June 19, 2007
-- by Dave Johnson
(I will update this throughout the speech.)
I'm in the main ballroom waiting for Barack Obama to speak. This is a huge room, packed. Tere is a section in the back and on the side for "supporters" who apparently are not attendees of the conference. They have signs, etc... It's like a convention. Tons of media are here, cameras, etc...
Roger Hickey is introducing Roger Wilcins, saying that today is "Juneteenth," lso known as Emancipation Day - the day slavery ended. Wilkins is introducing Obama. "It's been almost eight years since we've had an intellect in the White House." And the crowd erupts. "Obama left Columbia University to go to inner cities t organize communities of poor people to increase the value of their lives."
As Obama comes on the stage, the whole crowd is on their feet, cheering. Thousands of people. "You are what makes democracy work. It's going to be because of you that we take our country back." The crowd is chanting, "Beat the GOP."
He says everywhere they are going they are getting crowds, 20,000 in Austin, etc. Many are coming out for the first time they have ever been involved. There is a hunger, a longing for something new that we haven't seen in years. People come up ad say "I'm an old man but I remember what it was like to be inspired..." Back then on the south side of Chicago a group of churches got together and decided they could make a difference. Hired me for $12,000 a year and I became a community organizer and block by block we turned those neighborhoods around. When ordinary people come together they can achieve extraordinary things.
Worked to help Bill Clinton get elected in 1992.
Then I ran for office and people asked why go into something dirty and nasty like politics. I understood, we've seen politics in Chicago become a business. Nationally over the last several years have seen politicians leave regular people in the dust and the persistent stubbornness of a president who refuses to end this war in Iraq. Half of us don't vote and half of those who do are voting against rather than for someone.
Lobbyists and cash have turned government into a game that only they can play. Pharmaceutical lobbyists. Oil companies in the White House.
We are here to tell them our government is not for sale and we are hear to take it back. (Cheers) The ways of Washingyon must change, the cycnicism is no accident - it is from failure of leadership, trickle down, on your own, government has no role in solving the challenges we face so why even try.
... Try saying tough luck to the families who still don't have homes in New Orleans. This is not who we are, this is not how America is supposed to be. We have come this far as a nation because we believe we rise and fall as one people, I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper. Those people without health insurance matter to us because it impoverishes us. Leaving the troops to fend for themselves after they serve diminishes our patriotism. (Crowd on their feet)
In the face of our cynicism we are here because we believe a better America is possible. The time for selfish politics, fear, division is over. Time to turn the page, start a new kin of politics.
... I know that change is possible I know where hope leads us the only reason I am standing here before you is because of hope. On paper it is not possible that I am standing here running for President. I know that change is possible. Hope has been the cause of my life. A cause that I will fight for every day.
It's not enough just to change parties, To transform we have to change politics too. Bring to gether unions and business, Democrats and Republicans. Business gets a seat at the table but they don't get to buy every chair.
Universal health care. Education - recruit and support hundreds of thousands of new teachers. Most important part of any education is the teacher. Pay what they deserve. Invest in education and out teachers and our children will succeed.
Energy. Tell oil and auto industries that they must act. Future of our country and planet is at stake. Cap on carbon, trade with companies that are lower than the cap. Raise fuel efficiency standards. I said this in Detroit.
Minimum wage to living wage tied to cost of living. Job training, jobs for ex-offenders, second change. Allow unions to lift up the middle class. Employee Free Choice Act.
Before we can do these things we have to turn the page and end the senseless war in Iraq. Should have never been authorized, said so back then even when it was unpopular to say so. We knew back then we could find ourselves in an occupation ... consequences and we mourn for the dead and the wounded. Mothers crying for their children. Time to bring the troops home now. President vetoed plan. Voted against giving a blank check. Keep turning up the pressure. It is time to turn the page.
Then we can stand before the world and remind them that America is still the last best hope on earth. The job of leader of the free world has been left open. We need a leader who will say to the world we want to work with you.
We need not the might of our military but the power of our values and ideas.
We're the beacon that has led generations of weary travelers to the hope of liberty. Housekeepers, doormen, Pullman porters marched to the state capital and saw tear gas and dogs and billy clubs. They staggered back from that bridge, bloodied and beaten and I'm sure that on that day some lost hope, can't defeat Jim Crow and segregation. But millions of people around America looked at what had happened and turned to their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and said that's not who we are, not the America that we know and love. Swept aside the forces of tear gas and billy clubs, every time knocked down they got back up and finally they crossed over. And then LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act. I understood they had marched for me. I was a four-year-old kid in Hawaii.
I understood I stood on their shoulders. I could not have run for Senate. It wasn't a celebration of African-American history, it was a celebration of American history. In the face of impossible odds people who love this country can change it. I can't do it alone, this campaign is about the power of millions and your hopes. That's how we ended slavery, gave women the right to vote, ended the Vietnam war, that is how we will change the country. Time to turn the page. If you want change, if you believe America is still that last best hope it's tome t turn the page, write the next chapter in the Great America Story, let's create a progressive American majority. Thank you.
A very powerful progressive speech, delivered very well.
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