John Kerry endorsing Barack Obama at The College of Charleston (photos by Lynn Sweet)
CHARLESTON, S.C.--In endorsing Barack Obama, 2004 Democratic nominee JohnKerry said, "Martin Luther King said “the time is always right to do what is right”. And I’m here in South Carolina because this is the right time to share with you my confidence that the next President of the United States should be, can be, and will be Barack Obama."
Kerry addressed Obama's experience deficit by saying "When we chose a president we are electing judgement and character and not years on earth."
Kerry Endorses Obama for President
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – Senator John Kerry endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President today.
Below is the text of Kerry’s address, as prepared for delivery:
Martin Luther King said “the time is always right to do what is right”. And I’m here in South Carolina because this is the right time to share with you my confidence that the next President of the United States should be, can be, and will be Barack Obama.
Four years ago, I began my own presidential campaign here in Charleston at Patriots Point. I committed myself then to fight for “a new era of concern for community and not division.” When the campaign ended almost a thousand miles away in Boston, I congratulated President Bush but I also warned him “of the danger of division in our country and of the desperate need for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together.” I dared to hope publicly that the healing would begin then. It didn’t – but it will begin when Barack Obama is President.
There are other candidates in this race with whom I have worked and whom I respect. They are terrific public servants and each of them could be President tomorrow and each would fight to take the country in the right direction.
But I believe that more than anyone else, Barack Obama can help our country turn the page and get America moving by uniting us and ending the division that we have faced. He has a superb talent, as all of you know, to communicate the best of our hopes and aspirations for America and for the world and that is why Barack Obama has the greatest potential to lead a transformation not just a transition.
He knows that real change only comes when millions of Americans join together and come together in a movement that demands it – when they’re united in common cause and to speak out so loudly that Washington absolutely has no choice but to listen. That’s not just a way to win the election – it’s the only way to change the nation. He understands that we have to force the politicians to feel your power – and I am here because it is Barack Obama who in a unique way brings the lessons of the neighborhood, the lessons of the legislature and the lessons of his own life to that awesome challenge. And my friends those lessons that made him a candidate to bring change to our country they’re same lessons he will bring to the oval office every day to fight for you as President of the United States.
Now, I was proud to help introduce Barack to the nation when I asked him to speak to our national convention in 2004. Obviously, Barack did all the heavy-lifting. But like millions of Americans, Teresa and I were stirred by the way he eloquently reminded all of us of the fact that our “true genius is faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles;” and we were all of us moved by the power with which he shattered the shallow stereotype, reminding people all across America that in Red States and Blue States, we “worship an awesome God.”
At this moment in America -- who better than Barack Obama to call us to responsibility for children abandoned in cities and rural communities? Who better than Barack Obama to remind all Americans how much difference it makes to get an open door to a good school? Who better than Barack Obama to bring millions of disaffected young people back to the great task of governing and making a difference, child to child, community to community? Who better than Barack Obama to bring new credibility to America’s role in the world and help restore our moral authority? Who better than Barack Obama to turn a new page in American politics so that, Democrat, Independent and Republican alike can look to leadership that unites to find the common ground?
Mile by mile of the long march of this campaign, the cynics have questioned whether this young leader from Illinois is ready. But you know what? The cynics may have spoken, but it’s the people who will decide. And it’s the people who can prove the doubters wrong and enlist thousands more in a movement for change to restore faith in our government at home and our reputation in the world. In just a few days, right here in South Carolina, you get to do your part to make history and make Barack Obama President of the United States.
Since the birth of our nation, change has been won by young Presidents and young leaders who have shown that experience is defined not by time in Washington or years in office, but by wisdom, instinct and vision. Today we still draw on the “truths” that we believe to be “self-evident”—but how easy it is to forget that Thomas Jefferson was just 33 when he wrote them into our Declaration of Independence. How easy it is to forget that Martin Luther King was just 26 when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, just 34 when he inspired America with a powerful dream. My friends, when we choose a President, we are electing judgment and character, not years on this earth -- and it is the moral compass I see in Barack Obama that gives me confidence he will steer our country in the right direction. He was, after all, right about the war in Iraq from the very beginning!
It’s time for South Carolina and our country to take stock of Barack Obama – to understand the strength of a man who grew up without his father, whose mother and grandparents couldn’t give him money or privilege but gave him passion and purpose, values and vision. Measure the character of a young man who graduated from an Ivy League college and could have gone anywhere – but chose the streets of Chicago as a community organizer going door to door to make hope burn a little brighter for the people who had seen the steel mills shut down and the jobs disappear. Measure the character of the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, who could have found fame and fortune on Wall Street or in a high priced law firm, but who instead chose cause and commitment as a civil rights lawyer giving voice to the voiceless. Measure the character of that young lawyer who chose public service over private gain and went to the legislature where he fought the old divisions and brought people together to put money in the pockets of working poor families; put early childhood education ahead of giveaways for the elected and connected; and brought Democrats and Republicans together to stand up for civil rights and civil liberties. Measure the character of a United States Senator who passed landmark ethics reform to restore faith in government, and who stood up to the bureaucrats to get Illinois veterans the disability pay they were promised, and traveled to the other end of the earth to work to end the genocide in Darfur. That is the true measure of character – character we need in the White House, character we need to help America retake its rightful place in the world starting in 2009.
I was recently in Africa and then at the Climate Change talks in Bali. From afar you can sometimes have a clearer view than when you are in the middle of the maelstrom. I saw and felt how important it can be to America’s interests in the world – to our ability to reach across great divides and speak the truth from a different experience in our own land. I saw how Barack Obama could strengthen our nation and set us back on the path of our time-honored values.
On the Foreign Relations Committee where Barack and I serve together, I have seen his special talent, a leader who knows how to listen. Just think about the difference it will make after eight years of bluster and ideology to have a president who reaches out to other nations, a president who wants America to lead by example, and a statesman who recognizes that even the most powerful nation on earth needs to make some friends on this planet.
Like Barack, I lived abroad as a young man and I share with him a healthy respect for knowing and understanding other cultures and countries – not from a book or a briefing – but by personal experience – by gut – by instinct. Good statescraft has always relied on leadership that sees other nations and leaders not just through American eyes and expectations, but sees them as they see and hope for themselves. Barack will be a president who marshals all our resources – military, diplomatic, economic, and moral – and first and foremost will always tell the truth to the American people. After years of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, with Barack Obama in the White House, we will have a President who treats our moral authority as a precious national asset that does not limit our power, but magnifies our global leadership.
Some have suggested in this campaign that Barack is guilty of raising “false hopes.” So I ask you, was it a false hope when Thomas Jefferson said the United States should make available to every child a free education in public schools? Was it a false hope when Franklin Roosevelt said that half of our senior citizens no longer had to live in poverty? Was it a false hope when Harry Truman said that every veteran of World War II could go to college on the G.I. Bill? Was it a false hope when John Kennedy said we would go the moon in a decade? My friends, the only charge that rings false is the one that tells you not to hope for a better tomorrow. Don’t let anyone tell you to accept the downsizing of the American Dream – not in our America, not today, and not tomorrow when Barack Obama is President of the United States.
President Kennedy’s call to service brought me into the United States Navy and to Vietnam. A war gone wrong, a country divided, and politicians content to keep us that way made me an activist when I came back home. Knocking on doors that wouldn’t always open, I saw the cynicism of Washington, but I also saw that brothers and sisters standing together could bring about great change.
Thirty five years later, I’m a little older and grayer, and I see a Washington that is even more divided today than it was then. I see Americans by the millions turned off from our democracy itself. I hear about voters who want to turn off the television -- take their phones off the hook -- stop opening the mail -- because to them politics has become a dirty word and we’ve all seen too much of a politics that sells out the conscience of our country just to win an election.
I am here today because we need new leadership that can call us back together, and leaders who look out at America, and see, not an electorate to be sliced and diced and pitted against each other, but citizens who want to do great things together. Sometimes the hardest thing for the established political world to do is make a clean break with the past – to readily embrace new thinking and a new beginning. The Old Guard sometimes has a hard time acknowledging an individual who breaks the mold. Well let me tell you something, Barack Obama isn’t just going to break the mold – together, we are going to shatter into a million pieces!
The country is yearning for bipartisanship, yearning for a change in our politics, yearning for an end to the battles of the past. People want innovative, nonpartisan and especially non-scripted ways of fixing problems. That is what Barack brings to this race and South Carolina and the country have the chance to guarantee that we get it.
I am here because we need leadership that understands as another young man from Illinois once said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” and more than ever we need leaders who have lived and breathed the politics of unity.
In life, we all travel different journeys which shape our character. We learn. We make mistakes. We grow - hopefully. One thing is clear: Washington isn’t the only teacher – and in recent years Washington DC hasn’t been the best teacher. I support Barack Obama for President because he has the judgment to know that Washington must change, the character to have already fought to change it, and the best ability of anyone running to unite Americans in that cause.
I support him because he doesn’t seek to perfect the politics of Swiftboating, but to end it.
I support Barack Obama because he will help bring the country together again, lead the world and show by example, not by words, that here in America anything is really possible for those who dare to dream and those determined to work for it.
History gives us moments. We get to decide what to do with them. I believe, this moment is the moment we should make Barack Obama President of the United States. And I welcome him to Charleston, South Carolina - Barack Obama.