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Graham Formally Enters White House Contest

Sen. Bob Graham (Fla.) officially announced his candidacy for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday. Following is the text of his prepared remarks, delivered in his hometown of Miami Lakes, Fla.

We are gathered here today because this is where the future is built. In communities across America. And especially in places like Florida.

This land at the southern tip of the United States has lured people for centuries with the promise of a better future.

But we Floridians know well that a dynamic future rests on a fragile foundation: an environment we must protect; diversity we must nurture; values we must safeguard; families and communities in which we must invest.

We know we will be judged by whether we leave our children and grandchildren an America that is better than the one we inherited.

I am an optimist. America’s best days are still ahead of us. Yet, realizing that future starts with an honest assessment of where we are today.

In too many ways, the current Administration in Washington has diminished our inheritance.

President Bush took office at a time of unparalleled prosperity and historic budget surpluses — when America counted itself not only the strongest but also the most admired nation in the world.

Today, barely two years later, we live in a very different America:

  • The stock market has lost nearly one-quarter of its value
  • 2 million more Americans are jobless
  • 1.4 million more of us lack health insurance
  • Budget surpluses have turned into the deepest deficits in history
  • And our country is viewed with increased hostility, not just by those who hate and threaten America but even by those who share our values.

For more than 200 years, this country has enjoyed phenomenal growth and success because of our commitment to a universal system of public education.

For nearly a century, Social Security has been a cornerstone of economic security for all Americans.

For nearly a half-century, Medicare has guaranteed every older American the basic medical care they need from the doctor of their choice.

Through four decades, America has recognized the need to promote, and not just pay lip-service to, civil rights and opportunity for all Americans.

For well over a generation we have improved the quality of life of every American with cleaner air to breathe and water to drink.

For as long as any of us can remember, America was a beacon for the world.

Yet on all these basic American values, the Bush Administration has reneged on America’s promise and jeopardized our future.

Even in this Administration’s singular success — military victory in Iraq — it has departed from historic American values and policies.

Americans have never cowered from facing down aggression abroad — we freed Europe from Hitler and Kuwait from Saddam Hussein.

I am proud to have been among the few Democratic Senators to vote to authorize the use of force against Saddam by the first President Bush in 1991.

Yet, instead of pursuing the most imminent and real threats to our future -— terrorism — this Bush Administration chose to settle old scores.

It is time to bring America back — back to an emphasis first and foremost on protecting our own citizens.

We honor the service and the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

However, this Administration has ignored homeland security in all but name while it focused all its energy on Iraq.

We all agree that Saddam Hussein is an evil man — but he was not our biggest threat.

I know firsthand as former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee how little this Administration has done to provide real security at home while it has directed its attention away from the war on terror abroad.

It is time to bring America back — back from one of our longest economic slowdowns ever — and the only economic slowdown since, well, since the last time a Bush was in the White House.

It is painfully clear the President has no economic policy other than tax cuts for the very wealthy.

He shows no sign of knowing how to lead us back to economic prosperity.

We need a president who will bring America back — back to economic health with policies that invest in our people and their future.

It is time to bring America back — back to fiscal integrity.

The last Democratic administration not only put this country back on the road to fiscal solvency, it produced the biggest budget surpluses in the nation’s history.

The Bush Administration has squandered it all.

We need a president who will fight for our nation’s economic future instead of the short-term interests of a special few.

And most of all — most of all — it is time to bring America back together.

This President sought office claiming to be a uniter not a divider — but he has united us only in our pride and support for our fighting men and women.

He has otherwise pursued a divisive domestic agenda.

He has talked the language of diversity and opportunity — but walked away from doing anything to promote them.

As their friends at corporations like Enron pillaged the economy and the retirement hopes of millions of Americans — as the stock market’s fall robbed even more millions of their savings — as executives raised their own salaries while firing workers — this Administration has answered with damning indifference.

They have divided our nation between the few at the top whom they serve and the many who are left to fend for themselves with the moral equivalent of duct tape.

We have increasingly become two Americas.

We must become one America again — an America energized with optimism — an America that continues its never-ending experiment of democracy — an America that looks to the dawn and the spring — an America whose sights are higher, never lower, whose aspirations are greater, never lesser.


I am running for President to bring back our economy.

As Governor, I led in the creation of over one million new jobs, invested in Florida’s housing and infrastructure, and still kept the tax burden one of the lowest in the nation.

As a Senator, I helped pass an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, tax breaks for small businesses and homeowners and tax deductions to help pay for college tuition.

As President, I will revive the economy with needed investments in transportation and education, and targeted tax cuts.

That’s not just my promise — that’s the promise of America.

I am running for President to bring back fiscal responsibility.

As a Governor, I balanced eight budgets.

As a Senator, I’ve fought to eliminate the deficit, and promote fiscal prudence.

I voted against the President’s tax giveaways in 2001, and — unlike others who seek to replace him now — I voted against the same ill-advised policies again in 2003.

As President, I will pass on to our children and grandchildren a strong and growing economy, not a burden of debt.

That’s not just my promise — that’s the promise of America.

I am running for President to bring back America’s commitment to protecting our families’ health, promoting our children’s education, and preserving our environmental heritage.

As governor, I raised education standards, increased accountability and teacher salaries, and built new schools.

I’ve worked across party lines to craft a bipartisan Medicare prescription drug plan that helps seniors, not the drug companies.

I’ve launched efforts to save our everglades, our coast and beaches, our scenic and wild rivers, and our wetlands.

That’s not just my promise — that’s the promise of America.

I am running for President to bring back a focus on America’s security.

In the Senate, I helped lead the fight to mandate the first federal security standards for our nation’s ports, spearheaded the investigation of 9-11, and even before that tragedy, started the process of strengthening and reforming our Intelligence Agencies.

As President, I will make sure homeland defense consists of more than just plastic wrap.

And that’s not just my promise — that’s the promise of America.

As president, I will bring America back — back to the values of our past and the promise of our future.

And most of all, back together — as one America.

In our America, people at the top don’t play by different rules.

In our America, people work together.

In our America, leaders listen.

I’ve spent my life listening to the voices of America.

I’ve spent it working with America’s people.

I’ve worked construction, and taught in our schools.

I’ve worked as a short-order cook and a security guard.

I’ve worked on the docks and on assembly lines.

I’m proud that many of the people I’ve worked with side-by-side over the years are here with us today.

And just as they are standing with me, throughout my career I have stood with them.

Working with Americans to me has meant learning from Americans.

At a time when we have a president who does not share their problems and concerns, but favors special interests over their own, it exemplifies the values to which we must return.

Those are the values I was raised with in the days when this community was still a farm and Florida was still a frontier.

My father was a dairy farmer.

He worked hard from sun to sun to carve his livelihood out of the edges of the Everglades.

Only 5 miles from this spot, he taught me how to work the land — and how to love it.

He taught me how to value a dollar — and to build a new community, this community that remains my home to this day.

Adele and I and our 4 daughters graduated from public schools.

Our grandchildren of school age attend public schools.

My mother, my wife, and two of my daughters have all been teachers.

They have constantly reminded me of the importance of education and of opportunity — to each and every child … to all Americans.

Most of all, here at home I learned the importance of family.

My greatest influences were my father and mother.

My greatest counselors and advisors have been my brothers.

My greatest source of support has been my wife of 44 years, Adele.

And the greatest inspiration for all I do is my four daughters — Gwen, Cissy, Suzanne, and Kendall — and my 10 grandchildren: They represent the future.

This election is about their future — and the futures of every child, in every town and city, in every family across America.

That’s why this election is so important.

It’s why I’m running.

And why I ask you to join me in bringing America back to its historic role — as one nation — under God — indivisible — with liberty — and justice — for all.

And that is truly the promise of America.

Thank you and God Bless America!

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