The following is a full text transcription of John Edwards’ speech on the evening of May 14, 2008, the speech in which he endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States:
Thank you. So the question is, what am I doing here?
You know, I was promised a jet-ski, and I haven’t gotten it yet.
I am proud to be here with all of you. Proud to be in Michigan. Proud to be in Grand Rapids. During the course of this presidential campaign, I’ve gotten to know the candidates, and the top candidates very very well. We have all been out speaking about the causes that are so near and dear to our hearts as Democrats, and now we’re here down to two amazing candidates. And before I get too far I want to just take a minute and say a word about my friend and your friend, Senator Hillary Clinton.
In the past few months and past few weeks I’ve gotten to know Senator Clinton very well. We’ve talked. We’ve met in North Carolina. We’ve talked about the things that she cares about and every single one of you care about, about the men and women in this country who don’t have health care, about the children who don’t have health care, about the men and women in America who just want to have a decent job and go to work. We’ve talked about our own children, our own families, and what I’ve learned about her during that time (and I’ve gotten to know her very well) is that she believes with every fiber of her being that America can be a better place, and that we need change to make America a better place, what it’s capable of being.
And I want to tell you, and I know this is hard to understand sometimes, but it is very very hard to get up every day and do what she’s done. It is hard to go up there and fight and speak up when the odds turn against you. And what she has shown, what she has shown is strength and character and what drives her is something that every single one of us can and should appreciate. She cares deeply about the working people in this country, cares about the families who are losing everything because somebody got sick. She cares about the men and women who are putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. This tenacity has shown her strength and determination. She is a woman who in my judgment is made of steel. And she’s a leader in this country not because of her husband but because of what she has done, speaking out, because of standing up.
And we, when this nomination battle is over — and it will be over soon — brothers and sisters we must come together as Democrats and in the fall stand up for what matters in the future of America, to make America what it needs to be! And we are a stronger party because Hillary Clinton is a Democrat, we are a stronger country because of her years in public service, and we’re going to have a stronger presidential nominee in the fall because of her work.
Now, what brought all of us here is the profound belief that we can change this country. That there are service men and women in Iraq who can come home starting today. That our kids deserve to go to better schools than we went to. That we can run our cars on something other than oil. That we can have good jobs that can fill these empty factories. And that the anxiety that all of our people face every day can change when we finally make two Americas one America for every single one of us.
This is why you are here. You are here because of the hope that you carry in your heart that will make this country better. And we have so much work to do in America, because all across America there are walls. There are walls dividing the way things are and the one America we want to see.
And in fact there’s a wall around Washington DC. The American people today are on the outside of that wall. And on the inside are the big corporations and the lobbyists working to protect a system that takes care of them. And guess who struggles every single day? Working men and women see that wall when they have to split their bills into two piles. One: pay now, and one: pay later. When they get bullied at work because they want to join a union. When they see disappointment on the face of their son or daughter because they can no longer pay for that child to go to college. When their CEO who gets a golden parachute and their job gets shipped overseas — and you know something about that here in Michigan. When their wages drop and their kids go hungry. And guess who’s doing just fine? The insiders. The lobbyists. The special interests. Our job come January of next year is to tear that wall down and give this government back to the American people.
There is another wall that divides us. It’s the moral shame of 37 million of our own people who wake up in poverty every single day. In a nation of our wealth, to have millions of Americans who work every single day and still can’t pay their electric bill and pay for their food at the same time? There are mothers out there, working two jobs every day to try to keep their kids from going to bed hungry. There are men and women who have worked hard all their lives so that they can try to buy a home, and they’re living in a tent city because they’ve got nowhere to go. This is not okay, and for eight long long years, this wall has gotten taller.
Yesterday I was in Philadelphia and I was announcing an initiative to cut poverty in half in the next ten years, and I am proud to say today that Barack Obama stands with me in this cause. We also have a wall that divides our two public school systems in America. It is not okay that a child born into a wealthy family gets the best education in the world, and a child born in a small town or the inner city barely gets by. Their education is our education. We’re going to fix that system for them and make these schools good for everybody.
How about health care, right? The big drug companies, insurance companies, HMOs, the politicians who take their money, they’re getting their way. They love that wall just the way it is today. Well, it’s going to be gone as soon as we create real and meaningful health care for every man, woman and child in America.
And there’s also a wall that’s divided our image in the world: the America as the beacon of hope is behind that wall. And all the world sees now is a bully. They see Iraq, Guantanamo, secret prisons and a government that argues waterboarding is not torture.
This is not okay. That wall has to come down for the sake of our ideals and our security. We can change this. We can change it. Yes we can. If we stand together, we can change it.
And the reason that I am here tonight is that the Democratic voters in America have made their choice and so have I.
There is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership. There is one man that knows how to create the lasting change that you have to create from the ground up. There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two. And that man is Barack Obama.
This is not going to be easy. It’s going to be the fight of our lives. But we’re ready because we know this election is about something bigger than the tired, old, hateful politics of the past. This election is about taking down these walls that divide us so we can see what’s possible, what’s possible, that one America that we can build together.
Barack Obama understands that to his core. You know, as I have traveled this country, as I’ve learned traveling this country from talking to people like the students we took to New Orleans, who volunteered their Spring Break to go to New Orleans to work to help rebuild the city. A former Army captain that I met who served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, even after he was badly injured in a grenade attack. And I’ll never forget a man I met named James Lowe. He was born with a cleft palate and it kept him from being able to speak. And he had no health care coverage, and he lived for fifty years in America not able to speak because he had no health care. What I’ve learned, and what Barack Obama has learned? It is about them. It is about you. It is about the people. It is not about us. And that is what we are fighting for.
And it’s about the one America we’re going to build for them. One America where Main Street is strong. One America where struggling towns come back to life because we’ve finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on foreign oil. One America where the men and women who work the late shift, who get up at dawn to drive a two hour commute, and the young person who closes the store to pay for college. They will actually be honored for that work. One America where no child goes to bed hungry, when we finally end the moral shame of 37 million Americans who wake up every day in poverty. One America where we finally start tackling the real health care crisis in America. One America with one public school system, where a boy in the city and a girl in the suburbs will wake up every day with an equal chance for a quality education. One America that rebuilds our moral authority in the world, not just with our strength but with our soul.
One America where the walls will fall when the war in Iraq ends in 2009 and our service men and women will come home to the hero’s welcome that they deserve. And we will take care of our veterans. We are going to get this part of the war right. We will never again stand by while men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States of America stand in line and have to wait for health care. We will never stand by while 150,000 men and women who wore our uniform go to sleep every night on grates and under bridges. Not in our America! Not in our America! Not in our America when Barack Obama is President of the United States of America!
You know, we’ve been in this kind of place before. In times of war, great depression, deep divisions that tore at the soul of this nation, we came together. We went to work to make sure we passed on a better and stronger country to our children. We will meet this challenge again. This is who we are. This is our moment. This is our time to take down these walls, to close our divide and to build one America that we all believe in. If you want that, if you believe in that, then join me in helping to send Barack Obama to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because we believe that in our America that we love so much, no matter who you are, no matter who your family is, and no matter what the color of your skin, none of those things will control your destiny, and that that one America that I’ve talked about is not only possible but it will be achieved under President Barack Obama starting in January of 2009.
Thank you. God bless you. I’m honored to be with you all. Thank you.
The speech reminds me why John Edwards used to grate on my nerves when he was still running for president. What is this idea to “build one America that we all believe in”? Americans believe different things, and you know, that’s not only all right, it’s what our founding fathers had in mind. And do we have to hear about everybody he’s met and everywhere he’s gone? Does he have to take so long to deliver what was really a pretty simple message?
The answer to that is no, of course. Here’s John Edwards’ endorsement speech, the condensed version:
2. I like Hillary Clinton. Please don’t diss her.
3. But hey, fall in line behind our nominee who will be Barack Obama.
4. There’s inequality in opportunity and the delivery of social services and health care and education in America. Too many people are poor, even though they work their asses off.
5. Too people including veterans who have served this country are dumped like some pieces of trash.
6. The world outside America sees us when we detain without charges and torture and engage in stupid wars of choice.
7. This is happening in part because corporate lobbyists and their politician cronies sit nice and comfy in their symbiotic relationship of mutual protection. Americans who don’t have a lot of money or power are shut out of a real role in the political system.
8. We can change that if you vote for Barack Obama.