Candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois, Barack Obama, delivered the
keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston Tuesday night.
Here is a transcript of his remarks.
OBAMA: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Dick Durbin. You make us all proud.
On behalf of the great state of Illinois...
... crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep
gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a
particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is
My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in
Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin- roof shack. His
father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.
OBAMA: But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard
work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place,
America, that's shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had
come before him.
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, my grandfather signed up for duty, joined Patton's
army, marched across Europe. Back home my grandmother raised a 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 later moved west, all the way to Hawaii, in
search of opportunity.
And they too had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream born of
OBAMA: My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an
abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African
name, Barack, or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America, your name is
no barrier to success.
They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though
they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich to
achieve your potential.
They're both passed away now. And yet I know that, on this night, they
look down on me with great pride.
And I stand here today grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware
that my parents' dreams live on in my two precious daughters.
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.
OBAMA: 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 they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That is the true genius of America, a faith...
... a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we
can tuck in our children at night and know that 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; 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
our 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
OBAMA: And fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, independents, I
say to you, tonight, we have more work to do...
... more work to do, for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who
are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now
they're having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay 7 bucks an
hour; more to do for the father I met who was losing his job and chocking back
the tears wondering how he would pay $4,500 a months for the drugs his son needs
without the health benefits that he counted on; more to do for the young woman
in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her who have the grades, have the
drive, have the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college.
Now, don't get me wrong, the people I meet in small towns and big
cities and diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solves all
of their problems. They know they have to work hard to get a head. And they want
Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you:
They don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.
Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that
government alone can't teach kids to learn.
OBAMA: They know that parents have to teach, that children can't
achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and
eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They
know those things.
People don't expect -- people don't expect government to solve all
their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight
change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent
shot at life and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we
can do better. And they want that choice.
In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to
lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John
John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith and service
because they've defined his life. From his heroic service to Vietnam to his
years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United
States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we've
seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his
record affirm what is best in us.
John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So
instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he offers
them to companies creating jobs here at home.
OBAMA: John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford
the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves.
John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren't held hostage
to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields.
John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our
country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties
nor use faith as a wedge to divide us.
And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an
option sometimes, but it should never be the first option.
You know, a while back, I met a young man named Seamus (ph) in a VFW
hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, 6'2", 6'3", clear
eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he'd joined the Marines and was heading to
Iraq the following week.
OBAMA: And as I listened to him explain why he had enlisted -- the
absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and
service -- I thought, this young man was all that any of us might ever hope for
in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Seamus (ph) as well as he's
I thought of the 900 men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and
wives, friends and neighbors who won't be returning to their own hometowns. I
thought of the 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 nerves
shattered, but still lacked long-term health benefits because they were
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 are 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.
OBAMA: Now, let me be clear. Let me be clear. We have real enemies in
the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued. And they must be
John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to
risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry
will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and
John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it's not enough for
just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there's
another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as
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 somewhere who can't pay for their
prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my
life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent.
If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of
an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.
It is that fundamental belief -- it is that fundamental belief -- I am
my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work.
OBAMA: It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still
come together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one.
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us,
the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything
Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a
conservative America; there's the United States of America.
There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and
Asian America; there's the United States of America.
The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red
states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats.
But I've got news for them, too. 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, yes, we've got some gay
friends in the red states.
There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots
who supported the war in Iraq.
We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and
stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
OBAMA: In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we
participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of
John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm
not talking about blind optimism here, the almost willful ignorance that thinks
unemployment will go away if we just don't think about it, or health care crisis
will solve itself if we just ignore it.
That's not what I'm talking. I'm talking about something more
substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom
songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a
young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a
millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a
funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.
OBAMA: Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty,
the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock
of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days
I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working
families with a road to opportunity.
I believe we can provide jobs for the jobless, homes to the homeless,
and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.
I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we
stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and meet the
challenges that face us.
America, tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel
the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel
the same hopefulness that 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 it's promise. And out of this long political darkness a brighter
day will come.