Walter F. Mondale photo

Remarks Accepting the Vice Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in New York

August 14, 1980

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you very much. Mr. Speaker, fellow Americans, fellow Democrats: I am honored to accept your nomination. I am proud to be running with Jimmy Carter And I am proud to be running on our Party's progressive platform. And we're gonna win.

This has been an extraordinary week in American politics. We have just held the most representative, and the most open, political convention in American history.

Last month in Detroit, another convention was held - isolated in a bubble of privilege from the city that hosted it. A comfortable convention, composed of America's wealthy, told us they symbolized the nation. A malapportioned convention, where the cities were denied their share of the delegates, told they - told us they symbolized democracy.

A token convention, whose workers and women and minorities sat at the back of the bus, were told - they told us they symbolized the people.

They spoke of realism - and cheered the gold standard. They spoke of truth - and said Franklin Roosevelt caused World War II. They spoke of moderation - and vindicated Barry Goldwater. They spoke of justice - with a script by Phyllis Schlafly. And they spoke of fairness - with a text by Jesse Helms.

This Democratic Convention is a mirror of all America - all of it, black and white, Asian and Hispanic, native and immigrant, male and female, young and old, urban and rural, rich and poor.

When we speak of peace, the voice is Ed Muskie's. When we speak of workers, the voices are Lane Kirkland's and Doug Fraser's. When we speak of freedom, the dream is Coretta King's. When we speak of compassion, the fire is Ted Kennedy's. And when we speak of courage, the spirit is Jimmy Carter's. When we in this hall speak for America - it is America that is speaking.

Tonight, at this Democratic convention, let us openly declare our faith: We believe in the fundamental decency of the American people. And we believe in strong, efficient and compassionate government.

We believe that America's greatest strength is its values. Our love of freedom, our sense of fairness, our spirit of service: these beliefs have been passed on in every accent that America speaks - in Polish and Italian and Yiddish and Greek; at the kitchen tables in Boston, on family farms in my own Midwest.

We Democrats believe that Government can serve those values. No government can guarantee a perfect life for anyone. No government can substitute for our families, our churches, our synagogues, our neighborhoods or our voluneers. But a progressive government must do two things. It must create the conditions to help all people build better lives for themselves. And it must do so efficiently, honestly and fairly.

Those are the beliefs that we share together as Democrats. But the Republican nominee for President has a different view of Government. He tells us instead that - and let me use his own words - that "the best thing the Government can do is nothing."

We disagree. Let him tell the auto workers in Detroit that the right to collective bargaining is "nothing." Let him tell the senior citizen in Philadelphia that Social Security indexed for inflation is "nothing." Let him tell the freshman in Chicago that student assistance is "nothing." Let him ask the family in Boulder if clean air and pure water and protected wilderness are "nothing." And let him ask the people of Selma, Alabama, if the right to live is "nothing."

These rights, and these programs, are the work of Democrats and were fiercely opposed by the Republicans. The Republican Party has been out of step with urban America for 50 years. And their nominee is out of step more than any of them.

Today, most Americans - indeed, most Republicans - believe that the Constitution of the United States should incorporate an equal rights amendment for the women of this country, But not Ronald Reagan. Most Americans today believe that we should have strong Federal aid to education and a Department of Education to support it. But not Ronald Reagan.

Most Americans believe that no family should be impoverished in medical debts because of tragic illness. But not Ronald Reagan. Most Americans believe in labor law reform to protect the right won by workers in the 30's. But not Ronald Reagan. Most Americans believe that workers' health and safety should be protected on the job by Federal law. But not Ronald Reagan. We're getting better. Most Americans believe that we need energy conservation to cut our dependence on foreign oil. But not Ronald Reagan. Most Americans, including the American Bar Association, believe in a judiciary free from right-wing loyalty tests. But not Ronald Reagan.

And yet the Republican nominee wants us to forget all that. Forget 40 years of extreme positions. All of a sudden that party is for jobs. The party that gave us the Great Depression, and four years ago the highest unemployment since then, would have us believe that they're now for working people and for leaving no one behind.

Well, I've been in politics many years, and I've noticed that the closer the Republican oratory moves to Franklin Roosevelt, the closer their policies move to Herbert Hoover.

This year's version of "prosperity's just around the corner" is called Reagan-Kemp-Roth. It's simple, and it goes like this: Cut taxes by one trillion dollars. That's it - their entire strategy. Every one of their promises -your next paycheck, your grocery bill, your home - they all hang on that slender thread.

It's a trillion-dollar tax cut - based on a two-cent theory. Every leading economist rejects it; most Americans disbelieve it, and for a good reason. First of all, it is obviously, murderously, inflationary. Even Business Week said it "would touch off an inflationary explosion that would wreck the country."

Second, it's the most regressive tax proposal in history. It's the stalest Republican idea of all: tax cuts for the wealthy, trickledown for the rest of Americans. If you're earning $200,000 a year, you save enough to buy a new Mercedes. But if you're a teacher, you save enough to buy a hubcap. And if you're unemployed or on Social Security, you don't even get your bus fare back.

Kemp-Roth is an insult to the American people. The only way to cut taxes by a trillion dollars, add billions to defense, and balance the budget all at the same time - as they propose - is to destroy everything that Roosevelt, and Truman, and Kennedy, and Johnson, and Humphrey, and Carter, and every delegate in this room has worked for all of our lives.

Only - only if Mr. Reagan repealed Medicare and Medicaid and all of our programs for schools and cities and veterans and the unemployed - only then could he finance that tax scheme. Only if he destroyed the Social Security system and all who depend upon it -only then would the job be done.

It's hard to believe - I confess - it's hard to believe that - even Ronald Reagan - would do that. After all, what kind of a person would try to wipe out every program since Roosevelt?

Well, he'd have to be a person who believes, and I quote: "Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal." Now who would say something like that? Ronald Reagan would.

He'd have to be a person who calls the weak and the disadvantaged and I quote "a faceless mass waiting for handouts." Who on earth would say something like that? Ronald Reagan did.

He'd have to be a person who would call programs that help blacks and Hispanics "demeaning" and "insulting." Who on earth would say that? Ronald Reagan did.

He'd have to be a person who believes, and I quote, get this: "The minimum wage has caused more misery and unemployment than anything since the Great Depression." Who on earth would say anything like that? Ronald Reagan.

He'd have to be a person who thinks antitrust suits should bust up trade unions in America. Who would propose anything like that? Ronald Reagan.

He'd have to be a person who would wreck the Social Security system by making it voluntary. Who would ever suggest anything like that? He'd have to be a person who would destroy the family farm programs because they're "subsidizing the inefficient." Who would propose anything like that? Ronald Reagan.

He would have to be a person who called the great Civil Rights Act of 1964 "a bad piece of legislation." Who would say anything like that?

(Audience responds: Ronald Reagan!) One of the finest student bodies I've ever lectured to in my life. Now get this one: Who on earth would call the League of Women Voters "Rhine Maidens?" Who would say anything like that? You guessed it: Ronald Reagan.

That negative thinking, I must say, was not a part of the small towns of rural Minnesota where I grew up. That tone of resentment was never heard in my father's church. That cynicism was not what I felt in the high schools, the farms, the factories, and the homes that I visited all over this nation in the last three and a half years.

The fact of it is that the people of this country want to work together. They want to build. They're confident. And as the Republican nominee will be learn in November, the American people do not and will not turn back. They want to move forward - and moving forward is what we're doing under President Carter.

This Administration has a good, solid, progressive record. And we're going to run on it, and we're going to win with it. In 1976, I will remind you, from this podium, we said we believed in jobs. And today there are over eight million more people at work than on the day that President Carter was inaugurated. A higher percentage of working-age Americans are on the job today than ever before. We have added more jobs to the work force than any Administration in American history.That is a good, the best record of producing jobs in American history and Jimmy Carter deserves credit for that accomplishment.

But we all know there are still too many unemployed in America - and I pledge to you - I pledge to every delegate in this convention hall and to the American people that this Administration and this Democratic Party will not stop until everybody who needs and wants a job in America has one.

In 1976, we promised Americans that we would support education. And after eight years of Republican vetoes and impoundments, President Carter has added more funds to education than any President in American history. President Carter goes down as the most proeducation President in the nation's history.

We said we believed in dignity for our seniors. We rescued the Social Security system from the brink of bankruptcy where the Republicans left it, and we made sure the benefits kept on growing. We increased health care programs for the elderly by 50 percent, doubled housing aid, eliminated the cash downpayment t for food stamps. We proposed and passed the nation's first program to help older Americans pay their fuel bills.

And up and down this progressive agenda, this Administration has delivered. And I would point out that President Carter has appointed more women, more blacks and minorities to the Federal bench than all the previous Presidents in American history combined. We created the first farm-held reserves and each year we broke an all-time record in farm exports. We passed the biggest increase in minimum wages. We doubled legal services for the poor. We built the most effective across-the-board pro-city policy in our history. Every mayor and county executive practically in America is supporting President Carter because he's done more for the cities than any President in American history. We did this within a tight budget to bring down inflation.

It is a good solid record, my Democrats. It is a good solid record. Let's be proud of it. Let's work for it. And let's fight those who work to destroy it. Let's stick with this good President and this political party and the platform that we developed. Let us not go for this quick-fix tax cut for the rich. The American people do not want to wipe out a half-century of progress in a know-nothing season of resentment.

The American people do want their Government to be efficient and honest. And I'm confident they also want their Government to fight for social and economic justice. And on that belief I will stake this election.

We will also stake the contest on the paramount issue that the Republicans tried to raise in Detroit - the question of national strength. We gladly accept the challenge.

The President of the United States has an enormous job. He's charged with the most powerful responsibility and sober responsibility to be found in the world - the burden of nuclear power. He is the leader of the civilized world. He must defend its freedom. He must grasp the complexities of our difficult world. He must protect our security by freeing our dependence on foreign oil.

And to do all of that we must have a strong President. Yet last month Ronald Reagan spent two days on national television drawing up a plan to divide the Presidency and weaken its powers. Anyone who seeks the Presidency -and in his first serious act convenes a constitutional convention in his hotel room to weaken the office he's seeking - does not understand the Constitution, the Presidency or what national security is all about.

The first responsibility of a strong President is to defend our nation. For the eight years of Republican rule, while the Soviets were building up their power, real American defense spending dropped 35 percent. That's the Republican record. We not only have increased real defense support by 10 percent - we have also invested in the most sophisticated weapons in the world. Today, no American general or admiral would dream of exchanging our forces for any other on earth.

But Mr. Reagan scolds us for having an outmoded bomber that would be obsolete and vulnerable the day that it was launched. President Carter chose instead the modern cruise missile -which renders the whole expensive Soviet air defense system obsolete.

Up and down the defense agenda, the Republicans repeat the same mistakes. They want to resurrect decommissioned ships. They want to revive the ABM system - which even Nixon junked. With obsolete missiles, mothballed ships, vulnerable bombers and petrified ideas, they would waste billions on defense relics that would drain and weaken us.

President Carter does not want to mimic the Soviets. He has chosen to offset it with the greatest resource we have - the genius of American technology. And as a result, this nation today is building security not for yesterday, but for the rest of the century.

National strength requires more than just military might: It requires the commitment of the President to arms control. If there is one thing that bothers me more than anything else and I think bothers you, it is the fear that someday somehow for reasons that don't matter, the world will resort to the final madness of a nuclear holocaust. Reason, common sense and a decent respect for humanity demand that we stall this nuclear arms race before it bankrupts and destroys us all.

Without arms control, everything is out of control. Without the SALT treaty we would be forced to waste billions on weapons that buy us nothing.

And even though it took seven years to negotiate this treaty, and even though our President, and our Secretary of Defense, and all the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and every NATO ally wants this treaty ratified, Mr. Reagan for the life of him cannot understand why.

Well, met me say, Mr. Reagan: We must have arms control for the life of all of us, and we need a President Jimmy Carter who believes in controlling the madness of nuclear arms.

Above all, above all, America's strength depends on American values. Every time we have a foreign policy that reflects American beliefs, we strengthen this nation.

Last month I was in Nigeria, the world's most powerful black nation, and the second largest source of American oil. A few years ago the Secretary of State under the Republicans were told he was not welcome in Nigeria because they did not stand up for the principle of human rights and majority rule. But when I went to Nigeria I was welcomed, because the United States has a President - President Carter -who as his first act in office said from here on out the United States is going to stand for human rights and majority rule all over this earth.

And now in Rhodesia we see the same developments - a new democracy based on democratic institutions and the Soviets suffering another reversal. Today our human rights policy is drawing the nations of Africa and the world together like a magnet and toward us,

The Republicans say that a strong nation is one that never apologizes to anyone. I say it's a nation whose leaders are not doing things for which we must apologize. That's the difference.

A foreign policy that reflects American values advances American interests. When President Carter saw to it that we ratified the Panama Canal treaties, not only did we rid ourselves of the last vestiges of colonialism, we also strengthened our influence in Latin America. When the President normalized relations with China, he not only told one fourth of the human race that they exist, he also established a powerful counterforce to Soviet aggression. And when the President denounced the persecution of Andrei Sakharov, he not only affirmed individual liberty, he also unmasked the Kremlin to other nations.

Today, my fellow Democrats, thank God and for four years our nation is at peace. Our armed forces are engaged in combat nowhere in the world. But I want you to note this - in the years of preparing to run for the Presidency, Mr. Reagan suggested that American forces be sent, now listen to this, Mr. Reagan said that we should send American forces to Ecuador, to Angola, to Rhodesia, to Panama, to Cyprus, to Pakistan, to North Korea, to the Middle East. And I don't think the American people stand for that for a moment.

They want a President who is steady, who's sober, who's experienced, and who has demonstrated that he knows how to keep the peace, and that's why they're going to re-elect President Carter. They want a President who, like Jimmy Carter, took Egypt and Israel, that had fought four tragic wars in 30 years, brought them together, got them talking, caused a peace treaty to be signed and tonight they are exchanging ambassadors and not bullets between Egypt and Israel because of Jimmy Carter's courage and leadership.

And let me say a special word about Israel. Israel is our friend, our conscience, our partner. Its well-being is in our moral, our political, and our strategic interests, and I stand before you tonight and say that the people of the United States, the President of the United States, will stand by Israel - in this term, in the next term, and always.

In the last three and a half years, you have permitted me to serve you as your Vice President. I've been privileged to represent you to the people of every continent on this earth, and every time I've traveled abroad, the more I've loved my home.

I have spent my whole life in the struggle for civil rights. But when I heard the President of Senegal invoke the words of Martin Luther King, seldom have I loved our conscience more.

My whole life I've been proud of the refuge we've been to exiles. But when I saw the men of the USS Midway who had saved boat people from the sea, seldom have I prized, seldom have I prized our compassion more.

I have been my whole life an advocate of family farming in America. But when I spent a week in China answering questions about our triumphs, seldom have I respected and admired our genius more.

All my life I've believed that America must be strong. But when I met the people of Norway, whose independence our strength protects, seldom have I been more thankful for our power.

Like every American, I value freedom above all else. But when the U.S. Olympic Committee and American athletes sacrificed for an Afghan nation half a world away, seldom have I loved our people more.

We are blessed to be Americans. We are an example to the world. Don't let anyone tell you that we're less than we've been. And don't let anyone make us less than we can be.

Walter F. Mondale, Remarks Accepting the Vice Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in New York Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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