John F. Kerry photo

Remarks at the University of New Hampshire in Durham

April 12, 2004

Thank you Wildcats. Now I knew that Guster was going to be a tough act to follow, so I came prepared today with an offer you can't refuse:

I am not the type to make empty promises. But, if you make me your next President, my first executive order will be to give a full pardon for anything you did on spring break. Sound good?

It's great to be back in New Hampshire. When I left this state two months ago, I was riding a wave of momentum that you all built from the ground up. And over the next seven months, I'm counting on New Hampshire to keep us riding that wave all the way to the White House.

And it's great to be back at UNH. I actually had a big fight with my staff over what time to have this rally. They wanted noon. I said 3:30 – that way most of you would actually be awake.

Fifty-nine years ago today, America lost Franklin Roosevelt -- one of the greatest leaders we've ever had – a man who led the Greatest Generation through its darkest hours with the strength to make America believe that happy days were just around the corner.

When he ran for President, Roosevelt promised America a New Deal, where everyone would "shoulder our common load." This week, I'll be unveiling a Compact with the Next Generation – your generation – that says we're going to bring back the basic bargain at the heart of America: if you're willing to do right by America, than America's willing to do right by you. It says that every one of you is ready and willing to take on the challenges we face in 2004. So how 'bout it New Hampshire, are you ready?

Are you ready to go out into your communities and serve the country you love?

Are you ready to bring back a government that tells the truth to all of the people, all of the time?

Are you ready to send George W. Bush on a bus back to Crawford, Texas?

Are you ready to raise the drinking age to thirty? Good, just wanted to make sure you were still listening.

Here's the truth. This election is not about me. And this election is not about President Bush. This election is about you. Because this is your future we're talking about here. And there has never been more at stake.

It's your tuition and your loans that keep rising and rising every day while this President spends all our money on tax cuts for the wealthy. That's his choice.

It's your generation that is being sent to Iraq to risk your lives in a war this President has no plan to win. That's his choice.

It's your environment that's being turned over to big polluters, your right to choose that hangs in the balance, and your deficit you'll be paying down for the rest of your lives. Those are all his choices.

Well guess what? In November, it's gonna be your choice.

You know, I've heard George Bush has had some great one-liners on the campaign trail recently. This one especially cracks me up. He says, "I came to this office to solve problems and not pass them on to future generations." Funny guy, huh?

We cannot and we will not pass America's problems on to your generation. But the fact is, this election is not just about what we're going to do, it's about what you're going to do. Because this November, change starts with you.

Our Compact with the Next Generation is going to offer a lot to young people in this country. But like no President since John F. Kennedy, I'm also going to ask young people to give something back.

I'm going to ask you to serve your country. This compact will bring the greatest expansion of national service in history and we're going to ask you to step up to the plate to do what's right for America – to go out into your communities and teach children, be mentors, build homes, and protect America.

And here's what else our compact brings: With college tuition rising higher this year than ever before, it's time to make four years of college affordable and available to every single young American.

We'll help you pay for school, and we'll help even more if you're willing to serve your country. And together, we'll make 2004 the last year that debt and dollar signs come before degrees and dreams for the future.

When you finish college, I want you to remember the duty you owe your country, not the debt you owe the bank.

But we can't do this without your help because change starts with you. It's your generation that can make it happen because it's your generation that always has.

It was a 26-year old minister from Montgomery named Martin Luther King Jr. who led a bus boycott to change the hearts of a divided nation.

In the 1960s, it was college students who told Lyndon Johnson he could not run for President again because he did not tell America the truth about why he was sending their friends to die in Vietnam.

And on September 11, 2001, it was firefighters and paramedics not much older than you who were running up the stairs of the World Trade Center while everyone else was running down.

Today, I am asking all of you to look at all the challenges we face in America and ask what you can do to get the job done. So that one day you can look back and say "I was there in 2004 when we changed America."

So I ask you not just to vote, but to tell your friends, register your classmates, and change a few minds along the way. 10 million college kids can easily take the $100 million in Republican attack ads they've got running.

So when it comes to good jobs, change starts with you.

When it comes to affordable tuition, change starts with you.

When it comes to serving America to build a better America, change starts with you.

When it comes to a safer foreign policy, a cleaner politics, and an America we can be proud of, change starts with you.

And when we win, change will go through our neighborhoods and our schools and our hospitals and our communities and it will reach every corner of America.

Change will start with you, and when we win, change will go all the way to the White House.

Don't doubt you can change the world. Only doubt those who say you can't.

You can build a better America. You can bring back hope. You can shape your future. You can make history.

And this year, that's exactly what we're gonna do. So let's go out there and get it done.

John F. Kerry, Remarks at the University of New Hampshire in Durham Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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