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To Build One America, End the Game

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John Edwards

Hanover, New Hampshire (Remarks as Prepared for Delivery: August 23, 2007)

This election is unlike any we have faced before. The stakes are
higher. And the challenges we face as a nation are greater than at any
time in memory.

We as a nation must choose whether to do what America has always
done in times like these -- change direction and move boldly into the
future for the sake of our children, if not for ourselves, or wander in
the same stale direction we have traveled in our recent past.

The choice we must make is as important as it is clear.

It is a choice between looking back and looking forward.

A choice between the way we've always done it and the way we could do it if we dared.

A choice between corporate power and the power of democracy.

Between a corrupt and corroded system and a government that works for us again.

It is caution versus courage. Old versus new. Calculation versus principle.

It is the establishment elites versus the American people.

It is a choice between the failed compromises of the past and the
bright possibilities of our future. Between resigning ourselves to Two
Americas or fighting for the One America we all believe in.

As always, at these moments, the choice we make is not for us, but
for our children and our great country. And this time, like no other
time, the consequences for our children are truly profound.

Will we halt global warming, protect our environment and humanity
from the cataclysmic consequences of inaction and leave our children a
livable world rich in the resources that were left to us?

Will we prevail against terrorism by stopping those who would harm
us and winning over the minds of those who have yet to take sides so
that instead of an ever more dangerous and war-torn world, our children
live in a nation that is safe, strong and once again viewed throughout
the world as a truly moral leader?

Will corporate greed be all we value as we move further into the
global economy, or will we put workers and families first, so that all
jobs pay fair wages, every American has health care and corporate
profits work for democracy and not the other way around?

Will we face our future as individuals, each of us asking, "What's
in it for me?" Or will we return to the central value that makes our
nation great? That we are all in this together and each of has a
responsibility to the common good.

The choices we make will determine not just the quality of life our
children will inherit, but the fate of the world we leave behind.

To succeed for our children where we have too often failed for
ourselves, we must choose a new course. Those wedded to the policies of
the 70s, 80s, or 90s are wedded to the past -- ideas and policies that
are tired, shop worn and obsolete. We will find no answers there.

But small thinking and outdated answers aren't the only problems
with a vision for the future that is rooted in nostalgia. The trouble
with nostalgia is that you tend to remember what you liked and forget
what you didn't. It's not just that the answers of the past aren't up
to the job today, it's that the system that produced them was corrupt
-- and still is. It's controlled by big corporations, the lobbyists
they hire to protect their bottom line and the politicians who curry
their favor and carry their water. And it's perpetuated by a media that
too often fawns over the establishment, but fails to seriously cover
the challenges we face or the solutions being proposed. This is the
game of American politics and in this game, the interests of regular
Americans don't stand a chance.

Real change starts with being honest -- the system in Washington is
rigged and our government is broken. It's rigged by greedy corporate
powers to protect corporate profits. It's rigged by the very wealthy to
ensure they become even wealthier. At the end of the day, it's rigged
by all those who benefit from the established order of things. For
them, more of the same means more money and more power. They'll do
anything they can to keep things just the way they are -- not for the
country, but for themselves.

Politicians who care more about their careers than their
constituents go along to get elected. They make easy promises to voters
instead of challenging them to take responsibility for our country. And
then they compromise even those promises to keep the lobbyists happy
and the contributions coming.

Instead of serving the people and the nation, too many play the
parlor game of Washington -- trading favors and campaign money,
influencing votes and compromising legislation. It's a game that never
ends, but every American knows -- it's time to end the game.

And it's time for the Democratic Party -- the party of the people -- to end it.

The choice for our party could not be more clear. We cannot replace
a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats,
just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington
insiders of the other.

The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for
sale, the Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent, and lobbyist money can no
longer influence policy in the House or the Senate.

It's time to end the game. It's time to tell the big corporations
and the lobbyists who have been running things for too long that their
time is over. It's time to challenge politicians to put the American
people's interests ahead of their own calculated political interests,
to look the lobbyists in the eye and just say no.

And it's time for the American people to take responsibility for our
government -- for in our democracy it is truly ours. If we have come to
mistrust and question it, it is because we were not vigilant against
the forces that have taken it from us. That their game has played on
for so long is the fault of each of us -- ending the game and returning
government of the people to the people is the responsibility of all of
us.

But cleaning up Washington isn't enough. If we are going to meet the
challenges we face and prevail over them, two principles must guide us
-- yes, we must end the Washington game, but we must also think as big
as the challenges we face. Our ideas must be bold enough to succeed and
our government must be free to enact them without compromising
principle or sacrificing results.

One without the other isn't good enough. All the big ideas in the
world won't make a difference if they have to go through this broken
system that remains controlled by big business and their lobbyists. And
if we fix the system, but aren't honest with the American people about
the scope of our challenges and what's required of each of us to meet
them, then we'll be left with the baby steps and incremental measures
that are Washington's poor excuse for progress.

As Bobby Kennedy said, "If we fail to dare, if we do not try, the
next generation will harvest the fruit of our indifference; a world we
did not want, a world we did not choose, but a world we could have made
better by caring more for the results of our labors."

But if we do both -- if we have the courage to offer real change and
the determination to change Washington -- then we will be build the One
America we dream of, where every man, woman and child is blessed with
the same, great opportunity and held to the same, just rules.

For more than 20 years, Democrats have talked about universal health
care. And for more than 20 years, we've gotten nowhere, because
lobbyists for the big insurance companies, drug companies and HMOs
spent millions to block real reform. Instead, they've grudgingly
allowed incremental measures that do nothing but tinker around the
edges -- or worse, they've hijacked reform to improve their own bottom
line. So today, more Americans go without health care than ever before.
Instead of prescription drug reform that brought down the cost of
drugs, the lobbyists for the big drug companies got us a prescription
drug bill that boosts drug company profits but doesn't cut patient
costs.

I have a bold plan to finally guarantee true universal health care
for every single American and cut health care costs for everyone. My
plan will require everyone -- business, government and individuals --
to contribute something to reach universal coverage. And I am honest
about the cost: $90 to $120 billion a year, and I'll pay for it by
repealing the Bush tax cuts for families above $200,000. If we end the
game in Washington, we can finally have a health care system that
treats the health of all our people with equal worth.

Dependence on foreign oil is smothering our economy and choking our
environment. Everybody knows it -- politicians from both parties have
been calling for energy independence for 30 years. So what did the
oilmen in the White House do? They handed the keys to the corridors of
government over to the lobbyists for the big oil companies and let them
literally write the energy bill. Now, gas prices are through the roof,
carbon emissions are unchecked, and global warming is likely getting
worse.

When I am president, we will cap greenhouse gas pollution and
ratchet it down every year. We will avoid mistakes like nuclear power
and liquid coal. We will invest in clean renewable energies generated
in America and create a new era in efficient cars, made by union
members here at home.

And look at our economic policies -- from top to bottom, they're a
twisted reflection of American values. Instead of expanding opportunity
for all and preventing special privileges for any, they hoard
opportunity and protect special privileges for the very few at the very
top.

Trade policy is all about corporate profits for big multinationals
and not at all about lifting workers' wages or creating American jobs.
The tax code provides breaks for hedge fund managers -- amazingly, even
Democrats backed down from asking them to pay their fair share when
Wall Street lobbyists put the pressure on. By the time a decade of
corporate opposition to a minimal increase in the minimum wage is
overcome, even its own supporters admit that the increase isn't enough
-- so another decade of corporate opposition begins anew, and workers
lose again.

It's time we put our economy back in line with our values. Let's
restore fairness to our tax code by insisting on a simple principle --
nobody in the middle class should pay higher taxes on the money they
make from hard work than the wealthiest pay on the money they make from
their investments. Let's restore opportunity and responsibility to our
trade policy by requiring that every new trade deal puts workers and
wages first. Let's reward work by strengthening unions, raising the
minimum wage, cutting taxes on working families and with a national
commitment to end poverty within a generation.

And let's support our troops and end this war in Iraq. We should
immediately withdraw 40-50,000 combat troops immediately and have the
rest out in about a year. And when President Bush refuses to act,
Congress should use its funding power to force him to act.

None of this will be easy, but all of it is possible.

I know. I've been doing it my entire life.

I am the son of Wallace and Bobbie Edwards. My father had to borrow
$50 to bring me and my mother home from the hospital. I am here today
because, like all the people my father worked with in the mill, my
parents got up every day believing in the promise of America, and they
worked hard -- no matter what obstacles were thrown against them -- to
give me the chance for a better life.

That's the promise at the heart of the American Dream. What matters
to our generation is of little consequence -- in America what has
always mattered most is the consequences for our children and their
children after them. And no amount of power or money gives anyone the
right to break that promise with our future.

I have stood with ordinary Americans at the most difficult times in
their lives, when all the power of corporate America was arrayed
against them. I have walked into courtrooms alone to face an army of
corporate lawyers with all the money in the world. I have walked off
the Senate elevator and been besieged by an army of corporate
lobbyists. And I have beaten them over and over again.

But let me tell you one thing I have learned from my experience --
you cannot deal with them on their terms. You cannot play by their
rules, sit at their table, or give them a seat at yours. They will not
give up their power -- you have to take it from them.

We cannot triangulate our way to real change. We cannot compromise
our way to real change. But we can lead to real change. And we can
start today.

Nearly ten years ago, I made the decision that I would never take a
dime from a Washington lobbyist -- I wasn't going to work for them, and
I didn't want their money.

Because in the courtroom, when you present your case to the jury,
you can offer facts and evidence, you can argue your heart out -- and I
have -- but the one thing you can't do, is pay the jury. We call that a
bribe. But in Washington when an oil lobbyist gives money to office
holders to influence our energy policy, they call it politics. That's
exactly what's wrong with this system.

Money flies like lightning between corporations, lobbyists, and
politicians. We need full public financing to reform the system once
and for all. But we don't need to wait to reform our party. Two weeks
ago, I called on all Democrats to reject contributions from federal
lobbyists. To tell them -- we know that you give money to influence
politicians on behalf of your corporate clients. Well, we're not going
to take it anymore. Your money's no good here.

I repeat that challenge today. Let's show America exactly whose side
we're on. We can reform our party and truly be the party of the people.
And we can expose for all time who the Republicans in Washington are
really working for.

There are 60 lobbyists in Washington for every member of Congress.
The big corporations don't need another president that looks out for
them -- they've got all the power they need. I want to be the people's
president.

A few weeks, ago I met a man named James Lowe in Wise, Virginia.
James spent the first fifty years of his life without a voice --
literally without a voice -- because he didn't have health care. All he
needed was a simple operation to fix a cleft palate. That a man in the
richest country in the world could go unable to speak for 50 years
because he couldn't pay for a $3,000 operation is something that should
outrage every American. We are better than that. America is better that
that.

It's a stark reminder of our broken political system that leaves
millions of Americans without a voice in their government -- a
government that is supposed to work for them.

But it doesn't have to be that way. And we can change it together.

We must think big and end the game.

It's not about being ready to grab the reigns of establishment
Washington and stand on the side of corporate elites. If it is, there
are plenty who will do a better job than me at protecting the status
quo, and preserving the policies and politics of the past.

It's about being ready to lift our country up, reform our party, and
remake our government in line with the values of our people. It's about
real change and a new vision that meets the challenges of the future
and inspires the American people to work together for the common good.

We're all angry at what George Bush has done to our country. But
with courage and conviction, with an unblinking eye on the future we
believe in and an unbending knee on the road to get there, not only can
we undo the damage, we can transform the world. No matter what life has
thrown at us, Elizabeth and I have always chosen to be optimistic about
the future -- and determined to make a difference as we strive toward
it everyday.

I carry the promise of America in my heart, where my parents placed
it. Because of them, I believe in people, hard work and the American
Dream. I believe the future belongs to us if we only dare to seize it.
And I believe to seize it, we must blaze a new path, firmly grounded in
the values that first made America great. We must cast aside the
established ways of Washington and replace them with the timeless
values of the American people. We must end the game controlled by a
privileged few and restore the promise that America owes to us all.

On that new path lies One America, where possibility is unbound and
opportunity is the birthright of every American. Where the voices of
the people are heard again in the halls of government, and government
heeds their call. One America, where every individual takes
responsibility for our common good, and the chance to reach one's
God-given potential is every individual's common right.

I am the son of Wallace and Bobbie Edwards.

And I believe in the promise of America.


John Edwards, a former U.S. Senator from North Carolina, is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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