Senator John Edwards
Transcript of Speech
Florida Democratic Convention
Orlando, FL
April 13, 2002

Thank you! Is Bob Graham a great United State Senator or what!

Now, since Bob managed to bring up People magazine, I got to tell you a couple of stories about it. We found out that it was going to happen and my wife said to me. My wife--and I have been blessed with four kids, as Bob said, including two young kids--but one child whose--we've been married 25 years now--one child is a sophomore in college. So my wife said to me, "You've got to call your daughter Cate in college and tell her about this. You can't let her find out from her friends. She can't--they're going to bring the magazine over, and show it to her, and she'll be embarrassed."

I said alright, so I called my daughter Cate on the phone, and explained to her: People magazine, sexiest politician, all that stuff. She was completely quiet for about 30 seconds, and then she said, "Dad, this has got to be a case of mistaken identity."

Then about two nights later, in the middle of the night, I was up changing my two year old's, about to be two year old's Jack's diaper, and you know how we all look in the middle of the night. I'm up, it's about two o'clock in the morning. I've got one dirty diaper in one hand, a clean diaper in one hand, and my wife come walking through the room and she leans over and whispers in my ear, "You don't look to sexy right now."

It is an enormous honor and privilege to be here with you all. It is great to be in the presence of the most battle-hardened Democrats in America. I want to congratulate Al Gore and Joe Lieberman for having the strength and courage to put their faith in you, and I want to thank every single person in this room for delivering. It is because of you, it is because of you, that Democrats won in the year 2000. It is because of you that we're going win the State House in 2002! And it's because of you that we're going to win the White House in 2004!

These are extraordinary times we live in. And in many ways our country has never been more united. Every single person in this room supports America and it's war on terrorism, supports our troops abroad, but in many ways, the character of our party is being challenged. Because, while we fight these wars overseas, we can never forget to stand up for what's right here at home. When the values and principles of our party are being challenged, we cannot remain silent, we must stand up and fight for the people we've always fought for.

Since 9/11, since 9/11, America has rallied around the flag. You know it's a good idea to take just a minute--that's a good thing--but it's a good idea to take just a minute and think about what that flag represents. That flag does not represent freedom, opportunity, and justice for some! It represents freedom, opportunity, and justice for all, and that's what we believe in as Democrats! And that's where people like Bob Graham and Bill Nelson come in, and that's where you come in! And have to tell you that these are extraordinary leaders, and I get a chance to see a part of them that many of you don't get to see up
close and personal. They're not just extraordinary United States Senators, they're wonderful family people, great husbands, great fathers. They're role models for leaders in America.

There is a hunger in America today for principled, passionate leadership, people are looking for leaders, who don't wake up in the morning and put their finger in the air and say, "which way is the wind blowing today, what do the overnight polls show." They're looking for people whose values and beliefs come from in here. They are looking for people, who, when they speak, it comes from in here. They are looking for the kind of leadership that the legendary Lawton Chiles provided for the state of Florida for so many years. Lawton Chiles stood up when it was hard, and when it mattered.

We have to stand up, fellow Democrats, for the kids in this country, who so desperately need a good education but can't get it because their school system is not providing it. We have to stand up for the grandmothers, who are having to skip a meal to pay for their prescription medication. We have to stand up for every factory worker, hi-tech worker, postal worker, who lives right, works hard, and plays by the rules and is working against a system that is stacked against them.

Because those are the people we grew up with. They' re the people you grew up with, the people I grew up with. Bob mentioned this, I grew up in a little town in NC, called Robbins, out in the country. My father worked in a cotton mill all his life, my mother had lots of jobs, but her last job was working at the post office, delivering the mail. We were very proud that I could be the first member in my family to go to college. My parents wanted us to live the America dream, but I'm telling you that the American Dream is getting harder and harder to achieve every single day, every single day.

When I was able to become a lawyer, I decided those people, who we just talked about, those people I grew up with, those people in that little town, those people who worked in the mill with my dad, those were the people I wanted to represent. I thought they deserved a chance in our court system, and thought the little guy deserved a chance in our court system, so for 20 years, for 20 years, I represented those people.

Then I went to the United States Senate, now I've seen some good things in the US Senate, some very good things, including some great colleagues like Bill Nelson and Bob Graham. I've also seen the way this country has united, I've seen the way this country has united since 9-11. But, I've seen some things that are really bothersome. I'll tell you something, what all of you think about the way things work in Washington--the way my people back home think--is exactly right. When we get off the floor, when we get off the elevator to go to the floor of the US Senate to vote, you can barely get there because the people representing the most powerful special interest in America, they're pulling on your sleeve, they want to talk to you, and they're so glad to see you, always so glad to see you. And I'm here to tell you those people are not working for you. But, Bob Gram, Bill Nelson, John Edwards, from the minute we get up in the morning, from the minute we go to bed at night, every Democrat in the Congress from the state of Florida is working for you, and they will always work for you!

They will also work for a little boy named Ethan Bedrick. Now, Ethan Bedrick, was a young boy that, when I was practicing law, my law firm represented. A young boy with cerebral palsy. Ethan's doctors, every single doctor he had said that Ethan needed daily physical therapy. But some insurance company bureaucrat, sitting behind a desk somewhere said, we're not going to pay for this. Yeah, the family paid their premiums, for years and years, but we're not going to pay for it. In America, in America, children like Ethan Bedrick should not have to get permission from an insurance company bureaucrat to get the health care they need! And that's why we need the Patient's Bill of Rights.

All of you have seen the picture of a Grandmother, whether she's in Orlando or Robbins North Carolina. She's standing in the kitchen. She's got the medicine bottle in one hand. She's got the refrigerator door open. She's got in the back of her mind, that she want's to buy a present for her little grandbaby, and she's thinking to herself, "how in the world and I going to pay for this?" We need a prescription drug benefit, in this country that covers every single senior citizen. Let me tell you hat we don't need. We don't need what your Governor, Jeb Bush has proposed. He's got a Prescription Drug Plan, that as I understand it, will cover 30,000 of the 2.8 million senior citizens in Florida. That's not a prescription drug plan, That's a joke!

When it comes to health care in this country, when it comes to health care in this country, Bob Graham, Bill Nelson, and John Edwards, and every single Democrat from the state of Florida in the Congress that represents you, we don't work for big HMO's, we don't work for big insurance companies, we don't work for the big drug companies, and we never will. We work for you now, and we will always work for you!

I have two young children: my daughter Emma Claire, who is 3, about to turn 4, and my son Jack is 1 year old. And I wonder what kind of world they're going to grow up in. I wonder if they will have clean air, and clean water to drink. I wonder if they will ever get a chance to sit on the shore, here in the state of Florida, and look out. What will they see? Will they see oil rigs? Not if Bob Graham and Bill Nelson have anything to do with it they won't. So I want to say this in language the Bushes will understand. Here, here in the state of Florida, we're drawing a line in the sand on the beaches. Read my lips. No new oil rigs off these shores!

Now, I know you all have heard the president, going around the country, bragging about his education plan, and his new education bill. Well I've actually run a couple of marathons in my life, and the thing I learned from that, is the first two miles are easy. It's the rest that's the hard work. And those first two miles don't get the job done. We have so much work to do in public education in this country. I tell you when we've met the test. We will have met the test for public education when every child in America, no matter who their family is, where they live, where they come from, or what the color of their skin is, can get as good an education as the richest person in America can afford for their children. We need more technology, we need after-school programs, we need better pay for our teachers who work every single day to educate our kids. And we need smaller class sizes. I want to tell ya'll something, if I came from a state, where class sizes were getting bigger and bigger, and the Governor was doing absolutely nothing about it, and their was a referendum to lower class size. This is a no brainer, get rid of that Governor and pass the referendum.

Since I've gotten here yesterday, I've seen lots of young people. It's great to see the young people who are here. The Democratic Party needs young people, and I want to say a word to them. You know, the adults in this room, and the adults across America, are not the only patriots. These young people love their country, and they want to help their country, and they want to serve their country. And they have so much to contribute.

My wife and I were lucky enough to be able to help start a learning center in Raleigh NC, an after-school technology learning center for kids, high school kids, and we had volunteer tutors from the high school over there helping their fellow students with their schoolwork. And, I got to see first hand, what effect it had, not just on the kids who were being tutored, but the kids who were doing the tutoring. They became engaged in their community. They care about what's going on. And we need to reach out to young people in this country. And we need to give them an opportunity to serve. They have energy. They have passion. They have ideas. They think outside the box. And we need to listen to what they have to say.

And what we ought to do as a country is we ought to provide resources at the national level, out of Washington to every high school in this country, every high school in this country, who will make as a requirement for graduation, participation in community service, state service, and service to your country.

And finally I want to say a word, just a word about the war on terrorism. You know, the central command right here in Florida has done an extraordinary job of leading this effort. And I serve on the Intelligence Committee with Senator Bob Graham, the chair of that committee, who does a terrific job, and I was in Afghanistan a couple of months ago, and got a chance to see our troops and got a chance to see the leaders in that area, who are trying so hard to rebuild that country. And those troops would make every single one of you so proud. But I want to say something, I want to say something. There is a lot of work left to be done, a lot of work left to be done. What we have done is, we've gone in, gotten rid of the Taliban. We won the war there, but we've kept the peace keeping force, the international peace keeping force, 4,500 troops, right around Kabul. And while that's happening, the rest of the country is going right back to chaos, right back to where it was under the Taliban. This is an enormous mistake. Mr. President, Mr President, do not win the war, and lose the victory.

American leadership and American engagement is critical to creating conditions where democracy can flourish. From our part of the country, where we're all from, we've got a simple way to say this. Let's finish the job that we started. We understand that don't we?

Now, finally, finally. This is an extraordinary country that we live in. We all love this country so much. And I spent a lot of my adult life before I went to the Senate representing and helping people who played by the rules and were reaching out for the American dream and got hurt by people who didn't play by the rules. And I've got a very simple idea about this. People who go to work every day, whether it's a factory or a hi-tech company, should never have to worry that they are going to be taken advantage of by people above them who don't play by the rules.

And people in this country who go to work every week and see that money going out of their paycheck to Social Security, to Medicare should not have to worry whether Medicare or Social Security will be there when they finally retire.

And people who send there kids to school every single day should not have to worry whether their kids are getting the best education in the world.

And parents who make those insurance premium checks every month, should not have to worry when one of their kids get sick, they're going to be denied the opportunity to see the doctor that they need to see.

You know, prosperity is a wonderful thing. Prosperity is a wonderful thing. We believe in prosperity. My parents had a dream that I would be able to do the things I've been able to do. But prosperity for some is nothing but a beginning. We have got to widen hope and opportunity in this country.

When I listened to the president speaking at the State of the Union. He said the American Spirit has never been stronger. But we Democrats want to be able to say something else. We want to be able to say the American Dream has never been stronger. Because we believe in the American Dream!

And this is something we can do. It is time for a new period of optimism in this country. It is time to embrace the boundless promise that our country has had. It is time to match the heroism of those young people who are serving us, half a world away.

We can have the best education system in the world!

We can have the best healthcare system in the world!

We can, in fact, have freedom, opportunity, and justice for all!

Let's all unite! Let's do it together! Let's build the America of our dreams! God bless you Florida Democrats! Go get 'em in the fall!