Burlington, Vermont -- Today I announce that I am running for President of the United States of America. I speak not only for my candidacy. I speak for a new American century and a new generation of Americans -- both young people and the young at heart. We seek the great restoration of American values and the restoration of our nation's traditional purpose in the world.
This is a campaign to unite and empower people everywhere.
It is a call to every American, regardless of party, to join together in common purpose and for the common good to save and restore all that it means to be an American.
Over a year ago I began to travel the country in the usual way one does when seeking the Presidency.
I believed that, by running for President, I could raise the issues of health care for every American and the need to focus on early childhood development. I wanted to bring those issues to the forefront of the national debate. And I wanted to balance the budget to bring financial stability and jobs back to America.
Most importantly, I have wanted my party to stand up for what we believe in again.
But something changed along the way as I listened to Americans around this country. On my first trip to Iowa I heard people speak of a profound fear and distrust of multi-national corporations. From New Hampshire to Texas I met Americans doubting the words of our leaders and our government in Washington. Every where I go people are asking fundamental questions: Who can we trust? Is the media reporting the truth? What is happening to our country?
The Americans I have met love their country. They believe deeply in its promise, our values and our principles. But they know something is wrong and they want to take action. They want to do something to right our path. But they feel Washington isn't listening. And as individuals, they lack the power to change the course those in Washington have put us on.
What they know is that somehow 7 trillion dollars of our country's wealth disappeared. Nearly 1 in 10 retired people have had to return to the workforce because they have lost their pensions. Young people are returning to live at home after graduating because they cannot find work.
Companies are leaving the country to avoid paying taxes, or to avoid paying people livable wages. And corporations are doing this with the support of the government and a political process in Washington that they rent -- if not own.
This was the fear that James Madison and Thomas Jefferson spoke of -- the fear that economic power would one day try to seize political power.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best, "Every special interest is entitled to justice full, fair and complete....but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench or to representation in any public office."
Today, our nation is in crisis. At home, this crisis manifests itself in this President's destruction of the idea of community. This President pushes forward an agenda and policies which divide us. He advocates economic polices which beggar the middle class and raise property taxes so that income taxes may be cut for those who ran Enron.
He divides us by race by using the word quota, which appeals to the worst in us by instilling fear that people of color might take our jobs or our places in the nation's best universities. Even the most conservative Supreme Court since the Dred Scott decision did not completely agree with the President's attack on diversity and community that includes all Americans.
He divides us by gender by attacking a woman's right to make her own health care decisions. And even by attacking young women's right to have the same athletic opportunities that young men do. He divides us by sexual orientation by supporting senators who have slandered gay Americans, and he appeals once again to the worst instincts within us, instead of that which is good in all Americans.
The tax cuts that are the radicals' weapon are not about tax cuts for working people. They are not even about tax cuts for millionaires. Instead, the tax cuts are designed to destroy Social Security, Medicare, our public schools and our public services through starvation and privatization.
Our President and too many in Washington are giving away our future so that we pass to our children not a flickering flame of freedom but the chain of insurmountable debt.
No parent would do this and America must not do this.
And so for me the long journey of a Presidential campaign has begun with the people I have met affecting me far more than any affect I may have had on them. And because of that, the reasons why I seek the Presidency have changed.
This campaign is about more than issue differences on health care, tax cuts, national security, jobs, the environment and our economy. It is about something as important as our children. It's about who we are as Americans.
Here are the words of John Winthrop: "We shall be as one. We must delight in each other, make other's conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always living before our eyes our Commission and Community in our work."
It is that ideal, the ideal of the American community, that we seek to restore.
An America where it is not enough for me to want health care for my family but the obligation, and responsibility of every one of us as American citizens to insure that each one of us has health care for our families.
An America where it is not enough for me to want good public schools and a better life for my children but an obligation, and a responsibility as citizens to insure that every child in America may go to a good public school and have the opportunity of a better life.
An America where it is not enough to protect my rights under the law but where it is a duty and an obligation for each of us as Americans to make sure every American is equal under the law.
An America where it is not enough to proclaim the words freedom, self-government, and democracy, but where it is a duty and a responsibility to participate together in common purpose with the sacrifice required of each of us to give those words meaning.
If September 11, 2001 taught America anything it is that we are stronger when we are beholden to each other as a national community, and weaker when we act only as individuals. That tragedy gave us an enormous opportunity to focus not only on our common peril, but also on our common dreams. The peril remains, but the dreams must be resurrected -- and they will be in a new American century.
President Kennedy challenged us to "pass the torch to a new generation of Americans." And so, we must issue that challenge again.
So too must we restore the deepest belief of our people that each generation has a responsibility to pass to our children a nation and a world that is better and stronger than the one that was passed to us.
As we experience the crisis of community at home, we are witnessing the effort to repudiate 225 years of American consensus on what our nation's place should be in the world.
Since the time of Thomas Paine and John Adams, our founders implored that we were not to be the new Rome. We are not to conquer and suppress other nations to submit to our will. We were to inspire them.
The idea of America using its power solely for its own ends is not consistent with the idealistic moral force the world has known for over two centuries.
We must rejoin the world community. America is far stronger as the moral and military leader of the world than we will ever be by relying solely on military power. We destroyed repressive communist regimes without firing a shot, not simply by having a strong military, but because we had a better ideal to show the world.
Every American President must and will take up arms in the defense of our nation. It is a solemn oath that cannot -- and will not -- be compromised.
But there is a fundamental difference between the defense of our nation and the doctrine of preemptive war espoused by this administration. The President's group of narrow-minded ideological advisors are undermining our nation's greatness in the world. They have embraced a form of unilateralism that is even more dangerous than isolationism.
This administration has shown disdain for allies, treaties, and international organizations alike.
In doing so they would throw aside our nation's role as the inspirational leader of the world the beacon of hope and justice in the interests of humankind. And instead, they would present our face to the world as a dominant power prepared to push aside any nation with which we do not agree.
Our foreign and military policies must be about America leading the world, not America against the world.
So how did we come to this point?
How is it that our leaders have abandoned our communities and repudiated our idealism and principles?
When confronted with a dedicated band of right wing ideologues, too many Americans have stopped participating, stopped voting, and stopped believing that they can change America.
And we in politics have not given our people a reason to vote or a reason to participate. We have slavishly spewed sound bites, copying each other while saying little. We raise millions of dollars and each year make lofty promises, while every year the struggles of ordinary Americans increase and fewer Americans vote. Our politicians, many of them good people, have been paralyzed by their fear of losing office. Our leaders have developed a vocabulary which has become meaningless to the American people.
There is no greater example of this than a self-described conservative Republican president who creates the greatest deficits in history of America. Or a President who boasts of a Clear Skies Initiative which allows far more pollution into our air. Or a President who co-opts from an advocacy organization the phrase "No Child Left Behind," while paying for irresponsible tax cuts by cutting children's health care.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
The history of our nation is clear: At every turn when there has been an imbalance of power, the truth questioned, or our beliefs and values distorted, the change required to restore our nation has always come from the bottom up from our people.
And so, while the President raises $4 million more tonight to maintain his agenda, we will not be silent.
He calls his biggest fundraisers Rangers and Pioneers.
But today, we stand together with thousands in Burlington, Vermont and tens of thousands more, standing with us right now in every state in this nation. And we call ourselves, simply, Americans.
And we stand today in common purpose to take our country back.
I am a doctor and I was proud to be Governor of Vermont:
- where we balanced our budgets
- where we made sure that nearly every child in our state had health care coverage
- where we are stewards of our land and natural resources
- where, on the first Tuesday of March every year, Vermonters gather to make decisions on matters vital to our communities
- where we hold these truths to be self evident: that all are created equal and are endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness
- And, where we, like all Americans, love our country and want to see her flag stand for freedom and justice for all. That flag is not the property of the either party, it belongs to all of us.
It is from this place that the rest of the journey of this campaign continues. We will ask the American people to participate again in our common future. I ask all Americans, regardless of party, to meet with me across the nation to come together in common cause to forge a new American century. Help us in this quest to return greatness, and return high moral purpose to the United States of America.
We are the great grassroots campaign of the modern era, built from mouse pads, shoe leather and hope.
Like MoveOn.org we seek to build a community of millions and strengthen the voice of the people.
And like the founders of our republic, we seek change.
The great lie spoken by politicians on platforms like this is the cry of "elect me and I will solve all your problems."
The truth is the future of our nation rests in your hands, and not in mine.
Abraham Lincoln said that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.
But this President has forgotten ordinary people.
You have the power to reclaim our nation's destiny.
You have the power to rid Washington of the politics of money.
You have the power to make right as important as might.
You have the power to give Americans a reason to vote again.
You have the power to restore our nation to fiscal sanity and bring jobs back to our people.
You have the power to fulfill Harry Truman's dream and bring health insurance to every American.
You have the power to give us a foreign policy consistent with American values again.
You have the power to take back the Democratic Party.
You have the power to take our country back.
And we have the power to take the White House back in 2004.
June 23, 2003