Remarks by Howard Dean and Al Gore

Black National Theatre's Institute of Action Art,
December 9, 2003

(Note: Event fed in progress.)

MR. DEAN: (In progress) -- your help very much, and your support, announced yesterday. I want to note that we have the speaker of the City Council here, Gifford Miller-I don't know where he is, but I know he's here. We thank him for being here. And I also want to note, in addition to our special guest, that we have Karenna Gore here, and we thank you very much for being here as well. (Applause.)

I am deeply grateful to my former roommate, Ralph Dawson (sp), and all his friends and committee that put this together. It is great to be back in Harlem, and I really appreciate all the community leaders that have come out, and I thank you for your help.

I am, of course, going to make very brief remarks; when we set this event up, I had absolutely no idea that we were going to have the elected president of the United States here -- (laughter) -- with us today. (Laughs.) (Applause, cheers.) And I am very, very grateful for our special guest.

I am just going to make a few very, very short remarks. First, I think many of you know that this campaign is about some issues that are important, about jobs in America again, about investing, instead of giving $3 trillion worth of tax cuts to the top 1 percent of Americans. It's about mass transit and schools and investing in roads and bridges and renewable energy and broadband telecommunications so we can eliminate the digital divide and have jobs all over America.

It's about health insurance for every American; in my state, everybody under eighteen has health insurance, and if we can do those kinds of things in a small rural state, we can do that in the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the face of the earth.

It's about educational opportunity, it's about a president who says, “No child left behind,” but leaves many children behind. We're going to change that, and this time there really will be no child left behind, and we're going to start right here in Harlem. (Applause.)

But it's also-there's also a much broader theme, and that is a theme to do with community. When I was 21 years old, it was towards the end of the civil rights movement, and it had been a very difficult time for America. Martin Luther King had been killed, Bobby Kennedy had been killed, and a number of other people, including four little girls in a Birmingham church, gave their lives so that every American could have equal rights under the law.

But it was also a time of extraordinary hope, a time where we felt like we were all in it together, that if one person was left behind, then America wasn't as good as it could be or as strong as it should be. That's the kind of America we want back again, the America where Medicare passed for the first time, Head Start passed, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, the first African-American justice of the United States Supreme Court. A time when it wasn't enough for me, as a citizen of Vermont, to say I wanted good schools, or you, as a citizen of New York, to say you want good schools; that I had a responsibility not just to have good schools in Vermont or you to have good schools in New York, but as Americans, we had a responsibility to have good schools in our states and our towns and good schools in Alabama and in Mississippi and in Brownsville, Texas, and in Oakland, California, and in east New York. That was our responsibility, too.

We -- (applause) -- what we want is our community back and our country back, the country where we are all in this together.

It is an extraordinary honor for me to be standing on the stage with someone who I have admired greatly, who has taught me a great deal during this campaign on issues such as foreign policy, such as defense. He's an extraordinary human being, who have I have gotten to know over the past few years; someone who has a long career in public service, who served his country honorably in the armed services; someone who I believe in; and somebody who we believe in and we admire. It is an honor and privilege to present to you former vice president of the United States Al Gore. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. GORE: Thank you very much. (Applause continues.) Thank you very much. I -- (applause continues, followed by whoops and cheers) -- I'm really proud and happy to be here with you. (Applause continues.) It's great to be back in Harlem. We shot basketball together one of the last times I was here.

Howard Dean and I are traveling from here to Iowa, and I'm going to make more extensive speech at Cedar Rapids a little bit later today.

But I said, when I announced last year that I was not going to be a candidate for president myself, that I would endorse one of the candidates who is running. And I had no idea at that time which candidate that would be. But I have watched this campaign, and I have listened to all of the candidates. I think it's a great field. There are a lot of great Democratic candidates out there.

But what I'm about to say doesn't come as a secret or as a surprise to anybody within the sound of my voice. And that is that Howard Dean really is the only candidate who has been able to inspire at the grass-roots level all over this country the kind of passion and enthusiasm for democracy -- (cheers, applause) -- and change and transformation of America that we need in this country. (Cheers, applause.)

We need to remake the Democratic Party, we need to remake America, we need to take it back on behalf of the people of this country.

So, I'm very proud and honored to endorse Howard Dean to be the next president of the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

Democracy is a team sport, and I want to do everything I can to convince anybody that is interested in my judgment about who among these candidates has the best chance to win and the best chance to lead our country in the right direction. I want to do everything I can to convince you to get behind Howard Dean, and let's make this a successful campaign as a group. It is about all of us, and all of us need to get behind the strongest candidate.

Now, I respect the prerogative of the voters in the caucuses and in the primaries. And I'm just one person, but I'm offering my judgment, and I'm also going to say one other thing here. Years ago, former President Ronald Reagan said in the Republican Party that there ought to be an 11th commandment-speak no ill of another Republican. Well now, we're Democrats and we may not find that kind of commandment as accessible. But to the extent that we can recognize the stakes in America today, I would urge all of the other candidates and campaigns to keep their eyes on the prize. Here we are in Harlem. We need to keep our eyes on the prize.

This nation cannot afford to have four more years of a Bush- Cheney administration. (Cheers, applause.) We can't afford to be divided among ourselves to the point that we lose sight of how important it is for America.

What is going on in this Bush White House today is bad for our country, and it's slowly beginning to sink into more and more people out there. And we don't have the luxury of fighting among ourselves to the point where we seriously damage our ability to win on behalf of the American people this time around.

Now one other thing: I've spent a long time thinking about national security and national defense. (Chuckles.) And I've heard a lot of folks who, in my opinion, made a judgment about the Iraq war that was just plain wrong, saying that Howard Dean's decision to oppose the Iraq war calls his judgment on foreign policy into question. Well, excuse me. He was the only major candidate who made the correct judgment about the Iraq war. (Cheers, applause.) And he had the insight and the courage to say and do the right thing. (Applause continues.) And that's important, because those judgments, that basic common sense is what you want in a president.

Our country has been weakened in our ability to fight the war against terror because of the catastrophic mistake that the Bush administration made in taking us into war in Iraq. It was Osama bin Laden that attacked us, not Saddam Hussein. (Scattered applause.) Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, and he's better off not in power. We're all better off. But it was a mistake --


MR. GORE: -- to get us into a quagmire over there.

So don't tell me that because Howard Dean was the only major candidate who was right about that war, that that somehow calls his judgment into question on foreign policy.

So whether it is inspiring enthusiasm at the grass roots and promising to remake the Democratic Party as a force for justice and progress and good in America, whether it is a domestic agenda that gets our nation back on track, or whether it is protecting us against terrorists and strengthening our nation in the world, I have come to the conclusion that in a field of great candidates, one candidate clearly now stands out.

And so I'm asking all of you to join in this grass-roots movement to elect Howard Dean president of the United States. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. DEAN: Mr. Vice President, I want to thank you for the generous and thoughtful words, particularly those words that said the 11th Commandment now also ought to apply to Democrats. (Laughter.)

As you know, I've been picking a fair amount of buckshot out of my rear end in some of these debates -- (laughter) -- and we're going up to New Hampshire tonight and see if I do some more.

And I particularly appreciate all the people that put this event together. I think it's important that we started in Harlem. And the reason I think it's important that we started in Harlem because in 2002 we lost a lot of races in the Democratic Party because we decided that we were going to go to the swing votes and try to get them, and our base is going to come along later on. I think it's important in this campaign that we recognize those people who were with us all the time, and we -- (interrupted by applause). And so we made a conscious decision to start with women, to start with the African-American community, to start with the Latino community, to start with the trade union movement and make sure that people understood that when they went to the polls this time-we lost five great governors and some senators in the last three years because our campaign was, “I voted with the president 85 percent of the time.” If you're a Democrat and your campaign is that you voted 85 percent of the time with the president, who is the most conservative-well, he's not a conservative-radical president since we've had in my lifetime, then of course the people are going to say let's vote for the guy that's going to be with the president 100 percent of the time.

I thank Al Gore for his extraordinary leadership in this party in the last couple of years. I told him-and I'll embarrass him in front of you all, but I told him-you know how I am, I say what I think, for better or for worse. (Laughter.) I told him that the two best speeches in this campaign were given by somebody who's not running for president, and that was his March speech and his September speech about the war and about foreign policy. We need -- (interrupted by applause). We have need of a strong, steady hand in this party, and I appreciate Al's willing to stand up and be one.

And so, let me thank you again. This event turned out a little differently than I expected, a little more higher profile. (Laughter.) The one thing I regret is that I have not had the chance to come around and meet all of the people individually who have come here and made this event. I am proud to be here in the city of my birth, I am proud to be here in the capital of African-American community in the country, in the United States of America, a community that goes back a long, long time and has contributed so much to America. And I am very proud of your support.

This campaign is not about Howard Dean going to the White House, this campaign is about us going to the White House, all of us. And I look forward to the day, on January 20th, 2005, when we do what Andrew Jackson, another great Tennessean, did, we will open the doors to the White House and let the American people back in. Thanks very much. (Cheers, applause.)


Copyright 2003 Federal News Service, Inc. Federal News Service

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