Martin O'Malley photo

Remarks at the Young Democrats of America Convention in Los Angeles, California

August 22, 2015

Thank you. Thank you very, very much.

It is wonderful to be here with all of you. I want to thank Atima Omara, your YDA president, Dina Cervantes, your convention host chair. Big round of applause for both of them, shall we? Eric Bowman, our Democratic Party vice president, and all the convention team and staff. Big round of applause.

It's really great to be with all of you, and I'm looking forward to talking with you afterwards, too. I'm going to mill about and look forward to meeting each and every one of you. I cannot thank you enough for the invitation to be with all of you today.

My name is Martin O'Malley.

I am not a former Republican. I am not a former Independent. I am not a former Socialist. I am a Democrat and I'm running for President of the United States.

And I am running for one reason—and one reason only—and that is to rebuild the truth of the American Dream we share, and I need your help.

I was just talking to the chair of the county Democrats, and I said, "You know what the young people of our Party should lead a movement on? Two constitutional amendments." And I know that you still have a few more days in your convention, so maybe there's a possibility to consider these.

One of the constitutional amendments that we need to pass, and work state by state to pass, is a constitutional right to vote. You guys can run with this ball.

The second one is a constitutional amendment to overturn one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of late, and that is Citizens United. Corporations are not people. I know if you run with both of those, I think they can be game-changers.

Let the other guys in the Republican Party explain to voters why they're against a constitutional right to vote, huh? Instead of nibbling around the edges, let's just go right to the heart of the matter.

Let's ask all of those guys on their debate stage whether or not they believe that corporations are people, huh? There are certain things we stand for as a country, and I know you guys carry those truths in your heart.

Let me share a couple thoughts with you, and as I do so I want to tell you that I really need your help.

I'll make a full pitch here, but there's not a doubt in my mind that there's a huge generational shift going on in our country. There's a new generation of leadership that's emerging throughout our nation, and all of you represent it here in this room.

You see, you and I are part of a living, self-creating mystery called the United States of America.

But the promise that's at the heart of that mystery is no abstraction.

It is the very concrete promise, the very real covenant between us as a people, if you will.

That whatever your parents' zip code, whatever your parents' or income, in our country you start where you start. But through your hard work you're able to get ahead.

So call it an economy that works, call it the American Dream. Whatever you call it, the truth of the matter is that it worked very, very well for us as a country for the better part of 240 years. That is, until we took a little bit of a detour down a path called trickle-down economics.

But it is not too late. It can work again. In fact our economy, our American economy should work for all of us and not just a few us.

Wages should rise—not fall—with productivity.

No American child should go to bed hungry every night.

Earning a college degree shouldn't saddle a student, or a whole generation of students and their parents, with a mountain of debt for the rest of their lifetimes.

And our parents and our grandparents should be able to live out their retirement years in security, not in poverty: with dignity, not having to choose between their medicine and their food.

These are also all of the pillars of the 15 Goals for Rebuilding the American Dream that I rolled out this week in Iowa, one by one, policy action by policy action, each one actually reinforcing the other and complimenting the other.

Bold ideas, concrete plans, actions to make our country stronger, to make the American Dream true again in the most important places in our country. Namely, the kitchen tables of every single American family.

Make no mistake about it: how you campaign determines how you govern, and how far you can go in governing.

The challenges of our times, the challenges of these times, actually the challenges of your times, demand a new way of leadership. What do I mean by that?

I mean that your baby-boomer parents and even grandparents were oftentimes accustomed to a way of leadership that was ideological, that was hierarchical, that was bureaucratic and riddled with -isms.

Where political authority was most often based on the rule of "because I said so."

But to solve the problems of a new day, you demand a new way of leadership, a new way of governing.

A new way of solving problems that is actually fundamentally entrepreneurial, that is collaborative in its method, and that is interactive in a relentless sort of way, asking the question always, "Does it work?" All legitimate authority resting on that question. Show me that it actually works.

There's a tremendous generational shift going on in our country, and that is why I wanted to be here. Sadly, most of the established leaders of our own Party don't even see that it's coming.

What does it tell you that six months out from the first primaries and caucuses of our Party's presidential nomination, I am the only one of our presidential candidates that took the time and wanted to be here with you?

Let me talk with you about this generational shift and why it is I believe that our Party would be best served by having more debates and having them now.

On one side of this generational shift—on your parent's side, if you will—there is a tremendous amount of oftentimes unspoken fear, anger, or worse: resignation.

On your side there is fearlessness, there is hope, and an unrelenting resolve to make better.

What I am talking about is this: most of your parents and grandparents are plagued by a low-grade fear that they can barely even give voice to. It is the fear that by neglecting our country, we have given you a future of less: less opportunity, less health, less prosperity, and less security.

Younger Americans, on the other hand, that I've had conversations with all across our country, understand that fear and anger never built a great country and never was very good at solving problems.

You are too focused on the urgency and opportunity of now to waste time and energy on resignation.

If you want to know where our country is headed, talk to her young people, young Americans especially under 30, as I have all across our country.

You will rarely meet among the young Americans people who deny that climate change is real or think that their country shouldn't do something about it.

You will rarely find among young Americans under 30, people who want to bash New American immigrants, or deny rights to gay couples and their children and families.

There's no doubt in my mind that the country you carry in your hearts is a stronger America, a more compassionate and generous America, a more loving, honest, and life-giving America.

The political question at hand in this presidential election is whether we advance the arrival of that country we carry in our hearts sooner rather than later, or whether we take a bad detour through a nation of fear and loathing.

I believe that we need to move forward.

Did you watch that Republican debate last week? Anyone want to admit watching the Republican debate last week? It was like a bad episode of that Johnny Knoxville series, wasn't it?

You didn't hear one word about climate change. Or the minimum wage. Or voting rights. Not. One. Word.

You did hear talk of raising the retirement age for senior citizens, about cutting taxes for billionaires. You heard all sorts of hateful language about immigrants and all sorts of denigrating language about women.

Welcome to today's Republican Party.

Their party once had leaders and visionaries. Lincoln asserted our unity, didn't he? And our common humanity. Eisenhower liberated the world and built our nation's highway system to connect us.

Now Republicans create traffic jams, denigrate New American immigrants and women, and dismiss everything from climate science to vaccines. Give them a few more weeks and they'll be shunning Copernicus.

We need new leadership, not new hates. And today, for the progress of our nation, that leadership must come from the Democratic Party!

I am not the only candidate for President who holds progressive values, but I am the only candidate for President with fifteen years of executive experience—as a big-city mayor and as a governor—turning those progressive values into progressive realities, progressive results, progressive accomplishments.

It's about getting things done. What do I mean?

In Baltimore, we saved lives by reducing record-high violence to record lows, and we helped thousands of our courageous neighbors free themselves from the scourge of drug addiction.

Actions, not words.

When I ran for governor of Maryland, we set out bold goals. And I did something that the political consultants say you're not supposed to do: attaching deadlines within your term of office to those goals.

And I led my state forward to making nation-leading progress even in the face of a recession.

Instead of cutting public education, we actually increased public education funding by 37%, and we made our schools the best in America five years in a row.

Those were actions, not words.

In Maryland, we defended the highest median income in the nation all through the recession and created jobs at a faster rate than our neighbors north or south.

Actions, not words.

We froze college tuition for four years in a row.

Actions, not words.

We expanded family leave and voting rights, we passed Driver's licenses for New American immigrants, and we banned the sale of assault weapons.

Actions, not words.

We fought for the DREAM Act, we fought for Marriage Equality, and we defended them at the ballot, and we won!

All of those were actions, not words. The ability to form a new consensus.

In tougher times than these, young Democrats, Franklin Delano Roosevelt told our grandparents not to be afraid. John Kennedy told our parents in changing times that "to govern is to choose."

I say to you that progress is choice. Job creation is a choice. Whether or not we make our country weaker or stronger, this too is a choice. And you and I have work to do.

True story: my wife, Katie, and I have four kids. Two boys, two girls. Our oldest daughter, Grace, is 24 years old. She is heading into her third year as a first-grade teacher. Teach For America, at Walter P. Carter Elementary School in Baltimore City.

A couple months ago, after her father had announced for president, there was a buzz in her school when Miss O'Malley returned to her first-grade class: adorable 100% African-American kids, eager and ready to learn.

And one little girl in her classroom tugged her on the sleeve, true story, and said to her, "Miss O'Malley? I'm not so sure about this idea of your father running for president, because quite frankly I kind of like Barack Obama."

Well a lot of us like Barack Obama. We have come a long way as a nation since the Wall Street crash and the Bush Recession of 2008.

As our country teetered on the brink of a second Great Depression by the recklessness on Wall Street and the home-grinding machines of foreclosures, we elected a new leader in Barack Obama to move our country forward, and that is exactly what he's done!

A lot of the decisions that he had to make individually were not popular. We don't elect presidents to be popular; we elect them to make the right decisions to move our country forward.

And get this, this is the good news: our country is doing better. We can see that in 65 months in a row of positive month-over-month job creation. That's the good news.

But here is, my fellow Democrats, the tough truth of our times: 70% of us are still earning the same or less than we were twelve years ago. That is not how our country is supposed to work. There is still a growing, compounding injustice in our country and economic inequality that threatens, quite literally, to tear us apart.

Wealth and power—over the course of these last thirty or forty years of trickle-down and sometimes trickle-down light, and sometimes Democrats not having the spine to stand up for the more common-sense economics that our parents and grandparents practiced—we have so concentrated wealth and power in the hands of so few that it is literally taking opportunity out of the homes, and the wallets, and the neighborhoods of the many.

This did not happen by accident.

Powerful, wealthy special interests in our own country used our government to create an economy that is leaving a majority of our people behind, where we work harder but we do not get ahead.

My father went to college after flying 33 missions over Japan in a B-24 liberator. He went to college on the G.I. Bill.

Just two generations later, my daughters went to college and our whole family got saddled with a mountain of bills.

We are the only nation on the planet that saddles our college graduates with a mountain of debt that they will be paying off for a lifetime, and it doesn't have to be this way.

Get this: last year, Wall Street bonuses alone totaled twice what every American working at minimum wage earned combined. That's not an economy that's working for all of us.

Tell me how it is that not a single Wall Street CEO was ever convicted of a single crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown. Not a single one.

What have we come to as a nation that you can get pulled over for a broken tail light, but if you wreck the nation's economy you are untouchable? What's that about?

That's not the American Dream. That's not how our country is supposed to work, and that's not how our economy is supposed to work.

The genius of our nation is that in every generation we take action to include more and more of our people, more fully in the economic, in the social, and in the political life of our country. That's our formula. That's what makes us great. That's what makes our economy grow.

That's the formula we followed in Maryland. We didn't try to cut our way to prosperity. We made the investments that included more of our people with higher levels of skills. We made it easier, not harder, for people to vote. It's about including more people in the life of our country.

In other words the good news, my friends, is this: in order to continue this work and build upon the good things that we have done for the last eight years under president Obama's leadership, we need only return to our true selves and remember:

Our economy is not money; it is people. It is all of our people.

A stronger middle class is not the consequence of economic growth; it is the cause of economic growth.

No American family who works hard and plays by the rules should have to raise their children in poverty, and so yes, we must raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, however we can and wherever we can!

We must return to the economic justice of paying overtime pay for overtime work!

We must make it easier and not harder for workers to join labor unions and collectively bargain for better wages for all of us!

We must advance the cause of paid family leave so that women can participate fully in the economic life of our country, because when women succeed, America succeeds!

Last week, I put forward 15 Goals to Rebuild the American Dream we share, and to make it true in the homes of all Americans:

Improving the net median wealth of American families by at least $25,000 in ten years.

Increasing wages by 4 percent a year within four years,

Cutting Youth Unemployment in half within 3 years, with national service and the other things that actually work to put our people to work.

Full employment for American veterans, and instead of cutting Social Security, we need to expand Social Security!

In our country, there is no such thing as a spare American.

And so we must reform our criminal justice system to save more lives, redeem more lives, and to reduce our appallingly high incarceration rate as a nation.

And if you want wages to go up, then let's bring 11 million our neighbors out of the underground shadow economy and into the full light of an open on-the-books American economy with immigration reform!

Comprehensive immigration reform. What has made us great generation after generation is that we have attracted the best and the brightest from all over the world. They have made our country a stronger and better place.

What have we come to now that we are so gridlocked in Washington that we can't do what's best for our nation's economy and our nation's security? But we can spend money on chain-link fence and barbed wire to intern women and children and families.

That's not my America, and that's not the America you carry in your hearts.

The enduring symbol of the America that you carry in your hearts is not chain link and barbed wire. It is the Statue of Liberty!

So let's take action, shall we? Let's take the actions necessary to make a debt-free college degree something that's available to every American family within the next five years!

And let's, as Americans and the great nation that we are, square our shoulders to the challenge of our times by moving America forward to a 100% clean electric grid by 2050, and create 5 million jobs along the way!

We are standing on the threshold of a new era of American progress.

Together we have to take the actions necessary to walk through that door, to rebuild America's cities and towns as places of justice and opportunity.

To invest in our infrastructure, not just clean air, but clean water and better transportation. These are only things that we can do for ourselves

China's not going to do it for us, India's not going to do it for us. This is our country. We're Americans. We need to make the investments in our country in order to make real the promise of opportunity for all.

None of these things can happen by themselves. They happen because of the actions that we take.

There are also a few things that we need to stop doing, though, as a Party. One of them is giving a free pass to the bullies of Wall Street to run rough-shod over the best interests of the American people.

We must reinstate Glass-Steagall and restore robust prosecution to Wall Street.

And if a bank is too big to fail, too big to jail, and too big to manage, then it's probably too damn big, and it needs to be broken up before it breaks up our economy again.

We also need to learn from the past. We need to build a much more circulatory economy here in the United States, mindful of life-cycle cost, of consumption and production, and the need for employment here at home.

That is why I am against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the fast-tracking of American jobs and corporate profits abroad!

It's not what other countries are doing to us. It is what we are not doing for ourselves!

We need to build up our own American economy. These are the goals worthy of a great people. These are the actions that will give our children a stronger country and more opportunity.

I leave you with these words:

The great poet laureate of the American Dream, Bruce Springsteen, once asked:


Is a dream a lie, if it don't come true?

Or is it something worse?

Whenever a nation reaches the point in her history that we have reached, of such extreme income inequality, there are only two paths forward. Just two.

Only one of them is good. That is a sensible rebalancing based on the belief we share and the dignity of every person, and based in an awareness that we share a common good as a people.

The other path is pitchforks, or stones, or rocks—more of them in the hands of more and more unemployed, angry, and desperate young men who feel they're unneeded, unwanted, and unnecessary in their own country.

I vote for a sensible rebalancing, and I bet you do as well.

But I need your help.

I want you to be my state coordinators of this presidential campaign; I want you to be my county coordinators of this history-changing presidential campaign. I want you to run as delegates to the national convention for this campaign.

So I am going to be hanging out afterwards, and I'm going to have some able staff with me.

If you have both the courage and the inclination to join me in this march across the battlefield of democracy, see me afterwards and I will give you a rank of responsibility that no other campaign can give you.

Within this very hall are the leaders of the Democratic Party who can win this presidential contest for the country we carry in our hearts.

Together, we can forge a new consensus for progress, we can make and re-make our country and our world.

I know that some in our Party who pat you on the head and tell you, "You're going to inherit this party someday."

That's nonsense. This Party is already. This party is yours right now! Think about it.

Think about this:

In 2012, Mitt Romney won a majority of the votes cast by Americans over 30, but Barack Obama won a vast majority of votes cast by Americans under 30.

This Party is already yours. Their Party looks to the past; our Party looks to the future.

Without you, there is no Democratic Party.

I know that there are some in our Party with positions of great responsibility, even those that tell us we've become such an impoverished Party we can only afford one debate in Iowa before the Iowa caucuses. They will tell you that we've become so poor as a party that we can only afford one debate in New Hampshire. And they are the same people that will tell you that "one day, you will inherit this country."

Horse hockey! This country is your country right now. You take it where you want to take it!

Does anyone seriously believe that marriage equality would be the law of the land in the United States today without younger people showing us the way forward?

Teaching us how to recognize the human dignity in one another, not only in the law but in our hearts?

Without you we cannot confront climate change, without you we cannot pass immigration reform, without you we cannot make our economy work again for all of us.

But with you, we can.

That is why this election isnt about the power of the Koch Brothers.

It's not about Donald Trump, or big money and the hate that seeks to poison our politics.

It's about us. It's about you and me. Us: U, period, S, period.

It is about whether or not we still have the grit, still have the determination, still have the compassion for one another to make our country a better place by forging a new consensus for progress!

I believe we do, and I am betting you believe it as well.

So join me in this fight for the country we carry in our hearts!

Join me for the better future we can make together!

The affirmation for the duty we have to transform our nation.

This is our country now right now and together let's make the most of her!

Thank you all very, very much.

Related Images

NOTE: Remarks as delivered.

Martin O'Malley, Remarks at the Young Democrats of America Convention in Los Angeles, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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