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Giannoulias remarks at fund-raiser with Obama. Transcript

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Thank you very much; it is great to see so many friends and supporters. I want to begin by thanking the finest mayor in the United States of America. Someone who cares deeply about this city, someone who fights every single day for people on the west side of Chicago, south side of Chicago, someone who loves this city, loves being the mayor, someone who I'm very proud to call my friend, Mayor Richard Daley. Thank you, Mayor.

I stand before you today because over forty years ago, two Greek immigrants, like millions before them, crossed an ocean to come to America.

They had no money, they had no education, and they didn't speak the language. But they had one thing that sustained them: a fundamental belief in the ideal that America is more than a place, it is a promise: a promise that, if you are willing to work hard and struggle and sacrifice, you can accomplish anything.

Their story, my story, frankly of all our stories, come together to create the American story.

But the question is, less than ninety days from a truly seminal election, what will be the next chapter in that American story?

As we face some of the most daunting economic challenges that this country has ever seen, how will we respond? Looking back, how will we define ourselves, how will we define this moment for generations to come?

Will we step up and lead and have the courage to make the tough decisions to ensure that the America in 2040, 2050 - the America 100 years from now - is a stronger, more educated, more morally responsible nation than ever before?

Will we lead the world in technology, innovation, science, education, health care, business development?

Will we remain the nation of inspiration, the nation where any dream is possible, the nation where my parents traveled across an ocean to be a part of?

This election will say a lot about which direction we're headed.

Will we go back to the short-sighted and reckless economic policies and greed that have brought this country to its knees, or will we leap forward with a renewed commitment to economic opportunity for everyone?

Are we going to send people to Washington to get things done, or will we elect those whose only objective is to obstruct and deny the achievements of the other party?

That is what this election is about.

Now, a few months ago, my opponent Congressman Mark Kirk, behind closed doors, said that he wants to go to Washington to make quote, "this guy," President Obama, a one-termer.

That's the amount of respect that he and his party have for the President of the United States.

And sadly, deplorably, that is their whole agenda.

Not to make life better for struggling small businesses. Not to fight for families that are getting crushed in this recession, not to use public service to help tackle problems. But to play a cynical, political game of doing everything in their power to defeat the President, all based on politics.

And that's when they're being polite!

The preferred message of so many on the right, the slogan they keep repeating: "We need to take our country back."

Think about that. "We need to take our country back"?

This divisive and offensive message has never made any sense to me. Who are the "we" they are talking about? Take it back from "whom"? And how far back do you want to go?

Back to the failed Bush/Kirk economic policies that added more to our national debt than all the previous administrations combined? To one of the greatest periods of job loss in this country's history, that Congressman Kirk helped create? To tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas? To tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, with zero plans to pay for them? To the last decade, when the economic engine of the American middle class was systematically undermined?

"Take our country back"?

That's offensive. It's outrageous. And we can't let this language and this ideology continue.

We need to move this country forward, not backward.

And that's what President Obama is doing. Fixing the mess he inherited from the Bush/Kirk crowd. Making sure we avoided the second Great Depression. Having the courage to enact fundamental Wall Street reform.

And that's what this election, ladies and gentleman, is all about.

Now, Congressman Kirk has been getting quite a bit of attention for the fictions and untruths that he's created in his own record. And that is very troubling.

But even more troubling are the facts in his record.

The fact that over the past ten years, Congressman Kirk supported every single Bush budget and economic policy that created this horrifying recession. The fact that after helping Wall Street wreck the economy, he opposed reforms of the very reckless behavior that cost us millions of jobs. The fact that he has taken millions from the corporate special interests and votes their way every single time. And the fact that after he helped drive our nation into the deepest economic recession in 75 years, he had the nerve to say that unemployment wasn't, quote, "a big issue." And then, just two weeks ago, voted against extending unemployment benefits for our most vulnerable citizens.

That is the record that my opponent has to defend. Those are the facts.

I have a different view.

I have laid out a comprehensive economic plan to turn this economy around and create the next generation of private sector jobs right here in Illinois.

I have a plan to move this country forward. And moving this country forward means jobs that can't be outsourced. It means incentives and targeted tax cuts for businesses to create jobs here at home. It means finally fast-tracking a clean energy agenda so that we end our addiction to oil, rescue a planet in peril, and create the next generation of green jobs.

It means protecting consumers from the excess and recklessness of Wall Street. It means creating an immigration system that makes sense, and it means fighting for equal rights for all Americans.

It means bringing fresh, principled leadership and new ideas to the D.C. culture that my opponent is engrained in and has forgotten how tough it is out there for families throughout this country just trying to pay their bills.

Now that's what I believe.

But leadership isn't just about making promises; it's about having a track record of actually getting things done.

I'm very proud of the work we've done in the State Treasurer's office.

On day one, I signed the most comprehensive ethics order in State history, ending pay-to-play in the Treasurer's office. We led the fight - going further than any other state in the country - to get credit cards and their aggressive marketing campaigns off our college campuses, before another generation of Americans is saddled with massive debts before they even graduate. We made financial literacy a priority, educating single mothers, small businesses, and children by teaching them money-management lessons to use for the rest of their lives.

For the first time ever, we created low-interest loan programs to encourage Illinoisans to be more energy efficient. We transformed the Bright Start college savings program from one of the worst in the county into what is one of the top five in the nation.

We worked hard to increase access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs through new programs. And when Wells Fargo, flush with taxpayer bailout dollars, threatened to close Hartmarx right here in Des Plaines, Illinois, we stood up, we saved that company and we saved those jobs. We saved those jobs.

We saved those jobs because we fought for those workers; we fought for that company that's been around for 120 years.

Now we are on the verge of just an incredibly important election.

This is an election that's bigger than me.

It is bigger than Democrats vs. Republicans.

This is a race about the future of this country.

The future of the American story.

Which chapter will we write?

The direction we go as a nation - backward or forward - will have a profound impact for generations of Americans to come.

But I need your help. There is a clear choice. I am the first candidate for the Senate in Illinois history to refuse money from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists because the only way to get out of this mess is to break the grip of the special interests.

My opponent is one of the most prolific special interest fundraisers in the history of Congress because he takes their money and votes their way every single time. He is part of the problem in Washington, D.C.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, with less than ninety days to go in this crucial election, a choice will be made.

Will we change the way things are done in D.C.? Will both parties try to work together to craft a true vision for this country's future?

Will we help this President lead us forward? Will we inspire the next generation of leaders to step up, to stand up, and to lead?

Will we successfully write the next great chapter in America's amazing story - a chapter that we can look back on with tremendous pride and say that we were a part of it?

Will we fight for families that, right now, are hanging on by a thread and fighting just to survive?

Well let tell you this: their fight, your fight, will always be my fight.

My father was the greatest fighter I've ever met. He taught me growing up that when times are tough and people are scared and there are challenges out there that people are yearning and thirsty for leadership.

They don't need someone that they can agree with a hundred percent of the time. They just want to know they have someone who's going to fight for them; someone who regardless of what critics may say, the ones that are trying to knock you off corsethe ones that block your path, the ones that spend all their time trying to find things wrong, that regardless of all of that, regardless of all of the obstacles, that you're going to fight, that you're going to stay in the arena, that you're willing to go to war for them.

And if you do that, if you never forget what you're fighting for, if you never forget what's in your heart, if you never forget what it's like to fight for your friends and your family, and for those who are yearning for that leadership, then you can move mountains.

You can make history and you can help people who are dealing with enormous challenges.

Speaking of fighters, one of the other greatest fighters I've ever met in my life is Barack Obama.

I have seen him fight the nay-sayers, I have seen him fight on the basketball court, I have seen him fight the critics, I have seen him fight the special interests, and let me tell you, there is no one in this country who cares more about the future of the United States than Barack Obama.

So, he's got a great smile, and he's warm, and he's huggable, as everyone loves to say, all the ladies like to tell me all the time. But let me tell you, he will go down in history as one of the toughest presidents we have ever had, tough because he is willing to fight for the middle class, tough because he is willing to fight regardless of what the pollsters and the critic may say.

And that's the kind of leadership that this country is thirsty for, that is the kind of leadership that this country is yearning for. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a tremendous privilege and honor for me to introduce my friend, our president, one of the best fighters this country will ever see, our president, Barack Obama.


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on August 5, 2010 4:00 PM.

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