Tonight there is a sense of celebration
because we are moved, fundamentally moved, from racial battlegrounds
by law, to economic common ground. . . . Common Ground! Think of
Jerusalem—the intersection where many trails met. A small village
that became the birthplace of three great religions—Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam. Why was the village so blessed? Because it
provided a crossroads where different civilizations could meet and
find common ground. When people come together, flowers always
flourish and the air is rich with the aroma of a new spring. . . .
Many people, many cultures, many languages—with one thing in common,
the yearning to breathe free. Common Ground! . . .
That is the challenge to our party tonight. Left wing. Right wing.
Progress will not come through boundless liberalism nor static
conversation, but at the critical mass of mutual survival. . . .
The good of our nation is at stake—its commitment to working men and
women, to the poor and the vulnerable, to the many in the world.
With so many guided missiles, and so much misguided leadership, the
stakes are exceedingly high. Our choice, full participation in a
Democratic government, or more abandonment and neglect. And so this
night, we choose not a false sense of independence, not our capacity
to survive and endure.
Tonight we choose interdependency in our capacity to act and unite
for the greater good. The common good is finding commitment to new
priorities, to expansion and inclusion. . . . A commitment to new
priorities that ensure that hope will be kept alive. . . .
America's not a blanket woven from one thread, one color, one cloth.
When I was a child growing up in Greenville, S.C., and grandmother
could not afford a blanket, she didn't complain and we did not
freeze. Instead, she took pieces of old cloth—patches, wool, silk,
gabardine, crockersack on the patches—barely good enough to wipe off
your shoes with. But they didn't stay that way very long. With
sturdy hands and a strong cord, she sewed them together into a
quilt, a thing of beauty and power and culture. Now, Democrats, we
must build such a quilt. Farmers, you seek fair prices and you are
right, but you cannot stand alone. Your patch is not big enough.
Workers, you fight for fair wages. You are right. But your patch
labor is not big enough. Women, you seek worth and pay equity. You
are right. But your patch is not big enough. Women, mothers, who
seek Head Start and day care and prenatal care on the front side of
life, rather than jail care and welfare on the backside of life,
you're right, but your patch is not big enough. Students, you seek
scholarships. You are right. But your patch is not big enough.
Blacks and Hispanics, when we fight for civil rights, we are right,
but our patch is not big enough. Gays and lesbians, when you fight
against discrimination and cure for AIDS, you are right, but your
patch is not big enough. Conservatives and progressives, when you
fight for what you believe, right-wing. Left-wing, hawk, dove—you
are right, from your point of view, but your point of view is not
But don't despair. Be wise as my grandma. Pool the patches and the
pieces together, bound by a common thread. When we form a great
quilt of unity and common ground we'll have the power to bring about
health care and housing and jobs and education and hope to our
nation. We the people can win. We stand at the end of a long dark
night of reaction. We stand tonight united in a commitment to a new
direction. For almost eight years, we've been led by those who view
social good coming from private interest, who viewed public life as
a means to increase private wealth. They have been prepared to
sacrifice the common good of the many to satisfy the private
interest and the wealth of a few. We believe in a government that's
a tool of our democracy in service to the public, not an instrument
of the aristocracy in search of private wealth. We believe in
government with the consent of the governed of, for, and by the
people. We must not emerge into a new day with a new direction.
Reaganomics, based on the belief that the rich had too much
money—too little money, and the poor had too much. That's classic
Reaganomics. It believes that the poor had too much money and the
rich had too little money. So they engaged in reverse Robin
Hood—took from the poor, gave to the rich, paid for by the middle
class. We cannot stand four more years of Reaganomics in any
version, in any disguise.
How do I document that case? Seven years later, the richest 1
percent of our society pays 20 percent less in taxes; the poorest 10
percent pay 20 percent more. Reaganomics. Reagan gave the rich and
the powerful a multibillion-dollar party. Now, the party is over. He
expects the people to pay for the damage. I take this principled
position—convention, let us not raise taxes on the poor and the
middle class, but those who had the party, the rich and the
powerful, must pay for the party! I just want to take common sense
to high places. We're spending $150 billion a year defending Europe
and Japan 43 years after the war is over. We have more troops in
Europe tonight that we had seven years ago, yet the threat of war is
ever more remote. Germany and Japan are now creditor nations—that
means they've got a surplus. We are a debtor nation—it means we are
in debt. Let them share more of the burden of their own defense—use
some of that money to build decent housing! Yes some of that money
to educate our children! Use some of that money for long-term health
care! Use some of that money to wipe out these slums and put America
back to work!
I just want to take common sense to high places. If we can bail out
Europe and Japan, if we can bail out Continental Bank and Chrysler .
. . we can bail out the family farmer. I just want to make common
sense. It does not make sense to close down 650,000 family farms in
this country while importing food from abroad subsidized by the U.S.
government. Let's make sense. It does not make sense to be escorting
oil tankers up and down the Persian Gulf paying $2.50 for every
$1.00 worth of oil we bring out while oil wells are capped in Texas,
Oklahoma and Louisiana. I just want to make sense.
Leadership must meet the moral challenge of its day. What's the
moral challenge of our day? We have public accommodations. We have
the right to vote. We have open housing. What's the fundamental
challenge of our day? It is to end economic violence. Plant closing
without notice, economic violence. Even the greedy do not profit
long from greed. Economic violence. Most poor people are not lazy.
They're not black. They're not brown. They're mostly white, and
female and young. But whether white, black, or brown, the hungry
baby's belly turned inside out is the same color. Call it pain. Call
it hurt. Call it agony. Most poor people are not on welfare. Some of
them are illiterate and can't read the want-ad sections. And when
they can, they can't find a job that matches their address. They
work hard every day, I know. I live amongst them. I'm one of them.
I know they work. I'm a witness. They catch the early bus. They work
every day. They raise other people's children. They work every day.
They clean streets. They work every day. They drive vans with cabs.
They work every day. They change the beds you slept in these hotels
last night and can't get a union contract. They work every day. No
more. They're not lazy. Someone must defend them because it's right,
and they cannot speak for themselves. They work in hospitals. I know
they do. They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and
pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commode. No job
is beneath them, and yet when they get sick, they cannot lie in the
bed they made up every day. America, that is not right. We are a
better nation than that. We are a better nation than that. . . .
Leadership. What difference will we make? Leadership can not just go
along to get along. We must do more than change presidents. We must
change direction. Leadership must face the moral challenge of our
day. The nuclear war build-up is irrational. Strong leadership
cannot desire to look tough, and let that stand in the way of the
pursuit of peace. Leadership must reverse the arms race. At least we
should pledge no first use. Why? Because first use begat first
retaliation, and that's mutual annihilation. That's not a rational
way out. No use at all—let's think it out, and not fight it out,
because it's an unwinnable fight. Why hold a card that you can never
drop? Let's give peace a chance. Leadership—we now have this
marvelous opportunity to have a breakthrough with the Soviets. Last
year, 200,000 Americans visited the Soviet Union. There's a chance
for joint ventures into space, not Star Wars and the war arms
escalation, but a space defense initiative. Let's build in space
together, and demilitarize the heavens. There's a way out.
America, let us expand. When Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev met, there
was a big meeting. They represented together one-eighth of the human
race. Seven-eighths of the human race was locked out of that room.
Most people in the world tonight—half Asian, one-half of them are
Chinese. There are 22 nations in the Middle East. There's Europe; 40
million Latin Americans next door to us; the Caribbean;
Africa—half-billion people. Most people in the world today are
yellow or brown or black, non-Christian, poor, female, young, and
don't speak English—in the real world.
This generation must offer leadership to the real world. We're
losing ground in Latin America, the Middle East, South Africa,
because we're not focusing on the real world, that real world. We
must use basic principles, support international law. We stand the
most to gain from it. Support human rights; we believe in that.
Support self-determination; we'll build on that. Support economic
development; you know it's right. Be consistent, and gain our moral
authority in the world.
I challenge you tonight, my friends, let's be bigger and better as a
party. . . . I'm often asked,"Jesse, why do you take on these tough
issues? They're not very political. We can't win that way." If an
issue is morally right, it will eventually be political. It may be
political and never be right. Fannie Lou Hamer didn't have the most
votes in Atlantic City, but her principles have outlasted every
delegate who voted to lock her out. Rosa Parks did not have the most
votes, but she was morally right. Dr. King didn't have the most
votes about the Vietnam war, but he was morally right. If we're
principled first, our politics will fall in place. Jesse, why did
you take these big bold initiatives? A poem by an unknown author
went something like this: We mastered the air, we've conquered the
sea, and annihilated distance and prolonged life, we were not wise
enough to live on this earth without war and without hate.
As for Jesse Jackson, I'm tired of sailing by little boat, far
inside the harbor bar. I want to go where the big ships float, out
on the deep where the great ones are. And should my frail craft
prove too slight, the waves that sweep those billows o'er, I'd
rather go down in a stirring fight than drown to death in the
sheltered shore. We've got to go out, my friends, where the big
And then, for our children, young America, hold your head high now.
We can win. We must not lose you to drugs and violence, premature
pregnancy, suicide, cynicism, pessimism and despair. We can win.
Wherever you are tonight, I challenge you to hope and to dream.
Don't submerge your dreams. Exercise above all else, even on drugs,
dream of the day you're drug-free. Even in the gutter, dream of the
day you'll be up on your feet again. You must never stop dreaming.
Face reality, yes. But don't stop with the way things are; dream of
things as they ought to be. Dream. Face pain, but love, hope, faith,
and dreams will help you rise above the pain. . . .
Wherever you are tonight you can make it. Hold your head high, stick
your chest out. You can make it. It gets dark sometimes, but the
morning comes. Don't you surrender. Suffering breeds character.
Character breeds faith. In the end faith will not disappoint. You
must not surrender. You may or may not get there, but just know that
you're qualified and you hold on and hold out. We must never
surrender. America will get better and better. Keep hope alive. Keep
hope alive. Keep hope alive. On tomorrow night and beyond, keep hope
alive. I love you very much. I love you very much.