Shirley Chisholm

Declaring presidential bid - Jan. 25, 1972

Shirley Chisholm
January 25, 1972
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I stand before you today, as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America.

I am not the candidate of Black America, although I am Black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women's movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I'm equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or fat cats or special interests.

I stand here now, without endorsements from many big-name politicians or celebrities or any other kind of prop. I do not intend to offer to you the tired and bled clichés which for too long have been accepted part of our political life.

I am the candidate of the people of America.

Fellow Americans, we have looked in vain to the Nixon administration for the courage, the spirit, the character, and the words to lift us, to bring out the best in us, to rekindle in each of us our faith in the American dream. Yet all that we have received in return is just another smooth exercise in political manipulation, deceit and deception, callousness and indifference to our individual problems, and the disgusting playing of divisive politics. Pinning the young against the old; labor against management; North against South; Black against white.

The abiding concern of this administration has been one of political expediency rather than the needs of man's nature. The president has broken his promises to us and has therefore lost his claim to our trust and confidence in him.

I cannot believe that this Administration would have ever been elected four years ago, if we had known then, what we know today.

But we are entering a new era in which we must as Americans demand stature and size in our national leadership. Leadership which is fresh, leadership which is open, and leadership which is receptive to the problems of all Americans.

I have faith in the American people. I believe that we are smart enough to correct our mistakes. I believe we are intelligent enough to recognize the talent, energy, and dedication which all Americans, including women and minorities, have to offer. I know from my travels to the cities and small towns of America that we have a vast potential, which can and must be put to constructive use in getting this great nation together. I know that millions of Americans, from all walks of life, agree with me, that leadership does not mean putting the ear to the ground, to follow public opinion, but to have the vision of what is necessary and the courage to make it possible.

Americans all over are demanding a new sensibility, a new philosophy of government from Washington. Instead of sending spies to snoop on participants at Earth Day, I would welcome the efforts of concerned citizens of all ages to stop the abuse of our environment. Instead of watching a football game on television while young people beg for the attention of their president concerning our actions abroad, I would encourage them to speak out, organize for peaceful change, and vote in November. Instead of blocking efforts to control the huge amounts of money given [to] political candidates by the rich and the powerful, I would provide certain limits on such amounts and encourage all the people of this nation to contribute small sums to the candidates of their choice. Instead of calculating the political cost of this or that policy, and a weigh in favor of this or that group, depending on whether that group voted for me in 1968, I would remind all Americans at this hour of the words of Abraham Lincoln: "A house divided cannot stand."

We Americans are all fellow countrymen. One day confronting the judgment of history in our country. We are all God's children, and a bit of each of us is as precious as the will of the most powerful general or corporate millionaire.

Those of you who were locked outside of the convention hall in 1968, those of you who can now vote for the first time, those of you who agree with me that the institutions of this country belong to all of the people who inhabit it. Those of you who have been neglected, left out, ignored, forgotten, or shunned aside for whatever reason – give me your help at this hour. Join me in an effort to reshape our society and regain control of our destiny, as we go down the Chisholm Trail of 1972.

Female Reporter: You recommend a trend for more women, specifically black women, to get involved in politics and go after elected offices?

Chisholm: Do I recommend a trend for more women, and specifically black women, to enter into politics – [corrective murmur from audience] – elected office? Yes I definitely am feeling and recognizing that as a result of over 20 years in political life, only emerging 8 years ago publicly, that there is a great need for more women in the political area. I happen to believe that there’s certain aspects of legislation that, probably, would be given much more attention if we had more women’s voice in the halls of the legislature at the city, state, and national levels. Legislation that pertains to daycare centers, education, social services, mental services. The kind of legislations that has to do with the conversation and preservation of the most important resources that any nation has – and that is its human resource.

Male Reporter: [inaudible]… will hurt the presidential candidacy of Mayor Lindsay?

Chisholm: Well Mayor Lindsay will be getting votes from the same area that I anticipate getting votes, and I dare say my candidacy might not only hurt Mayor Lindsay, it might hurt a few others who have the same political [inaudible, audience cheering].

Recording goes black for several seconds, time passage is unmarked.

And my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history. I have always earnestly believed in the great potential of America. Our constitutional democracy will soon celebrate its 200th anniversary – effective testimony to the longevity of our cherished constitution and its unique Bill of Rights which continues to give to the world an inspirational message of freedom and liberty. The Americans –

Recording jumps forward.

…or felt in remedying our ills. But …

Recording skips.

I do not believe that in 1972 the great majority of Americans will continue harbor such narrow and petty prejudices. I am convinced that the American people are in a mood to discard the politics and the political personalities of the past. I believe that they will show in 1972 and thereafter that they intend to make independent judgments on the merits of a particular candidate based on that candidate’s intelligence, character, physical ability, competence, integrity, and honesty. It is, I feel, the duty of responsible leaders in this country to encourage and maximize, not to dismiss or minimize, such judgments.

Our will can create a new America in 1972. One where there is freedom from violence and war, at home and abroad. Where there is freedom from poverty and discrimination. Where there exists at least the feeling that we are making progress in ensuring for everyone medical care, employment, and decent housing. Very more decisively clean up our streets, our water and our air. Where we work together, Black and white, to rebuild our neighborhoods and to make our cities quite attractive and efficient. And fundamentally, where we live in the confidence that every man and every woman in America has at long last the opportunity to become all that he was created of being, such as each ability. In conclusion, all of you who share in this vision – from New York to California, from Wisconsin to Florida – are our brothers and sisters on the road to national unity and a new America.

Recording jumps.

… And I’m close to forty four thousand dollars from the American people.

I want to say that in terms of my projection of three hundred thousand dollars, which was made earlier, that the benefits that are being planned and will be conducted in February, March, and April will let me, I’m quite sure, stay above that among. So I am going to be optimistic, now that I’ve made my announcement today, to able to get some sizable contributions. May I say that just this past week, I received two contributions from individuals in America, two contributions of $5,000 each – that is very encouraging.


Chisholm addresses someone in the crowd.

I can’t hear you.

Recording jumps.

I just want to say this, and it’s very important for all Americans to recognize, the United States Constitutions stipulates that anyone that is 35 years of age or over and is a natural-born citizen can run for the presidency. All of us meet that criteria. The people will make a decision.

Chisholm, S. A. [NYC Department of Records and Information Services]. (2015, April 13) Shirley Chisholm: Declares Presidential Bid, January 25, 1972 []. Retrieved on February 4, 2022 from