Full Remarks Delivered at Concord State House
The Change We Need, September 2, 2007
Thank you so much. I have to say, standing there and listening to Bill and watching all of your faces brought back so many wonderful memories of our time here in ‘91 and ‘92. And I remember very well what life was like in New Hampshire during those years. A lot of people were losing their healthcare, a lot of homes were being foreclosed on, there was a lot of uncertainty about the economy. And then during the 1990s we didn’t have that level of anxiety and insecurity. Well it’s kind of an interesting coincidence, here we are in 2007, and the stories that I’m hearing from people in New Hampshire are about losing healthcare, about homes being foreclosed on, about insecurity and anxiety about the economy, and about the extraordinary anguish people feel about the war in Iraq. I am very proud of the record that my husband had when he was president for two terms, serving this country so well.And never forgetting what politics is supposed to be about. You know there, are a lot of ways people keep score, who’s up who’s down, who’s in who’s out. But the way that Bill and I think about it, and the way that we have worked to make a difference over so many years together is really pretty simple: Are people better off when you stopped than when you started? Have you given people a chance for their own future to be better, to live out the American dream for themselves and their children. And that’s really what this campaign is about. There’s a lot of the politics going on, and of course it will get even more intense and heated in the next four months. But it really does make a difference who we elect. Look at the difference that you’ve had here in New Hampshire with a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Legislature [inaudible].
It has been over 100 years since the Democrats ran New Hampshire, and it’s a pretty good feeling, isn’t it?
I want to thank our dear friend Sylvia Larsen, who is the President of the Senate. I also want to thank the Speaker of the House Terie Norelli. I love the fact that New Hampshire has these women in charge and they’re doing such a good job.
Look how much has been accomplished. A minimum wage increase, environmental protection, the civil unions bill, the smoking ban, and so much more. And it’s because people came together with a vision about what could be done to move this state forward. To preserve New Hampshire’s quality of life. And of course tomorrow is Labor Day. And I want to acknowledge all of the hard-working men and women, and all of the unions that have fought for so many decades to improve working conditions, to make sure that people have not just decent wages but living wages that would given them a middle class way of life.
So we’ve seen change here in New Hampshire. The question is, are you ready for change in the United States of America?
Are you ready for quality, affordable healthcare for every single American?
Are you ready for schools that are worthy of your children?
Are you ready for a President who respects science and listens to our scientists on global warming and stem cell research?
Are you ready for a vice-president who actually respects the constitution again?
And are you ready to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home?
Well if you’re ready for those changes and so much more, I am ready to lead, and I ask you to join our campaign. I want to set and achieve big goals for America again. When I was growing up, that’s what we believed in. We believed we could do anything we set our minds to. And we did. We have not only the greatest country in the history of the world, but we raised the standard of living, we opened up the doors of opportunity to tens of millions of hardworking, responsible Americans and their children. So let’s set some big goals. And here are my four big goals.
I want to restore America’s leadership in the world; I want to rebuild America’s middle class and the economy to support it; I want to reform our government; and I want to reclaim the future for our children.
We know the world is changing. In fact, there is very little we can do about a lot of the changes that are happening. It’s up to leadership to make change our friend. To figure out how we’re going to continue to create opportunity for all. When Bill was president he had a vision for how to prepare our country for the 21st century. And that’s why he worked to create 22 million new jobs and open the doors of college to so many more young people. He wanted to make sure that people were lifted out of poverty and during those eight years 100 times more people were lifted out of poverty than in the preceding twelve years. We were on the right track as a nation. We were headed with confidence and optimism into the future.
Now every election is about the future. And as proud as I am of my husband’s record of balancing the budget and creating a surplus and making social security secure for another 50 years, we live in a different world today. And so we have to take what is best about our past, and carry it forward, like pioneers going into a new terrain. We’ve got what we think we need, but we have to be adaptable and flexible and smart and strong about facing the challenges ahead of us. And if we look at those new challenges, they present opportunities as well.
The world has become flat, but that doesn’t mean that American wages have to remain flat, the way they have under George Bush and Dick Cheney.
We have had more people, for the first time, own their own homes, but that doesn’t mean our government has to stand on the sidelines as we have a credit crisis that is driving people into bankruptcy and foreclosure. We have seen our alliances become weaker. Too many of our enemies have become stronger and bolder. We now have, according to the latest census figures, 47 million Americans without healthcare. But that’s only half the story. Millions more with insurance can’t afford what they’re paying now. Premiums have doubled in the last six year. And a lot of people, when they actually need medical care, their insurance company says no. So we have a healthcare crisis, and it’s not just about the uninsured, it is about our entire healthcare system.
Everything from freedom of choice to our basic civil rights, our abilities to perform the most fundamental tasks of government, like rescuing people from a hurricane, which so disastrously two years ago turned into an international embarrassment, all of what we used to assume about our government and our country is at risk.
And our values are under assault by this administration and their ideological allies. If you look at what they have done, they have put cronyism about confidence, and they have put ideology above true leadership. Now think about it – for six and a half years they have had their way with our country. And what has been the result? Concentrated wealth. Hoarding power. Acting in secrecy. Disregarding science. Shredding the Constitution. Smearing dissenters. Going it alone in the world instead of cooperating to find common ground.
And that is why so many Americans today feel uneasy. We are worried about the future. The country that invented the future is now wondering what the future holds for us. They believe in government of the few, by the few and for the few and leadership that is closed to anyone who is not part of their club. They call it the ownership society. They own it, you work for it at the conditions that they dictate to you. And if you don’t like it? Well, you’re on your own. I call that the yo-yo society. They pull the strings and expect the rest of us to dance to their tune.
And look at what is happening. Middle class and hardworking families feel invisible. They don’t feel that their government even sees their problems. It’s not even that they feel their pain, they don’t even know there is pain. If you don’t have health insurance for your sick child, you’re invisible. If you’re a hard working single mom, and you can’t get affordable child care, you’re invisible too. If you’re a small business owner trying to pay your energy bills, whether it’s fueling up at the gas tank or paying for heating or cooling, you’re invisible as well. But I never thought I would see the day in America that our young men and women who served heroically and with distinction and great honor, would come home and be put in dilapidated facilities, not be taken care of, told to wait in line, be denied the basic compensation that they had earned serving us and wearing the uniform of our nation.
Well, for 35 years I have worked to make sure we have no invisible Americans. I have worked to give children healthcare and those who are abused and neglected a better chance to have a family that loved and cared for them, to improve education, to work to make it clear that we don’t have a person to waste in America. That we need to be visible to one another, we need to listen to one another, and we need to start working together. And I know we can start doing that again. I understand how difficult the challenges are but that’s who we are as Americans, and there is not a challenge we face that with the right leadership we cannot meet.
So what are the changes that we need?
Well, we need a 21st century progressive agenda to achieve those 4 big goals that I outlined.
First, to restore America’s leadership in the world we should end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home safely and responsibly as soon as possible.
We should combat terrorism, re-train and modernize our military and give our veterans the respect and care they deserve and have earned.
And as Bill said, I will be honored to become the President who reaches out to the world again. I won’t wait even until I’m inaugurated. As soon as I’m elected, I will ask distinguished Americans of both parties to travel the world not only to tell governments, but to tell the peoples of those countries, that America is back. We want a bi-partisan foreign policy. We want to work together. We can’t face any of these challenges alone.
Second, to rebuild the middle class we should provide quality affordable healthcare for every single American, no and’s, if’s, or but’s. That is the change that we need. In 2 weeks, I will be outlining how I intend to do that. I am very well aware of how difficult it will be having been through it before. But I am proud we tried to reform healthcare to provide it to everyone in 1993 and ‘94 and this time we will get the job done working together.
We need world class education starting with universal pre-kindergarten. We have to change No Child Left Behind so that it actually works for our teachers and our students. We need to make college affordable again, that is one of my principle goals. And let’s not forget all of the decent hardworking young people who don’t go to college. Let’s give them some skills training, apprenticeship programs and give them the kind of futures they deserve to have. We have to create new jobs to keep our economy dynamic and I think we can do that. It will not only be good to re-build the middle class, it will give a way in to the middle class for the poor. And we could never forget those who are poor among us. But the best answer to poverty is a good job with a rising wage that gives people dignity and respect and makes them feel like they’re part of America again.
So what we need to do is let’s rebuild our infrastructure. Let’s have a new energy policy and a global warming policy that will put millions of Americans to work again. And if we promote scientific innovation including stem cell research, and if we get back to permitting and encouraging people to organize and bargain together and have the right to a union, we will see what happened in the 40s, the 50s and the 60s happen again. We will see that tie that lifts all those folks and people will feel that once again America is working for all of us and that is my goal.
And while we’re at it, we’re going to return to fiscal responsibility and protect and preserve Medicare and Social Security so they’re always there. What President Bush has done is to have 2 overwhelming goals. Really, I can’t find any other goals but these two. Number 1, tax cuts for the wealthy. And number 2, the war in Iraq no matter what happens and what the evidence is. And how has he paid for it? Well he hasn’t done what every other President did when he took us to war. He has put it on the credit card. He has borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, and he has borrowed billions and billions of dollars from foreign countries. We cannot rebuild the middle class if we are in debt to China and other countries. And we’re going to get back on the road to fiscal responsibility and once again feel proud of who we are as Americans.
Third we are going to reform the government. We should end cronyism. We have to end the no bid contracts. We have to restore competence. I mean, that’s not exactly your typical applause line, but it’s true isn’t it? Just think how you felt 2 years ago watching on your television set when your fellow Americans were left behind. They were on rooftops. There were bodies floating down the streets and where was our President? Flying over, paying no attention. And when the people in his administration came to help, they were incompetent and indifferent. How about this for a new idea? Let’s appoint qualified people to do the jobs that we expect from the federal government of our country.
And fourth, we’re going to reclaim the future for our children. There’s a tribe in Africa – I think it’s the Masai. When you meet on the trail, they don’t say what we say here. We say to each other “How are you?” And most of the time we all say “Fine.” Sometimes we stop and tell the truth. But with the Masai, when someone meets another member of the tribe they say, “How are the children? Are the children well?” My fourth goal is to reclaim the future for all of our children.
Some of our children are doing fine. They have loving families with a good house and healthcare and good education. But they’re going into a world that is a lot less certain than the one we went into when I was their age. And then we have many many children who are poor, who are sick, who are neglected. As I was walking down the street on my way here I ran into a woman and her two sons and she said one of my sons has a serious medical condition. He’s had 4 open heart surgeries already. She said, I just can’t tell you what it’s like not knowing from day to day whether we’ll be able to pay for his healthcare. I want to be able to say to you as your President, our children are well. And the future we are creating for them is the future that we want for every single child, no matter whether they are ours or of someone living far far from our country.
Now, I think it’s fair to say how are we going to make these changes? Because you know, we have to start focusing on results not rhetoric; on people not process. Change is just a word without the strength and experience to make it happen. And I know some people think you have to choose between change and experience. Well with me, you don’t have to choose. I have spent my entire life fighting for change. As a citizen activist, as a young lawyer defending children trying to change the education system in Arkansas and bring healthcare to rural areas. The years in the White House fighting for healthcare and finally getting the Children’s Health Insurance program. And those years now in the Senate. I will bring my experience to the White House and begin to change our country starting on day one.
Because I know what we’re in danger of losing. I’m from a middle class family in the middle of the country. I was born in the middle of the last century which seems like a really long time ago now. My father was a World War 2 veteran who came home from service and began to start his own small business. He never believed in debt. No, he saved up the money to buy our house, he saved up the money to buy the cars we drove, never had a credit card.
My mother had a more difficult upbringing, never got to go to college, but believed with all of her heart in education and in the promise of this country and instilled those values in me. And I have tried to live by those lessons. My family and my church gave me a sense of obligation to other people-- that if you had something you were supposed to share it. You were supposed to do unto others as you hoped they would do unto you. That you should be living by the golden rule and our politics would be a lot better if we all lived by the golden rule instead of how we conduct it today.
So for me it was a privilege to try to do all the work I’ve done over all these years because what I care about is what actually happens in people’s lives. It’s not an abstraction for me. When I can help a father who calls me and says, “I don't know what I’ve done wrong. I’ve paid my premiums. I’ve always been a good employee and now the first time I need healthcare the insurance company tells me I can’t get my son the treatment he needs for the rare disease he’s suffering from.”
I will carry all these voices and all these faces with me into the Oval Office. I’ll remember the young woman who stood with me and tearfully told me about how she was being evicted from her home right here in New Hampshire or the father who said I sure hope you’ll let us do stem-cell research, my son is a juvenile diabetic.
All of these stories and hundreds and hundreds more will be there and reminding me everyday why I want to be your President. From my time in the White House and in the Senate, I have learned that you bring change by working in the system established in our Constitution. You cannot pretend that the system doesn’t exist.
Think about what it took for Teddy Roosevelt to take on the trusts or for Franklin Roosevelt to pass Social Security or for Lyndon Johnson to give us voting rights and Medicare. They got big things done because they knew that it was not just about the dream, it was about the results and that’s what we have to do again. We need to dream big, but then we have to figure out how to make those dreams a reality in the lives of Americans. That’s how we will get universal healthcare passed. That’s how we will take the tax subsidies away from the oil companies and get them to work until we have a green, clean, renewable fuel.
Over the past 14 years I’ve learned that when you want big changes, you need to build a consensus in America. We have 300 million people with 300 million opinions and we have to bring people together to find a way forward to solve our problems. Even a president has to get 60 votes in the Senate to pass a new law and that is a pain-staking roll up your sleeves process that involves a lot of preparation and just plain perspiration. Ultimately to bring change you have to know when to stand your ground and when to find common ground. You need to know when to stick to your principles and fight and know when to make principled compromises. You can’t be content with consensus and compromise alone or you’ll lose what you’re fighting for but you can’t always demand everything your own way, or you’ll never get anything done.
That’s why I’ve worked with my republican colleagues to get healthcare for our National Guard and reserve members. That’s why I’ve worked with republicans to get more people screened for cancer, to rebuild New York and to ensure firefighters like the one Bill met that they would get the healthcare they needed after 9/11. In New York I’ve reached out to every part of the state—parts where democrats were loved and parts where democrats were a novelty.
I believed in reaching out and bringing in as many voters as possible into that big tent that is the Democratic Party. And I won two landslide elections with support from every part of my state. And as president starting on day one I will reach out to every region, every state, every American who loves our country and is hungry for change.
I don’t think there are republican or democratic answers to the problems that face us. I don’t think there are right or left solutions. I think it’s time for us to start acting like Americans again and working together, rolling up our sleeves, to get where we know we need to go.
Now, there are some things we should never change and we should be prepared to fight for them. We should never privatize Social Security, we should not compromise on a women’s right to choose.
We cannot give an inch in the war against the terrorists who do wish us ill and harm. And we should now bow down on our obligation to form a more perfect union to achieve true equality for everyone regardless of race, or class, religion, or sexual orientation.
And we should not let our drive and our commitment for safety and security destroy our most precious fundamental Constitutional freedoms. I believe we can fight and win the struggle against terrorists without compromising our security or the future of our children or the values that we hold dear as Americans.
And I know there are many powerful interests that don’t believe in this vision- I’m fully aware of that, I’ve been fighting them all my life. I’ve been standing up to special interests and taking all their incoming fire for 15 years and guess what? I’m still standing and I’m proud to fight them every single step of the way.
Because when you’re fighting for what you believe in, when you believe in the change that is necessary, eventually we will get it done. If we don’t lose heart, if we have faith in who we are as Americans, we’re going to change this country and we’re not going to let anyone stand in the way.
When someone says to you we can’t both keep our country safe and uphold our constitution, I want you to say yes we can.
And when someone says to you we can’t deliver on universal healthcare because the special interests will block it, I want you to say yes we can.
And when someone says you can’t fight global warming without hurting the economy, I want you to say yes we can and create millions of green collar jobs in the process.
And when someone says we can’t end the war in Iraq and make America more secure, I want you to say yes we can.
And you know what? We will, when I am president.
And finally, when someone says—and I hear that occasionally someone says this-- that America can’t elect a women president, [Boos] I say come out on the campaign trail with me, see the children who are brought out to meet me, particularly the little girls whose mothers and fathers hold them up on their shoulders and whisper to them, see you can be whatever you want to be. There are no barriers or boundaries in America.
Or come with me and meet the women in their nineties who come to events even on a hot day like this—and their often smart enough to wear a hat. And they’ll come up to me and sometimes a family member will move their wheelchair up to me and ill bend over to thank them for coming and they’ll say, “I was born before women could vote and I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House.”
I believe that this nation can shatter the highest glass ceiling because that’s what Americans have been doing for 200 years.
I say electing the first woman president is just the beginning. We are and always will be the nation of new beginnings. As Dr Martin Luther King said, we are guided by the fierce urgency of now. We have an urgent need to change course in America—we all know it, democrats, republicans, independents. Now we just have to be sure we can get the job done. We have to have to have an election about the big issues, not about the stuff that’s forgotten tomorrow. We have to require that we all talk honest to you about what it will take to meet the challenges of today. But I believe with all my heart that with the right leadership and with Americans believing in our selves again win the goodness and the greatness of our country we are ready for all the change that we need to make. And if you are ready for change, I am ready to lead and I need you help to make it happen.
Thank you all and god bless you.