Sunday, December 04, 2005

Transcript of Sherrod Brown's speech

Let me tell you why I ran for office in this city 31 years ago.

And let me tell you why I still fight for the values that we all share.

Every day when I go to work, I wear on my lapel—not the congressional symbol that most of my colleagues wear—but this small pin which depicts a canary in a cage.

One hundred years ago American coal miners took a canary down into the mine with them. If the canary died, it meant the air in the mine was toxic, and the miners knew they had to get out—fast. In those days, there were no mine safety laws and no trade unions. Miners had to look out for themselves.

America has come a long way since those days. But it has been a battle — a 100-year battle for social and economic justice. That battle has been difficult. But it has produced a record of remarkable achievement, achievements which have steadily improved the lives of all of us.

An American born at the turn of the twentieth century could expect to live 47 years; today life expectancy is three decades longer.

Working men and women—through their unions, and through their churches—took on the most privileged of society and won victory after victory; for health care, for pensions, and for workplace safety.

They pushed Congress and state legislatures to pass legislation on Medicare and Social Security, civil rights and rights for the disabled, food safety and public health, worker safety and minimum wage, clean air and safe drinking water.

It was mostly Democrats that made those advances, but it was Republicans sometimes too. Abraham Lincoln—Republican—ended slavery. Theodore Roosevelt—Republican—gave us the national park system.

And a couple of dozen Republicans courageously stood with Democrats to pass civil rights and Medicare, to create the EPA and worker safety rules.

But that progress has stopped. Because we have very different Republicans today in Columbus and Washington.

Instead of public servants we have monied interests—in Columbus and in Washington—who see government simply as a profit center, a chance to reward their friends, punish their enemies, and shower money on themselves.

More than at any time in our history, the people who run our state, the people who run our country, have abused power and used it for their self-interest, used it for their private gain.

You know the sins. Greed. Bribery. Threats.

You know the names. Bob Taft. Tom Noe. Tom DeLay. Dick Cheney.

And you know what they are doing to our country.

Too many of my days begin and end with stories of Americans who feel betrayed by their government. Workers are losing their pensions, families are losing their healthcare, young people are losing hope. Parents who want to give their children a better life through education are seeing their dreams shattered.

Since 2000, 5 million Americans have lost their health insurance.

Ohio has lost more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs in the last five years.

Wages are stagnant, workers are working harder, and bankruptcies are at all-time highs.

How could this have happened in America?

How could this have happened in our great state of Ohio?

One-party government and its twin—greedy self-interest—have betrayed our people and abandoned our values.

Our political leaders refuse to find solutions to high gasoline prices, they reject any plan to reduce the outrageous cost of prescription drugs, and they show no interest in combating the shockingly high home heating bills which will soon hit us.

Their contributors—the oil companies, the drug companies—have paralyzed them.

Bush, Taft and DeWine, the Republican Leadership Team, have stood silently by while our state has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs, while our communities are losing fire protection, police protection, and a traditional way of life. Their contributors have paralyzed them.

They have turned their backs on our families. Our young people are leaving our state in record numbers because we are not offering opportunities that make them want to stay. The Bush-Taft-DeWine team has failed our schools, from kindergarten to our great state universities.

We read about corruption—about a government that is unrecognizable to every government teacher in our great state, a cronyism that we believed ended with Tammany Hall, cast aside into the dustbin of history.

The pharmaceutical companies wrote the Medicare law. The chemical companies write environmental rules. The oil companies wrote the energy bill. Wall Street writes Social Security privatization legislation. Bankers and outsourcers wrote the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Sometimes—in politics and in life—we have to choose sides. We have to draw a clear line between what’s right and what’s wrong. Between what works for the people of our great nation and what works for only the privileged few.

Most of us here chose sides years ago. We chose sides based on our faith—a faith in God, and a faith in our country to live up to the promise of America. Our faith demands that we work tirelessly for social and economic justice.

I learned about faith and social and economic justice not far from here, from my parents and my church.

My faith teaches me that The Beatitudes is not just the greatest sermon ever given, it may be the best political speech ever delivered. It teaches us about caring for the least among us, about being a shepherd for the less privileged, about fighting for social and economic justice.

My faith informs me which side to take.

In 1993, I chose the side of families and communities and workers against the outsourcing of jobs to Mexico. As a freshman Congressman, I helped form a bi-partisan coalition and stood up to the president of the United States, a president in my party, and fought against the North American Free Trade Agreement.

As your United States senator, I will fight even harder for fair trade.

Three years ago, I chose the side of our men and women in uniform when I demanded of Secretary Rumsfeld and Administrator Bremer that their first priority should be the safety of our troops in Iraq. That no soldier, no Marine should go into battle—EVER—without body armor.

As your United States senator, I will fight even harder for our troops and our veterans.

Two years ago, again into the wee hours of the night, I chose the side of America’s senior citizens, helped form a bi-partisan coalition, and stood up to the drug companies which charge Americans three or four times what Canadians pay for their medicine.

"As your United States senator, I will fight even harder for affordable health care.

When you choose sides, you take the heat. The mark of true leadership is the ability and the willingness to stand up to pressure, to refuse to back down.

When I voted and spoke out against sending our young men and women to Iraq, I took the heat, I stood my ground. And many of you joined me.

Night after night, in the tradition of John Quincy Adams, I stayed after session and read aloud on the House floor dozens of letters from Ohio mothers and fathers, husbands and wives of soldiers and Marines in Iraq, dozens of letters from Ohioans who questioned the wisdom of this war.

Now I want to be their voice in the United States Senate.

And because I chose sides years ago, I will make a prediction: America’s largest drug companies will pour a million, two million, maybe three million dollars into our state to try to defeat me.

And, because I have fought for lower energy prices, this country’s largest oil companies will pour in another million dollars or two million dollars to try to defeat me.

Out-of-state insurance HMOs. Out-of-state pharmaceutical firms. Out-of-state tobacco companies. Out of state oil interests.

Well, here's what I have to say to all these out-of-state interests: Get out of our state. You've done enough damage.

Let me say something about Mike DeWine who has been our senator for 11 years. He is a decent man. Senator DeWine has tried to create an image of supposed independence from the hard edges of the Republican Party, the self-interest and greed of the 21st century Republican Party—telling us that he is no George Bush, that he is different from Bob Taft.

But too often, when called upon by George Bush, Mike DeWine has done his partisan duty. When George Bush said, Let’s make war on Iraq, Mike DeWine said, I’m right behind you, Mr President.

When George Bush said, Let’s privatize Social Security, Mike DeWine said, I’m with you, Mr. President; in fact, I already have a bill to help you do it.

When George Bush said, We need a trade bill with Central America so American business can outsource more Ohio jobs, Mike DeWine was one of its chief cheerleaders.

Mike DeWine has chosen sides. And, on issues that matter to Ohioans, Mike DeWine is on the wrong side.

Just two weeks ago, Congress passed a budget—of course in the middle of the night, of course with the roll held open for far too long, of course with Republican members changing their votes under the cover of darkness.

A budget is a moral document. A government budget, just like a family budget, reflects its values. This budget had it all wrong.

Cuts in Medicaid which will hurt our elderly living in nursing homes and hurt small children whose parents have full-time jobs. Cuts in student loans which will hurt our middle class families who are struggling to reach their dreams for their kids. Cuts in food stamps which will hurt the poorest families in our country. . . . All to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of people in our nation.

That is the 21st century Republican version of family values. Those are not our family values.

Republicans have sold us on their counterfeit values and phony priorities for way too long.

Tax cuts for their largest contributors masking as economic policy; an Iraq debacle pretending to be a war on terror; saddling our children and grandchildren with a huge debt in the name of fiscal responsibility; a quarter trillion dollar payout to the drug and insurance industries under the guise of a medical benefit for our senior citizens.

Washington Republicans have made their choices. Now it’s our turn to make ours.

My values tell me that our government and our country owe you more than that.

Republicans in Ohio and Republicans in Washington have proved over and over again that they deserve to lose. But that's not enough.

We as Democrats must prove we're ready to lead. Democrats have to be bold. We have to tell voters about our plan to change the direction of our country—a higher minimum wage and help for small business, a plan to bring down prescription drug prices for their parents and college tuition for their children, a chance for their families to reach their dreams.

That’s why, in the great tradition of Howard Metzenbaum and John Glenn, I am running for the United States Senate.

My campaign for the United States Senate is about providing opportunity for Ohio—for all of Ohio:

I will represent the people of Ohio—not the pharmaceutical companies, not the oil interests, not the insurance companies.

I will represent Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—not do the bidding of the guy in the White House, whatever his party affiliation.

I will continue to wage the fight—now in a larger arena, in the United States Senate—for fair trade to protect American workers on Main Street, not sell out American workers to Wall Street.

I will continue to wage the fight—now in a larger arena, in the United States Senate—for a health care system which is affordable and accessible to everyone. . . Whether they work in a minimum wage job or serve as a corporate vice president.

Today, I announce my candidacy for the United States Senate. Join me, and together we will change the direction of our great country."

Published at The Mansfield News Journal

As someone fortunate enough to make money with words, I know they mean little without actions. Which is why I chose to print all of Brown's words, because I'm confident both his words and deeds align.

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