The remarks of Barack Obama in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 2, as prepared for delivery.
Ohio, I have just two words for you: two days.
After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George Bush, and twenty-one months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are two days away from change in America.
In two days, you can turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street.
In two days, you can choose policies that invest in our middle-class, create new jobs, and grow this economy so that everyone has a chance to succeed; from the CEO to the secretary and the janitor; from the factory owner to the men and women who work on its floor.
In two days, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope.
In two days, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need.
We began this journey in the depths of winter nearly two years ago, on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Back then, we didn't have much money or many endorsements. We weren't given much of a chance by the polls or the pundits. We knew how steep our climb would be.
But I also knew this. I knew that the size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics. I believed that Democrats and Republicans and Americans of every political stripe were hungry for new ideas, new leadership, and a new kind of politics -- one that favors common sense over ideology; one that focuses on those values and ideals we hold in common as Americans.
Most of all, I knew the American people were a decent, generous people willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations. I was convinced that when we come together, our voices are more powerful than the most entrenched lobbyists, or the most vicious political attacks, or the full force of a status quo in Washington that wants to keep things just the way they are.
Twenty-one months later, my faith in the American people has been vindicated. That's how we've come so far and so close -- because of you. That's how we'll change this country -- with your help. And that's why we can't afford to slow down, sit back, or let up for one day, one minute, or one second in these last few days. Not now. Not when so much is at stake.
We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 760,000 workers have lost their jobs this year. Businesses and families can't get credit. Home values are falling. Pensions are disappearing. It's gotten harder and harder to make the mortgage, or fill up your gas tank, or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month.
At a moment like this, the last thing we can afford is four more years of the tired, old theory that says we should give more to billionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. The last thing we can afford is four more years where no one in Washington is watching anyone on Wall Street because politicians and lobbyists killed common-sense regulations. Those are the theories that got us into this mess. They haven't worked, and it's time for change. That's why I'm running for President of the United States.
Now, Senator McCain has served this country honorably. And he can point to a few moments over the past eight years where he has broken from George Bush. But when it comes to the economy -- when it comes to the central issue of this election -- the plain truth is that John McCain has stood with this President every step of the way. Voting for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that he once opposed. Voting for the Bush budgets that spent us into debt. Calling for less regulation twenty-one times just this year. Those are the facts.
After twenty-one months and three debates, Senator McCain still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing he'd do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy. When John McCain wants to give a $700,000 tax cut to the average Fortune 500 CEO, that's not change. It's not change when he wants to give $200 billion to the biggest corporations or $4 billion to the oil companies or $300 billion to the same Wall Street banks that got us into this mess. It's not change when he comes up with a tax plan that doesn't give a penny of relief to more than 100 million middle-class Americans.
President Bush is sitting out the last few days before the election. But yesterday, Dick Cheney came out of his undisclosed location and hit the campaign trail. He said that he is, and I quote, "delighted to support John McCain."
I'd like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it. That endorsement didn't come easy. Senator McCain had to vote 90 percent of the time with George Bush and Dick Cheney to get it. He served as Washington's biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq, and supports economic policies that are no different from the last eight years. So Senator McCain worked hard to get Dick Cheney's support.
But here's my question for you, Ohio: Do you think Dick Cheney is delighted to support John McCain because he thinks John McCain's going to bring change? Do you think John McCain and Dick Cheney have been talking about how to shake things up, and get rid of the lobbyists and the old boys club in Washington?
Ohio, we know better. After all, it was just a week ago that Senator McCain said that he and President Bush share a "common philosophy." And we know that when it comes to foreign policy, John McCain and Dick Cheney share a common philosophy that thinks that empty bluster from Washington will fix all of our problems, and a war without end in Iraq is the way to defeat Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorists who are in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So George Bush may be in an undisclosed location, but Dick Cheney's out there on the campaign trail because he'd be delighted to pass the baton to John McCain. He knows that with John McCain you get a twofer: George Bush's economic policy and Dick Cheney's foreign policy -- but that's a risk we cannot afford to take. It's time for change, and that's why I'm running for President of the United States.
We've tried it John McCain's way. We've tried it George Bush and Dick Cheney's way. Deep down, Senator McCain knows that, which is why his campaign said that "if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose." That's why I'm talking about the economy. That's why he's spent these last weeks calling me every name in the book. Because that's how you play the game in Washington. When you can't win on the strength of your ideas, you make a big election about small things.
So I expect we're going to see a lot more of that over the next few days. More of the slash and burn, say-anything, do-anything politics that's calculated to divide and distract; to tear us apart instead of bringing us together. Well, that's not the kind of politics the American people need right now.
Ohio, at this moment, in this election, we have the chance to do more than just beat back this kind of politics in the short-term. We can end it once and for all. We can prove that the one thing more powerful than the politics of anything goes is the will and determination of the American people. We can change this country. Yes we can.
We can prove that we are not as divided as our politics would suggest, that we are more than a collection of Red States and Blue States -- we are the United States of America.
We can steer ourselves out of this crisis -- with a new politics for a new time.
We can build the future we know is possible -- as one people, as one nation. That's why I'm running for President of the United States of America.
Ohio, I know these are difficult times. But I also know that we have faced difficult times before. The American story has never been about things coming easy -- it's been about rising to the moment when the moment was hard. It's about rejecting fear and division for unity of purpose. That's how we've overcome war and depression. That's how we've won great struggles for civil rights and women's rights and workers' rights. And that's how we'll write the next great chapter in the American story.
Understand, if we want to meet the challenges of this moment, we need to get beyond the old ideological debates and divides between left and right. We don't need bigger government or smaller government. We need a better government -- a more competent government -- a government that upholds the values we hold in common as Americans.
The choice in this election isn't between tax cuts and no tax cuts. It's about whether you believe we should only reward wealth, or whether we should also reward the work and workers who create it. I will give a tax break to 95% of Americans who work every day and get taxes taken out of their paychecks every week. And I'll help pay for this by asking the folks who are making more than $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rate they were paying in the 1990s. No matter what Senator McCain may claim, here are the facts -- if you make under $250,000, you will not see your taxes increase by a single dime -- not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes. Nothing. Because the last thing we should do in this economy is raise taxes on the middle-class.
When it comes to jobs, the choice in this election is not between putting up a wall around America or standing by and doing nothing. The truth is, we won't be able to bring back every job that we've lost, but that doesn't mean we should follow John McCain's plan to keep giving tax breaks to corporations that send American jobs overseas and promoting unfair trade agreements. I will end those breaks as President, and give them to companies that create jobs here in the United States of America. We'll create two million new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads, and bridges, and schools. And I will invest $15 billion a year in renewable sources of energy to create five million new energy jobs over the next decade -- jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.
When it comes to health care, we don't have to choose between a government-run health care system and the unaffordable one we have now. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change under my plan is that we will lower premiums. If you don't have health insurance you'll be able to get the same kind of health insurance that Members of Congress get for themselves. And as someone who watched his own mother spend the final months of her life arguing with insurance companies because they claimed her cancer was a pre-existing condition and didn't want to pay for treatment, I will stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care most. That's the change we need. That's why I'm running for President of the United States.
When it comes to giving every child a world-class education, the choice is not between more money and more reform -- because our schools need both. As President, I will recruit an army of new teachers, pay them more, and give them more support. But I will also demand higher standards and more accountability from our teachers and our schools. And I will make a deal with every American who has the drive and the will but not the money to go to college: if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford your tuition.
And when it comes to keeping this country safe, we don't have to choose between retreating from the world and fighting a war without end in Iraq. It's time to stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqi government sits on a huge surplus. As President, I will end this war. I will ask the Iraqi government to step up for their future, and I will finally finish the fight against bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. I will never hesitate to defend this nation. And I will make sure our servicemen and women have the best training and equipment when they deploy into combat, and the care and benefits they have earned when they come home. That's what we owe our veterans. That's what I'll do as President.
I won't stand here and pretend that any of this will be easy -- especially now. The cost of this economic crisis, and the cost of the war in Iraq, means that Washington will have to tighten its belt and put off spending on things we don't need. As President, I will go through the federal budget, line-by-line, ending programs that we don't need and making the ones we do need work better and cost less.
But as I've said from the day we began this journey, the change we need won't come from government alone. It will come from each of us doing our part in our own lives and our own communities. It will come from each of us looking after ourselves, our families, and our fellow citizens.
Yes, government must lead the way on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and our businesses more efficient. Yes, we must put more money into our schools, but government can't be that parent who turns off the TV and makes a child do their homework. We need a return to responsibility and a return to civility. Yes, we can argue and debate our positions passionately, but all of us must summon the strength and grace to bridge our differences and unite in common effort -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American; Democrat and Republican, young and old, rich and poor, gay and straight, disabled or not.
In this election, we cannot afford the same political games and tactics that are being used to pit us against one another and make us afraid of one another.
Despite what our opponents may claim, there are no real or fake parts of this country. There is no city or town that is more pro-America than anywhere else -- we are one nation, all of us proud, all of us patriots. The men and women who serve on our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America -- they have served the United States of America.
It won't be easy, Ohio. It won't be quick. But you and I know that it is time to come together and change this country. Some of you may be cynical and fed up with politics. You have every right to be. But despite all of this, I ask of you what has been asked of Americans throughout our history.
I ask you to believe -- not just in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.
I know this change is possible. Because I have seen it over the last twenty-one months. Because in this campaign, I have had the privilege to witness what is best in America. I've seen it in the faces of the men and women I've met at countless rallies and town halls across the country, men and women who speak of their struggles but also of their hopes and dreams.
I still remember the email that a woman named Robyn sent me after I met her in Ft. Lauderdale. Sometime after our event, her son nearly went into cardiac arrest, and was diagnosed with a heart condition that could only be treated with a procedure that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Her insurance company refused to pay, and their family just didn't have that kind of money.
In her email, Robyn wrote, "I ask only this of you -- on the days where you feel so tired you can't think of uttering another word to the people, think of us. When those who oppose you have you down, reach deep and fight back harder."
Ohio, that's what hope is.
That's what kept some of our parents and grandparents going when times were tough. What led them to say, "Maybe I can't go to college, but if I save a little bit each week, my child can. Maybe I can't have my own business but if I work really hard my child can open up one of her own. It's what led those who could not vote to say "if I march and organize, maybe my child or grandchild can run for President someday."
That's what hope is -- that thing inside that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that there are better days ahead. If we're willing to work for it. If we're willing to shed our fears. If we're willing to reach deep inside ourselves when we're tired, and come back fighting harder.
Don't believe for a second this election is over. Don't think for a minute that power concedes. We have to work like our future depends on it in these last few days, because it does.
But I know this, Ohio, the time for change has come. We have a righteous wind at our back.
And in these last couple of days, I need you to knock on some doors for me, and make some calls for me, and go to barackobama.com and find out where to vote -- and remember, you can vote early here in Ohio. If you will do whatever it takes.
If you will stand with me, and fight by my side, and cast your ballot for me, then I promise you this -- we will not just win Ohio, we will not just win this election, but together, we will change this country and we will change the world. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.
The transcript of a speech as delivered by Barack Obama in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 27.
Well, we have had a wonderful few days campaigning all across Ohio. We had a terrific debate last night in Cleveland. We've got a couple of good strong Democrats on stage; looking forward, one of us, to a general election. It made me think about the work that has gone into this campaign. It's now over a year old. It's been more than a year since I stood on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, the city where Abraham Lincoln served for many years before he went to Washington, where I served before I became a United States Senator. I stood on the steps of this old state capitol and I announced this unlikely journey to change America.
I have to say that at the time there were a lot of people who said, "Why are you running this time? You're a relatively young man. Why are you running so soon? You can afford to wait." That's what they said. And I had to explain to them that I'm not running because of some long-held ambition. I know that people were looking through my Kindergarten papers, but that's not why I decided to run. I'm not running because I think it's somehow owed to me. I am running because of what Dr. King called "the fierce urgency of now," because I believe that there is such a thing as being too late. That hour is almost upon us.
We are at a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war. Our planet is in peril. The dream that so many generations have fought for is slowly slipping away. You see it everywhere you go: people are working harder just to get by. It's harder to save. It's harder to retire. People have never paid more for gas at the pump or for college education, paying their electricity bills. Our health care system is broken: we have 47 million people without health insurance, and if you've got health insurance you've seen your copayments and deductibles and premiums going up and up and up every single year. People are at risk of losing their homes. Our education system, despite the slogans, leaves millions of children behind, unable to complete in this new global economy. What I realized was that in such circumstances, we can't afford to wait. We can't wait to fix our schools. We cannot wait to fix our health care system. We cannot wait to deal with issues like global warming. We cannot wait to make college affordable. We cannot wait to bring to this war in Iraq to a close. We cannot wait. We cannot wait.
What I realized was that the size of these challenges had outstripped the capacity of a broken and divided politics to solve, and I was convinced that the American people were desperate, were hungry for a new direction, a new kind of politics; were interested in a politics that wasn't about tearing each other down but was about lifting the country up. A politics that was not about spin and PR, but about was about straight talk and honesty and conversation with the American people.
In other words, I was betting on you. I was betting on you because -- some of you know I now live in Chicago, but I didn't originally grow up in Chicago. I moved there after college because I wanted to work at a grassroots level and I got a job as an organizer with a group of churches who were trying to deal with the devastation of steel plants that had closed. So for three years I worked setting up job training programs and trying to bring economic development to communities that had fallen on really hard times. And it was the best education I ever had, because it taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they're given the chance. It taught me that change doesn't happen from the top down; it happens from the bottom up. And so I continue to be convinced that Americans are a decent people and a generous people, willing to work hard and sacrifice on behalf of future generations. And if we could just get together and get beyond the divisions that have plagued us for so long, if we could come together black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor: if we could come together to challenge the special interests that have come to dominate Washington, but also to challenge ourselves to be better, better parents, better neighbors, better citizens, then there would be no problem we could not solve and no destiny we could not fulfill. That was the bet that I was making over one year ago.
And after traveling all across this country, after visiting VFW halls and diners and schools and work sites, after talking to tens of thousands of people and shaking thousands of hands and kissing hundreds of babies and eating hundreds of chicken dinners, I am here to report to you Buckeyes that my bet has paid off. My faith in the American people has been vindicated because everywhere I go, people tell me, "Yes, we want a new direction. Yes, we want to move in a direction of change. Yes, we can. We are ready to stand up and turn the page and write a new chapter in American history."
I haven't seen this kind of enthusiasm in my lifetime, the interest people are paying to elections. They're going to rallies and they're watching debates and they're reading position papers. Young people voting in record numbers, which reminds me: Everybody here, I want to make sure everybody here understands there will be early voting in Ohio, so everybody can leave this rally and go cast your ballot today. Don't wait until March 4th. We want you to vote now. I won't tell you who to vote for, but do go out and cast your ballot. And if I'm making any sense, then you might consider voting for me. You just might. I see that marching band: you guys are still high school, right? So the Seniors, you might be able to vote. If you're not a Senior, go tell your parents to vote!
So there's been enormous enthusiasm and record turnout in all these states. I would like to take all the credit for it. I would like to say I'm completely responsible, but let's face it: part of the reason everybody's so excited is we're going to be selecting a president come November and no matter what else happens when you walk into that polling place, the name "George W. Bush" will not be on the ballot! We're pretty excited about that: no Bush. No Bush. The name of my cousin Dick Cheney will not be on the ballot. People are excited about that also. You know, when the news came out that Cheney and I had a distant relation in common, that was embarrassing. When they do these genealogical surveys, you want to be related to somebody cool! Dick Cheney? That's a letdown. But that's OK: his name won't be on the ballot, which means that the failed surveys of the last seven years -- the Katrina, the wiretaps, the Scooter Libby Justice, the Brownie incompetence, the Karl Rove politics -- all that will be over next year.
But that's not the only reason that you're here. You know, being against something? That's easy. You're here because you want to be for something. You want to feel like we can still solve big problems in this country, and we've got some big problems to solve. I was down in Cincinnati a few days ago. I had a meeting with four middle-aged women. They're all about the age of my mother when she passed away, so they reminded me of her. Two of them were looking after aging parents. Two of them were looking after disabled children. Two of them were out of work. One of them was on medical leave. All of them were struggling with health care, with child care, with just paying the bills. All of them were not even thinking about trying to save for retirement because they could barely keep up right now. And one of the women said to me during the conversation, "I played by the rules. All of us have here. We always figured we'd live a middle-class life. We never expected we'd be where we are today. We never expected to find ourselves in this situation."
I think that speaks for so much of America. A lot of people here, I bet, because everywhere I go I meet people who are struggling with health care, don't have it or have gone into bankruptcy or dipping into their savings because someone got sick. All throughout Ohio I meet people who've worked twenty years in a plant and suddenly the job gets shipped overseas, the equipment gets unbolted and shipped out to Mexico or China. They lose not just their job but their health care, their pension. They're trying to make ends meet on seven-buck-an-hour jobs at the local fast food joint. All across this state, all across this country I meet teachers who are having to dig into their own pockets to buy school supplies because the schools are underfunded. [Looking at a pointing woman] I guess you're a teacher! So you know what I'm talking about. All across this country I meet people who are at risk of having their homes foreclosed, not because they did anything wrong but because they got deceived into some predatory loan because there was no oversight by the government over the last several years.
All across this country I meet veterans, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are proud of their service and rightfully so, because they have done everything that's been asked of them. They have performed magnificently in these recent conflicts. But you know, they think about the buddies they've left behind who are still there. They question the wisdom of a mission that has cost us so dearly in blood and treasure. Sometimes at the rope line after rallies like this one, I meet the parents of a fallen warrior. A mother in Green Bay gave me this bracelet for son Ryan who at the age of 20 was killed in a roadside bomb. I have to hug these parents as they weep silently. Those are the stories I'm hearing all across this country. Stories of hardship. Stories of struggle.
And so people desperately want to see something new. They want change. And I tell people that I would not be running if I weren't confident that we could bring about this change, and that I could lead this country in a better direction. But I also tell people that I can't do it by myself. Remember, change doesn't happen from the top down. You have to believe. You have to demand and insist and work for and organize towards a different America. You have to be ready for change. And if you are ready for change then we can go and tell the lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over, because they have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drive out the voices of the American people while I am President of the United States of America.
If you are ready for change, then we can stop talking about the outrage of 47 million people without health insurance and start doing something about it. I've put forward a plan that says everybody will have the same health care if they want it that I have as a member of Congress, that you can't be excluded for pre-existing conditions, we'll negotiate with the drug companies for the cheapest available prices. If you're 25 or younger you can stay on your parents' health insurance. If you've got health insurance, we're going to work with you to lower your premiums by $2500 per family per year. And we will not wait 20 years from now to do it or 10 years from now to do it. We will do it by the end of my first term as president of the United States of America.
If you're ready for change, then we can start having an economy that's fair again. You know, I believe in business. I believe in capitalism, the free market, entrepreneurship -- I believe in all those things. Most Americans do. Nobody expects to get a free lunch. Everybody knows they've got to work hard. But when a CEO is making more in 10 minutes than ordinary workers make in an entire year, and the CEO is getting the tax break, and the workers are left with nothing, and if the company goes into bankruptcy, the workers lose their pension and the CEO is still getting a bonus and a golden parachute, something is wrong and something's got to change. It's not fair.
And so I've been very clear about my economic agenda. We are going to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas. We're going to give those tax breaks to companies that invest right here in Ohio and in the United States of America. We are going to make sure that we have a tax code that's fair. We're going to roll back those Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and give them to hard-working Americans who deserve it, making $75,000 a year or less. $1,000 to offset your payroll tax per family. If you're a senior citizen making $50,000 a year or less, you shouldn't have to pay taxes on your Social Security. We're going to give an additional mortgage deduction to people who live in modest homes if you don't itemize it on your payroll tax and save them a little bit of money and make it easier for them if interest rates go up. We're going to put forward a home foreclosure prevention fund to help bridge the gap for people who've been making their payments but who through no fault of their own have found themselves at risk of losing their home. We are going to have trade deals that work for all of America. I believe in trade, but I want labor standards and environmental standards that don't undercut U.S. workers. And I want safety standards so our kids aren't chewing on toys with lead-based paint of them.
We're going to invest in infrastructure. If we can spend $12 billion a month in Iraq, we can spend some money right here in Ohio rebuilding our roads and bridges, putting people back to work and making our economy more competitive. And I won't raise the minimum wage every ten years; I'll raise it to keep pace with inflation because if you work in this country, you should not be poor, and that is a goal that I will set when I am president of the United States of America.
If you're ready for change, we can start providing every child the best education this country has to offer from the day that child is born to the day that child graduates from college. You know, the problem is not that we don't know what to do. The problem is that we just give lip service to caring about every child. Actually, we're not thinking about every child. A child in the inner city of Cleveland? "Ah, that child doesn't look like me. That's somebody else's problem." A kid in the barrio in South Texas? "Well that kid's the son of an immigrant. I'm not worried about him. That's not my problem." Young girl in Appalachia? "Well, you know, those folks, you know, they're far away. It's not our problem." Let me tell you something: every child is our responsibility! Every child deserves a chance! Every child is our child. Every child. And so we are going to make sure that every child can get early childhood education so that they are prepared for school. And I won't just talk about how great teachers are; I will reward them for their greatness by giving them higher salaries, and giving them more support.
And I want the highest standards in our classrooms. Young guys, you are going to have to compete with kids in China and India. There are no shortcuts. You're going to have to work harder than you've ever worked in your lives. You've got to take school seriously. And so we're going to have high standards. But I don't want those high standards measured by just one high-stakes test because I don't want teachers teaching to the test. I want our kids to learn art and music and science and literature and poetry and civics.
And I don't know about you, but I want to make college affordable for everybody. So we're going to have a $4,000 tuition credit, every student, every year. But students are going to have to give something back. You're going to have to provide some community service. You're going to have to work in a homeless shelter or veterans' home, or join the Peace Corps. We'll invest in you, you invest in America, together we will march this country forward if you're ready for change.
If you're ready for change we're going to have an energy policy that makes sense, because our current energy policy does not make sense. I read in the paper today we may see $4 a gallon gas. We are sending a billion dollars a day to foreign nations and we're melting the polar ice caps in the bargain. And it doesn't have to be if we've got a president who can communicate a sense of urgency about a smart energy policy. It would start with capping greenhouse gases that are causing global warming. That would generate billions of dollars that we could invest in solar and wind and biodiesel. We can put people to work building solar panels. Put people to work building wind turbines. Put people to work developing alternative energy. Put people to work making buildings more energy efficient, creating a green economy that drives economic growth for the 21st Century. We can raise fuel efficiency standards on cars. If we did it just to 40 miles per gallon we would save the equivalent of all the oil we import from the Persian Gulf. Imagine what that would do for our economy, for our environment and for our national security. And that's how we will bring gas prices down, by using less gas. And by the way, when I made that proposal I didn't do it in front of some environmental group. I did it in Detroit in front of the automakers. I told them we have to change our ways. I have to admit that the room was really quiet. Nobody clapped. But that's OK, because part of what we need from the next president is somebody who will not just tell you what they think you want to hear but will tell you what you need to hear, will tell you the truth. That's why I'm running, to be that president.
If you are ready for change, we can have a foreign policy that makes sense. I said last night in the debate: as commander in chief my job will be to keep you safe, and I will do whatever is required. I will not hesitate to strike against those who would do us harm. And that means that starts with maintaining the strongest military on Earth. And that means making sure our troops are properly trained, and properly equipped, and on proper rotations so they're getting the proper rest. And it means that when they come home, they are treated properly. No more homeless veterans. No more begging for disability payments. No more waiting for hours to get into the VA. Our veterans have earned their dignity and their respect. They've earned it. They've earned the honor that we accord them.
But making sure that I keep you safe also means using our military wisely. The war in Iraq was unwise. It was an unwise war. It has cost us billions, soon a trillion or more dollars. Thousands of precious lives. It distracted us from the war against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, a war that needed to be fought. It fanned the flames of anti-American sentiment. It was an unwise war, and that is why I opposed it in 2002, and that's why I'll bring this war to a close in 2009. I will bring our troops home.
But I don't want to just end the war. I want to end the mindset that got us into war. I want to put an end to the politics of fear that uses 9/11 as a way to scare up votes rather than a way to bring the country together against a common challenge and a common enemy. I want to usher in a new era of American diplomacy. I said very early in this campaign I would meet not just with our friends but with our enemies, not just with leaders we liked but leaders we didn't. And I was criticized for saying this. Senator Clinton, folks in Washington said, "You can't do that!" I said, "Yes, I can." Because I remember what John F. Kennedy said. He said, "We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate." Strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries and tell them where America stands. That's what I intend to do when I'm president of the United States.
That will allow me to go before the world community and say, "America's back. America's back. We are ready to lead." And yes, we will lead militarily. We will lead going after terrorists. But we will also lead in creating a new era of nuclear non-proliferation, working to create treaties to reduce stockpiles of nuclear arms around the world. We will also lead in bringing an end to climate change. We will lead in helping poor countries deal with the devastation of HIV/AIDS. We will lead in bringing an end to the genocide in Darfur. That's leadership.
And we will lead by having the highest standards, by setting an example of human rights and civil rights, due process and rule of law, which is why I will close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus. And we will end torture and rendition because you will have elected a president who has taught the Constitution and believes in the Constitution and will obey the Constitution of the United States of America.
All these things are possible if you are ready for change. But you can't just sit back and wait for it. You've got to want it. You've got to work for it. You've got to go out and vote for it. There are people who are now saying, "Well, Obama may talk a good game, but he hasn't been in Washington long enough." That's what they'll tell you. And I've got to remind them, to remind them that I know they want to season and stew me a little while longer, boil all the hope out of me, but the American people understand we don't need the same old folks doing the same old things, playing the same old games over and over again. We need something different. People want a new direction.
Some were arguing that, "Well, Obama may not stand up that well against the Republicans. They're so tough! They're so mean!" Well, let me tell you something. I revere and honor the service of John McCain to this country. He is a genuine American hero. He deserves our respect and our gratitude. But I have to say that when it comes to policy, John McCain is looking backwards. He's tied to the failed policies of George Bush. He's not going to bring about change. I heard Senator McCain said this morning -- I guess he had gotten this from watching the debate last night, or at least his staff had -- he said this morning he had news for me: Al Qaeda is in Iraq! Remember Russert was asking us during the debate, "hypothetically, if you started bringing people out and the Iraqi government told you to just go ahead and leave, would you still potentially, blah blah," this big hypothetical, and so I said, "I would always reserve the right to go in and strike against Al Qaeda if they were in Iraq." So you know, this is how politics works. McCain thought that he could make a clever point by saying, "Well, let me give you some news, Barack! Al Qaeda is in Iraq!" Like I wasn't reading the papers. Like I didn't know what was going on. I say, well first of all, I do know that Al Qaeda is in Iraq and that's why I've said we should continue to strike Al Qaeda targets. But I have some news for John McCain! And that is that there was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq! I've got some news for John McCain: he took us into a war along with George Bush that should never have been authorized and should have never been waged. They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9-11: that would be Al Qaeda in Afghanistan that is stronger now than at any time since 2001. I've been paying attention, John McCain. That's the news. So John McCain may say he'd like to follow Osama Bin Laden to the gates of Hell, but so far all he's done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that's cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars and that I intend to bring to an end so that we can actually start going after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in the hills of Pakistan like we should have been doing in the first place. That's the news, John McCain.
I respect John McCain, but he's tied to the politics of the past. We are about the policies of the future. He's the party of yesterday. We want to be the party of tomorrow. That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America.
Which brings me to the last point that people seem to be making. Senator Clinton's been making this quite a bit lately. It's an argument about hope. The argument goes something like this: "Oh, Obama talks about hope all the time." Now, now it is true I do talk about hope quite a bit, and understandably because if you think about it the odds of me standing here are very slim. I was born to a teenage mom and my father left when I was two. So my grandparents and my mother helped raise me and they didn't have a lot. They didn't have money, they didn't have fame or fortune. They could give me love, they could give me an education, and they gave me hope. They gave me hope, so I talk about hope a lot. We have "hope" on our signs and I gave a speech at the Boston convention about hope and I wrote a book called "The Audacity of Hope." But now the argument, it goes something like this: "Oh, he talks about hope all the time. He's so naive. He's peddling false hopes. He needs a reality check. He doesn't see the world clearly. He doesn't know how tough and difficult things are. He's talking all the time, but he doesn't know what it takes to get things done." The implication is, if you talk about hope you must be naive, you must have your head up in the clouds somewhere. You know, you're just strolling along waiting for good things to happen to you! I just kind of stumbled into running for president! That's the implication. Huh.
But you know, that's not what hope is. Hope is not blind optimism. Hope is not ignorance of the challenges we face. You know and I know how difficult it is going to be to bring about change. You know, people have been talking about the people who come to these rallies: "Oh, they're so romantic! They're just infatuated. They all have these rose-colored glasses." There are a bunch of folks out here, I'll bet, who have gone through some tough times and are going through some tough times right now. You know life can be hard. You've lived hard. You've seen hard. You may have lost a job. You may not have health care right now. You may have seen a loved one who is struggling, on the brink of losing their home. You know there's nothing romantic.
People know how hard it is to change. I know it. It's not going to be easy to provide health care to everybody. If it was easy, it would have already been done. It's not going to be easy to change our energy policy. Exxon Mobil made $11 billion last quarter; they're not going to want to give up all those profits. It's not easy to alleviate poverty that's built up over generations. It's not easy to fix our schools because it doesn't just mean more money in the schools, it's also going to require change in attitudes. Our parents are going to have to parent better. You're going to have to put away the TV set, turn off the video games, instill a sense of excellence in your children. Those things take time. I know how hard it is. I've seen how easily this country is divided, how we can be pitted against each other, how politicians can scapegoat people who are "not like us." You know, Muslims or immigrants or gay people, trying to pit us against each other, to find reason to blame each other.
I know how hard it is to change our political culture, but I also know this: that nothing worthwhile in this country has ever happened except when somebody somewhere was willing to hope. That's how this country was founded: a group of patriots declaring independence against the mighty British Empire. Nobody gave them a chance. But they had hope. That's how slaves and abolitionists resisted that wicked system and our new president charted a course that we would not remain half slave and half free. Hope. That is how the greatest generation defeated Hitler and fascism and lifted itself up out of the Great Depression. Hope. That is how women won the right to vote. That is how workers won the right to organize. That is how young people traveled down south in the sixties, and they marched, and they sat in, and some went to jail, and some got beaten, and some died for freedom's cause. That's what hope is. That's what hope is.
That is what hope is: imagining and then fighting for, then struggling for, that which did not seem possible before. And that is the opportunity we have right now. That's the chance we have right now in this election, if you vote, if you are willing to go forward. There is a moment in the life of every generation when that spirit of hope has to come through, when we cast aside the fear and the doubt, where we don't accept what the cynics tell us we have to accept, when we instead reach for what is possible, when we insist that the next generation deserves the same chance that somebody gave us, when we demand that we keep the American dream alive. For those who still hunger for justice, still thirst for opportunity, when we decide to come together, arm in arm, and remake this country block by block, county by county, state by state, this is our moment. This is our time. And if you will stand with me, and if you will vote for me and if you will organize with me and march with me and fight alongside me, then I promise you this: we will not just win Ohio, we will win this nomination, we will win the general election and then you and I together, we will change this country and we will change the world. Thank you, Ohio, and God bless you.