Before I begin, I just want to send my condolences to the victims of the storms that hit Tennessee and Arkansas. They are in our thoughts and in our prayers.
Well, the polls are just closing in California and the votes are still being counted in cities and towns across the country. But there is one thing on this February night that we do not need the final results to know – our time has come, our movement is real, and change is coming to America.
Only a few hundred miles from here, almost one year ago to the day, we stood on the steps of the Old State Capitol to reaffirm a truth that was spoken there so many generations ago – that a house divided cannot stand; that we are more than a collection of Red States and Blue States; we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
What began as a whisper in Springfield soon carried across the corn fields of Iowa, where farmers and factory workers; students and seniors stood up in numbers we’ve never seen. They stood up to say that maybe this year, we don’t have to settle for a politics where scoring points is more important than solving problems. This time we can finally do something about health care we can’t afford or mortgages we can’t pay. This time can be different.
Their voices echoed from the hills of New Hampshire to the deserts of Nevada, where teachers and cooks and kitchen workers stood up to say that maybe Washington doesn’t have to be run by lobbyists anymore. They reached the coast of South Carolina when people said that maybe we don’t have to be divided by race and region and gender; that crumbling schools are stealing the future of black children and white children; that we can come together and build an America that gives every child, everywhere the opportunity to live their dreams. This time can be different.
And today, on this Tuesday in February, in states North and South, East and West, what began as a whisper in Springfield has swelled to a chorus of millions calling for change. A chorus that cannot be ignored. That cannot be deterred. This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency is different.
It’s different not because of me, but because of you. Because you are tired of being disappointed and tired of being let down. You’re tired of hearing promises made and plans proposed in the heat of a campaign only to have nothing change when everyone goes back to Washington. Because the lobbyists just write another check. Or because politicians start worrying about how they’ll win the next election instead of why they should. Or because they focus on who’s up and who’s down instead of who matters.
And while Washington is consumed with the same drama and division and distraction, another family puts up a For Sale sign in the front yard. Another factory shuts its doors. Another soldier waves goodbye as he leaves on another tour of duty in a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged. It goes on and on and on.
But in this election – at this moment – you are standing up all across this country to say, not this time. Not this year. The stakes are too high and the challenges too great to play the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expect a different result. This time must be different.
Now, this isn’t about me and it’s not about Senator Clinton. As I’ve said before, she was a friend before this campaign and she’ll be a friend after it’s over. I respect her as a colleague, and I congratulate her on her victories tonight.
But this fall we owe the American people a real choice. It’s change versus more of the same. It’s the future versus the past.
It’s a choice between going into this election with Republicans and Independents already united against us, or going against their nominee with a campaign that has united Americans of all parties around a common purpose.
It’s a choice between having a debate with the other party about who has the most experience in Washington, or having one about who’s most likely to change Washington. Because that’s a debate we can win.
It’s a choice between a candidate who’s taken more money from Washington lobbyists than either Republican in this race, and a campaign that hasn’t taken a dime of their money because we’ve been funded by you.
And if I am your nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq; or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; or that I support the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don’t like. And he will not be able to say that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it’s ok for America to use torture – because it is never ok. That is the choice in this election.
The Republicans running for President have already tied themselves to the past. They speak of a hundred year war in Iraq and billions more on tax breaks for the wealthiest few who don’t need them and didn’t ask for them – tax breaks that mortgage our children’s future on a mountain of debt at a time when there are families who can’t pay their medical bills and students who can’t pay their tuition.
They are running on the politics of yesterday, and that is why our party must be the party of tomorrow. And that is the party I will lead as President.
I’ll be the President who ends the tax breaks to companies that ship our jobs overseas and start putting them in the pockets of working Americans who deserve it. And struggling homeowners. And seniors who should retire with dignity and respect.
I’ll be the President who finally brings Democrats and Republicans together to make health care affordable and available for every single American. We will put a college education within reach of anyone who wants to go, and instead of just talking about how great our teachers are, we will reward them for their greatness, with more pay and better support. And we will harnesses the ingenuity of farmers and scientists and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil once and for all.
And when I am President, we will put an end to a politics that uses 9/11 as a way to scare up votes, and start seeing it as a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the twenty-first century: terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.
We can do this. It will not be easy. It will require struggle and sacrifice. There will setbacks and we will make mistakes. And that is why we need all the help we can get. So tonight I want to speak directly to all those Americans who have yet to join this movement but still hunger for change – we need you. We need you to stand with us, and work with us, and help us prove that together, ordinary people can still do extraordinary things.
I am blessed to be standing in the city where my own extraordinary journey began. A few miles from here, in the shadow of a shuttered steel plant, is where I learned what it takes to make change happen.
I was a young organizer then, intent on fighting joblessness and poverty on the South Side, and I still remember one of the very first meetings I put together. We had worked on it for days, but no one showed up. Our volunteers felt so defeated, they wanted to quit. And to be honest, so did I.
But at that moment, I looked outside and saw some young boys tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building across the street. They were like boys in so many cities across the country – boys without prospects, without guidance, without hope. And I turned to the volunteers, and I asked them, “Before you quit, I want you to answer one question. What will happen to those boys?” And the volunteers looked out that window, and they decided that night to keep going – to keep organizing, keep fighting for better schools, and better jobs, and better health care. And so did I. And slowly, but surely, in the weeks and months to come, the community began to change.
You see, the challenges we face will not be solved with one meeting in one night. Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. We are the hope of those boys who have little; who’ve been told that they cannot have what they dream; that they cannot be what they imagine.
Yes they can.
We are the hope of the father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake with doubts that tell him he cannot give his children the same opportunities that someone gave him.
Yes he can.
We are the hope of the woman who hears that her city will not be rebuilt; that she cannot reclaim the life that was swept away in a terrible storm.
Yes she can.
We are the hope of the future; the answer to the cynics who tell us our house must stand divided; that we cannot come together; that we cannot remake this world as it should be.
Because we know what we have seen and what we believe – that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored; that will not be deterred; that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest – Yes. We. Can.