Rep. Richard Gephardt
2004 Democratic National Convention
FleetCenter, Boston, MA
Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Friends, fellow Americans, I have known Senator John Kerry for most of my congressional career. I've worked with him, I know his values, I know his heart. And I say to you, without one ounce of hesitation or regret: There is no one in these United States with more courage, more judgment, more resolve, more of the knowledge and experience to hold the job of president.

At the dawn of the global economy and Information Age, we need a president like John Kerry, who will turn around the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover. At a time when world markets are getting more competitive, John Kerry will put an end to shipping American jobs overseas, to wasteful special-interest bailouts, and instead will invest in the skills and education of our people again. At a time of global terror, John Kerry will take on the terrorists where they live, before they can threaten us where we live. And he will never pursue a go-it-alone foreign policy that leaves America isolated from its friends and hinders the hunt for our enemies. 

There's another reason we must win this election, and put John Kerry in the White House: because he will bring with him a fighter for hard-working men and women, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

In an election year, we hear a lot about the word “character.” In this election, there is a candidate whose character was forged through genuine battlefield heroism, through three Purple Hearts in the Vietnam War. John Kerry defended our freedom at the barrel of a gun.  He put himself at personal peril to save the lives of his crewmates. We know he won't take matters of war and peace lightly. John Kerry has the strength to keep America strong.

This year, in this election, there is a candidate whose character has shone through in the many battles he's taken on for our families – as one of the first Democrats to take on the deficit. As a champion of public education and our children's future. John Kerry has been a leader on these issues for decades.

And this year, in this election, there is a candidate who understands the middle-class squeeze who understands what it means for a parent to lose a job, for a family to go without health care or be hit by rising college costs.

As some of you know, I've had a single, simple purpose for most of my years in public life: to make it possible for hard-working American families to succeed. To help the growing number of families where both parents work, just to pay the bills; where life is a never-ending scramble of credit-card debt; where it's a struggle to pass on the right values, to teach simple lessons of discipline and respect, right and wrong, to our children.

Instead of just helping those at the top, I think we ought to give everyone a chance to reach the top. And if we strengthen all our families, if we make sure our economy enriches everyone, mark my words, the people at the top will do even better. As Dr. Martin Luther King taught us all: “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”

If a child doesn't have health insurance, we all pay the price when she shows up at the emergency room. If a child drops out of school—we all pay the price of violence, dependence, and indigence.

Words can be cheap in a political year, we all know that. But I'm going to borrow some familiar ones, to tell you that we need John Kerry as president - because we need a uniter, not a divider, in the White House. We need John Kerry as president because it's time to restore honor and dignity to the White House – to have a president whose whole life is a testament to his goodness and decency, to his courage under fire.

We need John Kerry as president of the United States of America, because he will fight for working families, and help America to be what it ought to be.

When I think back to the months and miles of my own campaign, my heart is full. You see, I didn't come from much. My dad was a milk truck driver, a proud member of the Teamsters. My mother was a secretary. Neither finished high school. I never dreamed I'd have the chance to serve so many people, in so many ways.

I found a true partner in life, my wife Jane who I adore, and children – Matt, Chrissy, Kate – and their families, that I couldn't be prouder of. I had the honor to serve my constituents in the Third Congressional District in Missouri and a gifted and loyal staff who helped me throughout my career. I'm a lucky man. Together they taught me that win or lose, the dream is what matters, the fight is what it's all about. For an America that works for the many, not just for the few; for an America that lifts up all those who have been left out, or locked out, of our bounty and promise.

I ran for President because I wanted to give those people a voice. And I stand proudly at John Kerry's Convention because he speaks for them; he strives to lift them up; their cause is his unyielding concern. To all those who have supported me, and to all those who share my dream of a better, brighter American future: thank you, may God bless you, and may God shine on these United States of America.