Remarks from Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), August 15, 2000

July 7, 2008 - 8:26 PM

(Editor's Note: The following is the text of a speech delivered by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.)

Thank you, Caroline. I love you and thank you for all that you mean to me, to our entire family, and to millions of Americans everywhere.

I see in you the poise and the strength of purpose that belonged to your father -- and the dignity and grace of your mother that inspired a nation.

I remember election night in November of 1960. The results were so close that my brother went to bed still not certain that he had won. It was nearly dawn when victory finally became clear. And here is how Jack learned about it -- from three-year-old Caroline, who woke him up by jumping on his bed and shouting, "Good morning, Mr. President."

It was the first time he ever heard those words from anyone.

How proud he would be of Caroline this evening -- and of the magnificent woman she has become.

How proud he would be of Al Gore and our party and the new barrier of bigotry we are breaking down with the choice of Joe Lieberman as the next Vice President of the United States.

This truly is a homecoming for me. It was here, in this City of Angels, on a warm summer night forty years ago, that America first looked across the New Frontier,

A New Frontier, as my brother said, where there were "unsolved problems ..., unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice; unanswered questions of poverty and surplus."

We were given just a thousand days on that journey of hope. Yet the challenge of those days and the resonance of my brother's words are still with us.

Because today, our generation faces its own new frontier. And we are called upon to address our unsolved problems; our unconquered prejudice; our unanswered questions.

Will we dare to dream of a far horizon -- or will we look inward; look backward; lower our sights and narrow our vision?

That is the choice we face in the election of 2000.

If you believe that prosperity is a challenge to do better -- that we have to seize this extraordinary moment to make progress in providing decent, quality health care that all Americans can afford --

If you believe that we must provide access to health care for all our children -- that we must provide access to prescription drugs for all our seniors -- that we must assure for all our citizens that medical decisions be made by doctors and nurses and not by HMOs that put profits ahead of patients' health--

Then this is your convention. This is your cause. And I ask you to dedicate yourself to elect Al Gore as the next President and of the United States.

There have been only three times in my life that I have supported candidates for President as early and as enthusiastically as I have supported Al Gore. Two of them were my brothers.

I support Al Gore for President, not solely because he has helped lead us to the strongest economy in American history -- as important as that is.

I support him with my whole resolve because I know from his record -- and not just from his words -- that Al Gore will not stop fighting -- Al Gore will not stop striving -- until we have quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

Two weeks ago, at the convention in Philadelphia, we heard a partisan negative attack on the past eight years as a time of lost opportunity and stalemate.

Well, I've been there on the front lines fighting for working families.

And I can tell you, we weren't coasting, we were seizing an opportunity when Al Gore and I worked with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch to pass landmark health care coverage for children. And now, two million more children have health coverage.

That's called progress -- not partisanship -- and that is Al Gore's way.

We weren't drifting, we were moving ahead when Al Gore and I worked with Republican Senator Nancy Kassebaum to see that a family doesn't lose health coverage just because a parent loses a job or changes jobs. And today, we are working with Republicans and Democrats alike to make it even stronger.

That's called progress -- not partisanship -- and that is Al Gore's way.
We weren't gridlocked, we were raising up our nation when Al Gore and I worked with Republican Senator Jim Jeffords to make sure that people with disabilities can keep their health care when they join the workforce. And today, more and more of the disabled are putting their abilities to work for themselves and for America.

That's called progress -- not partisanship -- and that is Al Gore's way.

I've been a Democrat all my life -- and I am proud of it.

But I say to you, there is no Democratic or Republican way to heal a sick child. There is no Democratic or Republican way to make the right medical decision. No Democratic or Republican way to fight cancer, or ease the pain of HIV and AIDS.

This is not the time to play partisan games with human health.

Let there be no mistake about it. There is a profoundly deep difference between the Democratic and Republican nominees on this issue -- this life and death issue -- of health care for all Americans.

Al Gore is the only candidate committed to moving this country, step by step, to universal health coverage -- starting by covering every child by the year 2004. He believes in it heart and soul.

So I say to all Americans, regardless of party -- if you believe we should use our prosperity to make our children healthy and whole -- fight for Al Gore. Because he's fighting for you.

Al Gore will put Medicare in an iron-clad lockbox where politicians can't raid it or cut it. He will veto any effort to use money from Medicare for anything but Medicare.

So if you believe in quality health care for all our seniors, no matter what your politics -- fight for Al Gore. Because he's fighting for you.

Al Gore believes that no senior citizens in America should ever have to choose between the food on their table and the medicine they need.

So if you believe in prescription drug coverage for our seniors -- then fight for Al Gore. Because he's fighting for you.

Al Gore has been leading the fight for a real Patients' Bill of Rights. He's been working with leaders of both parties to do it.

So if you believe medical decisions should be made by doctors and nurses on the basis of sound medicine -- not by accountants and number-crunchers, sitting at computer screens hundreds of miles away -- then fight for Al Gore. Because he's fighting for you.

The fight for health care has been the driving dream of my public service -- starting with my brother's crusade to pass Medicare into law.

In my first term in the Senate, I was proud to support Al Gore's father, Senator Albert Gore Senior of Tennessee, when he sponsored the very first version of Medicare to pass on the Senate floor.

And I now believe we have the greatest chance in my lifetime and the lifetime of our nation to secure the promise of health care for all.

Let us make the most of our great moment. On the issue of health care -- on all the great issues -- we must heed my brother's words here in Los Angeles, which echo now across the years. He spoke of "a choice ... between the public interest and private comfort." And that is our choice today.

Will we comfort the comfortable, or will we strengthen the fabric of this country for all Americans?

Our capacity to do better has never been greater. Let us not turn back to old policies and old ways that favor the few at the expense of the many.

This nation has always been a work in progress, and it always will be. We have it in our power to take America to new heights, to make this new century a new progressive era of high achievement for working families -- a time in which all Americans advance together.

That is our challenge. That is our new frontier.

Cross it we can, and cross it we must. And forty years from this night, may a future generation look back on this time and this convention, and say that it was here, under the leadership of Al Gore, that we set forth to secure for all our citizens the fundamental right to health care -- that here we kept the faith on our journey of hope -- and America dared to dream again.