News Conference with Union Presidents
The Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC, November 12, 2003
MR. DEAN: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, President McEntee, President Stern, President Williams. (Audio problem.) We have a little feedback here. (Inaudible due to technical problem) -- try this. (Laughter.)
Let me thank you all very much. Don't you think black and purple and green look just great? (Cheers, applause.)
Gerry and Andy and Jim have talked a lot about what this election's about. What this election is about is about us. It's about what kind of a country we're going to have.
You know, we can go through the litany of all the things that George Bush has done to this country. But the bottom line is, I think that George Bush's motto in life is: If you're rich, you deserve it, and if you're poor, you deserve it. And I don't think that's the kind of country that I was taught to be proud of, and it's not the country we were taught to be proud of, and it's not the country we're going to have after January 20th of 2005. (Cheers, applause.)
This is an extraordinary thing, what you all have done over the last week. It's going to change America, because it's going to put working people back in the driver's seat in this country.
Imagine -- (applause) -- the president of the United States gave $3 trillion of our money away to Ken Lay and the boys who ran Enron; $600 billion to borrow, to give $2.4 trillion, so that the top 1 percent of people in America can have a $26,000 tax cut, where 60 percent of us got $304. And you know what? You didn't even get $304. Tell me what your kid's college tuition has done in the last year or so, tell me what your property taxes have done, because the president cut Pell grants, cut help for fire and police and first response and ambulance workers and health care workers all over America, so that he could give $3 trillion of our tax money to his friends, who write him $2,000 checks so he can reelected president. That is not going to happen. (Cheers, applause.)
We have built an enormous grass-roots organization in our campaign so far.
But what you have just done dwarfs even our organization: three million members between the three of you. Three million members. (Cheers, applause.) Let me share a little bit about our campaign.
Most of you know we raised a lot of money in the last quarter. Of course, it was only a third of what George W. Bush raised. But the important thing about what happened is we had over 200,000 people give us an average of $77 apiece.
We decided last week we were not going to take the public financing money because it would limit us to one-quarter of what the president was spending. So instead what we're going to do is reach out to two million Americans and ask them for a hundred dollars each, because I think there are at least two million who would give us or even borrow a hundred dollars so they could send George Bush back to Crawford, Texas. (Cheers, applause.)
We are going to reach into every corner of America with the group of people here today. We're going to stand up for ordinary working people who get up every day and work hard to keep food on their table for their kids and try to build a better life for themselves and their children. That's what the American dream is about. It's not about $26,000 tax cuts for the president's friends. It's about the people who built this country.
I just want to talk about a couple of things, and then-we won't make this too long. But the first thing I want to do is have health insurance for every man, woman and child in America. (Cheers, applause.)
In my state, many of you know, almost every child under 18 has health insurance -- 99 percent eligible. Everybody up to 150 percent of poverty, all our working poor people, have health insurance. One- third of all our seniors have prescription drug benefits. We got tired of waiting for Congress to do something about it. Since 1986 we just paid for it, mostly out of our own pocket.
Now, if we can do that in a small rural state -- 26th in income in the country-and still balance the budget, surely the most wealthy and powerful country on the face of the earth can join the British and the French and the Germans, the Japanese, the Irish, the Italians, the Greeks, the Israelis, the Canadians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Swedes, the Norwegians-all of them have health insurance for every single one of their people, and we should, too! (Cheers, applause.)
We -- (applause continues) -- I was in Iowa yesterday, or two days ago. Actually, yesterday and two days ago. And a guy told me the following story. He told me his father, who was quite elderly, and his mom were living in rural Iowa. And it got so that his father's blood pressure medications kept going up and up in price. And finally, one day, he went to the pharmacy to buy his blood pressure medication and his wife's medicine, and the pharmacist told him it was another $30 more than he thought, and he didn't have the money. So he just turned around and walked out with only his wife's medicines. Twelve days later, he died of a stroke, because he wanted to protect his wife's ability to stay healthy and stay alive on her medication. Can you imagine that happening in this country?
Do you know what the price of a health insurance program for every man, woman and child in America is, and for a drug benefit for seniors? It's a number that's going to be familiar to all of you. It's $87 billion a year for health insurance for every single man, woman and child. If the president can run that on our credit card and send the money to Iraq, he can put a health care right for every single people (sic), so we're not losing senior citizens in this country anymore. (Cheers, sustained applause.)
You know, I think for too long, Democrats in this country have been running away from Democrats. When I go around the country, I hear that sometimes, the Democrats around the country are madder at the Democratic Party in Washington than they are at the Republicans. We need to start with our base! We need to start with the people who have brung (sic) us to the dance, who have built the Democratic Party: women, African-Americans, Latinos, and the labor movement has been with us right from the beginning. (Cheers, applause.)
We're going to give the 50 percent of Americans who have given up on voting in this country a reason to vote again. And when they do -- (applause) -- and when they do, we're going to get them to the polls and we're going to have 3 or 4 million people that didn't vote the last time or voted for third-party people. And when we do that, we're going to have more votes than the president of the United States, and this time, the person with the most votes is going to the White House. (Cheers, applause.)
There is no reason to back off from being a strong supporter of organized labor. Let me tell you why. People forget that 125 years ago in this country, organized labor helped to build the most powerful country on the face of the Earth, because the reason we're the most powerful country on the face of the Earth is we've got the biggest middle class on the face of the Earth, people who are proud of our country, who are willing to serve in our military, who vote, and who hope that their kids will have a better life than they did.
And the labor movement made it possible to work in a mine or work in a factory or work in a nursing home or work for a public entity, such as a city or a town, or work in a police department, and make a living and join the middle class and be proud of our country and believe that the system works for all of us.
Well, this president has decided the system's going to work for him and his cronies and nobody else. And that is wrong. When we say we want our country back, we want our country back for the people who built this country, and that is you. (Cheers, applause.)
When I was 21 years old, it was towards the end of the Civil Rights Movement, and the country had paid a terrible price. Martin Luther King had been killed, Bobby Kennedy had been killed, other people had died, four little girls in a Birmingham church gave their lives, so that every single American could have equal rights under the law and the privilege of fully participating in the American dream.
But there were really good things that were happening, too. Medicare had passed, Head Start passed, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the first African American justice of the United States Supreme Court.
We felt that we were all in this together, that if one of us was left behind, the country couldn't be as good as it should be, or as strong as it could be, that everybody had to be in it, had to be in it together, that it wasn't enough for me to want good schools in Vermont, or you want good schools in your community, that you have an obligation as an American citizen, and I had one, too, to have good schools in Vermont and good schools in your community and good schools in Alabama and in Mississippi and in Oakland, California and Brownsville, Texas, too, that that was all of our responsibility, all of our responsibility, we were all in this together. That's the country we want back, the country when we were all in it together. (Cheers, applause.)
You know, this president ran as a uniter, not a divider. And that wasn't true. When the president used the word “quota” five or six times on the evening news, talking about the University of Michigan affirmative action program, not only did the most conservative Supreme Court since the Dred Scott decision disagree with him on that one, but every politician and every pollster in America knows that the word “quota” is a race-coded word which is deliberately designed to appeal to people's fears they're going to lose their job or their place in university to a member of a community in color. In other words, the president played the race card, and that alone entitles him to a one-way bus ticket back to Crawford, Texas. (Cheers, applause.)
I am tired to being divided by race in this country, Mr. President. I am tired of being divided by gender. I am tired of being divided by sexual orientation. I am tired to being divided by income. I am tired of being divided by religion. We are one America, all of us. And if AFSCME and SEIU and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades doesn't prove that by the rainbow that's in this room, I don't know who does. This is our America. We are going to take it back together.
Thank you very, very much. (Cheers, applause.)
And let me-let me close by saying what I always say: this is about two million people in this country giving a hundred dollars to send President Bush-that's the price of his bus ticket-back to Crawford, Texas. (Laughter.)
And I'm going to close by saying what I always say. The biggest lie that's told by people like me to people like you at election time is if you vote for me, I'm going to solve all your problems. Because the truth is, the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine. Abraham Lincoln said that a government of the people, for the people and by the people shall not perish from this earth.
This president has forgotten ordinary Americans. And you have the power to take back the Democratic Party and make us all proud to vote Democrat again. You have the power to take back this country so that the flag of the United States of America no longer becomes the property of John Ashcroft and Jerry Falwell and Rush Limbaugh, it belongs to all of us. (Applause.) And we have the power to take back the White House in 2004, and that is exactly what we're going to do!
Thank you very much. (Cheers, applause.)
Copyright 2003 Federal News Service, Inc.