April 28, 2007
Turn The Page Speech
California Democratic National Convention
INTRODUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED IN TRANSCRIPT
It has now been a little over two months since we began this campaign.
In that time we have traveled all across this country. And before
every event we do, I usually have a minute to sit quietly and collect
my thoughts. And recently, I’ve found myself reflecting on
what it was that led me to public service in the first place.
I live in Chicago
now, but I am not a native of that great city. I moved there when
I was just a year out of college, and a group of churches offered
me a job as a community organizer so I could help rebuild neighborhoods
that had been devastated by the closing of steel plants.
The salary was
$12,000 a year plus enough money to buy an old, beat-up car, and
so I took the job and drove out to Chicago, where I didn’t
know a soul. And during the time I was there, we worked to set up
job training programs for the unemployed and after school programs
And it was the
best education I ever had, because I learned in those neighborhoods
that when ordinary people come together, they can achieve extraordinary
After three years,
I went back to law school. I left there with a degree and a lifetime
of debt, but I turned down the corporate job offers so I could come
back to Chicago and organize a voter registration drive. I also
started a civil rights practice, and began to teach constitutional
And after a few
years, people started coming up to me and telling me I should run
for state Senate. So I did what every man does when he’s faced
with a big decision – I prayed, and I asked my wife. And after
consulting those two higher powers, I decided to get in the race.
I’d go, I’d get two questions. First, they’d ask,
“Where’d you get that funny name, Barack Obama?”
Because people just couldn’t pronounce it. They’d call
me “Alabama,” or they’d call me “Yo Mama.”
And I’d tell them that my father was from Kenya, and that’s
where I got my name. And my mother was from Kansas, and that’s
where I got my accent from.
And the second
thing people would ask me was, “You seem like a nice young
man. You’ve done all this great work. You’ve been a
community organizer, and you teach law school, you’re a civil
rights attorney, you’re a family man – why would you
wanna go into something dirty and nasty like politics?”
And I understand
the question, and the cynicism. We all understand it.
it because we get the sense today that politics has become a business
and not a mission. In the last several years, we have seen Washington
become a place where keeping score of who’s up and who’s
down is more important than who’s working on behalf of the
We have been told
that our mounting debts don’t matter, that the economy is
doing great, and so Americans should be left to face their anxiety
about rising health care costs and disappearing pensions on their
told that climate change is a hoax, that our broken schools cannot
be fixed, that we are destined to send millions of dollars a day
to Mideast dictators for their oil. And we’ve seen how a foreign
policy based on bluster and bombast can lead us into a war that
should’ve never been authorized and never been waged.
And when we try
to have an honest debate about the crises we face, whether it’s
on the Senate floor or a Sunday talk show, the conversation isn’t
about finding common ground, it’s about finding someone to
blame. We’re divided into Red States and Blue States, and
told to always point the finger at somebody else – the other
party, or gay people, or immigrants.
For good reason,
the rest of us have become cynical about what politics can achieve
in this country, and as we’ve turned away in frustration,
we know what’s filled the void. The lobbyists and influence-peddlers
with the cash and the connections – the ones who’ve
turned government into a game only they can afford to play.
They write the
checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while
you get to write a letter, they think they own this government,
but we’re here to tell them it’s not for sale. People
tell me I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of
Washington. But I promise you this – I’ve been there
long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change. I’m
running for President because the time for the can’t-do, won’t-do,
won’t-even-try style of politics is over. It’s time
to turn the page. There is an awakening taking place in America
today. From New Hampshire to California, from Texas to Iowa, we
are seeing crowds we’ve never seen before; we’re seeing
people showing up to the very first political event of their lives.
coming because they know we are at a crossroads right now. Because
we are facing a set of challenges we haven’t seen in a generation
– and if we don’t meet those challenges, we could end
up leaving our children a world that’s a little poorer and
a little meaner than we found it.
And so the American
people are hungry for a different kind of politics – the kind
of politics based on the ideals this country was founded upon. The
idea that we are all connected as one people. That we all have a
stake in one another.
I learned as a state Senator in Illinois. That you can turn the
page on old debates; that it’s possible to compromise so long
as you as you never compromise your principles; and that so long
as we’re willing to listen to each other, we can assume the
best in people instead of the worst.
we were able to reform a death penalty system that sent 13 innocent
people to death row. That’s how we were able to give health
insurance to 20,000 more children who needed it. That’s how
we gave $100 million worth of tax cuts to working families in Illinois.
And that’s how we passed the first ethics reform in twenty-five
We have seen too
many campaigns where our problems are talked to death. Where ten-point
plans are crushed under the weight of the same old politics once
the election’s over. Where experience in Washington doesn’t
always translate to results for the American people.
And so if we do
not change our politics – if we do not fundamentally change
the way Washington works – then the problems we’ve been
talking about for the last generation will be the same ones that
haunt us for generations to come.
We must find a
way to come together in this country – to realize that the
responsibility we have to one another as Americans is greater than
the pursuit of any ideological agenda or corporate bottom line.
Democrats of California, it’s time to turn the page.
to turn the page on health care – to bring together unions
and businesses, Democrats and Republicans, and to let the insurance
and drug companies know that while they get a seat at the table,
they don’t get to buy every chair.
When I am president,
I will sign a universal health care law by the end of my first term.
My plan will cover the uninsured by letting people buy into the
same kind of health care plan that members of Congress give themselves.
It will bring down costs by investing in information technology,
and preventative care, and by stopping the drug companies from price-gouging
when patients need their medicine.
It will help business
and families shoulder the burden of catastrophic care so that an
illness doesn’t lead to a bankruptcy. And it will save the
average family a thousand dollars a year on their premiums. We can
to turn the page on education – to move past the slow decay
of indifference that says some schools can’t be fixed and
some kids just can’t learn.
I will launch a campaign to recruit and support hundreds of thousands
of new teachers across the country, because the most important part
of any education is the person standing in the front of the classroom.
It’s time to treat teaching like the profession it is –
paying teachers what they deserve and working with them –
not against them – to develop the high standards we need.
We can do this.
to turn the page on energy – to break the political stalemate
that’s kept our fuel efficiency standards in the same place
for twenty years; to tell the oil and auto industries that they
must act, not only because their future’s at stake, but because
the future of our country and our planet is at stake as well.
I will institute a cap-and-trade system that would dramatically
reduce carbon emissions and auction off emissions credits that would
generate millions of dollars to invest in renewable sources of energy.
I’ll put in place a low-carbon fuel standard like you have
here in California that will take 32 million cars’ worth of
pollution off the road. And I’d raise the fuel efficiency
standards for our cars and trucks because we know we have the technology
to do it and it’s time we did. We can do this.
We can do all
of this. But most of all, we have to turn the page on this disaster
in Iraq and restore our standing in the world. I am proud that I
stood up in 2002 and urged our leaders not to take us down this
dangerous path. And so many of you did the same, even when it wasn’t
popular to do so.
We knew back then
this war was a mistake. We knew back then that it was dangerous
diversion from the struggle against the terrorists who attacked
us on September 11th. We knew back then that we could find ourselves
in an occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with
But the war went
forward. And now, we’ve seen those consequences and we mourn
for the dead and wounded.
I was in New Hampshire
the other week when a woman told me that her nephew was leaving
for Iraq. And as she started telling me how much she’d miss
him and how worried she was about him, she began to cry.
And she said to
me, “I can’t breathe. I want to know, when am I going
to be able to breathe again?”
It is time to
let this woman know she can breathe again. It is time to put an
end this war.
The majority of
both houses of the American Congress – Republicans and Democrats
– just passed a bill that would do exactly that. It’s
a bill similar to the plan I introduced in January that says there
is no military solution to this civil war – that the last,
best hope to pressure the warring factions to reach a political
settlement is to let the Iraqi government know that America will
not be there forever – to begin a phased withdrawal with the
goal of bringing all combat brigades home by March 31st, 2008.
We are one signature
away from ending this war. If the President refuses to sign it,
we will go back and find the sixteen votes we need to end this war
without him. We will turn up the pressure on all those Republican
Congressmen and Senators who refuse to acknowledge the reality that
the American people know so well, and we will get this done. We
will bring our troops home. It’s time to turn the page.
to show the world that America is still the last, best hope of Earth.
This President may occupy the White House, but for the last six
years the position of leader of the free world has remained open.
It’s time to fill that role once more. Whether it’s
terrorism or climate change, global AIDS or the spread of weapons
of mass destruction, America cannot meet the threats of this new
century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. It’s
time for us to lead.
for us to show the world that we are not a country that ships prisoners
in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries. That we
are not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without
ever telling them why they are there or what they are charged with.
We are not a country which preaches compassion to others while we
allow bodies to float down the streets of a major American city.
That is not who
We are America.
We are the nation that liberated a continent from a madman, that
lifted ourselves from the depths of Depression, that won Civil Rights,
and Women’s Rights, and Voting Rights for all our people.
We are the beacon that has led generations of weary travelers to
find opportunity, and liberty, and hope on our doorstep. That’s
who we are.
I was down in
Selma, Alabama awhile back, and we were celebrating the 42nd anniversary
of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It was a march of
ordinary Americans – maids and cooks, preachers and Pullman
porters who faced down fire hoses and dogs, tear gas and billy clubs
when they tried to get to the other side. But every time they were
stopped, every time they were knocked down, they got back up, they
came back, and they kept on marching. And finally they crossed over.
It was called Bloody Sunday, and it was the culmination of the Civil
When I came back
from that celebration, people would say, oh, what a wonderful celebration
of African-American history that must have been. And I would say,
no, that wasn’t African-American history. That was a celebration
of American history – it’s our story.
And it reminds
us of a simple truth – a truth I learned all those years ago
as an organizer in Chicago – a truth you carry by being here
today – that in the face of impossible odds, people who love
their country can change it.
I am confident
about my ability to lead this country. But I also know that I can’t
do it without you. There will be times when I get tired, there will
be times when I make a mistake – it’s true, talk to
my wife, she’ll tell you. But this campaign that we’re
running has to be about your hopes, and your dreams, and what you
will do. Because there are few obstacles that can withstand the
power of millions of voices calling for change.
change has always happened – not from the top-down, but from
exactly how you and I will change this country. California, if you
want a new kind of politics, it’s time to turn the page.
If you want an
end to the old divisions, and the stale debates, and the score-keeping
and the name-calling, it’s time to turn the page.
If you want health
care for every American and a world-class education for all our
children; if you want energy independence and an end to this war
in Iraq; if you believe America is still that last, best hope of
Earth, then it’s time to turn the page.
to turn the page for hope. It’s time to turn the page for
justice. It is time to turn the page and write the next chapter
in the great American story. Let’s begin the work. Let’s
do this together. Let’s turn that page. Thank you.