The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Michael S. Dukakis
"A New Era of Greatness for America": Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta
July 21, 1988

Mr. Chairman.

A few months ago when Olympia Dukakis, in front of about a billion and a half television viewers all over the world, raised that Oscar over her head and said, "O.K., Michael, let's go," she wasn't kidding.

Kitty and I are grateful to her for that wonderful introduction and grateful to all of you for making this possible. This is a wonderful evening for us and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

My fellow Democrats. My fellow Americans.

Sixteen months ago, when I announced my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States, I said this campaign would be a marathon. Tonight, with the wind at our backs; with friends by our side; with courage in our hearts; the race to the finish line begins.

And we're going to win this race.

We're going to win because we are the party that believes in the American dream.

A dream so powerful that no distance of ground, no expanse of ocean, no barrier of language, no distinction of race or creed or color can weaken its hold on the human heart.

And I know, because my friends, I'm a product of that dream and I'm proud of it"

A dream that brought my father to this country 76 years ago; that brought my mother and her family here one year later--poor, unable to speak English; but with a burning desire to succeed in their new land of opportunity.

And tonight, in the presence of that marvelous woman who is my mother and who, came here 75 years ago; with the memory in my heart of the young man, who arrived at Ellis Island with only $25 in his pocket, but with a deep and abiding faith in the promise of America--and how I wish he was here tonight; he'd be very proud of his son, and he'd be very proud of his adopted country, I can assure you--tonight, as a son of immigrants with a wonderful wife and now with Lisa our lovely daughter-in-law, four terrific children; and as a proud public servant who has cherished every minute of the last sixteen months on the campaign trail, I accept your nomination for the Presidency of the United States.

The dream that carried me to this platform is alive tonight in every part of this country--and it's what the Democratic party is all about.

Henry Cisneros of Texas; Bob Matsui of California; Barbara Mikulski of Maryland; Mario Cuomo of New York; Claude Pepper of Florida.

And Jesse Louis Jackson.

A man who has lifted so many hearts with the dignity and the hope of his message throughout this campaign; a man whose very candidacy has said to every child--aim high; to every citizen--you count; to every voter--you can make a difference; to every American--you are a full shareholder in our dream.

And my friends, if anyone tells you that the American dream belongs to the privileged few and not to all of us; you tell them that the Reagan era is over and a new era is about to begin.

Because it's time to raise our sights--to look beyond the cramped ideals and limited ambitions of the past eight years--to recapture the spirit of energy and of confidence and of idealism that John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson inspired a generation ago.

It's time to meet the challenge of the next American frontier--the challenge of building an economic future for our country that will create good jobs at good wages for every citizen in this land, no matter who they are or where they came from or what the color of their skin.

It's time to rekindle the American spirit of invention and daring; to exchange voodoo economics for can-do economics; to build the best America by bringing out the best in every American.

It's time to wake up to the new challenges that face the American family. Time to see that young families in this country are never again forced to choose between the jobs they need and the children they love; time to be sure that parents are never again told that no matter how long they work or how hard their child tries, a college education is a right they can't afford.

It's time to ask why it is that we have run up more debt in this country in the last eight years than we did in the previous 200; and to make sure it never happens again.

It's time to understand that the greatest threat to our national security in this hemisphere is not the Sandinistas--it's the avalanche of drugs that is pouring into this country and poisoning our kids.

I don't think I have to tell any of you how much we Americans expect of ourselves.

Or how much we have a right to expect from those we elect to public office.

Because this election isn't about ideology. It's about competence.

It's not about overthrowing governments in Central America; it's about creating good jobs in middle America. That's what this election is all about.

It's not about insider trading on Wall Street; it's about creating opportunity on Main Street.

And it's not about meaningless labels. It's about American values. Old-fashioned values like accountability and responsibility and respect for the truth.

And just as we Democrats believe that there are no limits to what each citizen can do; so we believe there are no limits to what America can do.

And yes, I know, this fall, we're going to be hearing a lot of Republican talk about how well some neighborhoods and some regions of this country are doing; about how easy it is for some families to buy a home or to find childcare or to pay their doctor's bills or to send their children to college.

But maintaining the status quo--running in place--standing still--isn't good enough for America. Opportunity for some isn't good enough for America.

Because working together, we're going to forge greatness for America.

We're going to take America's genius out of cold storage and challenge our youngsters; we're going to make our schools and universities and laboratories the finest in the world; and we're going to make teaching a valued and honored profession once again in this country.

We're going to light fires of innovation and enterprise from coast to coast and we're going to give those on welfare the chance to lift themselves out of poverty; to get the child care and the training they need; the chance to step out into the bright sunshine of opportunity and of hope and of dignity.

We're going to invest in our urban neighborhoods; and we're going to work to revitalize small town and rural America. We're going to give our farm families a price they can live on, and farm communities a future they can count on.

And we're going to build the kind of America that Lloyd Bentsen has been fighting for 40 years; the kind of America where hard work is rewarded; where American goods and American workmanship are the best in the world, the kind of America that provides American workers and their families with at least 60 days' notice when a factory or a plant shuts down.

Now, I know I have a reputation for being a somewhat frugal man. And let me state for the record that that snowblower is still in good working order, even it sits in our garage. In nine years, I've balanced nine more budgets than this administration has and I've just balanced a tenth. And I've worked with the citizens of my state--worked hard to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs--and I mean good jobs, jobs you can raise a family on, jobs you can build a future on, jobs you can count on.

And I'm very proud oft our progress, but I'm even prouder of the way we've made that progress--by working together; by excluding no one and including everyone; business and labor; educators and community leaders and just plain citizens--sharing responsibility; exchanging ideas; building confidence about the future.

What we have done reflects a simple but very profound idea--an idea as powerful as any in human history.

It is the idea of community. The kind of community that binds us here tonight.

It is the idea that we are in this together; that regardless of who we are or where we come from or how much money we have--each of us counts. And that by working together to create opportunity and a good life for all--all of us are enriched--not just in econom1c terms, but as citizens and as human beings.

The idea of community. An idea that was planted in the New World by the first Governor of Massachusetts.

"We must, " said John Winthrop, "love one another with a pure heart fervently. We must delight in each other," make each other's condition our own, rejoice together, mourn together, and suffer together...We must" he said "be knit together as one."

John Winthrop wasn't talking about material success. He was talking about a country where each of us asks not only what's in it for some of us, but what's good and what's right for all of us.

When a young mother named Dawn Lawson leaves 7 years of welfare to become a personnel specialist in a Fortune 500 company in Worcester, Massachusetts--we are all enriched and ennobled.

When a Catholic priest named Bill Kraus helps homeless families in Denver not just by giving them shelter, but by helping them to find the jobs they need to get back on their feet, we are all enriched and ennobled.

When a high school principal named George McKenna and his dedicated staff of teachers and counselors create an environment for learning at the George Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles; a high school in Los Angeles that is ninety percent black and ten percent Hispanic and has 80 percent of its graduates accepted to college; we are all enriched and ennobled.

When a dedicated new management team and a fine union in Milwaukee work together to turn Harley-Davidson around and help it come back to life, and save 1,200 good jobs, we are all enriched and ennobled.

And when a man named Willie Velasquez; y cuando un Willie Velasquez; can register tens of thousands of his fellow citizens as voters; puede inscribir decena de miles de sus conciudadanos para votar; and Willie Velasquez can bring new energy and new ideas and new people; brindando asi nuevas energias, nuevas ideas, nuevas personas; into court houses and city halls and state capitals of the Southwest; a los gobiernos municipales y estatales del suroeste -- my friends, we are all enriched and ennobled; todos nos enriquecemos y enoblecemos.

My friends, as President, I'm going to be setting goals for our country; not goals for our government working alone; I mean goals for our people working together.

I want businesses in this country to be wise enough and innovative enough to re-train their workers, to re-tool their factories, and to help rebuild their communities.

I want students and office workers and retired teachers to share with a neighbor the precious gift of literacy.

I want those of you who are bricklayers and carpenters and developers and housing advocates to work with us to help create decent and affordable housing for every family in America, so that we can once and for all end the shame of homelessness in the United States of America.

I want our young scientists to dedicate their great gifts not to the destruction of life, but to its preservation; I want them to wage war on hunger and pollution and infant mortality; and I want them to work with us to win the war against AIDS, the greatest public health emergency of our lifetimes, and a disease that must be conquered.

I want a new Attorney General to work with me and with law enforcement officials allover America to re-claim our streets and neighborhoods from those who commit violent crime.

And I want the members of congress to work with me and I'm going to work with them so that, at long last, we can make good on Harry Truman's commitment to basic health insurance for every family in America.

My friends, the dream that began in Philadelphia 200 years ago; the spirit that survived that terrible winter at Valley Forge and triumphed on the beach at Normandy; the courage that looked Khrushchev in the eye during the Cuban Missile crisis--is as strong and as vibrant today as it has ever been.

We must be--we are--and we will be--militarily strong.

But we must back that military strength with economic strength; we must give the men and women of our armed forces weapons that work; we must have a Secretary of Defense who will manage--and not be managed by--the Pentagon; and we must have a foreign policy that reflects the decency and the principles and the values of the American people.

President Reagan has set the stage for deep cuts in nuclear arms--and I salute him for that.

He has said that we should judge the Soviet Union not by what it says, but by what it does--and I agree with that.

But we can do a lot more to stop the spread of nuclear and chemical arms; we can do a lot more to bring peace to Central America and to the Middle East; and we can and we will do a lot more to end apartheid in South Africa.

John Kennedy once said that America "leads the world, not just because we are the richest or the strongest or the most powerful, but because we exert that leadership for the cause of freedom around the globe...and...because" in his words, "we are moving on the road to peace."

Yes, we must always be prepared to defend our freedom.

But we must always remember that our greatest strength comes not from what we possess, but from what we believe; not from what we have, but from who we are.

You know I've been asked many times over the past sixteen months if I have one very special goal for these next four years--something that reflects everything I stand for and believe in as an American.

And the answer to that question is yes, I do.

Four years from now, when our citizens walk along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., or when they see a picture of the White House on television, I want them to be proud of their government; I want them to be proud of a government that sets high standards not just for the American people, but high standards for itself.

We're going to have a Justice Department that isn't the laughing stock of the nation--we're going to have a Justice Department that understands what the word "justice" means.

We're going to have nominees to the federal bench who are men and women of integrity and intelligence and who understand the Constitution of the United States.

We're going to have an Environmental Protection Agency that is more interested in stopping pollution than in protecting the polluters.

We're going to have a real war and not a phony war against drugs; and, my friends, we won't be doing business with drug-running Panamanian dictators anymore.

We're going to have a Vice-President who won't sit silently by when somebody at the National Security Council comes up with the cockamamie idea that we should trade arms to the Ayatollah for hostages; we're going to have a Vice-President named Lloyd Bentsen who will walk into the Oval Office and say, "Mister President, this is outrageous and it's got to stop." That's the kind of Vice-President we're going to have.

In the Dukakis White House, as in the Dukakis State House; it you accept the privilege of public service, you had better understand the responsibilities of public service. If you violate that trust, you'll be fired; if you violate the law, you'll be prosecuted; and if you sell arms to the Ayatollah, don't expect a pardon from the President of the United States.

Monday night, like millions of Americans, I laughed and was moved by the wit and wisdom of Ann Richards.

And Tuesday night, along with millions of other Americans, I was inspired, as you were, by the powerful words of Jesse Jackson.

But what stirred me most on Monday was a grandmother talking about her "nearly perfect" granddaughter; and what stirred me most on Tuesday were those handsome and proud and articulate Jackson children talking about their hopes for the future of this country.

You know, young Jacqueline Jackson goes to school in my state. And last month, she visited with me in the State House in Boston. She's a remarkable young woman, and I know her parents are very, very proud of her.

And my thoughts tonight--and my dreams for America--are about Ann Richards' granddaughter Lily; about young Jackie Jackson; and about the baby that's going to be born to our son John and his wife Lisa in January. As a matter of fact, the baby is due on or about January 20.

God willing, our first grandchild will reach the age that Jackie Jackson is now at the beginning of a new century. And we pray that he or she will reach that age with eyes as filled with the sparkle of life and of pride and of optimism as that young woman we watched together two nights ago.

Yes, my friends, it's a time for wonderful new beginnings.

A little baby.

A new Administration.

A new era of greatness for America.

And when we leave here tonight, we will leave to build that future together.

To build the future so that when our children and grandchildren look back in their time on what we did in our time; they will say that we had the wisdom to carry on the dreams of those who came before us; the courage to make our own dreams come true; the foresight to blaze a trail for generations yet to come.

And as I accept your nomination tonight, I can't help recalling that the first marathon was run in ancient Greece, and that on important occasions like this one, the people of Athens would complete their ceremonies by taking a pledge.

That pledge--that covenant--is as eloquent and timely today as it was 2000 years ago.

"We will never bring disgrace to this, our country, by any act of dishonesty or of cowardice. We will fight for the ideals of this, our country. We will revere and obey the law. We will strive to quicken our sense of civic duty. Thus, in all these ways, we will transmit this country greater, stronger, prouder and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."

That is my pledge to you, my fellow Democrats.

And that is my pledge to you, my fellow Americans.

Thank you all, very, very much.

Citation: Michael S. Dukakis: ""A New Era of Greatness for America": Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta", July 21, 1988. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25961.
 
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