John F. Kerry photo

Remarks to the New Northside Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri

March 28, 2004

Thank you for inviting me to this house of God and home of good works.

Thank you my good friend, Lacy Clay, and Bishop Ellis, for your light and leadership in this community.

My friends, I come here today with hope in my heart but resolve on my mind.

When I look around this city – when I look around neighborhoods and towns and cities all over our country – I see what so many of you do every day. We see that there is so much work to be done in America.

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 hungry in a country where food is abundant—and too many working families living in shelters, when a living wage should provide them with a place to live.

The scriptures say: "It is not enough, my brother, to say you have faith, when there are no deeds."

We look at what is happening in America today and we say: "Where are the deeds?"

We are now told by some to ignore our greatest needs – to forget about the pain around us. We are told that, after 3 million lost jobs and so many lost hopes, America is now "turning a corner."

But those who say America has turned the corner aren't standing on the corner of Highland Street, where two 15-year old teenagers were hit in a drive-by shooting last week.

They're not standing on the corner of North 19th Street, where the only place single mothers have to leave their children when they go to work is at the homeless shelter.

And those who say that "our economy is getting stronger and stronger" aren't standing on the corners across this state where closed factories speak the loss of 42,000 manufacturing jobs in Missouri in the past 3 years.

My brothers and sisters, our present national leadership may be taking us around a corner, but it is a corner that leads to a dead end road paved with broken promises.

Well, I'm here to say that if we stand together we can set a new direction for America.

A new direction of hope and opportunity for all our children.

It's time to reach for that future. It's time to hear and heed the ancient proverb that should guide us today: "When you pray, move your feet."

It was just 50 years ago that a little girl called Linda Brown had to walk a mile through a railroad yard everyday just to catch a bus to her segregated elementary school.

Her parents, Darlene and Oliver Brown, saw the closed doors of the white elementary school just 3 blocks from their house-- and they turned their daughter and their nation in a new direction. They "prayed by moving their feet."

Because of them America took a giant step forward, but there are still miles to go. In too many ways our school systems are still separate and unequal. Our society still falls short of our ideals. We still have doors to open, prayers to say, and feet to move.

My friends, we are called to restore a government of the people instead of a tool of the privileged. To honor hard work and the dream of a better life. To give every child the best possible start in life. To bring back good jobs and give new life to the pledge of liberty and justice for all. To end the moral outrage of an America which is the only industrialized nation on the planet which doesn't understand that healthcare is a right and not a privilege. We are called to end the worry of all the mothers and fathers who fear that their children may become casualties of unsafe streets.

The scriptures tell us that there is "a time to break down and a time to build up."

This is our time to break down division, not build it up. It's time to reject the politics of falseness and fear calculated to divide black from white, rich from poor, neighborhood from neighborhood, region from region.

I know, we all know, why some want to widen those divisions, not heal them. They want us, as a people, pointing fingers at each other so no one shines the light of truth on their own failed ways.

This is our time to start building up America again. Time to build up the material things that matter-- from our schools to health centers to depressed communities that can thrive again. But even more, time to build up the things of the spirit that lift us up—the sense that no matter where we come from, what we have or what we lack-- we are all God's children, linked together by the dignity of each and the shared destiny of all.

So let us pray. Let us move our feet. Let us march together and let us lead America in a new direction—toward that mountain top which has always been our destination. We won't get there in one year or one election. But this year is our time to take another giant step toward the country we can and should become.

John F. Kerry, Remarks to the New Northside Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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