John Edwards photo

Remarks Endorsing Barack Obama for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in Grand Rapids, Michigan

May 14, 2008

OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thank you. Thank you, everybody, thank you. Thank you. I am fired up. I'm fired up. I am fired up to be in Michigan. I'm fired up to be in Grand Rapids.

Look at this crowd. It is unbelievable. I am so grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here. I know that we didn't have a chance to campaign here during the primary. And I felt bad about it. I didn't have a chance to talk to you guys about the issues. I felt guilty about not campaigning. And so, as a consequence, I decided that I would try to give you something special. I decided that, on my first full day of campaigning in Michigan, that I wouldn't be fooling around; that I wasn't going to just do the same old thing. But I decided that I was going to bring up one of the greatest leaders we have in the Democratic Party. Please give it up for my friend, John Edwards.

JOHN EDWARDS: Thank you, thank you. So, the question is -- thank you. Thank you. So the question is what am I doing here? You know, I was promised a jet ski. And I hadn't gotten it yet. I am proud to be here with all of you, proud to be in Michigan, proud to be in Grand Rapids. During the course of this presidential campaign, I've gotten to know the candidates and the top candidates very, very well. We have all been out speaking about the causes that are so near and dear to our heart as Democrats. And now we're here down to two amazing candidates. And before I get too far, I want to take just a minute and say a word about my friend and your friend, Senator Hillary Clinton.

In the past few weeks, I've got -- past few months and past few weeks -- I've gotten to know Senator Clinton very well. We've talked. We've met in North Carolina. We've talked about the things that she cares about, that every single one of you care about: about the men and women in this country who don't have health care; about the children who don't have health care; about the men and women in America who just want to have a decent job and go to work. We've talked about our own children, our own families.

And what I've learned during that time, and I've gotten to know her very well, is that she believes with every fiber of our being that America can be a better place, and that we need change to make America what it's capable of being. And I want to tell you -- and I know this is hard to understand sometimes -- but it is very, very hard to get up everyday and do what she's done. It is hard to go out there and fight and speak up when the odds turn against you.

And what she has shown, what she has shown, is strength and character. And what drives her is something that every single one of us can and should appreciate. She cares deeply about the working people in this country. She cares about the families who are losing everything because somebody got sick. She cares about our men and women who are putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. This tenacity has shown her strength and her determination. She is a woman who, in my judgment, is made of steel. And she's a leader in this country, not because of her husband, but because of what she has done -- because of speaking out, because of standing up.

And we, when this nomination battle is over -- and it will be over soon -- brothers and sisters, we must come together as Democrats and, in the fall, stand up for what matters for the future of America and make America what it needs to be. And we are a stronger party, because Hillary Clinton is a Democrat. We are a stronger country because of her years of public service. And we're going to have a stronger presidential nominee in the fall because of her work.

Now, what brought all of us here is the profound --


What brought all of us together is the profound belief that we can change this country, that there are servicemen and women in Iraq who can come home starting today; that our kids deserve to go to better schools than we went to; that we can run our cars on something other than oil; that we have good jobs that can fill these empty factories; and that the anxiety that all of our people face every day can change when we finally make two Americas one America for every single one of us.

This is why you're here. You're here because of the hope that you carry in your heart to make this country better. And we have so much work to do in America, because all across America, there are walls. There are walls dividing the way things are and the one America that all of us want to see. And, in fact, there's a wall around Washington, D.C. The American people are, today, on the outside of that wall. And on the inside are the big corporations and the lobbyists who are working to protect a system that takes care of them.

And guess who struggles every single day? Working men and women in this country see that wall when they have to split their bills into two piles -- one pay now, one pay later; when they get bullied at work, because they want to join a union; when they see disappointment on the face of their son or daughter, because they can no longer pay for that child to go to college; when their CEO gets a golden parachute, and their job gets shipped overseas. And you know something about that here in Michigan -- when their wages drop and their kids go hungry. And guess who's doing just fine? The insiders, the lobbyists, the special interests.

Our job, come January of next year, is to tear that wall down and give this government back to the American people. There is another wall that divides us. It's the moral shame of 37 million of our own people who wake up in poverty every single day. In a nation of our wealth, to have millions of Americans who work every single day and still can't pay their electric bill and pay for their food at the same time. There are mothers out there working two jobs every day to try to keep their kids from going to bed hungry. There are men and women who have worked hard all their lives, so that they can try to buy a home. And they're living in a tent city, because they got nowhere to go.

This is not OK. And for eight long, long years, this wall has gotten taller. Yesterday, I was in Philadelphia. And I was announcing an initiative to cut poverty in American in half in the next ten years. And I am proud to say, today, that Barack Obama stands with me in this cause. We also have a wall that divides our two public school systems in America. It is not OK that a child born into a wealthy family gets the best education in the world. And a child born in a small town or the inner city barely gets by. Their education is our education. We're going to fix that system for them and make these schools work for everybody.

How about health care, right? The big drugs companies, insurance companies, HMOs, the politicians who take their money, they're getting their way. And they love that wall just the way it is today. Well, it's going to be gone as soon as we create real and meaningful universal health care for every man, woman and child in America.

And there's also a wall that's divided our image in the world. The America as the beacon of hope is behind that wall. And all the world sees now is a bully. They see Iraq, Guantanamo, secret prison and government that argues that water boarding is not torture.

This is not OK. That wall has to come down for the sake of our ideals and our security. We can change this. We can change it. Yes we can. If we stand together, we can change it.


And the reason I am here tonight is because the Democratic voters in America have made their choice, and so have I. There is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership. There is one man that knows how to create the change, the lasting change, that you have to build from the ground up. There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two. And that man is Barack Obama.


This is not going to be easy. It's going to be the fight of our lives. But we're ready, because we know that this election is about something bigger than the tired old hateful politics of the past. This election is about taking down these walls that divide us, so that we can see what's possible -- what's possible, that one America that we can build together. Barack Obama understands that to his core.

You know, as I've traveled this country, as I've learned from traveling this country, from talking to students like those that we took to New Orleans, who volunteered their spring break to go to New Orleans to work to help rebuild the city; a former Army captain that I met who served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, even after he was badly injured at a grenade attack. And I'll never forget a man I met named James Lowe who was born with a cleft palate that kept him from being able to speak. And he had no health care coverage and lived for 50 years in America not able to speak, because he had no health care.

What I've learned, and what Barack Obama has learned, this campaign is about them. It is about you. It is about the people. It is not about us. And that is what we are fighting for.


And it's about the one America we're going to build for them. One America, where Main Street is strong; one America, where struggling towns come back to life, because we finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil; one America, where the men and women who work the late shift, who get up at dawn to drive a two- hour commute, and the young person who closes the store to save for college. They will actually be honored for that work. One America, where no child, no child, goes to bed hungry; when we finally end the moral shame of 37 million Americans who wake up every day in poverty.


One America, where we finally start tackling the real health care crisis in America; one America, with one public school system, where a boy in the city and a girl in the suburbs will wake up every day with an equal chance to a quality education. One America, that rebuilds our moral authority in the world, not just with our strength, but with our soul. One America, where the walls will fall, when the war in Iraq ends in 2009, and our servicemen and women --


And our servicemen and women will come home to the heroes' welcome that they deserve. And we will take care of our veterans. We're going to get this part of the war right. We will never again stand by while men and women who have worn the uniform of the United States of America stand in line and have to wait for health care. We will never stand by while 150,000 men and women who wore our uniform, veterans, go to sleep every night on grates and under bridges -- not in our America, not in our America, and not in our America when Barack Obama is president of the United States of America.


You know, we've been in this kind of place before. In times of war, great depression, deep divisions that tore at the soul of this nation, we came together. And we went to work to make sure that we passed on a stronger and better country to our children. We will meet this challenge again. This is who we are. This is our moment. This is our time to take down these walls, to close our divide, and build one America that we all believe in. If you want that, if you believe in that, then join me in helping send Barack Obama to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; because we believe that in our America --


Because what all of us believe, what all of us believe, is in this America that we love so much, no matter who you are, no matter who your family is, and no matter what the color of your skin, none of those things will control your destiny; and that that one America that I've talked about is not only possible, but it will be achieved under President Barack Obama starting in January of 2009. Thank you. God bless you. I'm honored to be here with you. Thank you, all.

[APPLAUSE] OBAMA: John Edwards. Give it up for John Edwards.

You know, I haven't been seeing John as much. So I forgot how good he is. What a wonderful speech. I am so grateful. I am so grateful for John Edwards, for coming to Michigan tonight. I am grateful for his support. But more importantly, I want to thank John for everything that he has already done to make us one America. Thank you, John.

John, I also want to thank your wonderful wife, Elizabeth, for her courage and her resilience, her unyielding passion and commitment to a cause that will be central to my presidency. And that is ensuring that, right here in the richest country on Earth, every single American has decent, affordable health care. It is long overdue. Elizabeth has been fighting for it. John's been fighting for it. And I will fight for it when I'm president of the United States of America.

You know, at a time when our politics is too focused on what divides us and what distracts us, on who's up and who's down, who says what to who, John Edwards ran a campaign that made us all focus on what matters. The child in New Orleans, who still sleeps in a trailer and goes to bed hungry at night; the auto worker in Detroit, whose lifetime of labor has been rewarded with a pink slip and a dumped pension; the family sitting around the kitchen table, who doesn't know how next week's paycheck will cover next month's bills.

For too long, Washington has ignored their struggles. Their voices have fallen on deaf ears. For the last eight years, they have been told -- you've been told -- that there's nothing this country can do to help you, that the best we can do is keep giving more and more of those with the most and tell everyone else to fend for themselves. That's what George Bush has one for the last eight years. And that's what John McCain is offering for the next four.

Well, John Edwards and I believe in a different America. Hillary Clinton believes in a different America. The Democratic Party believes in a different America -- one America, where we rise and fall together as one people. And that's why we are going to take Washington by storm this November.


We believe that no matter where you come from or who your parents are, how much money you started with, opportunity should be yours if you're willing to reach for it and work for it. We believe that, while there are few guarantees in life, you should be able to count on a job that pays the bills -- health care when you need it, so you're not bankrupt when you get sick; a pension when you retire; an education for your children; making sure that they can go to college, even if you're not wealthy, so that they can fulfill their God-given potential.

We believe that if you live in the United States of America and you work, you should not want. You should never be hungry. You should never be homeless. You should never face a threat of poverty, ever. That's what we believe as Democrats. That's what we're fighting for in this election.

Poverty isn't an issue that's talked about on the news or in Washington. It's not always the kind of issue that polls well. But John Edwards decided to talk about it anyway. He decided to center his campaign around it. He came up with new ideas to solve it. He pushed the rest of us to talk about it and debate it. And he did it, not because it was popular, but because it was right. Well, it is still right. It is still worth debating. It is still worth talking about.

I moved to Chicago more than two decades ago to lift up neighborhoods that were devastated by joblessness and poverty when the local steel plants closed. And today, I can tell you that the fight I waged then, the fight that John is waging right now, will be a fight I carry into the White House for the next four years, because that fight is not done. It has not even been started by this White House. We're going to have to change things around, because we need to lift up every American out of poverty. That is one of the goals of the Democratic Party. That's what we're going to be fighting for.


A few days ago, John announced that he'll be running a new campaign, a campaign to cut poverty in half over the next 10 years. Well today, as John indicated, I want to make sure that everybody knows that he will have a partner in that effort, because that is a goal that I will set as president of the United States of America.

We can do this. We can do this. We can make it so that if you want to work, you can find work. And then if you do work, you'll never want. We can start by ending the tax breaks we give to companies that ship jobs overseas and start giving them to companies that are investing in good jobs right here in the United States of America. We can create 5 million new green jobs, if we invest in renewable energy; 2 million jobs that will put people to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges laying broadband lines to stitch the entire country together on the Internet superhighway. And for those who have trouble finding work, we can invest in transitional job programs that get people a weekly paycheck and the skills they need to find a permanent job. We can do those things.

We can refuse to give more tax breaks to the wealthy few who don't need it and aren't even asking for it, and decide --


And decide that the next tax bill signed by the next president will put money in the pockets of the working families who need it most, by expanding the earned income tax credit, a program that's lifted millions and millions of families out of poverty. We can help struggling Americans save to ensure that every single family as a free savings account that comes with a small nest egg, so that they don't spiral into bankruptcy because of an emergency or an accident. We can ensure that no working family is forced to live on the streets by offering more housing vouchers for families willing to work and willing to save. And we can build more affordable housing in good neighborhoods, where they can thrive and where they can succeed.

We can make sure that every child in America -- EMT, I think we may have had somebody who fainted. So if we've got somebody out there. Somebody want to catch this? Give them some water and give them some space. They'll be all right. EMT, they're right in front of me. Give them some space.

We can make sure that every child, no matter where they come from, no matter who they look like, have the chance to get a world- class education by investing in early childhood education to make sure that every child gets a good start in life. And I won't just talk about how great teachers are, because we're going to reward them for their greatness by giving them higher salaries and giving them more support. We'll invest in after-school programs and summer school programs for children who don't have anyplace to go when school is out. We'll make sure that they get the support they need.

And when they graduate from high school, we are going to be making absolutely sure that they can afford to go to college by giving them a $4,000 tuition credit, every student, every year, in exchange for community service; because young people want to give back to this country. We'll invest in them. They'll invest in America. Together, we're going to march this country forward. We can do that.

John Edwards and I both got into this race, because we believe in an America where it's always possible to change the way things are, to build a better tomorrow. This kind of change has never started in the halls of Washington. It starts on the streets, not from the top down, but from the bottom up. It happens because the American people choose to look past difference of race and region and class and religion and party to build one America, where everybody has a chance to succeed, where anybody can make it if they try.

And that was the central premise of this campaign. That was a bet that both John and I made when we started this campaign. That's why we both decided we wouldn't take PAC money. We wouldn't take money from federal registered lobbyists, because we don't believe that special interests should be dictating the agenda in Washington. You should be dictating the agenda in Washington. They have not funded our campaign. They will not run our White House. And they will not drown us, the voice of American people when I'm president of the United States of America.

And John's absolutely right, that this campaign is not about me, and it's not about him. It's not about Hillary. It's not about John McCain. This campaign's about you. It's about your struggles. It's about your hopes. It's about your dreams.

It's about the guy I met in Marion, Indiana who had worked in the same plant for 20 years. His father had worked in the same plant before him. There was a period where they overlapped. They were both working in the same factory together. And he described the feeling when he was packing up that equipment, because the company was moving overseas, and how he wasn't just losing a paycheck. He wasn't just losing his health care and his benefits, eventually his home. He was losing a way of life. He was losing a sense of community. He was losing a sense of who he was. That's something that people all across Michigan have been feeling. The campaign's about him.

The campaign is about the young women I met in Iowa, who got three hours of sleep every night, because she had a sister with cerebral palsy. And so she was going to school full-time. She was determined to go to school and get her college degree. But she also had to take care of her sister. So she would work the night shift from 2:30 in the morning until 10 o'clock, and then go back and start school. She got three hours of sleep every night. And she didn't expect government to solve all her problems. All she was hoping for was maybe government could give her a little bit of a hand up -- help make sure her sister got decent health care; help make sure that she was able to afford to go to college.

The campaign's not about me. It's not about John or Hillary or McCain. It's about her. It's about every American who's worried about losing their home right now, because nobody was providing oversight and regulation when the mortgage lenders were offering a bunch of predatory loans. It's about all the Americans who have watched their wages and incomes decline, although they're working one job, two jobs, sometimes three jobs at the same time as the wealthiest Americans have never had it better. That's what this campaign's about.

And sometimes we lose sight of it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the competition and the egos and the ambition, we lose sight of why we do this. But that's why you're so important in this process, because you're the corrective to our politics. You are the folks who are going to hold us accountable. This election is the opportunity for you to make a declaration that we are a country that is going to come together, and finally solve problems, and set aside our differences, and put aside our gimmicks, and restore our values and our ideals.

This election's also about how we apply those values and ideas overseas, because since this war in Iraq started, we have lost our bearings. We have lost our focus. We have not gone after Al Qaida in Afghanistan, those who killed 3,000 Americans, with everything that we've got, because we've been distracted. We have seen thousands of lives lost, hundreds of billions of dollars spent -- money that we could have been spending rebuilding America.

And it has not made us more safe. And that's why I opposed this war in 2002; and that's why we will bring this work to an end in 2009; that's why we will close Guantanamo; that's why we will restore habeas corpus; that's why we will initiate diplomacy; that's why we will reach out to poor countries and help them build schools and public health infrastructure; that's why we will end the genocide in Darfur and respect our Constitution, because that's who we are as Americans; that's what we stand for; that's what this election is all about.


This is the country that gave my grandfather a chance to go to college on the G.I. Bill when he came home from World War II; a country that gave him and my grandmother the chance to buy their first home with a loan from the government. And that is why we are going to make sure that not only are we training our troops properly and equipping them properly, and putting them on proper rotations, so that they are not seeing strains in their families; but we are also going to make sure that when they come home, we are treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve. No more homeless veterans; no more begging for disability payments; no more waiting in line for hours for the V.A. That's who we are -- the country that gave my grandparents an opportunity.

This is the country that made is possible for my mother, a single parent who had to go on food stamps at one point, to send my sister and me to the best schools that this country has to offer. This is the country that gave the son of a mill worker from Robbins, North Carolina the chance to be the first in his family to get a college education and to succeed beyond his wildest dreams. John Edwards hasn't forgotten what this country did for him. He hasn't forgotten what this country did for Elizabeth, what this country did for Michelle, what this country has done for me, what this country has done for you.

This isn't just the America of yesterday. This is the America of tomorrow, the America we can build in our future. This is the America we can build for that child in New Orleans, for that auto worker in Detroit, for that family sitting around the kitchen table trying to figure out how to pay the bills. This is our time to answer the call that so many generations have answered before, by insisting that by hard work, and by sacrifice, that the American dream will endure.

You know, we are going to have a choice in this election, because John McCain, as much as I honor his service, as much as I admire his heroism in battle, John McCain is offering eight more years of the same -- eight more years of a cramped vision about what's possible in America; eight more years of your-on-your-own politics; eight more years of a can't-do, won't-do, won't-even-try style of government. That's what John McCain is offering. That is the politics of the past. We are offering the politics of the future. We are tired of the politics of fear. We're going to offer the politics of hope.

And John is right. It will be hard. It is not going to be easy. Nothing ever is. And I know how hard it's going to be. I know how difficult change is, because I have fought on the streets as an organizer. I've fought in the courts, just like John fought as a lawyer. I have fought in the legislature. And I've won some, but I've lost some too; because the status quo resists; because people are afraid; because cynicism sometimes wins out.

But I am absolutely convinced that the American people are looking for something different this time. I'm convinced that they are feeling hope stirring in the face of adversity, that they are saying this time's going to be different -- the same hope that allowed the greatest generation to defeat fascism and lift itself up out of a great depression, the same hope that allowed civil rights workers to travel down South and brave adversity to help deliver freedom, the same hope that allowed women to win the right to vote, the same hope that allowed young people to bring an end to a war.

That hope is stirring all across America. And if you're willing to set down the cynicism and put down the fear and join John Edward and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, then I promise you, we will not just win this election. We will change the country, and we will change the world. God bless you, Grand Rapids. God bless America.

John Edwards, Remarks Endorsing Barack Obama for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in Grand Rapids, Michigan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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