Hubert H. Humphrey photo

Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago

August 29, 1968

Mr. Chairman, my fellow Americans, my fellow Democrats—I proudly accept the nomination of our party.

This moment—this moment is one of personal pride and gratification. Yet one can- not help but reflect the deep sadness that we feel over the troubles and the violence Which have erupted, regrettably and tragically, in the streets of this great city, and for the personal injuries which have occurred.

Surely we have now learned the lesson that violence breeds counterviolence and it cannot be condoned, whatever the source.

I know that every delegate to this convention shares tonight my sorrow and my distress over these incidents. And for just one moment, in sober reflection and serious purpose, may we just quietly and silently, each in our own way, pray for our country. And may we just share for a moment a few of those immortal words of the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, words which I think may help heal the wounds, ease the pain and lift our hearts.

Listen to this immortal saint: "Where there is hatred, let me know love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light."

Those are the words of a saint. And may those of us of less purity listen to them well and may America tonight resolve that never, never again shall we see what we have seen.

Yes, I accept your nomination in this spirit and I have spoken knowing that the months and the years ahead will severely test our America. And might I say that as this America is tested, that once again we give our testament to America. And I do not think it is sentimental nor it is cheap, but I think It is true that each and everyone of us in our own way should once again reaffirm to ourselves and our posterity that we love this nation, we love America!

But take heart my fellow Americans. This is not the first time that our nation has faced a challenge to its life and its purpose. And each time that we've had to face these challenges we have emerged with new greatness and with new strength.

We must make this moment of crisis—we must make it a moment of creation.

As it has been said, in the worst of times a great people must do the best of things—and let us do it.

We stand at such a moment now in the affairs of this Nation, because, my fellow Americans, something new, something different has happened. There is an end of an era, and there is the beginning of a new day.

And it is the special genius of the Democratic party that it welcomes change—not as enemy but as an ally—not as a force to be suppressed but as an instrument of progress to be encouraged.

This week our party has debated the great issues before America in this very hall, and had we not raised these issues—troublesome as they were—we would have ignored the reality of change.

Had we just papered over the differences between us with empty platitudes instead of frank, hard debate we would deserve the contempt of our fellow citizens and the condemnation of history.

Yes, we dare to speak out and we have heard hard and sometimes bitter debate. But I submit that this is the debate, and this is the work of a free people, the work of an open convention and the work of a political party responsive to the needs of this nation.

Democracy affords debate, discussion and dissent. But, my fellow Americans, it also requires decision. And we have decided here, not by edict but by vote; not by force, but by ballot.

Majority rule has prevailed but minority rights are preserved.

There is always the temptation, always the temptation to leave the scene of battle in anger and despair, but those who know the true meaning of democracy accept the decision of today, but never relinquishing their right to change it tomorrow.

In the space of but a week this convention has literally made the foundations of a new Democratic party structure in America. From precinct level to the floor of this convention, we have revolutionized our rules and procedures.

And that revolution is in the proud tradition of our party. It is in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, who knew that America had nothing to fear but fear itself!

And it is in the tradition of that one and only Harry Truman, who let 'em have it and told it like it was.

And that's the way we're going to do it from here on out.

And it is in the tradition of that beloved man, Adlai Stevenson, who talked sense to the American people—and oh, tonight, how we miss this great, good and gentle man of peace in America.

And my fellow Americans, all that we do and all that we ever hope to do, must be in the tradition of John F. Kennedy, who said to us: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country."

And, my fellow Democrats and fellow Americans, in that spirit of that great man let us ask what together we can do for the freedom of man.

And what we are doing is in the tradition of Lyndon B. Johnson, who rallied a grief-stricken nation when our leader was stricken by the assassin's bullet and said to you and said to me, and said to all the world: "Let us continue."

And in the space, and in the space of five years since that tragic moment, President Johnson has accomplished more of the unfinished business of America than any of his modem predecessors.

And I truly believe that history will surely record the greatness of his contribution to the people of this land.

And tonight to you, Mr. President I say thank you. Thank you, Mr. President.

Yes, my fellow Democrats, we have recognized and indeed we must recognize the end of an era and the beginning of a new day. And that new day—and that new day belongs to the people—to all the people, everywhere in this land of the people, to every man, woman and child that is a citizen of this Republic.

And within that new day lies nothing less than the promise seen a generation ago by that poet Thomas Wolfe—to every man his chance, to every man regardless of his birth his shining golden opportunity, to every man the right to live and to work and be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him—this is the promise of America.

Yes, the new day is here across America. Throughout the entire world forces of emancipation are at work. We hear freedom's rising course—"Let me live my own life, let me live in peace, let me be free," say the people.

And that cry is heard today in our slums, on our farms and in our cities. It is heard from the old as well as from the young. It is heard in Eastern Europe and it is heard in Vietnam. And it will be answered by us, in how we face the three realities that confront this nation.

The first reality is the necessity for peace in Vietnam and in the world.

The second reality—the second reality is the necessity for peace and justice in our cities and in our nation.

And the third reality is the paramount necessity for unity—unity in our country.

Let me speak first, then, about Vietnam.

There are differences of course, serious differences, within our party on this vexing and painful issue of Vietnam, and these differences are found even within the ranks of all of the Democratic Presidential candidates.

But I might say to my fellow Americans that once you have examined the differences I hope you will also recognize the much larger areas of agreement.

Let those who believe that our cause in Vietnam has been right, or those who believe that it has been wrong, agree here and now, agree here and now, that neither vindication nor repudiation will bring peace or be worthy of this country!

The question is not the yesterdays but the question is what do we do now? No one knows what the situation in Vietnam will be when the next President of the United States takes that oath of office on Jan. 20, 1969.

But every heart in America prays that by then we shall have reached a cease-fire in all Vietnam and be in serious negotiation toward a durable peace.

Meanwhile, as a citizen, a candidate and Vice President, I pledge to you and to my fellow Americans that I will do everything within my power, within the limits of my capacity and ability to aid the negotiations and to bring a prompt end to this war!

May I remind you of the words of a truly great citizen of the world, Winston Churchill. It was he who said—and we would heed his words well—"those who use today and the present to stand in judgment of the past may well lose the future."

And if there is any one lesson that we should have learned, it is that the policies of tomorrow need not be limited by the policies of yesterday.

My fellow Americans, if it comes my high honor to serve as President of these states and people, I shall apply that lesson to the search for peace in Vietnam as to all other areas of national policy.

Now let me ask you, do you remember these words at another time, in a different place: "Peace and freedom do not come cheap. And we are destined—all of us here today—to live out most if not all of our lives in uncertainty and challenge and peril. " The words of a prophet—yes, the words of a President—yes, the words of the challenge of today—yes. And the words of John Kennedy to you, and to me, and to posterity!

Last week we witnessed once again in Czechoslovakia the desperate attempt of tyranny to crush out the forces of liberalism by force and brutal power, to hold back change.

But in Eastern Europe as elsewhere the old era will surely end, and there, as here, a new day will dawn.

And to speed this day we must go far beyond where we've been—beyond containment to communication; beyond the emphasis of differences to dialogue; beyond fear to hope.

We must cross those remaining barriers of suspicion and despair. We must halt the arms race before it halts humanity.

And is this, is this a vain hope, is it but a dream? I say the record says no.

Within the last few years we have made progress, we have negotiated a nuclear test ban treaty, we have laid the groundwork for a nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

We have reached agreement on banning weapons in outer space. We have been building patiently—stone by stone, each in our own way—the cathedral of peace.

And now we must take new initiative, new initiative with prudence and caution but with perseverance. We must find the way and the means to control and reduce offensive and defensive nuclear missile systems. The world cannot indefinitely hope to avoid nuclear war which one last act, one erring judgment, one failure in communication could unleash upon all humanity and destroy all of mankind.

But the search for peace is not for the timid or the weak. It must come from a nation of high purpose—firm without being belligerent, resolute without being bellicose, strong without being arrogant. And that's the kind of America that will help build the peace of this world,

But the task of slowing down the arms race, of halting the nuclear escalation—there is no more urgent task than ending this threat to the very survival of our planet, and if I am elected as your President, I commit myself body, mind and soul to this task.

Now our second reality is the necessity for peace at home. There is, my friends—let's see it as it is—there is trouble in America. But it does not come from a lack of faith. But it comes from the kindling of hope.

When the homeless can find a home, they do not give up the search for a better home. When the hopeless find hope, they seek higher hopes. And in 1960 and again in 1964, you, the American people, gave us a mandate to awaken America to its unmet needs. You asked us to get America moving again, and we have—and America is on the move.

And we have—we have awakened expectations. We have aroused new voices and new voices that must and will be heard.

We have inspired new hope in millions of men and women, and they are impatient—and rightfully so—impatient now to see their hopes and their aspirations fulfilled.

We have raised a new standard of life in our America, not just for the poor but for every American—wage earner, businessman, farmer, school child and housewife. A standard by which the future progress must be judged.

Our most urgent challenge is in urban America, where most of our people live. Some 70 per cent of our people live on 2 per cent of our land, and within 25 years 100 million more will join our national family.

I ask you tonight—where shall they live? How shall they live? What shall be their future? We're going to decide in the next four years those questions. The next President of the United States will establish policies not only for this generation but for children yet unborn. Our task is tremendous and I need your help.

The simple solution of the frustrated and the frightened to our complex urban problems is to lash out against society. But we know—and they must know—that this is no answer.

Violence breeds more violence: disorder destroys, and only in order can we build. Riot makes for ruin; reason makes for solution.

So from the White House to the courthouse to the city hall, every official has the solemn responsibility of guaranteeing to every American—black and white, rich and poor—the right to personal security—life.

Every American, black or white, rich or poor, has the right in this land of ours to a safe and a decent neighborhood, and on this there can be no compromise.

I put it very bluntly—rioting, burning, sniping, mugging, traffic in narcotics, and disregard for law are the advance guard of anarchy, and they must and they will be stopped.

But may I say most respectfully, particularly to some who have spoken before, the answer lies in reasoned, effective action by state, local and Federal authority. The answer does not lie in an attack on our courts, our laws or our Attorney General.

We do not want a police state. But we need a state of law and order.

We do not want a police state but we need a state of law and order, and neither mob violence nor police brutality have any place in America.

And I pledge to use every resource that is available to the Presidency, every resource available to the President, to end once and for all the fear that is in our cities.

Now let me speak of other rights.

Nor can there be any compromise with the right of every American who is able and who is willing to work to have a job—that's an American right too—who is willing to be a good neighbor, to be able to live in a decent home in the neighborhood of his own choice.

Nor can there be any compromise with the right of every American who is anxious and willing to learn, to have a good education.

And it is to these rights—the rights of law and order, the rights of life, the rights of liberty, the right of a job, the right of a home in a decent neighborhood, and the right of an education—it is to these rights that I pledge my life and whatever capacity and ability I have.

But we cannot be satisfied with merely repairing that which is old. We must also move beyond the enclosures of our traditional cities to create new cities—to restore our present cities, yes. And we must bring prosperity and modem living and opportunity to our rural areas. We must design an open America--opening new opportunities for new Americans in open land.

I say to this audience, we have invested billions to explore outer space where man may live tomorrow. We must also be willing to invest to develop inner space right here on earth where man may live today.

And now the third reality, essential if the other two are to be achieved, is the necessity, my fellow Americans, for unity in our country, for tolerance and forbearance for holding together as a family, and we must make a great decision. Are we to be one nation, or are we to be a nation divided, divided between black and white, between rich and poor, between north and south, between young and old? I take my stand—we are and we must be one nation, united by liberty and justice for all, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and Justice for all. This is our America.

Just as I said to you there can be no compromise on the right of personal security, there can be no compromise on securing of human rights.

If America is to make a crucial judgment of leadership in this coming election, then let that selection be made without either candidate hedging or equivocating.

Winning the Presidency, for me, is not worth the price of silence or evasion on the issue of human rights.

And winning the Presidency—and listen well—winning the Presidency is not worth a compact with extremism.

I choose not simply to run for President. I seek to lead a great nation.

And either we achieve through justice in our land or we shall doom ourselves to a terrible exhaustion of body and spirit.

I base my entire candidacy on the belief which comes from the very depths of my soul—which comes from basic religious conviction that the American people will stand up, that they will stand up for justice and fair play, and that they will respond to the call of one citizenship—one citizenship open to all for all Americans!

So this is the message that I shall take to the people, and I ask you to stand with me.

To all of my fellow Democrats now who have labored hard and openly this week, at the difficult and sometimes frustrating work of democracy, I pledge myself to that task of leading the Democratic Party to victory in November.

And may I say to those who have differed with their neighbor, or those who have differed with fellow Democrats, may I say to you that all of your goals, that all of your high hopes, that all of your dreams, all of them will come to naught if we lose this election and many of them can be realized with the victory that can come to us.

And now a word to two good friends. To my friends—and they are my friends—and they're your friends—and they're fellow Democrats.

To my friends Gene McCarthy and George McGovern—to my friends Gene McCarthy and George McGovern, who have given new hope to a new generation of Americans that there can be greater meaning in their lives, that America can respond to men of moral concern, to these two good Americans: I ask your help for our America, and I ask you to help me in this difficult campaign that lies ahead.

And now I appeal, I appeal to those thousands—yea millions—of young Americans to join us, not simply as campaigners, but to continue as vocal, creative and even critical participants in the politics of our time. Never were you needed so much, and never could you do so much if you want to help now.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Robert F. Kennedy as you saw tonight had a great vision. If Americans will respond to that dream and that vision, if Americans will respond to that dream and that vision, their deaths will not mark the moment when America lost its way. But it will mark the time when America found its conscience.

These men, these men have given us inspiration and direction, and I pledge from this platform tonight we shall not abandon their purposes—we shall honor their dreams by our deeds now and in the days to come.

I am keenly aware of the fears and the frustrations of the world in which we live. It is all too easy, isn't it, to play on these emotions. But I do not intend to do so. I do not intend to appeal to fear, but rather to hope. I do not intend to appeal to frustration, but rather to your faith.

I shall appeal to reason and to your good judgment

The American Presidency, the American Presidency is a great and powerful office, but it is not all-powerful. It depends most of all upon the will and the faith and the dedication and the wisdom of the American people.

And I know, as you know, there is an essential strength in the American people. And tonight I call you, I call you, the American people, not to be of one mind, but to be of one spirit I call you, the American people, not to a life of false security, false promises and ease, but to a new sense of purpose, a new dedication and a new commitment.

Remember that those who founded this republic said that in order to secure these inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

I submit, my fellow Americans, we dare do no less in our time if this republic is to survive.

So I call you forth—I call forth that basic goodness that is there—I call you to risk the hard path of greatness.

And I say to America. Put aside recrimination and dissension. Turn away from violence and hatred. Believe—believe in what America can do, and believe in what America can be, and with the vast—with the help of that vast, unfrightened, dedicated, faithful majority of Americans, I say to this great convention tonight, and to this great nation of ours, I am ready to lead our country!

Hubert H. Humphrey, Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project