Good evening, Democrats! Are you fired up? Are you ready to go? I hope so.
This is the election of a lifetime. Because more than any one candidate or policy, what’s at stake is the American dream. That dream—the ability to imagine a better way for ourselves and our families and then reach for it—is central to who we are and what we stand for as a nation. Whether that dream endures for another generation depends on you and me. It depends on who leads us, too.
In Massachusetts, we know Mitt Romney. By the time he left office, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation—during better economic times—and household income in our state was declining. He cut education deeper than anywhere else in America. Roads and bridges were crumbling. Business taxes were up, and business confidence was down. Our clean energy potential was stalled. And we had a structural budget deficit. Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he’s fixed. I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn’t one of them. He’s a fine fellow and a great salesman, but as governor he was more interested in having the job than doing it.
When I came to office, we set out on a different course: investing in ourselves and our future. And today Massachusetts leads the nation in economic competitiveness, student achievement, health care coverage, life sciences and biotech, energy efficiency and veterans’ services. Today, with the help of the Obama administration, we are rebuilding our roads and bridges and expanding broadband access. Today we’re out of the deficit hole Mr. Romney left, and we’ve achieved the highest bond rating in our history. Today—with labor at the table—we’ve made the reforms in our pension and benefits systems, our schools, our transportation system and more that Mr. Romney only talked about. And today in Massachusetts, you can also marry whomever you love. We have much more still to do. But we are on a better track because we placed our faith not in trickle-down fantasies and divisive rhetoric but in our values and common sense.
The same choice faces the nation today. All that today’s Republicans are saying is that if we just shrink government, cut taxes, crush unions and wait, all will be well. Never mind that those are the very policies that got us into recession to begin with! Never mind that not one of the governors who preached that gospel in Tampa last week has the results to show for it. But we Democrats owe America more than a strong argument for what we are against. We need to be just as strong about what we are for.
The question is: What do we believe? We believe in an economy that grows opportunity out to the middle class and the marginalized, not just up to the well connected. We believe that freedom means keeping government out of our most private affairs, including out of a woman’s decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy and everybody’s decision about whom to marry. We believe that we owe the next generation a better country than we found and that every American has a stake in that. We believe that in times like these we should turn to each other, not on each other. We believe that government has a role to play, not in solving every problem in everybody’s life but in helping people help themselves to the American dream. That’s what Democrats believe.
If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe. Quit waiting for pundits or polls or super PACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman is going to be. We’re Americans.
We shape our own future. Let’s start by standing up for President Barack Obama.
This is the president who delivered the security of affordable health care to every single American after 90 years of trying. This is the president who brought Osama bin Laden to justice, who ended the war in Iraq and is ending the war in Afghanistan. This is the president who ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” so that love of country, not love of another, determines fitness for military service. Who made equal pay for equal work the law of the land. This is the president who saved the American auto industry from extinction, the American financial industry from self-destruction, and the American economy from depression. Who added over 4.5 million private sector jobs in the last two-plus years, more jobs than George W. Bush added in eight.
The list of accomplishments is long, impressive and barely told—even more so when you consider that congressional Republicans have made obstruction itself the centerpiece of their governing strategy. With a record and a vision like that, I will not stand by and let him be bullied out of office—and neither should you, and neither should you and neither should you.
What’s at stake is real. The Orchard Gardens Elementary School in Boston was in trouble. Its record was poor, its spirit was broken, and its reputation was a wreck. No matter how bad things were in other urban schools in the city, people would say, “At least we’re not Orchard Gardens.” Today, thanks to a host of new tools, many enacted with the help of the Obama administration, Orchard Gardens is turning itself around. Teaching standards and accountabilities are higher. The school day is longer and filled with experiential learning, art, exercise and music.
The head of pediatric psychology from a local hospital comes to consult with faculty and parents on the toughest personal situations in students’ home lives. Attendance is up, thanks to a mentoring initiative. In less than a year, Orchard Gardens went from one of the worst schools in the district to one of the best in the state. The whole school community is engaged and proud.
So am I. At the end of my visit a year and a half ago, the first grade—led by a veteran teacher—gathered to recite Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. When I started to applaud, the teacher said, “not yet.” Then she began to ask those six- and seven-year-olds questions: “What does ‘creed’ mean?” “What does ‘nullification’ mean?” “Where is Stone Mountain?” And as the hands shot up, I realized that she had taught the children not just to memorize that speech but to understand it.
Today’s Republicans and their nominee for president tell us that those first-graders are on their own—on their own to deal with their poverty; with ill-prepared young parents, maybe who speak English as a second language; with an underfunded school; with neighborhood crime and blight; with no access to nutritious food and no place for their mom to cash a paycheck; with a job market that needs skills they don’t have; with no way to pay for college.
But those Orchard Gardens kids should not be left on their own. Those children are America’s children, too, yours and mine. And among them are the future scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers, artists, engineers, laborers and civic leaders we desperately need. For this country to rise, they must rise—and they and their cause must have a champion in the White House.
That champion is Barack Obama. That cause is the American dream. Let’s fight for that. Let’s canvass and phone bank and get out the vote for that. Let’s go tell everyone we meet that, when the American dream is at stake, you want Barack Obama in charge.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States.