Remarks of Gov. Tim Kaine as Prepared for Delivery
Kaine Elected DNC Chairman
Washington, DC-The following prepared remarks were delivered at the Democratic National Committee's Winter Meeting in Washington, DC:
Good afternoon. I'm proud to be among so many friends and I want to thank President Obama and the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee for inviting me here today.
I also want to thank Howard Dean for his remarkable service to our party and our country. I have no doubt that our future success will be in no small part due to the incredible work of Governor Dean-and I am well aware of the big shoes I have to fill following on the heels of a certain 50-state strategy that made us competitive in places we never thought possible.
I'm honored by the opportunity to channel my faith and passion for good government into an unstoppable movement for change in this country-and I'm eager to turn a commitment to the success of visionaries like Barack Obama and Howard Dean into the continued success of the Democratic Party and a generation of leaders to come.
Last November 4th was an incredible moment not just for our party but also for our country. That night I sat with my family as Barack Obama made history when he delivered his presidential victory speech. Watching him speak, I was filled with wonder at the strength of the American people. On that day, even in the midst of two wars and a crippling economic crisis, millions of people walked into their voting booth and chose hope. That spirit of optimism-the belief that yes, we can change our country by working hard and casting a vote-is the strength of our great party. It is what makes me a Democrat.
It's humbling to think of the path that led me here today.
I grew up in Kansas City working in my Dad's ironworking shop. From my parents and teachers, I absorbed the basic lessons of hard work, faith, and responsibility for others. From my earliest awareness of politics, I was drawn to the Democratic Party of John and Bobby Kennedy and "the man from Independence" Harry S. Truman.
I attended the University of Missouri and Harvard Law School. While I was at Harvard, I made one of the real momentous decisions in my life. I took a year off school to go work with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras. My mentor there, Brother Jim O'Leary, taught me about "andando con la gente"-"walking with the people." I came back with new lessons in humility and service, and I resolved to devote my talent and energy to helping others.
The truth is, I never thought I would have a career in politics. Fighting for civil rights in the courtroom and serving my community through my church and other organizations were fulfilling-and more than enough to keep me busy. But after I'd been in Richmond for a few years, I grew tired of the internal divisions that kept city government from moving Richmond forward. People got along fine. But in my city-a city with a history-there was far too much division among the people we had chosen to serve us. I thought my family and my neighbors deserved better and I thought I could help, so in 1994, I ran for a seat on the City Council.
That was 15 years and six elections ago, and I have been in office ever since as a Councilman, Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, and now, Governor of Virginia.
During that time I've learned a few things about how to organize and how to win. The best lesson I've learned-one that applies to politics in Virginia as well as the rest of the country-is that we don't win races just because of the "D" after our names. We win because we have made the Democratic Party stand for something in people's minds...
...We are the problem solvers-not the ideologues.
... We are the unifiers-not the obstructionists or gridlock masters.
...We reject the politics of anger and fear and embrace the values of hard work and equality.
...We don't rally the 52 percent by figuring out new ways to demonize or marginalize the 48 percent.
...We offer a positive vision for the country based on the core values of our party.
I've had the pleasure of working with Mark Warner, Jim Webb, and many others to help birth a renaissance of the Democratic Party in Virginia. When I was elected Governor just three years ago, Virginia had two Republican Senators, a Congressional delegation with an 8-3 Republican majority, two state legislative houses that were 60% Republican-and a 44-year dry spell since we last voted for a Democrat for President.
Today, we have two Democratic Senators, a 6-5 Democratic Congressional delegation, a Democratic State Senate, and a State House where the Republican margin has fallen from 30 seats to 5. Best of all, we produced a convincing win and helped make my friend, Barack Obama, President of the United States.
Last November 4th was the culmination of so many hopes and dreams-for me but also for so many others who've walked similar paths and are now looking ahead to the incredible future in store for the country.
We've got challenges ahead of us-make no mistake. But we also have a once in a lifetime chance to transform this country so that the dreams we have for our children and our grandchildren can come true. We all fought for "change we can believe in" and now it's up to all of us to make it real.
It's my honor to help lead this great party and to grow the movement built by our new President during these times of incredible challenge and incredible opportunity.
In Virginia, our political success is directly related to the progress we have made on behalf of the citizens who chose us to lead. During my term as Governor, Virginia has been named the best state for business; the best managed state; and the best state to raise a child to for lifetime success. The 2008 elections proved once again that Americans want leaders who offer solutions-not ideology and partisan rhetoric. November 4th proved the axiom "Good policy is good politics"-and it's one of the many lessons I learned in Virginia that will guide me as I serve as Chairman of the DNC. I'm proud of the progress we have made in the Commonwealth-and I am looking forward to bringing our approach to the national level.
There's no question it'll be hard to match Howard Dean's record as chairman of this party. His 50-state strategy was simple and powerful. The Obama campaign adopted it and the results speak for themselves.
The basic point-and the principle I'll carry with me as DNC Chair-is that everybody matters...
...You don't have to be a big donor for your donation to matter.
...You don't have to be an expert for your idea to matter.
...You don't have to be a full-time campaign worker for your effort to matter.
I will be true to that strategy-every state, every community, every person matters.
Together, we'll do some new things-because we can never rest on what worked yesterday. But we will never again as a party write off states or regions or people.
As you know, President Obama began his career as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago. He learned firsthand what individual citizens could achieve by reaching out to their friends and neighbors and encouraging them to act for a cause. That organizer's spirit was central to the campaigns of Democrat after Democrat in 2008-and I pledge as DNC Chair to continue to strengthen our party from the grassroots up.
I don't have to tell you this is a difficult time in our nation's history and we will have to be tough-and compassionate-to get through it. We need to stand proudly for our party and beliefs, while also extending a hand to others so that we can unify our country.
So, during my term as DNC Chair, I hope to do three things: I want to promote this president's agenda. I want to carry the proud banner of a proud party. And I want to work to creatively engage citizens in new ways to be active in civic life through this party.
First, I will be a passionate and positive promoter of President Obama's agenda. Whether they voted for him or not, it is in the best interest of every American for Barack Obama to succeed as President. Throughout his campaign, President Obama promised to usher in a new kind of American politics-and I'm eager to help him make good on that promise. The challenges facing our citizens and our nation are too great to tolerate the division and bickering that so often characterize our politics. We can get our country moving forward again, but only if we will enlist the help of all Americans, from all perspectives and all walks of life.
Second, I will carry a proud banner for a proud party. The Democratic Party has a long pedigree and a great history of fighting for the things we believe to be right. We share a belief in the equality of all, a commitment to the lifting and leveling power of education, and a faith in the dignity of work. We believe in the power of innovation in America, in our responsibilities to each other, and especially in the need to lift up the least-advantaged among us. We believe in a strong America: militarily, economically, diplomatically-and in our moral example to the world.
My third goal, and one of the most exciting parts of my new role as DNC Chair is to work with President Obama to engage people in new ways-and to broaden what he likes to call the "Coalition for Change" in America. This past election proved that our country is at its best when its citizens are informed and engaged in a public discussion about the future. Uniting Americans to meet the uncommon challenges we face will be the central focus of my work at the DNC.
It will take courage, hope, and hard work. And it will take the faith and support of all of you.
Today I take on the responsibility of chairing the DNC with pride about what we've just done-but also with a deep sense of what we have yet to accomplish. So many Americans are hurting in this economy. Our world is wracked by one challenge after the next. But November 4th produced a powerful optimism around this nation and around the world. I want to work with all of you to build on that hope-for a stronger party and a stronger country.