Thank you ladies and
gentlemen for a very warm reception.
It was one hundred and forty-four years ago that members of the Democratic
Party first met in convention to select a Presidential candidate.
Since that time, Democrats have continued to convene once every four
years and draft a party platform and nominate a Presidential candidate.
And our meeting this week is a continuation of that tradition. But
there is something different about tonight. There is something special
about tonight. What is different? What is special?
I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker.
When -- A lot of years passed since 1832, and during that time it
would have been most unusual for any national political party to ask
a Barbara Jordan to deliver a keynote address. But tonight, here I
am. And I feel -- I feel that notwithstanding the past that my presence
here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need
not forever be deferred.
Now -- Now that I have this grand distinction, what in the world
am I supposed to say? I could easily spend this time praising the
accomplishments of this party and attacking the Republicans -- but
I don't choose to do that. I could list the many problems which Americans
have. I could list the problems which cause people to feel cynical,
angry, frustrated: problems which include lack of integrity in government;
the feeling that the individual no longer counts; the reality of material
and spiritual poverty; the feeling that the grand American experiment
is failing or has failed. I could recite these problems, and then
I could sit down and offer no solutions. But I don't choose to do
that either. The citizens of America expect more. They deserve and
they want more than a recital of problems.
We are a people in a quandary about the present. We are a people
in search of our future. We are a people in search of a national community.
We are a people trying not only to solve the problems of the present,
unemployment, inflation, but we are attempting on a larger scale to
fulfill the promise of America. We are attempting to fulfill our national
purpose, to create and sustain a society in which all of us are equal.
Throughout -- Throughout our history, when people have looked for
new ways to solve their problems and to uphold the principles of this
nation, many times they have turned to political parties. They have
often turned to the Democratic Party. What is it? What is it about
the Democratic Party that makes it the instrument the people use when
they search for ways to shape their future? Well I believe the answer
to that question lies in our concept of governing. Our concept of
governing is derived from our view of people. It is a concept deeply
rooted in a set of beliefs firmly etched in the national conscience
of all of us.
Now what are these beliefs? First, we believe in equality for all
and privileges for none. This is a belief -- This is a belief that
each American, regardless of background, has equal standing in the
public forum -- all of us. Because -- Because we believe this idea
so firmly, we are an inclusive rather than an exclusive party. Let
I think it no accident that most of those emigrating to America in
the 19th century identified with the Democratic Party. We are a heterogeneous
party made up of Americans of diverse backgrounds. We believe that
the people are the source of all governmental power; that the authority
of the people is to be extended, not restricted.
This -- This can be accomplished only by providing each citizen with
every opportunity to participate in the management of the government.
They must have that, we believe. We believe that the government which
represents the authority of all the people, not just one interest
group, but all the people, has an obligation to actively -- underscore
actively -- seek to remove those obstacles which would block individual
achievement -- obstacles emanating from race, sex, economic condition.
The government must remove them, seek to remove them.
We -- We are a party -- We are a party of innovation. We do not reject
our traditions, but we are willing to adapt to changing circumstances,
when change we must. We are willing to suffer the discomfort of change
in order to achieve a better future. We have a positive vision of
the future founded on the belief that the gap between the promise
and reality of America can one day be finally closed. We believe that.
This, my friends, is the bedrock of our concept of governing. This
is a part of the reason why Americans have turned to the Democratic
Party. These are the foundations upon which a national community can
be built. *Let's all understand that these guiding principles cannot
be discarded for short-term political gains. They represent what this
country is all about. They are indigenous to the American idea. And
these are principles which are not negotiable.
In other times, I could stand here and give this kind of exposition
on the beliefs of the Democratic Party and that would be enough. But
today that is not enough. People want more. That is not sufficient
reason for the majority of the people of this country to vote Democratic.*
We have made mistakes. We realize that. We admit our mistakes. In
our haste to do all things for all people, we did not foresee the
full consequences of our actions. And when the people raised their
voices, we didn't hear. But our deafness was only a temporary condition,
and not an irreversible condition.
Even as I stand here and admit that we have made mistakes, I still
believe that as the people of America sit in judgment on each party,
they will recognize that our mistakes were mistakes of the heart.
They'll recognize that.
Now -- Now we must look to the future. Let us heed the voice of the
people and recognize their common sense. If we do not, we not only
blaspheme our political heritage, we ignore the common ties that bind
all Americans. Many fear the future. Many are distrustful of their
leaders, and believe that their voices are never heard. Many seek
only to satisfy their private work -- wants; to satisfy their private
interests. But this is the great danger America faces -- that we will
cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest
groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against
individual; each seeking to satisfy private wants. If that happens,
who then will speak for America? Who then will speak for the common
This is the question which must be answered in 1976: Are we to be
one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor;
or will we become a divided nation? For all of its uncertainty, we
cannot flee the future. We must not become the "New Puritans"
and reject our society. We must address and master the future together.
It can be done if we restore the belief that we share a sense of national
community, that we share a common national endeavor. It can be done.
There is no executive order; there is no law that can require the
American people to form a national community. This we must do as individuals,
and if we do it as individuals, there is no President of the United
States who can veto that decision.
As a first step -- As a first step, we must restore our belief in
ourselves. We are a generous people, so why can't we be generous with
each other? We need to take to heart the words spoken by Thomas Jefferson:
Let us restore the social intercourse -- "Let us restore to
social intercourse that harmony and that affection without which liberty
and even life are but dreary things."
A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the
responsibility for upholding the common good. A government is invigorated
when each one of us is willing to participate in shaping the future
of this nation. In this election year, we must define the "common
good" and begin again to shape a common future. Let each person
do his or her part. If one citizen is unwilling to participate, all
of us are going to suffer. For the American idea, though it is shared
by all of us, is realized in each one of us.
Now, what are those of us who are elected public officials supposed
to do? We call ourselves "public servants" but I'll tell
you this: We as public servants must set an example for the rest of
the nation. It is hypocritical for the public official to admonish
and exhort the people to uphold the common good if we are derelict
in upholding the common good. More is required -- More is required
of public officials than slogans and handshakes and press releases.
More is required. We must hold ourselves strictly accountable. We
must provide the people with a vision of the future.
If we promise as public officials, we must deliver. If -- If we as
public officials propose, we must produce. If we say to the American
people, "It is time for you to be sacrificial" -- sacrifice.
If the public official says that, we [public officials] must be the
first to give. We must be. And again, if we make mistakes, we must
be willing to admit them. We have to do that. What we have to do is
strike a balance between the idea that government should do everything
and the idea, the belief, that government ought to do nothing. Strike
Let there be no illusions about the difficulty of forming this kind
of a national community. It's tough, difficult, not easy. But a spirit
of harmony will survive in America only if each of us remembers that
we share a common destiny. If each of us remembers, when self-interest
and bitterness seem to prevail, that we share a common destiny.
I have confidence that we can form this kind of national community.
I have confidence that the Democratic Party can lead the way.
I have that confidence.
We cannot improve on the system of government handed down to us by
the founders of the Republic. There is no way to improve upon that.
But what we can do is to find new ways to implement that system and
realize our destiny.
Now I began this speech by commenting to you on the uniqueness of
a Barbara Jordan making a keynote address. Well I am going to close
my speech by quoting a Republican President and I ask you that as
you listen to these words of Abraham Lincoln, relate them to the concept
of a national community in which every last one of us participates:
"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master."
This -- This -- "This expresses my idea of Democracy. Whatever
differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no Democracy."
* = Text within asterisks absent from this audio.