Independence, MO | June 30, 2008
On a spring morning in April of 1775, a simple band of colonists – farmers and merchants, blacksmiths and printers, men and boys – left their homes and families in Lexington and Concord to take up arms against the tyranny of an Empire. The odds against them were long and the risks enormous – for even if they survived the battle, any ultimate failure would bring charges of treason, and death by hanging.
And yet they took that chance. They did so not on behalf of a particular tribe or lineage, but on behalf of a larger idea. The idea of liberty. The idea of God-given, inalienable rights. And with the first shot of that fateful day – a shot heard round the world – the American Revolution, and America's experiment with democracy, began.
Those men of Lexington and Concord were among our first patriots. And at the beginning of a week when we celebrate the birth of our nation, I think it is fitting to pause for a moment and reflect on the meaning of patriotism – theirs, and ours. We do so in part because we are in the midst of war – more than one and a half million of our finest young men and women have now fought in Iraq and Afghanistan; over 60,000 have been wounded, and over 4,600 have been laid to rest. The costs of war have been great, and the debate surrounding our mission in Iraq has been fierce. It is natural, in light of such sacrifice by so many, to think more deeply about the commitments that bind us to our nation, and to each other.
We reflect on these questions as well because we are in the midst of a presidential election, perhaps the most consequential in generations; a contest that will determine the course of this nation for years, perhaps decades, to come. Not only is it a debate about big issues – health care, jobs, energy, education, and retirement security – but it is also a debate about values. How do we keep ourselves safe and secure while preserving our liberties? How do we restore trust in a government that seems increasingly removed from its people and dominated by special interests? How do we ensure that in an increasingly global economy, the winners maintain allegiance to the less fortunate? And how do we resolve our differences at a time of increasing diversity?
Finally, it is worth considering the meaning of patriotism because the question of who is – or is not – a patriot all too often poisons our political debates, in ways that divide us rather than bringing us together. I have come to know this from my own experience on the campaign trail. Throughout my life, I have always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given. It was how I was raised; it is what propelled me into public service; it is why I am running for President. And yet, at certain times over the last sixteen months, I have found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged – at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for.
So let me say at this at outset of my remarks. I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.
My concerns here aren't simply personal, however. After all, throughout our history, men and women of far greater stature and significance than me have had their patriotism questioned in the midst of momentous debates. Thomas Jefferson was accused by the Federalists of selling out to the French. The anti-Federalists were just as convinced that John Adams was in cahoots with the British and intent on restoring monarchal rule. Likewise, even our wisest Presidents have sought to justify questionable policies on the basis of patriotism. Adams' Alien and Sedition Act, Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, Roosevelt's internment of Japanese Americans – all were defended as expressions of patriotism, and those who disagreed with their policies were sometimes labeled as unpatriotic.
In other words, the use of patriotism as a political sword or a political shield is as old as the Republic. Still, what is striking about today's patriotism debate is the degree to which it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s – in arguments that go back forty years or more. In the early years of the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned the wisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic. Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself – by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day.
Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views – these caricatures of left and right. Most Americans understood that dissent does not make one unpatriotic, and that there is nothing smart or sophisticated about a cynical disregard for America's traditions and institutions. And yet the anger and turmoil of that period never entirely drained away. All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments – a fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic, and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal.
Given the enormous challenges that lie before us, we can no longer afford these sorts of divisions. None of us expect that arguments about patriotism will, or should, vanish entirely; after all, when we argue about patriotism, we are arguing about who we are as a country, and more importantly, who we should be. But surely we can agree that no party or political philosophy has a monopoly on patriotism. And surely we can arrive at a definition of patriotism that, however rough and imperfect, captures the best of America's common spirit.
What would such a definition look like? For me, as for most Americans, patriotism starts as a gut instinct, a loyalty and love for country rooted in my earliest memories. I'm not just talking about the recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance or the Thanksgiving pageants at school or the fireworks on the Fourth of July, as wonderful as those things may be. Rather, I'm referring to the way the American ideal wove its way throughout the lessons my family taught me as a child.
One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my grandfather's shoulders and watching the astronauts come to shore in Hawaii. I remember the cheers and small flags that people waved, and my grandfather explaining how we Americans could do anything we set our minds to do. That's my idea of America.
I remember listening to my grandmother telling stories about her work on a bomber assembly-line during World War II. I remember my grandfather handing me his dog-tags from his time in Patton's Army, and understanding that his defense of this country marked one of his greatest sources of pride. That's my idea of America.
I remember, when living for four years in Indonesia as a child, listening to my mother reading me the first lines of the Declaration of Independence – "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I remember her explaining how this declaration applied to every American, black and white and brown alike; how those words, and words of the United States Constitution, protected us from the injustices that we witnessed other people suffering during those years abroad. That's my idea of America.
As I got older, that gut instinct – that America is the greatest country on earth – would survive my growing awareness of our nation's imperfections: it's ongoing racial strife; the perversion of our political system laid bare during the Watergate hearings; the wrenching poverty of the Mississippi Delta and the hills of Appalachia. Not only because, in my mind, the joys of American life and culture, its vitality, its variety and its freedom, always outweighed its imperfections, but because I learned that what makes America great has never been its perfection but the belief that it can be made better. I came to understand that our revolution was waged for the sake of that belief – that we could be governed by laws, not men; that we could be equal in the eyes of those laws; that we could be free to say what we want and assemble with whomever we want and worship as we please; that we could have the right to pursue our individual dreams but the obligation to help our fellow citizens pursue theirs.
For a young man of mixed race, without firm anchor in any particular community, without even a father's steadying hand, it is this essential American idea – that we are not constrained by the accident of birth but can make of our lives what we will – that has defined my life, just as it has defined the life of so many other Americans.
That is why, for me, patriotism is always more than just loyalty to a place on a map or a certain kind of people. Instead, it is also loyalty to America's ideals – ideals for which anyone can sacrifice, or defend, or give their last full measure of devotion. I believe it is this loyalty that allows a country teeming with different races and ethnicities, religions and customs, to come together as one. It is the application of these ideals that separate us from Zimbabwe, where the opposition party and their supporters have been silently hunted, tortured or killed; or Burma, where tens of thousands continue to struggle for basic food and shelter in the wake of a monstrous storm because a military junta fears opening up the country to outsiders; or Iraq, where despite the heroic efforts of our military, and the courage of many ordinary Iraqis, even limited cooperation between various factions remains far too elusive.
I believe those who attack America's flaws without acknowledging the singular greatness of our ideals, and their proven capacity to inspire a better world, do not truly understand America.
Of course, precisely because America isn't perfect, precisely because our ideals constantly demand more from us, patriotism can never be defined as loyalty to any particular leader or government or policy. As Mark Twain, that greatest of American satirists and proud son of Missouri, once wrote, "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." We may hope that our leaders and our government stand up for our ideals, and there are many times in our history when that's occurred. But when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expression of patriotism.
The young preacher from Georgia, Martin Luther King, Jr., who led a movement to help America confront our tragic history of racial injustice and live up to the meaning of our creed – he was a patriot. The young soldier who first spoke about the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib – he is a patriot. Recognizing a wrong being committed in this country's name; insisting that we deliver on the promise of our Constitution – these are the acts of patriots, men and women who are defending that which is best in America. And we should never forget that – especially when we disagree with them; especially when they make us uncomfortable with their words.
Beyond a loyalty to America's ideals, beyond a willingness to dissent on behalf of those ideals, I also believe that patriotism must, if it is to mean anything, involve the willingness to sacrifice – to give up something we value on behalf of a larger cause. For those who have fought under the flag of this nation – for the young veterans I meet when I visit Walter Reed; for those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country – no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary. And let me also add that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides.
We must always express our profound gratitude for the service of our men and women in uniform. Period. Indeed, one of the good things to emerge from the current conflict in Iraq has been the widespread recognition that whether you support this war or oppose it, the sacrifice of our troops is always worthy of honor.
For the rest of us – for those of us not in uniform or without loved ones in the military – the call to sacrifice for the country's greater good remains an imperative of citizenship. Sadly, in recent years, in the midst of war on two fronts, this call to service never came. After 9/11, we were asked to shop. The wealthiest among us saw their tax obligations decline, even as the costs of war continued to mount. Rather than work together to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and thereby lessen our vulnerability to a volatile region, our energy policy remained unchanged, and our oil dependence only grew.
In spite of this absence of leadership from Washington, I have seen a new generation of Americans begin to take up the call. I meet them everywhere I go, young people involved in the project of American renewal; not only those who have signed up to fight for our country in distant lands, but those who are fighting for a better America here at home, by teaching in underserved schools, or caring for the sick in understaffed hospitals, or promoting more sustainable energy policies in their local communities.
I believe one of the tasks of the next Administration is to ensure that this movement towards service grows and sustains itself in the years to come. We should expand AmeriCorps and grow the Peace Corps. We should encourage national service by making it part of the requirement for a new college assistance program, even as we strengthen the benefits for those whose sense of duty has already led them to serve in our military.
We must remember, though, that true patriotism cannot be forced or legislated with a mere set of government programs. Instead, it must reside in the hearts of our people, and cultivated in the heart of our culture, and nurtured in the hearts of our children.
As we begin our fourth century as a nation, it is easy to take the extraordinary nature of America for granted. But it is our responsibility as Americans and as parents to instill that history in our children, both at home and at school. The loss of quality civic education from so many of our classrooms has left too many young Americans without the most basic knowledge of who our forefathers are, or what they did, or the significance of the founding documents that bear their names. Too many children are ignorant of the sheer effort, the risks and sacrifices made by previous generations, to ensure that this country survived war and depression; through the great struggles for civil, and social, and worker's rights.
It is up to us, then, to teach them. It is up to us to teach them that even though we have faced great challenges and made our share of mistakes, we have always been able to come together and make this nation stronger, and more prosperous, and more united, and more just. It is up to us to teach them that America has been a force for good in the world, and that other nations and other people have looked to us as the last, best hope of Earth. It is up to us to teach them that it is good to give back to one's community; that it is honorable to serve in the military; that it is vital to participate in our democracy and make our voices heard.
And it is up to us to teach our children a lesson that those of us in politics too often forget: that patriotism involves not only defending this country against external threat, but also working constantly to make America a better place for future generations.
When we pile up mountains of debt for the next generation to absorb, or put off changes to our energy policies, knowing full well the potential consequences of inaction, we are placing our short-term interests ahead of the nation's long-term well-being. When we fail to educate effectively millions of our children so that they might compete in a global economy, or we fail to invest in the basic scientific research that has driven innovation in this country, we risk leaving behind an America that has fallen in the ranks of the world. Just as patriotism involves each of us making a commitment to this nation that extends beyond our own immediate self-interest, so must that commitment extends beyond our own time here on earth.
Our greatest leaders have always understood this. They've defined patriotism with an eye toward posterity. George Washington is rightly revered for his leadership of the Continental Army, but one of his greatest acts of patriotism was his insistence on stepping down after two terms, thereby setting a pattern for those that would follow, reminding future presidents that this is a government of and by and for the people.
Abraham Lincoln did not simply win a war or hold the Union together. In his unwillingness to demonize those against whom he fought; in his refusal to succumb to either the hatred or self-righteousness that war can unleash; in his ultimate insistence that in the aftermath of war the nation would no longer remain half slave and half free; and his trust in the better angels of our nature – he displayed the wisdom and courage that sets a standard for patriotism.
And it was the most famous son of Independence, Harry S Truman, who sat in the White House during his final days in office and said in his Farewell Address: "When Franklin Roosevelt died, I felt there must be a million men better qualified than I, to take up the Presidential task…But through all of it, through all the years I have worked here in this room, I have been well aware than I did not really work alone – that you were working with me. No President could ever hope to lead our country, or to sustain the burdens of this office, save the people helped with their support."
In the end, it may be this quality that best describes patriotism in my mind – not just a love of America in the abstract, but a very particular love for, and faith in, the American people. That is why our heart swells with pride at the sight of our flag; why we shed a tear as the lonely notes of Taps sound. For we know that the greatness of this country – its victories in war, its enormous wealth, its scientific and cultural achievements – all result from the energy and imagination of the American people; their toil, drive, struggle, restlessness, humor and quiet heroism.
That is the liberty we defend – the liberty of each of us to pursue our own dreams. That is the equality we seek – not an equality of results, but the chance of every single one of us to make it if we try. That is the community we strive to build – one in which we trust in this sometimes messy democracy of ours, one in which we continue to insist that there is nothing we cannot do when we put our mind to it, one in which we see ourselves as part of a larger story, our own fates wrapped up in the fates of those who share allegiance to America's happy and singular creed.
Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.
Washington, DC | June 28, 2008
I’m proud to be here today not just as the Democratic nominee for President, but as the first African American nominee of my party, and I’m hoping that somewhere out in this audience sits the person who will become the first Latino nominee of a major party.
You know, being here today is a reminder of why I’m in this race. Because the reason I’m running for President is to do what you do each day in your communities – help make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans. And that’s what I’ve been working with Latino leaders to do ever since I entered public service more than twenty years ago.
We stood together when I was an organizer, lifting up neighborhoods in Chicago that had been devastated when the local steel plants closed. We stood together when I was a civil rights attorney, working with MALDEF and local Latino electeds to ensure that Latinos were being well represented in Chicago. And we marched together in the streets of Chicago to fix our broken immigration system. That’s why you can trust me when I say that I’ll be your partner in the White House.
And that’s what you need now more than ever. Because for eight long years, Washington hasn’t been working for ordinary Americans. And few have been hit harder than Latinos and African Americans. You know what I’m talking about. You know folks like Felicitas and Fransisco, a couple I met in Las Vegas who were tricked into buying a home they couldn’t afford. You know about the families all across this country who are out of work, or uninsured, or struggling to pay rising costs for everything from a tank of gas to a bag of groceries. And that’s why you know that we need change in this country.
And while I respect John McCain, it’s not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create jobs at a living wage, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college. That isn’t change.
Now, one place where Senator McCain used to offer change was on immigration. He was a champion of comprehensive reform, and I admired him for it. But when he was running for his party’s nomination, he walked away from that commitment and he’s said he wouldn’t even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote.
If we are going to solve the challenges we face, you need a President who will pursue genuine solutions day in and day out. And that is my commitment to you.
We need immigration reform that will secure our borders, and punish employers who exploit immigrant labor; reform that finally brings the 12 million people who are here illegally out of the shadows by requiring them to take steps to become legal citizens. We must assert our values and reconcile our principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. That is a priority I will pursue from my very first day.
And we can do something more. We can tear town the barriers that keep the American dream out of reach for so many Americans. We can end the housing crisis and create millions of new jobs. We can make sure that the millions of Latinos who are uninsured get the same health care that I get as a member of Congress. We can improve our schools, recruit teachers to your communities, and make college affordable for anyone who wants to go. And we can finally start serving our brave Latino fighting men and women and all our soldiers as well as they are serving us. We can do all this. Si se puede.
But I can’t do this on my own. I need your help. This election could well come down to how many Latinos turn out to vote. And I’m proud that my campaign is working hard to register more Latinos, and bring them into the political process. Because I truly believe that if we work together and fight together and stand together this fall, then you and I – together – will change this county and change this world.
NALEO Closing Statement
You know, a few years ago, I attended a naturalization workshop at St. Pius Church in Chicago. And as I walked down the aisle, I saw people clutching small American flags, waiting for their turn to be called up so they could begin the long process to become U.S. citizens.
And at one point, a young girl, seven or eight, came up to me with her parents, and asked for my autograph. She said she was studying government in school and wanted to show it to her third grade class. I asked her what her name was, and she said her name was Cristina. I told her parents they should be very proud of her.
And as I watched Cristina translate my words into Spanish for them, I was reminded that for all the noise and anger that too often surrounds the immigration debate, America has nothing to fear from today’s immigrants. They have come here for the same reason that families have always come here, for the same reason my father came here – for the hope that in America, they could build a better life for themselves and their families. Like the waves of immigrants that came before them and the Hispanic Americans like Ken Salazar whose families have been here for generations, the recent arrival of Latino immigrants will only enrich our country.
Ultimately, then, the danger to the American way of life is not that we will be overrun by those who do not look like us or do not yet speak our language. The danger will come if we fail to recognize the humanity of Cristina and her family – if we withhold from them the opportunities we take for granted, and create a servant class in our midst.
More broadly, the danger will come if we continue to stand idly by as the gap between Wall Street and Main Street grows, as Washington grows more out of touch, and as America grows more unequal. Because America can only prosper when all Americans prosper – brown, black, white, Asian, and Native American. That’s the idea that lies at the heart of my campaign, and that’s the idea that will lie at the heart of my presidency. Because we are all Americans. Todos somos Americanos. And in this country, we rise and fall together.
Pittsburgh, PA | June 26, 2008
In a few minutes, we'll open this up to a discussion about the changes that America must make to compete in the global economy. I'm honored to be joined by leaders from government and the grassroots; from business and labor; from academia and the non-profit sector. Because for America to succeed, we'll have to join together to harness the energy and ingenuity of the American people. This morning, I'd like to talk about how we're going to do just that.
For the last three weeks, I've been traveling around the country, talking about how we can change our economy so that it works for the American people. I've also been listening.
I met with parents in Wisconsin who struggle to afford the groceries to let their family eat well, or the gas that takes them to and from work. I talked to a man in Missouri whose wife works two jobs and has arthritis that costs $1,500 a week to care for. I heard from a student in Minnesota who has done everything that's been asked of her, but worries that she won't be able to take her final tests because she's maxed out her student loans. Stories like these can be found all across the country, because far too many Americans are working hard and doing their part, but still can't keep pace.
It's time for us to recognize that these individual stories connect to a larger American story. All of us have a stake in our common prosperity. When folks are struggling out on Main Street, that pain is going to trickle up to Wall Street. And just as we must provide relief to Americans who are struggling, we also have to recognize that we're failing to put ourselves in a position to compete in the global economy. Our country faces new challenges to our leadership in this young century. Our kids will grow up facing competition from their counterparts in Beijing and Bangalore. If we don't change course, there's no guarantee that the American Dream will be there for my daughters – or your sons – as it was there for us. America risks falling behind.
If we remain dependent on oil from dictators, we'll endanger our security, imperil our planet, pay more at the pump, and sit on the sidelines while the jobs of the future are created abroad.
If we can't give every child in America the chance to get a world-class education, we'll cripple their ability to make a living in a knowledge-based economy, and watch China and India move ahead in the race for the 21st century.
If we can't control skyrocketing health care costs, we'll confront a mounting moral crisis, and a major anchor on the ability of American business to compete.
If we don't rebuild our crumbling roads, rail bridges and electrical grid, we'll see our standard of living suffer, while we leave our communities less safe from terror or natural disaster.
And if we don't invest in and encourage innovation, we could cede America's historic role as the engine of growth, and progress, and discovery for the entire world.
These challenges are real. How we deal with them will shape the prosperity of every single American, and the future of America's leadership in the 21st century. Now, it falls to us to look at these problems, and to see the possibility embedded within them. It falls to us to do what generations of Americans have done before, and to remake the world as it should be.
My opponent in this campaign has served this country with honor, and I look forward to debating him on these issues. Because we have a very different view of the choices that America needs to make. He has supported and would continue – an agenda that has failed to keep pace with the challenges of the 21st century. I believe we must move in a new direction.
If we have the courage to commit to change, the American people can not just seize – but shape – the opportunities of the global economy. Together, we can author our own story. Together, we can pursue a 21st century leadership agenda that's focused on five areas: energy, education, health care, infrastructure, and innovation.
Success will not come from Washington – it must come from the dynamism, determination and ingenuity of the American people; through new partnerships between states and cities, the public and private sector; and through the active involvement of the American people. But we also know that for our country to succeed, Washington has to change. Because at moments of great economic transformation, government must serve as a catalyst for change – to leverage all of the sectors of American society that are represented here today.
This can be the moment when we make a truly national effort to end our addiction to oil. Just as Roosevelt invested in an Arsenal of Democracy and Kennedy took us to the moon, we can be the generation that achieves energy security, grows our economy, and saves our planet. American Presidents have been calling for this kind of effort since Nixon. But now is the time to act. We could have made that choice in 2000, but instead we got secret task forces and greater energy dependence. And we've watched as countries like Brazil and Germany have created hundreds of thousands of jobs. We have failed to act, and we've fallen behind.
I've proposed investing $150 billion in a green energy sector to create five million new jobs – good jobs that can't be outsourced. But this must merely be a spark for American industry and innovators to develop alternatives to oil and gas, and to create a new energy economy. If we do this, the great assembly line manufacturers of the 20th century can turn out cars that run on renewable energy. The dictators who hold our security hostage will see their leverage disappear along with their revenue. The oceans will no longer rise, and our planet will be preserved. That's what we must do as a centerpiece of our competitiveness strategy as a nation.
This can be the moment when we make an historic commitment to education. Because we cannot be satisfied until every child in America – and I mean every child – has the same chance to get a world-class education that we want for our own children.
We need to commit $10 billion to give every child access to quality, early childhood education. But we also need a 50-state strategy that reaches down to the grassroots. To have successful schools, we need to recruit an army of new teachers, and provide them with better pay and more support – but we also have to develop new curricula and renewed accountability. To lift up our children, we need a national commitment – but we also need parents to get up off the couch, turn off the TV, and to read to their children. And to educate the best workforce in the world, a college education should be the birthright of every American – but we also have to ask our young people to invest in America through service, and we should work with our Community Colleges to provide new skills and lifelong learning. That's what we must do to extend the American Dream.
This can be the moment when we finally come together to make health care affordable and accessible for every single American, and lower costs for all American families.
Here in Pittsburgh, we've seen the advances that can be made when we see the opportunities embedded in providing health care. We can create a future where medical records are electronic, enhancing care and lowering costs. We can invest in new cures and put a new emphasis on prevention, so that we have a healthier and more productive population. We can forge new alliances between business and labor to ensure that workers are covered, and that corporations are no longer saddled with rising costs. That's how we're going to care for our people and help American businesses compete.
This can be the moment when we make a generational commitment to rebuild our infrastructure. That's what Teddy Roosevelt did when he brought together leaders from the public and private sector to plan for 20th century infrastructure. That's what we must do here in the 21st.
Washington can seed this effort. That's why I've proposed putting $60 billion into a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to rebuild our roads and bridges, our rail and ports. This must leverage the kind of private investment that can create millions of jobs and remake our communities. Years from now, we could drive on new roads, depend on safe bridges and stronger levees, and connect our cities with high speed rail. We can begin the investment in a smart electrical grid to power electric cars and transmit clean energy across the country.
And we can achieve the simple goal of making sure that every American has access to the high speed broadband – no matter how much money you have, or where you come from, you should have access to this technology. That's what we must do to make sure that America runs on a strong, fair and efficient foundation.
And this can be the moment when we invest in the science and innovation that will shape our future. Because in a technology-driven economy, America must always stay on the cutting edge.
That means reversing a trend where we devote a smaller and smaller share of our national resources to Research and Development. An innovation agenda must commit to funding basic research and making the R&D tax credit permanent. It must also exempt start-ups from capital gains taxes, and remove bureaucratic barriers to entrepreneurs – for instance, by making our patent process more efficient and reliable. We need the discoveries of tomorrow to be made in our labs and universities – at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon. We need the success stories of tomorrow – the next Google, or the next Microsoft – to take place here in America.
This agenda is ambitious. It will take resources in the wake of policies that have run up our debt. But the answer to our fiscal problems is not to short-change investments in our ability to compete – investments that are vital to long-term growth. To stop mortgaging our children's future, we need to eliminate waste in existing programs, end the Iraq War, generate revenue by charging polluters for their emissions, and put an end to corporate loopholes and tax cuts for the wealthy. We can have a smarter government that pays its way while investing in our country's future.
That is how Washington must change to become a catalyst for growth. Because in cities and towns across America, I know that the American people are ready to rise to the challenge of a new moment – they just haven't been asked. It's time for that to change. Because there is nothing that Americans can't do when we choose to rise together.
For two hundred and fifty years, that is what has been done here in Pittsburgh. This is where U.S. Steel became the first billion dollar corporation, and turned out more steel at the dawn of the Cold War than the entire Soviet Union. And just as that output built our cities and laid down the rails that connected them, the work that created that wealth was the foundation of a middle class where each generation's opportunities could extend a little further, and each individual's story could advance the larger American story. Many of the steel mills are gone. But this American city has found new opportunity through health care and IT; through finance and universities. Now, we must connect that local innovation and ingenuity to a national strategy.
The American story is never static. But as we move from one chapter to the next, we must always remember that our national greatness is advanced when we act on our fundamental goodness. America succeeds when the playing field is level and open, and people don't fall behind; when government is not an obstacle, but a catalyst for shared prosperity; when we come together to find new ways to expand the horizon of opportunity for each and every American. And with your help, that is the kind of America I want to build as President of the United States.
Las Vegas, NV | June 24, 2008
I want to start by thanking the folks here at Springs Preserve for the wonderful tour we just had. What we are seeing here – from the solar panels that power this facility to the Bombard workers who built it – is that a green, renewable energy economy isn't some pie-in-the-sky, far-off future, it is now. It is creating jobs, now. It is providing cheap alternatives to $140-a-barrel oil, now. And it can create millions of additional jobs and entire new industries if we act now.
All across the country, local leaders and entrepreneurs and small business owners are providing the innovation and initiative needed to make this transformation possible. In Pennsylvania, an old steel mill has become the home of a new wind turbine factory because of the state's push for renewable portfolio standards that require the production of more alternative energy. Wisconsin is poised to gain more than 14,000 jobs at existing manufacturing facilities because of its investment in wind power. Where we're standing in Southern Nevada happens to be one of the best sources for the generation of solar power in the world. Next week, our friend and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will come here to cut the ribbon on a new thermal solar technology plant. And between solar, wind, and geothermal energy, this state could create upwards of 80,000 new jobs by 2025.
The possibilities of renewable energy are limitless. But to truly harness its potential, we urgently need real leadership from Washington – leadership that has been missing for decades. We have been talking about energy independence since Americans were waiting in gas lines during the 1970s. We've heard promises about it in every State of the Union for the last three decades. But each and every year, we become more, not less, addicted to oil – a 19th century fossil fuel that is dirty, dwindling, and dangerously expensive. Why?
It isn't because the resources and technology aren't there. We know this because countries like Spain, Germany, and Japan have already leapt ahead of us when it comes to renewable energy technology. Germany, a country as cloudy as the Pacific Northwest, is now a world leader in the solar power industry and the quarter million new jobs it has created. In less than eight years, before we'd ever see a drop of oil from offshore drilling, they have doubled their renewable energy output. And they did it by using technology that, in some cases, was paid for by the American people through our own Research and Development tax credits. The difference is, their government harnessed that technology by providing the necessary investments and incentives to jumpstart a renewable energy industry. Washington hasn't done that.
What Washington has done is what Washington always does – it's peddled false promises, irresponsible policy, and cheap gimmicks that might get politicians through the next election, but won't lead America toward the next generation of renewable energy. And now we're paying the price. Now we've fallen behind the rest of the world. Now we're forced to beg Saudi Arabia for more oil. Now we're facing gas prices over $4 a gallon – gas prices that are decimating the savings of families who are already struggling in this economy. Like the man I met in Pennsylvania who lost his job and couldn't even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one. That's how badly folks are hurting. That's how badly Washington has failed.
For decades, John McCain has been a part of this failure in Washington. Yes, he has gone further than some in his party in speaking out on climate change. And that is commendable. But time and time again, he has opposed investing in the alternative sources of energy that have helped fuel some of the very same projects and businesses he's highlighting in this campaign. He's voted against biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind power. Against a 2005 energy bill that represented the largest ever investment in renewable sources of energy – a bill that Senator McCain's own campaign co-chair, called "the biggest legislative breakthrough we've had" since he's been in the Senate. That bill certainly wasn't perfect – it contained irresponsible tax breaks for oil companies that I consistently opposed, and that I will repeal as President. But the tax credits in that bill contributed to wind power growing 45% last year, the sharpest rise in decades. If John McCain had his way, those tax credits wouldn't exist. And if we don't renew key tax incentives for alternative energy production – tax incentives that John McCain opposed continuing – we could lose up to 116,000 green jobs and $19 billion in investment just next year. And now he's talking about a tax credit for more efficient cars even though he helped George Bush block these credits twice in the last year.
After all those years in Washington, John McCain still doesn't get it. I commend him for his desire to accelerate the search for a battery that can power the cars of the future. I've been talking about this myself for the last few years. But I don't think a $300 million prize is enough. When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn't put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win – he put the full resources of the United States government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people. That's the kind of effort we need to achieve energy independence in this country, and nothing less will do. But in this campaign, John McCain offering the same old gimmicks that will provide almost no short-term relief to folks who are struggling with high gas prices; gimmicks that will only increase our oil addiction for another four years.
Senator McCain wants a gas tax holiday that will save you – at most – thirty cents a day for three months. And that's only if the oil companies don't just jack up the price and pocket the savings themselves, which is exactly what they did when we tried to do the same thing in Illinois. He's willing to spend nearly $4 billion on more tax breaks for big oil companies – including $1.2 billion for Exxon alone. He wants to open our coastlines to drilling – a proposal that his own top economic advisor admitted won't provide any short-term relief at the pump. It's a proposal that George Bush's Administration says will not provide a drop of oil – not a single drop – for at least ten years. And by the time the drilling is fully underway in twenty years, our own Department of Energy says that the effect on gas prices will be "insignificant." Insignificant.
Just yesterday, Senator McCain actually admitted this. In a town hall he said, and I quote, "I don't see an immediate relief" but "the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have psychological impact that I think is beneficial." Psychological impact. In case you were wondering, that's Washington-speak for, "It polls well." It's an example of how Washington politicians try to convince you that they did something to make your life better when they really didn't. Well the American people don't need psychological relief or meaningless gimmicks to get politicians through the next election, they need real relief that will help them fill up their tanks and put food on their table. They need a long-term energy strategy that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil by investing in the renewable sources of energy that represent the future. That's what they need.
Meanwhile, the oil companies already own drilling rights to 68 million acres of federal lands, onshore and offshore, that they haven't touched. 68 million acres that have the potential to nearly double America's total oil production, and John McCain wants to give them more. Well that might make sense in Washington, but it doesn't make sense for America. In fact, it makes about as much sense as his proposal to build 45 new nuclear reactors without a plan to store the waste some place other than right here at Yucca Mountain. Folks, these are not serious energy policies. They are not new energy policies. And they are certainly not the kind of energy policies that will give families the relief they need or our country the oil independence we must have.
I realize that gimmicks like the gas tax holiday and offshore drilling might poll well these days. But I'm not running for President to do what polls well, I'm running to do what's right for America. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make gas prices go down, but I can't. What I can do – and what I will do – is push for a second stimulus package that will send out another round of rebate checks to the American people. What I will do as President is tax the record profits of oil companies and use the money to help struggling families pay their energy bills. I will provide a $1,000 tax cut that will go to 95% of all workers and their families in this country. And I will close the loophole that allows corporations like Enron to engage in unregulated speculation that ends up artificially driving up the price of oil. That's how we'll provide real relief to the American people. That's the change we need.
I have a very different vision of what this country can and should achieve on energy in the next four years – in the next ten years. I have a plan to raise the fuel standards in our cars and trucks with technology we have on the shelf today – technology that will make sure we get more miles to the gallon. And we will provide financial help to our automakers and autoworkers to help them make this transition. I will invest $150 billion over the next ten years in alternative sources of energy like wind power, and solar power, and advanced biofuels – investments that will create up to five million new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced; that will create billions of dollars in new business like you're already doing here in Nevada. And before we hand over more of our land and our coastline to oil companies, I will charge those companies a fee for every acre that they currently lease but don't drill on. If that compels them to drill, we'll get more oil. If it doesn't, the fees will go toward more investment in renewable sources of energy.
When all is said and done, my plan to increase our fuel standards will save American consumers from purchasing half a trillion gallons of gas over the next eighteen years. My entire energy plan will produce three times the oil savings that John McCain's ever could – and what's more, it will actually decrease our dependence on oil while his will only grow our addiction further.
And that's the choice that you face in this election. When you're facing $4 a gallon gas, do you want a gas tax gimmick that will save you at most thirty cents a day for three months and a drilling proposal that won't provide a drop of oil for ten years, or a second rebate check and $1,000 tax cut to help your family pay the bills? When you look down the road five years from now or ten years from now, do you want to see an America that's begging dictators for more oil that we can't afford? An America that's fallen further behind the rest of the world when it comes to the jobs and industries of the future? Or do you want to see more places like Springs Preserve and Bombard Electric? More green jobs and green businesses? More innovation and ingenuity that helps this nation lead the way on affordable, renewable energy?
That's the future I know we can have. That's the America I believe in. And that's where I will lead us if I have the chance to serve as your President. It will not be easy. It will not happen overnight. It will not come without cost or sacrifice. But it is possible. It is necessary. And places like this, and people like you, prove that we have the resources, and the skills, and the will to begin today. I look forward to joining you in that effort. Thank you.
Albuquerque, NM | June 23, 2008
It's great to be back in New Mexico, and to have this opportunity to discuss some of the challenges that working women are facing. Because I would not be standing before you today as a candidate for President of the United States if it weren't for working women.
I am here because of my mother, a single mom who put herself through school, followed her passion for helping others, and raised my sister and me to believe that in America, there are no barriers to success if you're willing to work for it.
I am here because of my grandmother, who helped raised me. She worked during World War II on a bomber assembly line – she was Rosie the Riveter. Then, even though she never got more than a high school diploma, she worked her way up from her start as a secretary at a bank, and ended up being the financial rock for our entire family when I was growing up.
And I am here because of my wife Michelle, the rock of the Obama family, who worked her way up from modest roots on the South Side of Chicago, and who has juggled jobs and parenting with more skill and grace than anyone I know. Now Michelle and I want our two daughters to grow up in an America where they have the freedom and opportunity to live their dreams and raise their own families.
But even as these stories speak to the progress that we've made, we know that too many of America's daughters grow up facing barriers to their dreams, and that has consequences for all American families. For decades we've had politicians in Washington who talk about family values, but we haven't had policies that value families. Instead, it's harder for working parents to make a living while raising their kids. And we know that the system is especially stacked against women, and that's why Washington has to change.
Now Senator McCain is an honorable man, and we respect his service. But when you look at our records and our plans on issues that matter to working women, the choice could not be clearer.
It starts with equal pay. 62 percent of working women in America earn half – or more than half – of their family's income. But women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. In 2008, you'd think that Washington would be united in its determination to fight for equal pay. That's why I was proud to co-sponsor the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which would have reversed last year's Supreme Court decision, which made it more difficult for women to challenge pay discrimination on the job.
But Senator McCain thinks the Supreme Court got it right. He opposed the Fair Pay Restoration Act. He suggested that the reason women don't have equal pay isn't discrimination on the job – it's because they need more education and training. That's just totally wrong. Lilly Ledbetter's problem was not that she was somehow unqualified or unprepared for higher-paying positions. She most certainly was, and by all reports she was an excellent employee. Her problem was that her employer paid her less than men who were doing the exact same work.
John McCain just has it wrong. He said the Fair Pay Restoration Act "opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems." But I can't think of any problem more important than making sure that women get equal pay for equal work. It's a matter of equality. It's a matter of fairness. That's why I stood up for equal pay in the Illinois State Senate, and helped pass a law to give 330,000 more women protection from paycheck discrimination. That's why I've been fighting to pass legislation in the Senate, so that employers don't get away with discriminating against hardworking women like Lilly Ledbetter. And that's why I'll continue to stand up for equal pay as President. Senator McCain won't, and that's a real difference in this election.
As the son of a single mother, I also don't accept an America that makes women choose between their kids and their careers. It's not acceptable that women are denied jobs or promotions because they've got kids at home. It's not acceptable that forty percent of working women don't have a single paid sick day. That's wrong for working parents, it's wrong for America's children, and it's not who we are as a country.
I'll be a President who stands up for the American family by giving all working parents a hand. To help with childcare, I'll expand the Child and Dependent Care tax credit, so that working families can receive up to a 50 percent credit for their child care expenses. I'll double funding for afterschool programs that help children learn and give parents relief. And I'll invest $10 billion to guarantee access to quality, affordable, early childhood education for every child in America.
And with more and more households headed by two working parents – or a single working parent – it's also time to dramatically expand the Family and Medical Leave Act. Since more Americans are working for small businesses, I'll expand FMLA to cover businesses with as few as 25 employees – this will reach millions of American workers who aren't covered today. We'll also allow workers to take leave to care for elderly parents. We'll allow parents to take 24 hours of annual leave to join school activities with their kids. And we'll cover employees who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
I'll also stand up for paid leave. Today, 78 percent of workers covered by FMLA don't take leave because it isn't paid. That's just not fair. You shouldn't be punished for getting sick or dealing with a family crisis. That's why I'll require employers to provide all of their workers with seven paid sick days a year. And I'll support a 50-state strategy to adopt paid-leave systems, and set aside $1.5 billion to fund it. I have a clear plan to expand paid leave and sick leave, Senator McCain doesn't, and that's a real difference in this election.
And at a time when folks are struggling with the rising price of everything from gas to groceries, I'll provide working women with immediate relief. While Senator McCain wants to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don't need them and didn't ask for them, I'll pass a middle class tax cut of $1,000 for each working family. This will deliver tax relief for over 70 million working women. And we need to help folks at the bottom of the ladder. Almost 60 percent of Americans who benefited from raising the minimum wage were women. I won't leave any working people behind. That's why, unlike Senator McCain, I'll index the minimum wage to inflation so that it goes up each year to keep pace with rising costs.
We can't afford an economy where folks keep working harder for less. We can't let the women in our workforce get paid even less for doing the same work. And we can't keep pushing more and more of the burden on to the backs of working parents who are struggling to balance their jobs and their family. Because what binds us together, what makes us one American family, is that we stand up and fight for each other's dreams, and for the dreams of all of our children.
I want my daughters to grow up in an America where they have opportunities that are even greater than their mother had, or their grandmothers, or their great grandmothers – an America where our daughters truly have the same opportunities as our sons.
Standing here today, I know that we have drawn closer to making this America a reality because of the extraordinary woman who I shared a stage with so many times throughout this campaign – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. And in the months and years ahead, I look forward to working with her to make progress on the issues that matter to American women and to all American families – health care and education; support for working parents and an insistence on equality. Because I want Sasha and Malia to grow up in an America where both work and family are a part of the American Dream, and where that Dream is available to all. That's why I'm running for President of the United States.
Miami, FL | June 21, 2008
This is something of a homecoming for me. Because while I stand here today as a candidate for President of the United States, I will never forget that the most important experience in my life came when I was doing what you do each day – working at the local level to bring about change in our communities.
As some of you may know, after college, I went to work with a group of churches as a community organizer in Chicago – so I could help lift up neighborhoods that were struggling after the local steel plants closed. And it taught me a fundamental truth that I carry with me to this day – that in this country, change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up.
You see, back in those days, we weren't just focused on changing federal policies in Washington. And we weren't just focused on changing state policies in Springfield. No, we were focused on the place we knew could actually do the most, the fastest, to make a difference in our community – and that was the Mayor's Office.
It was the Mayor's Office we turned to when we wanted to open a job training center to put people back to work. It was the Mayor's Office we turned to when we wanted to make sure city housing was safe to live in. And it's the Mayors Office that Americans across this country rely on every day.
You may get more than your fair share of the blame sometimes. You may not always be appreciated. But when a disaster strikes – a Katrina, a shooting, or a six-alarm blaze – it's City Hall we lean on, it's City Hall we call first, and City Hall we depend on to get us through tough times. Because whether it's a small town or a big city, the government that people count on most is the one that's closest to the people.
And it's precisely because you're on the front lines in our communities that you know what happens when Washington fails to do its job. It may be easy for some in Washington to remain out of touch with the consequences of the decisions that are made there – but not you.
You know what happens when Washington puts out economic policies that work for Wall Street but not Main Street – because it's your towns and cities that get hit when factories close their doors, and workers lose their jobs, and families lose their homes because of an unscrupulous lender. That's why you need a partner in the White House.
You know what happens when Washington makes promises it doesn't keep and fails to fully fund No Child Left Behind – because it's your teachers who are overburdened, your teachers who aren't getting the support they need, and your teachers who are forced to teach to the test, instead of giving students the skills to compete in our global economy. That's why you need a partner in the White House.
You know what happens when Washington succumbs to petty partisanship and fails to pass comprehensive immigration reform – because it's your communities that are forced to take immigration enforcement into their own hands, your cities' services that are stretched, and your neighborhoods that are seeing rising cultural and economic tensions. That's why you need a partner in the White House.
You know what happens when Washington listens to big oil and gas companies and blocks real energy reform – because it's your budgets that are being pinched by high energy costs, and your schools that are cutting back on textbooks to keep their buses running; it's the lots in your towns and cities that are brownfields. That's why you need a partner in the White House.
Now, despite the absence of leadership in Washington, we're actually seeing a rebirth in many places. I'm thinking of my friend Rich Daley, who's made a deep and lasting difference in the quality of life for millions of Chicagoans. I'm thinking of Mayor Cownie, who's working to make his city green; Mayor Bloomberg, who's fighting to turn around the nation's largest school system; Mayor Rybak, who's done an extraordinary job helping the Twin Cities recover from the bridge collapse last year; and so many other mayors across this country, who are finding new ways to lift up their communities.
But you shouldn't be succeeding despite Washington – you should be succeeding with a hand from Washington. Neglect is not a policy for America's metropolitan areas. It's time City Hall had someone in the White House you could count on the way so many Americans count on you.
That's what this election is all about – because while Senator McCain is a true patriot, he won't be that partner. His priorities are very different from yours and mine. At a time when you're facing budget deficits and looking to Washington for the support you need, he isn't proposing a strategy for America's cities. Instead, he's calling for nearly $2 trillion in tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans – and yet he's actually opposed more funding for the COPS program and the Community Development Block Grant program. That's just more of the same in Washington. And few know better than you why Washington needs to change.
But the truth is, what our cities need isn't just a partner. What you need is a partner who knows that the old ways of looking at our cities just won't do; who knows that our nation and our cities are undergoing a historic transformation. The change that's taking place today is as great as any we've seen in more than a century, since the time when cities grew upward and outward with immigrants escaping poverty, and tyranny, and misery abroad. Our population has grown by tens of millions in the past few decades, and it's projected to grow nearly 50% more in the decades to come. And this growth isn't just confined to our cities, it's happening in our suburbs, exurbs, and throughout our metropolitan areas.
This is creating new pressures, but it's also opening up new opportunities – because it's not just our cities that are hotbeds of innovation anymore, it's those growing metro areas. It's not just Durham or Raleigh – it's the entire Research Triangle. It's not just Palo Alto, it's cities up and down Silicon Valley. The top 100 metro areas generate two-thirds of our jobs, nearly 80% of patents, and handle 75% of all seaport tonnage through ports like the one here in Miami. In fact, 42 of our metro areas now rank among the world's 100 largest economies.
To seize the possibility of this moment, we need to promote strong cities as the backbone of regional growth. And yet, Washington remains trapped in an earlier era, wedded to an outdated “urban” agenda that focuses exclusively on the problems in our cities, and ignores our growing metro areas; an agenda that confuses anti-poverty policy with a metropolitan strategy, and ends up hurting both.
Now, let me be clear – we must help tackle areas of concentrated poverty. I say this not just as a former community organizer, but as someone who was shaped in part by the economic inequality I saw as a college student in cities like Los Angeles and New York.
That is why I've laid out an ambitious urban poverty plan that will help make sure no child begins the race of life behind the starting line; and create public-private business incubators to open up economic opportunity. That's why I'll fully fund the COPS program, restore funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, and recruit more teachers to our cities, and pay them more, and give them more support. And that's why I've proposed real relief for struggling homeowners and a trust fund to provide affordable housing. And let me say this – if George Bush carries out his threat to veto the housing bill – a bill that would provide critical resources to help you solve the foreclosure crisis in your towns and cities – I will fight to overturn his veto and make sure you have the support you need.
So, yes we need to fight poverty. Yes, we need to fight crime. Yes, we need to strengthen our cities. But we also need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution. Because strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America. That is the new metropolitan reality and we need a new strategy that reflects it – a strategy that's about South Florida as much as Miami; that's about Mesa and Scottsdale as much as Phoenix; that's about Stamford and Northern New Jersey as much as New York City. As President, I'll work with you to develop this kind of strategy and I'll appoint the first White House Director of Urban Policy to help make it a reality.
The stakes could not be higher. Our children will grow up competing with children in Beijing and Bangalore and Berlin. And make no mistake – their governments are doing everything they can to give their countries an edge by investing in regional growth. As Bruce Katz of Brookings has pointed out, China is developing an advanced network of ports and freight hubs, and an advanced network of universities modeled after our own. And Germany has launched rail and telecom projects to bind its major metro areas more closely together. Other governments are aggressively pursuing strategies to unlock the potential of their metro areas. To compete and win in our global economy, we have to show the same kind of leadership.
There's no better place to start than by investing in the clusters of growth and innovation that are springing up across this country. Because what we've found time and time again is that when we take the different assets that are scattered throughout our communities – whether it's a skilled workforce or leading firms or institutions of higher education – and bring them all together so they can learn from one another and share ideas, you get the kind of creative thinking that doesn't come in isolation.
And that can lead to more innovation, and entrepreneurship, and real economic benefits like new jobs and higher wages. That's what happened Pennsylvania, where something called Keystone Innovation Zones have led to the formation of nearly 200 new companies. And that's why, in my administration, we'll offer $200 million a year in competitive matching grants for state and local governments to plan and grow regional economies – because when it's working together, the sum of a metro area can be greater than its parts.
And we won't just unlock the potential of our individual regions; we'll unlock the potential of all our regions by connecting them with a 21st century infrastructure. You know why this is so important. You see the traffic along I-95 in Miami. You see the crumbling roads and bridges, the aging water and sewer pipes, the faltering electrical grids that cost us billions in blackouts, repairs, and travel delays. It's gotten so bad that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our national infrastructure a “D.” And it's no wonder – because we're spending less on our infrastructure than at any time in the modern era.
This is putting enormous pressure on the Highway Trust Fund, which can no longer keep up with all the repairs that have to be made. Yet Senator McCain is actually proposing a gas tax gimmick that would take $3 billion a month out of the Highway Trust Fund and hand it over to the oil companies. Well, at a time when the Highway Trust Fund is beginning to run a deficit for the first time in history, I think that's the last thing we can afford to do.
And just the other day, Senator McCain traveled to Iowa to express his sympathies for the victims of the recent flooding. I'm sure they appreciated the sentiment, but they probably would have appreciated it more if he hadn't voted against funding for levees and flood control programs, which he seems to consider pork. Well, we do have to reform budget earmarks, cut genuine pork, and dispense with unnecessary spending, as we confront a budget crisis left by the most fiscally irresponsible administration in modern times.
But when it comes to rebuilding America's essential but crumbling infrastructure, we need to do more, not less. Cities across the Midwest are under water right now or courting disaster not just because of the weather, but because we've failed to protect them. Maintaining our levees and dams isn't pork barrel spending, it's an urgent priority, and that's what we'll do when I'm President. I'll also launch a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that will invest $60 billion over ten years, and create nearly two million new jobs. The work will be determined by what will maximize our safety, security, and shared prosperity. Instead of building bridges to nowhere, let's build communities that meet the needs and reflect the dreams of our families. That's what this bank will help us do.
And we will fund this bank as we bring the war in Iraq to a responsible close. It's time to stop fighting a war that's stretching our Guard, straining our Reserves, and leaving your police and fire stations understaffed; a war that hasn't made us safer, and should have never been authorized and never been waged. It's time to stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq and start investing that money in Phoenix, Nashville, Seattle, and metro areas across this country.
Let's invest that money in a world-class transit system. Let's re-commit federal dollars to strengthen mass transit and reform our tax code to give folks a reason to take the bus instead of driving to work – because investing in mass transit helps make metro areas more livable and can help our regional economies grow. And while we're at it, we'll partner with our mayors to invest in green energy technology and ensure that your buses and buildings are energy efficient. And we'll also invest in our ports, roads, and high-speed rails – because I don't want to see the fastest train in the world built halfway around the world in Shanghai, I want to see it built right here in the United States of America.
And let's also upgrade our digital superhighway. It is unacceptable that here, in the country that invented the Internet, we fell to 15th in the world in broadband deployment. When kids can't afford or access high-speed Internet, it sets back America's ability to compete. That's why as President, I will set a simple goal: every American should have broadband access – no matter where you live, or how much money you have. We'll connect our schools and libraries and hospitals. And we'll take on the special interests to realize the potential of wireless spectrum for our safety and connectivity.
Now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time for bold action to rebuild and renew America. We've done this before. Two hundred years ago, in 1808, Thomas Jefferson oversaw an infrastructure plan that envisioned the Homestead Act, the transcontinental railroads, and the Erie Canal. One hundred years later, in 1908, Teddy Roosevelt called together leaders from business and government to develop a plan for a 20th century infrastructure. Today, in 2008, it falls on us to take up this call again – to re-imagine America's landscape and remake America's future. That is the cause of this campaign, and that will be the cause of my presidency.
But understand – while the change we seek will require major investments by a more accountable government, it will not come from government alone. Washington can't solve all our problems. The statehouse can't solve all our problems. City Hall can't solve all our problems. It goes back to what I learned as a community organizer all those years ago – that change in this country comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom up. Change starts at a level that's even closer to the people than our mayors – it starts in our homes. It starts in our families. It starts by raising our children right, by turning off the TV, and putting away the video games; by going to those parent-teacher conferences and helping our children with their homework, and setting a good example. It starts by being good neighbors and good citizens who are willing to volunteer in our communities – to keep them clean, to keep them safe, and to serve as mentors and teachers to all of our children.
That's where change begins. That's how we'll bring about change in our neighborhoods. And if change comes to our neighborhoods, then change will come to our cities. And if change comes to our cities, then change will come to our regions. And if change comes to our regions, then I truly believe change will come to every corner of this country we love.
Throughout our history, it's been our cities that have helped tell the American story. It was Boston that rose up against an Empire, and Philadelphia where liberty first rung out; it was St. Louis that opened a gateway west, and Houston that launched us to the stars; it was the Motor City that built the middle class; Miami that built a bridge to the Americas; and New York that showed the world one clear September morning that America stands together in times of trial.
That's the proud tradition our cities uphold. That's the story our cities have helped write. And if you're willing to work with me and fight with me and stand with me this fall, then I promise you this – we will not only rebuild and renew our American cities, north and south, east and west, but you and I – together – will rebuild and renew the promise of America. Thank you.
Flint, MI | June 16, 2008
It's great to be at Kettering – a university that is teaching the next generation of leaders, and training workers to have the skills they need to advance their own careers and communities.
For months, the state of our economy has dominated the headlines – and the news hasn't been good. The sub-prime lending debacle has sent the housing market into a tailspin, and caused a broader contraction in the credit markets. Over 360,000 jobs have been lost this year, with the unemployment rate registering the biggest one month jump since February 1986. Incomes have failed to keep pace with the rising costs of health insurance and college, and record oil and food prices have left families struggling just to keep up.
Of course, grim economic news is nothing new to Flint. Manufacturing jobs have been leaving here for decades now. The jobs that have replaced them pay less, and offer fewer, if any benefits. Hard-working Americans who could once count on a single-paycheck to support their families have not only lost jobs, but their health care and their pensions as well. Worst of all, many have lost confidence in that fundamental American promise that our children will have a better life than we do.
So these are challenging times. That's why I spent last week talking about immediate steps we need to take to provide working Americans with relief. A broad-based, middle class tax cut, to help offset the rising cost of gas and food. A foreclosure prevention fund, to help stabilize the housing market. A health care plan that lowers costs and gives those without health insurance the same kind of coverage members of Congress have. A commitment to retirement security that stabilizes Social Security, and provides workers a means to increase savings. And a plan to crack down on unfair and sometimes deceptive lending in the credit card and housing markets, to help families climb out of crippling debt, and stay out of debt in the first place.
These steps are all paid for, and designed to restore balance and fairness to the American economy after years of Bush Administration policies that tilted the playing field in favor of the wealthy and the well-connected. But the truth is, none of these short-term steps alone will ensure America's future. Yes, we have to make sure that the economic pie is sliced more fairly, but we also have to make sure that the economic pie is growing. Yes, we need to provide immediate help to families who are struggling in places like Flint, but we also need a serious plan to create new jobs and industry.
We can't simply return to the strategies of the past. For we are living through an age of fundamental economic transformation. Technology has changed the way we live and the way the world does business. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the advance of capitalism have vanquished old challenges to America's global leadership, but new challenges have emerged, from China and India, Eastern Europe and Brazil. Jobs and industries can move to any country with an internet connection and willing workers. Michigan's children will grow up facing competition not just from California or South Carolina, but also from Beijing and Bangalore.
A few years ago, I saw a picture of this new reality during a visit to Google's headquarters in California. Toward the end of my tour, I was brought into a room where a three-dimensional image of the earth rotated on a large flat-panel monitor. Across this image, there were countless lights in different colors. A young engineer explained that the lights represented all of the Internet searches taking place across the world, and each color represented a different language. The image was mesmerizing – a picture of a world where old boundaries are disappearing; a world where communication, connection, and competition can come from anywhere.
There are some who believe that we must try to turn back the clock on this new world; that the only chance to maintain our living standards is to build a fortress around America; to stop trading with other countries, shut down immigration, and rely on old industries. I disagree. Not only is it impossible to turn back the tide of globalization, but efforts to do so can make us worse off.
Rather than fear the future, we must embrace it. I have no doubt that America can compete – and succeed – in the 21st century. And I know as well that more than anything else, success will depend not on our government, but on the dynamism, determination, and innovation of the American people. Here in Flint, it was the private sector that helped turn lumber into the wagons that sent this country west; that built the tanks that faced down fascism; and that turned out the automobiles that were the cornerstone of America's manufacturing boom.
But at critical moments of transition like this one, success has also depended on national leadership that moved the country forward with confidence and a common purpose. That's what our Founding Fathers did after winning independence, when they tied together the economies of the thirteen states and created the American market. That's what Lincoln did in the midst of Civil War, when he pushed for a transcontinental railroad, incorporated our National Academy of Sciences, passed the Homestead Act, and created our system of land grant colleges. That's what FDR did in confronting capitalism's gravest crisis, when he forged the social safety net, built the Hoover Dam, created the Tennessee Valley Authority, and invested in an Arsenal of Democracy. And that's what Kennedy did in the dark days of the Cold War, when he called us to a new frontier, created the Apollo program, and put us on a pathway to the moon.
This was leadership that had the strength to turn moments of adversity into opportunity, the wisdom to see a little further down the road, and the courage to challenge conventional thinking and worn ideas so that we could reinvent our economy to seize the future. That's not the kind of leadership that we have seen out of Washington recently. But that's the kind of leadership I intend to provide as President of the United States.
These past eight years will be remembered for misguided policies, missed opportunities, and a rigid and ideological adherence to discredited ideas. Almost a decade into this century, we still have no real strategy to compete in a global economy. Just think of what we could have done. We could have made a real commitment to a world-class education for our kids, but instead we passed "No Child Left Behind," a law that – however well-intended – left the money behind and alienated teachers and principals instead of inspiring them. We could have done something to end our addiction to oil, but instead we continued down a path that that funds both sides of the war on terror, endangers our planet, and has left Americans struggling with four dollar a gallon gasoline. We could have invested in innovation and rebuilt our crumbling roads and bridges, but instead we've spent hundreds of billions of dollars fighting a war in Iraq that should've never been authorized and never been waged.
Worse yet, the price-tag for these failures is being passed to our children. The Clinton Administration left behind a surplus, but this Administration squandered it. We face budget deficits in the hundreds of billions and our nearly ten trillion dollars in debt. We've borrowed billions from countries like China to finance needless tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and an unnecessary war, and yet Senator McCain is explicitly running to continue and expand these policies, without a realistic plan to pay for it.
The pundits talk about two debates – one on national security and one on the economy – but they miss the point. We didn't win the Cold War just because of the strength of our military. We also prevailed because of the vigor of our economy and the endurance of our ideals. In this century, we won't be secure if we bankroll terrorists and dictators through our dependence on oil. We won't be safe if we can't count on our infrastructure. We won't extend the promise of American greatness unless we invest in our young people and ask them to invest in America.
So there is a clear choice in this election. Instead of reaching for new horizons, George Bush has put us in a hole, and John McCain's policies will keep us there. I want to take us in a new and better direction. I reject the belief that we should either shrink from the challenge of globalization, or fall back on the same tired and failed approaches of the last eight years. It's time for new policies that create the jobs and opportunities of the future– a competitiveness agenda built upon education and energy, innovation and infrastructure, fair trade and reform.
This agenda starts with education. Whether you're conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, practically every economist agrees that in this digital age, a highly-educated and skilled workforce will be the key not only to individual opportunity, but to the overall success of our economy as well. We cannot be satisfied until every child in America – and I mean every child – has the same chances for a good education that we want for our own children.
And yet, despite this consensus, we continually fail to deliver. A few years ago, I visited a high school outside Chicago. The number one concern I heard from those students was that the school district couldn't afford to keep teachers for a full day, so school let out at 1:30 every afternoon. That cut out critical classes like science and labs. Imagine that – these kids wanted more school. They knew they were being short-changed. Unfortunately, stories like this can be found across America. Only 20 percent of students are prepared to take college classes in English, math and science. We have one of the highest dropout rates of any industrialized nation, and barely one tenth of our low-income students will graduate from college. That will cripple their ability to keep pace in this global economy, and compromise our ability to compete as a nation.
Senator McCain doesn't talk about education much. But I don't accept the status quo. It is morally unacceptable and economically untenable. It's time to make an historic commitment to education– a real commitment that will require new resources and new reforms.
We can start by investing $10 billion to guarantee access to quality, affordable, early childhood education for every child in America. Every dollar that we spend on these programs puts our children on a path to success, while saving us as much as $10 in reduced health care costs, crime, and welfare later on.
We can fix the failures of No Child Left Behind, while focusing on accountability. That means providing the funding that was promised. More importantly, it means reaching high standards, but not by relying on a single, high stakes standardized test that distorts how teachers teach. Instead, we need to work with governors, educators and especially teachers to develop better assessment tools that effectively measure student achievement, and encourage the kinds of research, scientific investigation, and problem-solving that our children will need to compete.
And we need to recruit an army of new teachers. I'll make this pledge as President – if you commit your life to teaching, America will pay for your college education. We'll recruit teachers in math and science, and deploy them to under-staffed school districts in our inner cities and rural America. We'll expand mentoring programs that pair experienced teachers with new recruits. And when our teachers succeed, I won't just talk about how great they are – I'll reward their greatness with better pay and more support.
But research shows that resources alone won't create the schools that we need to help our children succeed. We also need to encourage innovation – by adopting curricula and the school calendar to the needs of the 21st century; by updating the schools of education that produce most of our teachers; by welcoming charter schools within the public schools system, and streamlining the certification process for engineers or businesspeople who want to shift careers and teach.
We must also challenge the system that prevents us from promoting and rewarding excellence in teaching. We cannot ask our teachers to perform the impossible – to teach poorly prepared children with inadequate resources, and then punish them when children perform poorly on a standardized test. But if we give teachers the resources they need; if we pay them more, and give them time for professional development; if they are given ownership over the design of better assessment tools and a creative curricula; if we shape reforms with teachers rather than imposing changes on teachers, then it is fair to expect better results. Where there are teachers who are still struggling and underperforming, we should provide them with individual help and support. And if they're still underperforming after that, we should find a quick and fair way to put another teacher in that classroom. Our children deserve no less.
Finally, our commitment cannot end with a high school degree. The chance to get a college education must not be a privilege of the few – it should be a birthright of every single American. Senator McCain is campaigning on a plan to give more tax breaks to corporations. I want to give tax breaks to young people, in the form of an annual $4,000 tax credit that will cover two-thirds of the tuition at an average public college, and make community college completely free. In return, I will ask students to serve, whether it's by teaching, joining the Peace Corps, or working in your community. And for those who serve in our military, we'll cover all of your tuition with an even more generous 21st Century GI Bill. The idea is simple - America invests in you, and you invest in America. That's how we're going to ensure that America succeeds in this century.
Reforming our education system will require sustained effort from all of us – parents and teachers; federal, state and local governments. The same is true for the second leg of our competitiveness agenda – a bold and sustainable energy policy.
In the past, America has been stirred to action when a new challenge threatened our national security. That was true when German and Japanese armies advanced across Europe and Asia, or when the Soviets launched Sputnik. The energy threat we face today may be less direct, but it is real. Our dependence on foreign oil strains family budgets and saps our economy. Oil money pays for the bombs going off from Baghdad to Beirut, and the bombast of dictators from Caracas to Tehran. Our nation will not be secure unless we take that leverage away, and our planet will not be safe unless we move decisively toward a clean energy future.
The dangers are eclipsed only by the opportunities that would come with change. We know the jobs of the 21st century will be created in developing alternative energy. The question is whether these jobs will be created in America, or abroad. Already, we've seen countries like Germany, Spain and Brazil reap the benefits of economic growth from clean energy. But we are decades behind in confronting this challenge. George Bush has spent most of his Administration denying that we have a problem, and making deals with Big Oil behind closed doors. And while John McCain deserves credit for speaking out against the threat of climate change, his rhetoric is undercut by a record of voting time and again against important investments in renewable energy
It's time to make energy security a leading priority. My energy plan will invest $150 billion over the next ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million jobs over the next two decades. Good jobs, like the ones I saw in Pennsylvania where workers make wind turbines, or the jobs that will be created when plug-in hybrids or electric cars start rolling off the assembly line here in Michigan. We'll help manufacturers – particularly in the auto industry – convert to green technology, and help workers learn the skills they need. And unlike George Bush, I won't wait until the sixth year of my presidency to sit down with the automakers. I'll meet with them during my campaign, and I'll meet with them as president to talk about how we're going to build the cars of the future right here in Michigan.
And when I'm President, we will invest in research and development of every form of alternative energy – solar, wind, and biofuels, as well as technologies that can make coal clean and nuclear power safe. We will provide incentives to businesses and consumers to save energy and make buildings more efficient. That's how we're going to create jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced. That's how we're going to win back control of our own destiny from oil-rich dictators. And that's how we'll solve the problem of $4 a gallon gas – not with another Washington gimmick like John McCain's gas tax holiday that would pad oil company profits while draining the highway fund that Michigan depends on.
Moreover, our commitment to manufacturing cannot end with Green Jobs. That's why I'll end tax breaks that ship jobs overseas, and invest in American jobs. Senator McCain has a different view. He's voted to keep tax incentives that encourage companies to move abroad. He should listen to leaders in Michigan like Carl Levin, who have put forward serious proposals to address the crisis in manufacturing. We need to support programs like Michigan's 21st Century Jobs Fund, and build on best practices across the country. That's why I'll create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to invest in places hit hard by job loss. I'll partner with Community Colleges, so that we're training workers to meet the demands of local industry.
And we can't just focus on preserving existing industries. We have to be in the business of encouraging new ones – and that means science, research and technology. For two centuries, America led the world in innovation. But this Administration's hostility to science has taken a toll. At a time when technology is shaping our future, we devote a smaller and smaller share of our national resources to Research and Development. It's time for America to lead. I'll double federal funding for basic research, and make the R&D tax credit permanent. We can ensure that the discoveries of the 21st century happen in America – in our labs and universities; at places like Kettering and the University of Michigan; Wayne State and Michigan State.
Encouraging new industry also means giving more support to American entrepreneurs. The other day, Senator McCain gave a speech to the Small Business Summit where he attacked my plan to provide tax relief for the middle class. What he didn't say is that I've also proposed exempting all start-up companies from capital gains taxes. In other words, John McCain would tax them. I won't. We'll work, at every juncture, to remove bureaucratic barriers for small and startup businesses – for example, by making the patent process more efficient and reliable. And we'll help with technical support to do everything we can to make sure the next Google or Microsoft is started here in America.
And we know that America won't be able to compete if skyrocketing costs cause companies like the Big Three to spend $1500 on health care for every car, and condemn millions of Americans to the risk of no coverage. That's why we need to commit ourselves to electronic medical records that enhance care while lowering costs. We need to invest in biomedical research and stem cell research, so that we're at the leading edge of prevention and treatment. And we need to finally pass universal health care so that every American has access to health insurance that they can afford, and our getting the preventive services that are the key to cutting health care costs. That's what I pledge to do in my first term as President.
A third part of our agenda must be a commitment to 21st century infrastructure. If we want to keep up with China or Europe, we can't settle for crumbling roads and bridges, aging water and sewer pipes, and faltering electrical grids that cost us billions to blackouts, repairs and travel delays. It's gotten so bad that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our national infrastructure a "D." A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt called together leaders from business and government to develop a plan for 20th century infrastructure. It falls to us to do the same.
As President, I will launch a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that will invest $60 billion over ten years – a bank that can leverage private investment in infrastructure improvements, and create nearly two million new jobs. The work will be determined by what will maximize our safety and security and ability to compete. We will fund this bank as we bring the war in Iraq to a responsible close. It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week on a blank check for an Iraqi government that won't spend its own oil revenues. It's time to strengthen transportation and to protect vulnerable targets from terrorism at home. We can modernize our power grid, which will help conservation and spur on the development and distribution of clean energy. We can invest in rail, so that cities like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis are connected by high-speed trains, and folks have alternatives to air travel. That's what we can do if we commit to rebuild a stronger America.
As part of this commitment to infrastructure, we need to upgrade our digital superhighway as well. When I looked at that map of the world mounted on the screen at Google, I was struck at first by the light generated by Internet searches coming from every corner of the earth. But then I was struck by the darkness. Huge chunks of Africa and parts of Asia where the light of the information revolution has yet to shine. And then I noticed portions of the United States where the thick cords of light dissolved into a few discrete strands.
It is unacceptable that here, in the country that invented the Internet, we fell to 15th in the world in broadband deployment. When kids in downtown Flint or rural Iowa can't afford or access high-speed Internet, that sets back America's ability to compete. As President, I will set a simple goal: every American should have the highest speed broadband access – no matter where you live, or how much money you have. We'll connect schools, libraries and hospitals. And we'll take on special interests to unleash the power of wireless spectrum for our safety and connectivity.
A revamped education system. A bold new energy strategy. A more efficient health care system. Renewed investment in basic research and our infrastructure. These are the pillars of a more competitive economy that will take advantage of the global marketplace's opportunities.
But even as we welcome competition, we need to remember that our economic policies must be supported by strong and smart trade policies. I have said before, and will say again – I believe in free trade. It can save money for our consumers, generate business for U.S. exporters, and expand global wealth. But unlike George Bush and John McCain, I do not think that any trade agreement is a good trade agreement. I don't think an agreement that allows South Korea to import hundreds of thousands of cars into the U.S., but continues to restrict U.S. car exports into South Korea to a few thousand, is a smart deal. I don't think that trade agreements without labor or environmental agreements are in our long term interests
If we continue to let our trade policy be dictated by special interests, then American workers will continue to be undermined, and public support for robust trade will continue to erode. That might make sense to the Washington lobbyists who run Senator McCain's campaign, but it won't help our nation compete. Allowing subsidized and unfairly traded products to flood our markets is not free trade and it's not fair to the people of Michigan. We cannot stand by while countries manipulate currencies to promote exports, creating huge imbalances in the global economy. We cannot let foreign regulatory policies exclude American products. We cannot let enforcement of existing trade agreements take a backseat to the negotiation of new ones. Put simply, we need tougher negotiators on our side of the table – to strike bargains that are good not just for Wall Street, but also for Main Street. And when I am President, that's what we will do.
Finally, let me say a word about fiscal responsibility. I recognize that my agenda is ambitious – particularly in light of Bush Administration fiscal policies that have run up the national debt by over $4 trillion. Entitlement spending is bound to increase as the Baby Boom generation retires. But the answer to our fiscal problems is not to continue to short-change investments in education, energy, innovation and infrastructure – investments that are vital to long-term growth. Instead, we need to end the Iraq war, eliminate waste in existing government programs, generate revenue by charging polluters for the greenhouse gases they are sending into our atmosphere – and put an end to the reckless, special interest driven corporate loopholes and tax cuts for the wealthy that have been the centerpiece of the Bush Administration's economic policy.
John McCain wants to double down on George Bush's disastrous policies – not only by making permanent the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but by $300 billion in new tax cuts that give a quarter of their revenue to households making over $2.8 million. Worse yet, he hasn't detailed how he would pay for this new give-away. There is nothing fiscally conservative about this approach. It will continue to drive up deficits, force us to borrow massively from foreign countries, and shift the burden on to working people today and our children tomorrow. Meanwhile, John McCain will shortchange investments in education, energy and innovation, making the next generation of Americans less able to compete. That's unacceptable. It's time to make tough choices so that we have a smarter government that pays its way and makes the right investments for America's future.
It falls to us to shape a new century. Every aspect of our government should be under review. We can ill-afford needless layers of bureaucracy and outmoded programs. My Administration will open up the doors of democracy. We'll put government data online, and use technology to shine a light on spending. We'll invite the service and participation of American citizens, and cut through the red tape to make sure that every agency is meeting cutting edge standards. We'll make it clear to the special interests that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over, because the American people are not the problem in this 21st century – they are the answer.
We have a choice. We can continue the Bush status quo – as Senator McCain wants to do – and we will become a country in which few reap the benefits of the global economy, while a growing number work harder for less and depend upon an overburdened public sector. An America in which we run up deficits and expose ourselves to the whims of oil-rich dictators while the opportunities for our children and grandchildren shrink. That is one course we could take.
Or, we can rise together. If we choose to change, just imagine what we can do. The great manufacturers of the 20th century can turn out cars that run on renewable energy in the 21st. Biotechnology labs can find new cures; new rail lines and roadways can connect our communities; goods made here in Michigan can be exported around the world. Our children can get a world-class education, and their dreams of tomorrow can eclipse even our greatest hopes of today.
We can choose to rise together. But it won't be easy. Every one of us will have to work at it by studying harder, training more rigorously, working smarter, and thinking anew. We'll have to slough off bad habits, reform our institutions, and re-engage the world. We can do that, because this is America – a country that has been defined by a determination to believe in, and work for, things unseen.
Every so often, there are times when America must rise to meet a moment. So it has been for the generations that built the railroads and beat back the Depression; that worked on the first assembly line and that went to the moon. So it must be for us today. This is our moment. This is our time to unite in common purpose, to make this century the next American century. Because when Americans come together, there is no destiny too difficult or too distant for us to reach.