John F. Kerry photo

Remarks at East Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio

October 03, 2004

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer...

Thank you, Rev. Moss for that gracious introduction. And I want to thank Rev. Charles Bowie and the East Mt. Zion church family for giving me this opportunity to talk with you about the stakes in this election and the importance of every vote.

First, I want to say that say that America would be a much better place if all Americans followed your example of faith and service to our people. Everyday, as you feed the hungry, clothe the naked and nourish the soul of our nation, you are turning faith into deeds and making a difference in the lives of thousands of people in this city and throughout this state. Some people want to take credit for the faith-based service that you've been doing for years. They want to turn it into a political issue. But we know that you've been working in partnership with government and community-based organizations for years to bring hope to communities across this state.

Your dedication and your service live out the teaching of the Scripture: "It is not enough, my brother, to say you have faith, when there are no deeds...Faith without works is dead." As you know, my friends, we are taught to walk by faith not by sight.

And when we look around us – when we look around neighborhoods and towns and cities all across this country, we see faith to be lived out, and so many deeds to be done.

As it's said, faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen. [Hebrews 11:1] And we all know, you can't separate faith from substance.

We see jobs to be created. We see families to house. We see violence to stop. We see children to teach – and children to care for. We see too many people without health care and too many people of color suffering and dying from diseases like AIDS and cancer and diabetes.

We look at what is happening in America today and we forget to ask: Where are the deeds? Where is the substance in our faith?

Fifty years ago, with the decision in Brown v. the Board of Education, this nation had a great moment of conscience. A moment when we finally acknowledged God's truth that we are each made in His image and likeness – that separate but equal is not just unequal – but immoral.

140 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, it is time to again emancipate this land, to live up to our ideals; it is time for a new moment of conscience in America.

More than anything else, this election is about basic American values. Our families. Our faith. Our love of country. And not just more talk, but about what we believe in our souls and who we're willing to fight for.

The fact is, the wrong choices of the Bush Administration are taking us back to two Americas -- separate and unequal. Again, where are the deeds? Where is the substance in our faith?

Four years ago, George Bush came to office calling himself a "compassionate conservative."

Well, in the story of the Good Samaritan we are told of two men who pass by or cross to the other side of the street when they come upon a robbed and beaten man. They felt compassion, but there were no deeds. Then the Good Samaritan gave both his heart and his help. [Luke 10]

It is clear: For four years, George W. Bush may have talked about compassion, but he's walked right by. He's seen people in need, but he's crossed over to the other side of the street.

So let me ask you: Can America afford four more years of George W. Bush?

Time and time again, this president has chosen the powerful and well-connected over hard-working middle class families and those who are struggling to join the middle class. That's his choice. But it's not ours.

In the biggest wrong choice of all, George Bush chose to go it alone in Iraq, shifting our focus and forces from the war on terror and those responsible for 9-11. And we're paying the price.

Almost all the casualties are the sons and daughters of America. And 90 percent of the costs are being met by Americans – the total so far: $200 billion and rising every day. That's $200 billion we're not investing in health care and education That's $200 billion we're not investing to make sure no child is left behind. That's $200 billion we're not investing in incentives to create and keep good jobs in the United States of America. That's $200 billion we're not investing in homeland security to keep cops on the street, to protect our airports, our subways, our bridges and tunnels. Do we want four more years of that?

George Bush's wrong choices for our economy have also been catastrophic. He chose tax cuts for billionaires and tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. And we're paying the price: 1.6 million lost jobs – 237,000 right here in Ohio -- families earning $1,500 less, deficits as far as the eye can see. African-American unemployment at nearly 10 percent – double the rate for whites. That's more than a twenty-five percent increase since George Bush took office. Do we want four more years of that?

My friends, the promise of a better America is not being met when nearly one in three African American children are living in poverty. My friends, that's downright immoral – and I'm not going to stand for that.

As President, I will set a new direction. We're going to close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas. We're going to reward companies that create and keep good jobs here in America. And we are going to do more to expand homeownership and bring hope and jobs and businesses back to our hardest-pressed urban and metropolitan areas.

But that's not all. George W. Bush believes when it comes to health care, the HMO's come first and you come last. And we're paying the price – 45 million Americans without health insurance, including 400,000 more African Americans in the last four years. Premiums up $3,600. Medicare costs up 54 percent. And the cost of prescription drugs through the roof. Do we want four more years of that?

As President, I will set a new direction. My health care plan puts you and your families first. Our plan will take on the waste and greed in the health care system and save the average family up to $1,000 a year on their premiums. And with our plan – on day one -- every child in America will be covered. When I am president, America will stop being the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the connected, and the elected, it is a right for all Americans.

When it comes to education, George Bush has been demanding accountability from everybody except his own administration. We know that you can't really get the job done in our classrooms when too many children, especially children of color, are forced to attend overcrowded and crumbling schools and are being taught by overworked and underpaid teachers. The promise of a better America is not being met, when, fifty years after Brown, in too many parts of our country we still have two school systems – separate and unequal.

As President, I will set a new direction. We know the answer to closing the achievement gap is both higher expectations and greater resources. You cannot promise to leave no child behind and then leave the money behind. John Edwards and I have a plan to invest in our future, provide the needed funding and put a good teacher in every classroom – so that all our children will have the chance to develop their God-given potential.

You know, when I was a prosecutor, I sent criminals to jail for murder and rape for the rest of their lives. But I also spent a lot of time talking to kids in trouble. There wasn't one of those kids I met who didn't come from a place of neglect, a background of abuse, poverty or violence. They are where they are because adults weren't able – or just weren't doing – what they should have been. We can't be a nation that abandons our children. Our promise will never be met until we stop being a nation content to spend $50,000 a year to keep a young person in prison for the rest of their life, when we could invest $10,000 to give them Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, the best possible start in life.

There is another fundamental choice in this election. My friends, we are hearing the same things you are hearing. What they did in Florida in 2000, they are in the process of doing in battleground states all across this country this year. Let me make one thing clear: We're not going to stand by and allow African American votes to go uncounted in this election. We're not going to stand by and allow acts of voter suppression.

They are trying to take your vote away because they know what we know -- without you we cannot prevail. With you and the true strength of your numbers, the strength of your community, we will prevail and take America in a new direction. And we are turning faith into deeds to make sure that happens.

In fact, on Tuesday, my campaign is holding a press conference in Washington to announce the formation of a team of nationally prominent lawyers – both black and white – working for us, who will make sure that this time we deliver on the promise to protect every vote and to fight against anyone who tries to deny that right. We are going to make sure that this time every vote is counted and every vote counts. And we need your help.

The other day, after a rally in Ohio, a woman asked someone from our campaign to deliver a message to me. She said, "Senator Kerry, we've got your back."

Today, I've got a message for that woman and every American working build a better life for their family: "I've got your back, too."

I've got your back because I know what you're going through. For the last four years, George Bush has turned his back on you and your families with almost every choice he's made. Four more years of Bush choices is four more years we just can't afford.

You deserve a new choice. And one month from today, you'll have one. You can have a President whose got your back so we can bring back jobs, bring back opportunity, and bring back the promise that has kept hope in the hearts of the American people for generations.

One month from today, the American Dream is on the ballot. Together, we can fulfill that dream.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

John F. Kerry, Remarks at East Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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