Barack Obama delivers an incredible, searing articulation of our democratic ideals and Democratic agenda:
Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place – America – that stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before. While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor he signed up for duty; joined Patton’s army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and moved west, in search of opportunity. And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter. A common dream, born of two continents. My parents shared not only an improbable love… they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation…I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.
Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation – not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…That is the true genius of America – a faith in the simple dreams of its people. The insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody’s son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted – or at least, most of the time. This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations. And fellow Americans – Democrats; Republicans; Independents – I say to you tonight: we have more work to do.
…Awhile back, I met a young man named Shamus at the VFW Hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, six two or six three, clear eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he’d joined the Marines, and was heading to Iraq the following week. As I listened to him explain why he’d enlisted, his absolute faith in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all any of us might hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Shamus as well as he was serving us? I thought of more than 900 service men and women — sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, who will not be returning to their hometowns. I thought of families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or with nerves shattered, but who still lacked long-term health benefits because they were Reservists. When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never– ever– go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.
…alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewherewho can’t pay for her prescription, and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief – I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper – that makes this country work…We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States…The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. The belief in things not seen. The belief that there are better days ahead.
…Tonight, if you feel the same energy I do, the same urgency I do, the same passion I do, the same hopefulness I do – if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as President, and John Edwards will be sworn in as Vice President, and this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come. Thank you and God bless you.
Shame that Ted Kennedy seems to be the headline from tonight, because Obama’s the story. Shame he won’t be one of the pair getting nominated tomorrow…In the ensuing years, it’s on us to build a party radical enough to make it happen.