Lee Iacocca Remarks Endorsing John Kerry for President
(As Delivered)
San Jose, CA
Thursday, June 24, 2004
From John Kerry for President, Inc.
Mayor Gonzales, thank you for that kind introduction, and thank all of you for this very warm welcome. Nice to be back in San Jose, by the way Ė I used to have a Ford plant here in Milpitas. We built a lot of Mustangs up there. This place is really Ė You know, I am supposed to be retired, but I sort of flunked it, I think, a little. In the past 10 years, I havenít been playing much golf at all.
What have I been doing? Iíve been out making speeches, and Iím not running for anything, by the way. Iíve been talking to lots of CEOs of companies and of countries all over the world, and Iíve talked always about one subject: change. Economic change, technological change and political change. And how you adapt to all that change, because if you donít, you sort of die.
Iím here today because our country needs a change in leadership.
We need a leader who is really dedicated to creating millions of high-paying jobs all across the country. The bottom line is simple: We need a new CEO and President.
And I gotta tell you, I say this not as a partisan but as an unabashed patriot: Iím here today for the same reason I spent 22 years leading the campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I love this country. I came from a family of poor immigrants. We revered Franklin Roosevelt for what he did to help struggling families during the Depression.
My very first Presidential ballot Ė thatís how old I am Ė was cast for Harry Truman Ė unsurprisingly, an idol of mine. Why? Because he told it like it was. And he was a doer. With Harry, the buck really did stop here.
Iíve been friendly with every President since Lyndon Johnson, and over time I became less and less partisan Ė I guess that goes with age, Iím not sure. But in each election, I voted my conscience and supported who I thought was the best man for the job.
I never actively campaigned for anybody, except in 1980 and 1984 for Ronald Reagan and in 2000 for George W. Bush. I was deeply involved in the Bush campaign, stumping for him in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where I spent most of my life. I hate to tell you this now, I even appeared in a couple of Bush campaign ads.
But this year Iím supporting John Kerry to be the next President of the United States.
All of my best friends are Republicans, and they ask me, ďAre you crazy or something? Why are you doing this?Ē Well, itís simple. I tell them the world is changing. Our country is changing. And we need a leader who understands that change thatís taking place. And most important, we need a leader who will level with us about how we can adapt to that change and make
things change for the better.
Iíve met privately with John Kerry, Iíve talked with him, I read all his position papers, and I would suggest you do likewise. I like him. And Iím endorsing him to be our next President because I like what he says about getting every American a fair shot at a secure, well-paying job so they can provide for their families Ė provide for their families and enjoy life a little more.
You know, sometimes it seems like my whole life has been about jobs. I even got fired from a big one one-time. But without jobs for all those people who are willing and able to work, everything else fails. Just take my word for that.
When I headed Chrysler in the í70s, I worked with Jimmy Carter and Tip OíNeill to save that company and 600,000 jobs. In the 1980s I campaigned with Ronald Reagan at Chrysler plants, always talking about the same thing: jobs. In 1988 I was one of six private-sector leaders that were asked to serve on the National Jobs and Economic Commission, which was formed to come up with an economic game plan for the country.
We didnít do too hot, by the way Ė we sort of failed.
Itís also why 18 years ago I started a thing called the Iacocca Institute Ė if you pardon me Ė at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, to do one thing: help make America more competitive in manufacturing. Itís key.
The keys to America's manufacturing success are simple: Skilled workers, adequate capital investment, and, as Senator Kerry will discuss with you in a few minutes, innovation. Brains. R&D.
The fact is, we canít compete unless our technology is world-class and cutting-edge. We cannot create new high-paying jobs unless America is the worldís leader in the industries of the future. And John Kerry understands that.
John Kerry would make a great commander-in-chief, I have no doubt about that. He would also make one hell of a CEO. Thatís what a President is.
He knows how to surround himself with good people, and he knows how to set priorities. Heís a doer. And he does know how to make a tough decision now and then, believe me.
And most of all, John Kerry has a clear plan for where he wants to take the country, and what heíll do as President in his first hundred days and then in his first two years, halfway through his first term.
And thereís another thing that John Kerryís done thatís really impressed me, as a CEO of many years. In my 50 years in the auto business, Iíve always kept in front of me a hotlist Ė a hotlist of 10 priorities to move the company forward. I would address those personally almost on a daily basis, and guess what? John Kerryís done that for the country, drawing up his own 10 national priority list.
By the way, heís got such a great website Ė just go ask him what heís going to do the first hundred days, and heís got 10 priorities. Iím carrying them in my pocket now Ė Iím going to hold him to it when he becomes President, by the way. So heís already a good CEO. He operates the way I used to operate.
But the main thing, heís able to take charge and to change the direction of our nation. Thatís really why Iím here. Weíre going in the wrong direction.
So today Iím joining the Kerry team Ė as a front-line worker, I guess Ė I think in their jobs division or department or wherever I land. I will try to offer advice and consult with the Senator and do whatever I can to make him the next President.
Now, Iím doing this not as a Democrat or Republican, but as an American, simply.
I have two great causes left in my life. One is to find a cure for diabetes. Iíve been working on it for about 21 years now, and believe it or not, weíve had a couple of breakthroughs. Weíre getting closer, really.
The other is to change the direction of my country. To do that, we need a great leader, and itís Ė believe me Ė a real honor for me to be able to introduce that leader, the next President of the United States, John Kerry.