U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), House Minority Leader
GEPHARDT: In 1994 the American people voted for a change. But what came was not the change they expected. They did not vote to cut Medicare, student loans, Head Start, school lunches and the environment. They did not vote to cut those programs.
The American people did not vote in 1994 to let employers raid workers' pensions or to repeal health and safety on the job. They did not vote to do that.
But this is the shameful record of the Gingrich Revolution. You can measure their deeds by their own words. At the Republican convention, did anyone hear Newt Gingrich even mention the Contract With America?
GEPHARDT: No. He talked about beach volleyball at the Republican convention. They promised us a revolution and they gave us reaction. They promised change and they gave us retreat. They promised to reform the government and they shut the government down for three weeks.
GEPHARDT: And then their nominee, Bob Dole, gave an acceptance speech in San Diego in which he told Americans that our best days are behind us.
It reminded me of what Emerson wrote more than 100 years ago. "Their kind of conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention. It is all memory."
Let our opponents imagine the past. Let us reach for the future.
Our reach begins with a new agenda, developed with President Clinton by the Democrats in the House and the Senate. We call it what it is: An agenda to put families first.
It is not a contract made to be broken. It is not an expression of ideology, but a set of ideas to make America work for the families who work hard every day, who save what they can, who hope to buy a home and build a better life for their children. GEPHARDT: For two years on too many issues, that hope has been betrayed. Our families are not asking for constitutional amendments or, for that matter, for more speeches from Newt Gingrich.
First of all, Families First says that we have to respect the dignity of Americans like Cecil Whitner (ph), a war hero with the Bronze Star who came back to south St. Louis County, worked hard for 40 years, and now tells me he cannot make it if the Republicans cut Medicare.
The senior citizens who worry about Medicare are not greedy. They are not greedy.
I have met them everywhere as I walked door-to-door in my district. Many of them live on a Social Security check of $600 a month, and they will have to give up their homes if Congress cuts Medicare benefits and raises premiums.
Our opponents say we should not speak to their fear, but the truth is that the elderly and the children who love them have everything to fear from a Dole plan that his own campaign chairman, Al D'Amato, said would be financed by cutting Medicare deeply.
This really is a moral issue. Families First begins with the basic ideal that those who raised our families should not be diminished or impoverished in their older years.
Families First is a response to an economy that's being transformed by technological revolution and international markets. Families First says that no American should have to compete unfairly with sweat shop wages overseas.
Families First says that corporations should be loyal to their employees and to their communities and share profits with the workers who create them. Families First says that we must educate our children for the future.
And unlike Bob Dole, we do not believe that teachers are the greatest threat to America's education.
The greatest threat to education in America today comes from the San Diego Republicans.
Their platform doesn't have an education plank. It has an anti- education plank. I'm always amazed when those who went to college on financial aid gather years later in air conditioned conference rooms to decide how to deny help to those who come after them. GEPHARDT: My reply is, if college loans and aid were OK for Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey and Phil Gramm then they're all right for every student in this generation.
Families first says the children at the dawn of life should not be left at the edge of sickness without health insurance or preventative care. So many issues come before us in dry and categorical words. In numbing and dreary numbers. But behind the numbers, behind the words are families like the ones I'm honored to represent in St. Louis, Jefferson and St. Genevieve counties in Missouri.
People who get up and go to work or school everyday; drive to the lake for a few days in the summer; look back with pride and look forward with different mixes of hope and concern that they try never to show their children. They deserve to see the pensions they earned protected. It's their money, not the company's. The deserve to walk neighborhood streets free from fear because they are no longer free- fire zones.
They deserve to look around their back yards at a summer night barbeque and know that if they do their part, they will not be left out in the cold. They deserve a government that puts families first.
CROWD: Families first, families first, families first...
GEPHARDT: For the next few minutes, we will hear from leaders who have shaped and advanced our agenda. For me, families first in the final analysis is the only reason to be in public life. As I look back, I think of the life I have had. My mother and father, a secretary and a milk truck driver, who raised us to believe in hard work and the promise of America.
My wife of 30 years, Jane, who wants me to note that we got married very young; our three wonderful children including our son Matt who faced cancer as a baby but who had parents who were lucky enough to have the health insurance to cover experimental treatments. Today with the grace of God, Matt is a 25-year-old graduate student at Northwestern University.
I hope to be the speaker of the house when the new congress convenes.
CROWD: Gephardt, Gephardt, Gephardt, Gephardt...
And with your help, we will make that true.
CROWD: Gephardt, Gephardt, Gephardt, Gephardt.
GEPHARDT: But before that and beyond that, I share far prouder titles with so many of my fellow citizens -- husband, father, son.
And as long as I have anything to say about it, the test of any policy I help to make will be how it strengthens the heart of America -- Families First.
And now, I'm honored to introduce to you Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, a leader, a leader in the House of Representatives, in the civil rights community in our great nation. John Lewis.
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