Hubert H. Humphrey photo

Remarks Declaring Candidacy for the Democratic Presidential Nomination

April 27, 1968

Thank you, thank you, Senator Harris. How can I say thank you any more sincerely than to say that my heart runneth over with gratitude and appreciation of a friend, and thank you, Senator Mondale; thank you my champion. Thank you, you two co-chairman for the brilliant leadership you have given all of us, that you have given Congress that symbolizes and represents our country. I am so proud of my co-chairmen and our committee and every person in this gathering today. Thank you.

And here we are, just as we ought to be, here we are, the people, here we are the spirit of dedication, here we are the way politics ought to be in America, the politics of happiness, politics of purpose, politics of joy; and that's the way it's going to be, all the way, too, from here on out.

My fellow Americans, we're here today on important business, freedom's business, American's business, the Democratic Party's business, and in that order. These priorities of freedom, country, and party have guided me as I have sought to reach an important personal decision. Any man who has had the privilege of spending almost twenty years near the President and the Presidency as I have, must weigh very carefully the implications of seeking an office that demands perhaps more judgment, wisdom, and maturity than any single man possesses. Yet any man who has spent a lifetime, at least who has spent his adult life in public service, also knows within himself that he must be willing to give of himself, when and where he feels he can best serve what he believes in. And so my friends and fellow Americans, facing and knowing the hard realities of the office, yet also knowing the potential for good which lies within it, I shall seek the nomination of the Democratic Party.

(We want Humphrey...) Like it or not, you have him. Yes, as I said, I shall seek the nomination of the Democratic Party for the Presidency of the United States. My credentials, well, they may be stated rather simply: of a loving family; teacher; mayor of my city; senator from my state; vice-president of my country; grateful husband; proud father; believer in the American Dream-the concept of human brotherhood.

In his address of almost four weeks ago, President Johnson acted bravely and beyond all personal interest to bring unity to American and to bring peace to Southeast Asia. We do not yet know the outcome of the initiative for peace in Asia. But we are hopeful, but without illusion--only time and events will give the answer. We do know, however, that in our country, a sense of balance has been restored. We know the President by his action, has given us all a chance to see ourselves and our country in proper perspective. And when seen in that perspective, I believe Lyndon Johnson's presidency will loom large in history for its dramatic leadership towards social progress, human opportunity, and peace.

The President's action has served to dramatize our most urgent requirement-unity of our people-not unity at the expense of personal freedom, not at the expense of diversity, not at the expense of dissent, or we do not demand, nor should we, an America of one mind. What we seek is an America of one spirit.

We seek an America able to preserve and nurture all the basic rights of free expression, yet able to reach across the divisions that too often separate race from race, region from region, young from old, worker from scholar, rich from poor. We seek an America able to do this in the higher knowledge that our goals and ideals are worthy of conciliation and personal sacrifice.

For without unity, we shall begin to doubt not only ourselves, but our goals and ideals. With unity, I am convinced these goals can be achieved, which brings me to the questions I have been asking myself: What do these times call for? What are the possibilities of the future? And how should I now proceed.

Well, the time has come to speak thoughts deeply felt, but not often said by millions of Americans. The time has come to speak out on behalf of America, not a nation that has lost its way, but a restless people, a great nation, striving to find a better way.

The time has come to put aside selfish ambition and pettiness ,to forget old fears and animosities, and to bring forth from our midst tolerance, understanding, and mutual trust. The time has come to recognize that this nation has more strength than weakness, more hope than despair, more faith in doubt, that we have much more chance than any nation in previous history to master the problems that we face. The time has come for those who share a deep and abiding faith in the purpose and potentialities of this nation to say I love my country.

Yes, the time is come to express in our way and in our time a new American patriotism; not a patriotism expressed alone in flags, but in a willingness to get down to the higher, hard, tiring, endless work that every generation before us has paid out to keep alive the vision of what America can do. The time has come, in short to a reaffirm once more that we can do whatever we must do to carry forth the unfinished, peaceful American revolution.

And then comes the question of our vision: What is it? What shall it be? If we can mobilize the human resources to bring unity among ourselves, what are the possibilities? Let me state them as I see them: I believe this nation can finally break across the threshold of what no previous society has ever dared to dream or achieve--the building of a social order of both freedom and compassion, of both enterprise and peace. I believe we can finally create a nation where human equality and human opportunity not only exist side by side, but nourish and reinforce each other; where every citizen may participate, on equal terms, in every aspect of being and doing that which relates to self-respect. I believe we can make law and order not only compatible with justice and human progress, but their unflinching guardians. (applause) I believe that we can build cities in neighborhoods where all our citizens may walk together and safety and pride in the spirit of true community.

I believe we can, and I know we must, maintain the strength needed to protect our national security and to meet our international commitments.

But I believe, too, in the practical possibilities of peace; I believe that free man, through the exercise of their own will, can narrow the dangerous gap between the rich nations and the poor, can even and the surge of hunger, can slow down and halt a dangerous spiraling arms race, and can treat and reduce the basic causes of tension and conflict in the world. I believe that through our leadership, we can strengthen the United Nations and other international institutions and make them real, everyday forces for peace.

Yes I believe that this strong, rich, and idealistic nation of ours can help to create a broader world society in which human values will one day rule supreme. And I mean a world society of independent and free nations, where the individual and not the institution or the party comes first. I mean a world society were a child's future lies open ahead and where he can be a free man and answer ultimately to no one but to God and to his conscience.

A dream, yes, a hope, yes, because America is both a dream and a hope for ourselves and for others. All of this is what I believe our America can help achieve. If we will only be remember who and what we are, and why this country came into being, and what it is we really set out to do. Now I know full well the limitations of such a testament. I know that it says more of the ideals and a dozen practicalities, and more of high purposes than ways and means. This I know. There is nothing here that I have said of dollar balances, or inflationary pressures, tight money, loose morals, farm policy or labor laws, conservation, housing, health, social security, jobs, and a great deal more of infinite importance. In fact, most of the time, of my time for the past quarter century, has gone into working at these problems; I know them.

I know them and I have some ideas about how they can be challenged, and during the coming months in my campaign and your campaign. I shall express these ideas. But today, I thought we would do well to begin this great pursuit and venture, this cause that is ours, to begin looking at the stars, for, my friends, there is a guidance in the pursuit of great ideals and energy in the pursuit of great ideas.

And now to the business of getting elected. Let me share with you my thoughts: The people who voted for me for Vice-president have every right to expect a full four-year service in that office. Thus in the weeks ahead, I want you to know that I shall place high priority up on that call to service and I shall continue to fulfill, to the best of my abilities, the duties of my office, and the responsibilities that have been placed upon me. I shall, as the president has, observe the actual party peace over politics.

I shall do my utmost to contribute to a broad reasoned national dialogue, devoted not to personalities, but to issues which man once benefit, educate, and inform the American people and the Democratic Party. For 1968, this year, is not the year for frenzied or inflammatory rhetoric, nor is it the year for searching out, and seeking in finding scapegoats for our problems. I submit that 1968 is the year for common sense to the American people.

It is time requiring every person, in every post, in every area of leadership, maturity, restraint, and responsibility. And it should be a time of great confidence, and above all, my friends, a time for public happiness in this nation.

So you may understand the ground rules of my effort, I will resist the temptation and successfully so, to deceive either the people or myself. I have been too close to the Presidency to believe that the solutions to our complex and difficult problems are either simple or easy and I know the answers do not come quickly. But what concerns me is not just winning the nomination, but how it is to be won.

The man who wins the nomination must be able, first, to unite his party. The man who unites his party must be able, above all to unite and govern his nation. You can rest assured that I intend to fight hard and clean for the nomination.

But I do not, and will not, divide either my party or my country. In this great effort, I shall do my best and I ask no less of those who join me.

For democracy is only what democracy gets done; we don't get just what we stand for, we get what we earn and what we work for. In the full knowledge of all the challenges that lie ahead within both the campaign and in the high office, I enter this course with a resolve and a determination to win.

And I shall make everything that I do on one conviction: that this country, we the people of these United States, working in a spirit of unity, can overcome any obstacle, finally realizing the fullness of freedom, the prize of peace, in the happiness of human opportunity, both here and in the world. My fellow Americans, we are the people of today; we are the people of tomorrow, it is to the future that we look and we aspire. And I found some words are told me exactly what I want to tell you; you'll find them inscribed in the great literature. The future has several names: for the weak it is impossible, for the faint-hearted it is the unknown, for the thoughtful and the valiant it is ideals. The challenge is urgent, the test is large, the time is now -- on to victory!

Hubert H. Humphrey, Remarks Declaring Candidacy for the Democratic Presidential Nomination Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project