tv Senator Edward Kennedy 1980 Convention Speech CSPAN July 24, 2016 7:40pm-8:15pm EDT
distinguished legislators, great spokeswoman for economic democracy and social justice in this country, i thank you for your eloquent introduction. well, things worked out a little different from the way i thought, but let me tell you, i still love new york. my fellow democrats and my fellow americans, i have come here tonight not to argue as a candidate but to affirm a cause. i am asking you to renew the commitment of the democratic party to economic justice.
i am asking you to renew our commitment to a fair and lasting prosperity that can put america back to work. this is the cause that brought me into the campaign and that sustained me for nine months across a 100,000 miles in 40 different states. we had our losses, but the pain of our defeats is far, far less than the pain of the people that i have met.
we have learned that it is important to take issues seriously, but never to take ourselves too seriously. the serious issue before us tonight is the cause for which the democratic party has stood in its finest hours, the cause that keeps our party young and makes it, in the second century of its age, the largest political party in this republic and the longest lasting political party on this planet. our cause has been, since the days of thomas jefferson, the cause of the common man and the common woman.
our commitment has been, since the days of andrew jackson, to all those he called "the humble members of society -- the farmers, mechanics, and laborers." on this foundation we have defined our values, refined our policies, and refreshed our faith. now i take the unusual step of carrying the cause and the commitment of my campaign personally to our national convention.
speak out of a deep belief in the ideals of the democratic party, and in the potential of that party and of a president to make a difference. and i speak out of a deep trust in our capacity to proceed with boldness and a common vision that will feel and heal the suffering of our time and the divisions of our party. the economic plank of this platform on its face concerns only material things, but it is also a moral issue that i raise tonight. it has taken many forms over many years. in this campaign and in this country that we seek to lead, the challenge in 1980 is to give our voice and our vote for these fundamental democratic principles.
let us pledge that we will never misuse unemployment, high interest rates, and human misery as false weapons against inflation. let us pledge that employment will be the first priority of our economic policy. let us pledge that there will be security for all those who are now at work, and let us pledge that there will be jobs for all who are out of work; and we will not compromise on the issues of jobs. these are not simplistic pledges.
simply put, they are the heart of our tradition, and they have been the soul of our party across the generations. it is the glory and the greatness of our tradition to speak for those who have no voice, to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations and fulfill the aspirations of all americans seeking a better life in a better land. we dare not forsake that tradition. we cannot let the great purposes of the democratic party become the bygone passages of history. we must not permit the republicans to seize and run on the slogans of prosperity.
we heard the orators at their convention all trying to talk like democrats. they proved that even republican nominees can quote franklin roosevelt to their own purpose. the grand old party thinks it has found a great new trick, but 40 years ago an earlier generation of republicans attempted the same trick. and franklin roosevelt himself replied, "most republican leaders have bitterly fought and blocked the forward surge of average men and women in their pursuit of happiness. let us not be deluded that overnight those leaders have suddenly become the friends of average men and women."
"you know," he continued, "very few of us are that gullible." and four years later when the republicans tried that trick again, franklin roosevelt asked, "can the old guard pass itself off as the new deal? i think not. we have all seen many marvelous stunts in the circus, but no performing elephant could turn a handspring without falling flat on its back."
the 1980 republican convention was awash with crocodile tears for our economic distress, but it is by their long record and not their recent words that you shall know them. the same republicans who are talking about the crisis of unemployment have nominated a man who once said, and i quote, "unemployment insurance is a prepaid vacation plan for freeloaders." and that nominee is no friend of labor. the same republicans who are talking about the problems of the inner cities have nominated a man who said, and i quote, "i
have included in my morning and evening prayers every day the prayer that the federal government not bail out new york." and that nominee is no friend of this city and our great urban centers across this nation. the same republicans who are talking about security for the elderly have nominated a man who said just four years ago that "participation in social security should be made voluntary." and that nominee is no friend of the senior citizens of this nation.
the same republicans who are talking about preserving the environment have nominated a man who last year made the preposterous statement, and i quote, "eighty percent of our air pollution comes from plants and trees." and that nominee is no friend of the environment. and the same republicans who are invoking franklin roosevelt have nominated a man who said in 1976, and these are his exact words, "fascism was really the basis of the new deal." and that nominee whose name is ronald reagan has no right to quote franklin delano roosevelt.
programs may sometimes become obsolete, but the ideal of fairness always endures. circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue. it is surely correct that we cannot solve problems by throwing money at them, but it is also correct that we dare not throw out our national problems onto a scrap heap of inattention and indifference. the poor may be out of political fashion, but they are not without human needs. the middle class may be angry, but they have not lost the dream that all americans can advance together. the demand of our people in 1980 is not for smaller government or bigger government but for better government.
the present inflation and recession cost our economy 200 billion dollars a year. we reply: inflation and unemployment are the biggest spenders of all. the task of leadership in 1980 is not to parade scapegoats or to seek refuge in reaction, but to match our power to the possibilities of progress. while others talked of free enterprise, it was the democratic party that acted and we ended excessive regulation in the airline and trucking industry, and we restored competition to the marketplace. and i take some satisfaction that this deregulation legislation that i sponsored and passed in the congress of the united states.
as democrats we recognize that each generation of americans has a rendezvous with a different reality. the answers of one generation become the questions of the next generation. but there is a guiding star in the american firmament. it is as old as the revolutionary belief that all people are created equal, and as clear as the contemporary condition of liberty city and the south bronx. again and again democratic leaders have followed that star and they have given new meaning to the old values of liberty and justice for all. we are the party of the new freedom, the new deal, and the new frontier. we have always been the party of hope.
so this year let us offer new hope, new hope to an america uncertain about the present, but unsurpassed in its potential for the future. to all those who are idle in the cities and industries of america let us provide new hope for the dignity of useful work. democrats have always believed that a basic civil right of all americans is that their right to earn their own way. the party of the people must always be the party of full employment. to all those who doubt the future of our economy, let us provide new hope for the reindustrialization of america.