John F. Kerry photo

Remarks in Orlando, Florida

October 29, 2004

Thank you. It's great to be back in Orlando.

Four days from now, Americans will face a choice.

How will we find our way forward? How will we keep America safe, and keep the American Dream alive?

I believe we begin by giving this country we love a fresh start. This morning, I would like to give you as a plainly as I can the summary of my case on how – together – we can change America.

I believe we begin by moving our economy, our government, and our society back in line with our best values.

I believe we begin by doing whatever it takes to lead our troops to success and bring them home safe. And when they do come home, I believe we begin by rebuilding an America with a strong middle-class where everyone has the chance to work and the opportunity to get ahead.

My friends, after the many long months and miles of this campaign, in four days this election will be in your hands.

In four days, a father will check in at his polling place and think about the family waiting for him to come home for dinner. His job has been outsourced and his new job doesn't pay the bills like his old one did. He'll wonder what they'll do if the kids get sick. And he'll wonder whether we can afford four more years of a President who fights for those at the top while telling everyone else that this is the best economy of our lifetime.

But on Tuesday, you have the choice to give that father hope. You have the choice to give the American economy a fresh start.

In four days, a young woman will pick up her ballot and think about her future. She'll wonder whether she'll be able to find a good job that will pay off her college loans. She'll wonder how you juggle work and family and why no matter how hard she works she seems to fall further behind. She'll wonder whether we can afford four more years of a President who calls concerns like these nothing more than a litany of complaints.

But on Tuesday, you have the choice to give her hope. You have the choice to give young people all across America a fresh start on their future.

In four days, a woman will walk into a voting booth thinking about the husband she said goodbye to so many months ago. She'll wonder how much longer he'll have to stay in Iraq, and when she'll see him again. And she will wonder whether we can afford four more years of a President who's unwilling to admit the mistakes he has made, and says he would do everything all over again exactly the same.

But on Tuesday, you have the choice to give her hope. You have the choice to give America a fresh start in Iraq.

My friends, this is the most important election of our lifetime. And that's not something I'm telling you, that's something you've told me time and time again in this campaign. And when you go into that voting booth you will face a fundamental choice: do we want four more years of the same failed course? Or do we want a fresh start for America?

By now, it is clear that no matter who tells him, no matter how many times he hears it, and no matter how bad things get, George W. Bush just doesn't understand the problems facing America.

In Iraq, every day, every headline, has brought fresh evidence that our Commander-in-Chief doesn't see what's happening -- isn't leveling with the American people about why we went to war in the war is going – and has no idea how to put our policy back on track. His mistakes and misjudgments have hurt our troops, driven away allies, diverted our focus from Osama bin Laden and the real war on terror.

At home, George Bush looks at lost jobs, falling wages, and rising costs and tells struggling middle-class families that everything's just fine. That's because for the powerful and well-connected friends he's spent the last four years fighting for, it really is the best economy of their lifetime. And now he's asking us to give him another four years so that he can keep giving them more of the same.

This is George Bush's record. But it doesn't have to be our future.

In four days, you can choose a fresh start. You can choose a President who will defend America and fight for the middle-class. And if you give me the chance, I will be that President.

This is the choice we face on Tuesday.

In this election, the safety of the American people is on the ballot.

Our troops in Iraq are doing a heroic job – the problem is our commander in chief isn't doing his.

The President tells us that in Iraq, his "strategy is succeeding." The Vice President tells us that the war is a "remarkable success story." But every day on our TV screens, we see the hard truths. We see the consequences of this President's decision to rush to war without a plan to win the peace:

The loss of over 1,100 of our brave men and women in uniform. A cost of $225 billion with billions more on the way. Entire regions controlled by insurgents and terrorists.

By pushing our allies aside, George Bush's catastrophic mismanagement of this war has left America to bear almost 90% of the costs and 90% of the coalition casualties. We relied on Afghan warlords instead of American troops to hunt down Osama bin Laden, and the man responsible for murdering more than 3,000 American walked away.

This is George Bush's record, but it doesn't have to be our future.

On Tuesday, we have the opportunity to set a new course in up a new chapter in our relationship with the rest of the world...and do whatever it takes to defend America and keep our troops safe.

This can be our future.

But first we must choose.

When I'm President, I will bring other nations to our side and train Iraqis so that we can succeed and bring our troops home. As president, I will fight a tougher, smarter, more effective war on terror. We will hunt down, capture, and kill the terrorists wherever they are. I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president.

But I believe we need a president who can do more than one thing at a time.

America has always been driven by a powerful idea: that with hard work and good values, we can give our children a better life. Our economy, our society is built on that basic bargain: Everyone who works hard and does right should have the chance to get ahead.

Not long ago, that middle-class dream was within reach of all those willing to work for it. But this President walked away from our basic bargain – and today, America's great middle class is in danger because this President doesn't share your values.

With almost every choice he's made, George Bush has given more to those who have the most at the expense of middle-class families who are working hard to get ahead.

Jobs get shipped overseas, but the companies who send them there get tax breaks.

Today, America is replacing high-paying, middle-class jobs with temporary and part-time jobs that don't pay enough to make ends meet. But big corporations keep getting higher profits and larger tax breaks.

The middle-class is paying a larger share of the tax burden, but the wealthiest individuals making an average of $1.2 million are getting $89 billion in tax cuts.

American families are earning less but paying more.

Health care's up 64 percent. College tuition's up 46 percent. Medicare premiums are up 56 percent. 5 million more Americans don't health care. 220,000 students couldn't afford college last year. But George Bush thought it was a good idea to give Enron a $254 million tax break, the big drug companies $139 billion in windfall profits, and Halliburton a $7 billion no-bid contract. You know, as Ronald Reagan used say, facts are stubborn things.

This is George Bush's record, but it doesn't have to be our future. On Tuesday, we have the opportunity to make sure the American Dream touches every American heart. We can bring back good-paying jobs for middle-class families so that they don't just get by – they get ahead. We can bring down the cost of health care and child care and tuition so that you can pay the bills and give your children the same chance at life that your parents gave you.

This can be our future.

But first we must choose.

It's a choice between four more years of George Bush's policy to ship jobs overseas and give tax breaks to the companies that do it -- or a President who will reward the companies that create and keep good jobs here in the United States of America.

You can choose a fresh start. And when I'm President, that's what you'll get.

On Tuesday, you'll face a choice between four more years of George Bush's giveaways to the big drug companies and the big HMOs -- or a President who will finally make health care a right, and not a privilege, for every American.

You can choose a fresh start. And when I'm President, that's what you'll get.

This election is a choice between four more years of tax giveaways for millionaires along with a higher tax burden for you -- or a President who will cut middle-class taxes, raise the minimum wage, and make sure we guarantee women an equal day's pay for an equal day's work.

You can choose a fresh start. And when I'm President, that's what you'll get

On Tuesday, America faces a choice between four more years of an energy policy for big oil, of big oil, and by big oil -- or a President who finally makes America independent of Mideast oil in ten years. A choice between George Bush's policy that just yesterday showed record profits for oil companies and record gas prices for American consumers. I believe that America should rely on our own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi Royal family.

You can choose a fresh start. And when I'm President, that's what you'll get.

I believe that the only way to do this is by coming together as One America. It is time for America to put the politics of polarization behind us. It is time to appeal to the best instincts of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. It is time again for America to honor the truth that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. It is time for America to renew the faith that there is something for everyone single one of us to do – and challenges each of us to try.

My fellow Americans, running for president has been a privilege and a gift. Over two years and more, I have traveled into the communities, the homes, and the town squares of America. I have seen heartache, but I have also seen hope. I have been told stories of struggle, but in those voices there is also a sense of optimism. The people I have met understand how hard the last four years have been, but they know in their hearts that if we believe in ourselves, America's best days are ahead of us.

Our choice could not be clearer. And the stakes could not be higher.

In four days, we can change the course of our country. I ask for your vote and I ask for your help. When you go to the polls next Tuesday, bring your friends, your family, your neighbors. No one can afford to stand on the sidelines or sit this one out.

In four days, this campaign will end. The election will be in your hands. If you believe we need a fresh start in Iraq .... if you believe we can create and keep good jobs here in America ... if you believe we need to get health care costs under control ... if you believe in the promise of stem cell research ... if you believe our deficits are too high and we're too dependent on Mideast oil ... then I ask you to join me and together we'll change America.

I see an America of rising opportunity. And I believe hope, not fear is our future.

A woman in Ohio said something about a month ago. I didn't get to meet her, but she grabbed one of my people at the end of an event and she said: "You be sure to get a hold of the Senator and give him this message for me." And the message was, "Senator, we've got your back!"

Give me the chance to make you proud. Give me the chance to lift our country up. And every day I'll look you in the eye and be able to say, "I've got your back!" Four days to change America. Let's go out and make it happen!

Thank you, God Bless, and God bless America.

John F. Kerry, Remarks in Orlando, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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