenge to Americans to look beyond the next horizon, remove false limits on our vision and needless barriers to our imagination, and open the way for true innovation and progress.

It is a commitment to true opportunity for all – not as an abstract concept, but as a practical necessity. To find our way to the future, we need the skills, the insight, and the productivity of every American, in a nation where each of us shares responsibility for the future, and where the blessings of progress are shared fairly by all our citizens in return.

Obviously, we must deal with Iraq and the clear and present danger of terrorism. I intend to address that issue in greater detail after the elections there. But I do not retreat from the view that Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam. At the critical moment in the war on terrorism, the Administration turned away from pursuing Osama bin Laden, and made the catastrophic choice instead that has bogged down America in an endless quagmire in Iraq.

Our misguided resort to war has created more – and much more intense – anti-American feeling than Osama bin Laden ever dreamed of. And the sooner we reverse that distressing trend, the better.

I’m convinced John Kerry could have worked with the international community to end that war and bring our troops home with honor. Our challenge now is to convince George Bush that there is a better way ahead in Iraq, instead of continuing to sink deeper into the quagmire.

Here at home, but also for the sake of our future in this rapidly globalizing world, I strongly believe that our highest priority must be a world class education for every American. As Democrats, we seek a future where America competes with others, not by lowering people’s pay and outsourcing their jobs, but by raising their skills.

We must open new doors and new avenues for all Americans to make the most of their God-given talents and rekindle the fires of innovation in our society. By doing so, we can turn this era of globalization into a new era of opportunity for America. Universities and school boards cannot master the challenge alone.

We need a national education strategy to assure that America can advance, not retreat, in the global economy in the years ahead.

I welcome President Bush’s remarks today on improving our high schools. But, it’s clear that unless we fund the reforms under the No Child Left Behind Act for earlier grades and younger children, what we do in high schools will matter far less. We are past the point where we can afford only to talk the talk, without walking the walk.

It’s time for the White House to realize that America cannot expand opportunity and embrace the future on a tin cup education budget.

The No Child Left Behind Act was a start, but only a start. We need to do more – much more – to see that students are ready for college, can afford college, and can graduate from college.

I propose that every child in America, upon reaching eighth grade, be offered a contract. Let students sign it, along with their parents and Uncle Sam. The contract will state that if you work hard, if you finish high school and are admitted to college, we will guarantee you the cost of earning a degree. Surely, we have reached a stage in America where we can say it and mean it – cost must never again be a bar to college education.

We must also inspire a renaissance in the study of math and science, because America today is losing out in these essential disciplines. Two major studies last month ranked American students 29th in math among the 40 leading industrial nations. Over the last 30 years, we have fallen from 3rd to 15th in producing scientists and engineers. Incredibly, more than half of all graduate students in science and engineering in American colleges today are foreign students.

National standards in math and science have existed for more than a decade. We need to raise those standards to be competitive again with international norms, and work with every school to apply them in every classroom.

We should encourage many more students to pursue advanced degrees in math and science. We should make tuition in graduate school free for needy students in those disciplines. And we should make undergraduate tuition free for any young person willing to serve as a math or science teacher in a public school for at least four years.

We can make these investments in our nation’s future without adding a single penny to the deficit, if we empower colleges to negotiate better agreements with student loan providers. Billions of education dollars needlessly line the pockets of the Sallie Maes of the world. The Bush Administration irresponsibly defends this mis-allocation. Democrats must fight to end it. If Republicans truly care about values, they will join us in throwing the money-changers out of the temple of college education.

Another basic truth is obvious here. How young Americans fare in their school and college years is determined in large part by how well they do in their earliest years.

We must invest much more in early education and healthy development for the youngest children, so that entering school ready to learn is no longer just a hollow mantra but a genuine reality.

For children at home, we must give parents the information needed for their child’s well-rounded development. For those in child care, pre-school, or Head Start, we must see that teachers and caregivers have the skill and training to provide the best possible start in life.

A new national commitment to early childhood education must become a top priority. If we fail to meet a child’s development needs starting at birth, we fail not only the child, but our country and our future as well. Acting in time in the early years will also achieve immense savings in later costs for remedial education. Prevention works in health care, and it can work in education, too. Our goal should be an America whose commitment to early childhood education is as strong as its commitment to elementary and secondary education and to college education.

As we prepare our children for the new economy, we must make sure the economy lets them fulfill their American dream. The reality today is that the free market is not truly free. Not all Americans can fully share in its prosperity. We need an economy that values work fairly, that puts the needs of families ahead of excessive profits – an economy whose goal is growth with full employment and good jobs with good benefits for all.

To create good jobs for both today’s and tomorrow’s economy, the private and public sectors must work together toward specific goals.

We should reduce our dependence on foreign oil – not by drilling in the priceless Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, but by investing in clean energy.

We should invest in new schools and modernize old ones, to make schools the pride of their communities again.

We should invest in research and development, to pave the way for innovation and growth.

We should invest in broadband technology, so that every home, school, and business in America has easy and comprehensive access to the internet.

We should invest in mass transit, to reduce the pollution in our air and the congestion on our roads.

We should stop the non-scientific, pseudo-scientific, and anti-scientific nonsense emanating from the right-wing, and start demanding immediate action to reduce global warming, and prevent the catastrophic climate change that may be on our horizon now.

We must not let the Administration distort science and rewrite and manipulate scientific reports in other areas. We must not let it turn the Environmental Protection Agency into the Environmental Pollution Agency.

A progressive economy also recognizes that Americans don’t just want more. They want more of what matters in life, which is the true American dream.

They want greater flexibility on the job, with more time for their families, more time for their children’s schools, more time to volunteer in their communities and churches and synagogues and mosques. They want jobs that pay fairly and don’t force them to work excessive hours without extra pay. They want safe workplaces and the right to join with fellow employees to bargain for a fair workplace. They want companies to stop marketing cigarettes and unhealthy foods to young Americans. They want workplaces free from all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans.

One step we can and should take immediately to help families cope with the relentless and growing pressures of everyday life is to require all employers to give employees at least seven days of paid sick leave a year.

That’s not asking too much of corporations. For too many Americans, an illness means a cruel choice between losing their job, or neglecting their sick child or sick spouse at home. I intend to introduce legislation early in the new Congress to end that cruelty, and I urge the Republican leadership to bring it to a vote.

I also propose that companies which create good jobs with good benefits should receive new tax advantages, because their mission is so important to our cause. But companies that choose not to do so, that ship jobs overseas, should be denied those new incentives. In addition, we must act at long last to raise the federal minimum wage. Overwhelming numbers of citizens in Nevada and Florida showed the way last November, by voting for a higher minimum wage in their states. It’s time for the Republican Party to stop obstructing action by Congress and raise the minimum wage for all employees across the nation.

We must do more to reduce poverty. It is shameful that in America today, the richest and most powerful nation on earth, nearly a fifth of all children go to bed hungry at night because their parents are working full time and still can’t make ends meet.

For the millions who can’t find work and the millions more unable to work at all, we need a strong safety net.

Social Security is fundamental to the integrity of that safety net. Never before – until now – has any President, Republican or Democrat, attacked the basic guarantee of Social Security. Never before – until now – has any President, Republican or Democrat, proposed a cut in Social Security benefits. Yet President Bush is talking not just about a cut, but an incredible 33 percent cut. We must oppose it – and we will defeat it.

We will not let any President turn the American dream into a nightmare for senior citizens and a bonanza for Wall Street.

The biggest threat to Social Security today is not the retirement of the baby boomers. It’s George Bush and the Republican Party.

To revitalize the American dream, we also need to renew the battle to make health care affordable and available to all our people. In this new century of the life sciences, breakthrough treatments and miracle cures are steadily revolutionizing the practice of medicine and the quality of life. The mapping of the human genome enables us to understand far more about the molecular basis of disease, and to plan far-reaching cures that were inconceivable only a few years ago.

Sadly, in America today, the miracles of modern medicine are too often the province only of the wealthy. We need a new guarantee for the years ahead that the cost of these life-saving treatments and cures will not be beyond the reach of the vast majority of the American people.

An essential part of our progressive vision is an America where no citizen of any age fears the cost of health care, and no employer refuses to create new jobs or cuts back on current jobs because of the high cost of providing health insurance.

The answer is Medicare, whose 40th birthday we will celebrate in July. I propose that as a 40th birthday gift to the American people, we expand Medicare over the next decade to cover every citizen – from birth to the end of life.

It’s no secret that America is still dearly in love with Medicare. Administrative costs are low. Patients’ satisfaction is high. Unlike with many private insurers, they can still choose their doctor and their hospital.

For those who prefer private insurance, we will offer comparable coverage under the same range of private insurance plans already available to Congress. I can think of nothing more cynical or hypocritical than a Member of Congress who gives a speech denouncing health care for all, then goes to his doctor for a visit paid for by the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan.

I call this approach Medicare for All, because it will free all Americans from the fear of crippling medical expenses and enable them to seek the best possible care when illness strikes.

The battle to achieve Medicare for All will not be easy. Powerful interests will strongly oppose it, because they profit immensely from the status quo. Right wing forces will unleash false attack ads ranting against socialized medicine and government-run health care.

But those attacks are a generation out of date – retreads of the failed campaign that delayed Medicare in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, we are immunized against such attacks by the obvious success of Medicare. It is long past time to extend that success to all.

The Democratic Party’s proudest moments and greatest victories have always come when we stand up against powerful interests and fight for the common good – and this coming battle can be another of our finest achievements.

To make the transition from the current splintered system, I propose to phase in Medicare for All, age group by age group, starting with those closest to retirement, between 55 and 65. Aside from senior citizens themselves, they have the greatest health needs and the highest health costs, and need our help the most.

The first stage of the phase-in should also guarantee good health care to every young child. We made a start with the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997. It does a major part of the job, and it’s time to complete the job now.

As we implement this reform, financing must be a shared responsibility. All will benefit, and all should contribute. Payroll taxes should be part of the financing, but so should general revenues, to make the financing as progressive as possible.

We can offset a large part of the expense by a single giant step – bringing health care into the modern age of information technology.

By moving to electronic medical records for all Americans when they go to the hospital or their doctor, we can save hundreds of billions of dollars a year in administrative costs while improving the quality of care.

Equally important, we should pay for health care based on value and results, not just the number of procedures performed or days in a hospital bed. We must also expand our investments in medical research, so that we can realize even more of its extraordinary promise. We must confront and defeat the misguided ideology that – in the name of life – denies life-saving cures by blocking stem cell research.

Above all, as we face the forces of globalization, we must inspire a stronger sense of national purpose among our citizens in a wide variety of areas that serve the public interest. We must affirm anew what it means to be an American.

Citizenship is far more than just voting every two years or four years. The strength and genius of our democracy depends on the caring and involvement of our people, and we cannot truly secure our freedom without appealing to the character of our citizens.

If we fail, we open the way for abuses of power in the hands of the few, for neglect of poverty and bigotry, and for arrogant foreign policies that shatter our alliances and make enemies of our friends.

Our founders made the values of justice, equality, and civic responsibility the cornerstones of America’s strength and its future. Teaching these fundamentals should be the mission of every school. It’s not enough to deliver the knowledge and skills needed to compete in a global economy. Equally important are the values that create an informed and engaged society.

Every young person should learn the skills to participate in our democracy through knowledge of government and opportunities to be involved in service in their own communities.

Good citizenship begins at home, with the values that parents teach children. Parenting is a challenge in any era, but never more so than today. Parents know that every hour spent working overtime is an hour away from their children. If they can’t attend a PTA meeting or a school play or a sports contest, they lose an opportunity to learn more about their child at school. They know instinctively that the quality of their skill as parents affects the learning of their children, their sense of the future, and their contributions to their communities in their own day and generation.

Aid to schools should include more funds for outreach, so that parents know more about schools, and schools know more about parents. The outreach should also include employers, so that they too can see the importance of flexible hours for employees to attend school functions and meet other family needs.

Our new progressive vision must also speak more directly to the issues of deep conscience in the policy positions we take. We must do a better job of explaining these positions in terms of our shared goals and values.

I’m concerned particularly with the contentious and difficult issue of abortion. My deep and heartfelt desire is for families to grow and prosper and continue to bring new life into the world. Our progressive vision and the policies that flow from it are aimed at helping all families thrive in this land of opportunity.

But in this land that cherishes individual rights and liberties, a woman has the constitutional right to make her own reproductive decisions, and I support that right wholeheartedly. As the Supreme Court has recognized, reproductive decisions are among the most personal and private decisions a woman ever makes, and neither Congress nor the White House should be making those reproductive decisions for her.

But there is a way America can find common ground on this issue. Surely, we can all agree that abortion should be rare, and that we should do all we can to help women avoid the need to face that decision.

If we are serious about reducing the number of abortions, we must be serious about reducing unwanted pregnancy. We must adopt policies with a proven track record of reducing abortion. History teaches that abortions do not stop because they are made illegal. Indeed, half of all abortions in the world are performed in places where abortions are illegal. We do know, however, that the number of abortions is reduced when women and parents have education and economic opportunity.

Our progressive vision is of an America where parents have the opportunity and the resources – including good prenatal care – to bring healthy children into the world.

We want every child to be welcomed into a loving home, and to be part of the American Dream. This fundamental vision is at the heart of who we are as Democrats, and we must do everything in our power to make it a reality.

On the issue of gay rights, I continue to strongly support civil marriage. We cannot – and should not – require any religion or any church to accept gay marriage. But it is wrong for our civil laws to deny any American the basic right to be part of a family, to have loved ones with whom to build a future and share life’s joys and tears, and to be free from the stain of bigotry and discrimination.

Finally, and by no means least, our actions in the wider world must reflect our values at home as well. The true American spirit and the basic generosity of the American people were never more in evidence than in the spontaneous outpouring of support by millions of our fellow citizens for the victims of the deadly tsunami that caused such tragedy and devastation across South Asia. We are a compassionate and caring people, and in times like this, we are never separated by borders or oceans or politics or faith. The people of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and other suffering nations are our brothers and sisters.

Sustained action by America and other nations will be essential in the ongoing mission of reconstruction and rehabilitation. The people of South Asia need our help now and they need our long term support – and so do other peoples struggling desperately to deal with overwhelming poverty and disease.

Their nations can be our friends – or be the breeding ground of our enemies. As President Kennedy said in his Inaugural Address, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

America is strongest in the world when we use our superpower status to join with other nations to achieve great goals, instead of bullying them to salute us. More than ever, our strength today depends on pursuing our purposes in cooperation with others, not in ways that anger them, or ignore them, or condescend to them.

As Franklin Roosevelt said of America in 1945, “We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of nations far away. . . . We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.”

If only President Bush would heed those words. Our fragile planet is not a Republican or Democratic or American community. It is a world community, and we forget that truth at our very, very great peril.

So I look forward to this year and the years ahead with full awareness of the great challenges facing our country, but with full confidence as well in our ability to renew our Democratic Party to successfully meet them, and persuade America that we are right. I welcome the opportunity and the obligation to debate our values and our vision.

A new American majority is ready to respond to our call for a revitalized American dream – grounded firmly in our Constitution and in the endless adventure of lifting this nation to ever new heights of discovery, prosperity, progress, and service to all our people and to all humanity.

We as Democrats may be in the minority in Congress, but we speak for the majority of Americans. If we summon the courage and determination to take our stand and state it clearly, I’m convinced the battles that lie ahead will yield our greatest victories.