Mr. Chairman, delegates, fellow Democrats, fellow Americans. Tonight, I would like to talk with you about a civil society. The kind of society I want my four children to live in. The kind of society you and I are working to build.
A civil society is built by the smallest, simplest gestures. Things we do every day without thinking twice. Seventy-six years ago, Mrs. Burn from East Tennessee did such a thing. Women’s suffrage had come down to one vote – her son Harry, a 24-year-old Tennessee state representative, was expected to vote no.
But then, Mrs. Burn wrote a letter. It said, “Be a good boy, Harry, and do the right thing.” He switched from no to yes. And that’s how the 19th Amendment was ratified to give women the right to vote.
So to Mrs. Burn and all Americans who teach their children to do the right thing – thank you. You are the cornerstones of a civil society. The pillars of strong communities. The models of personal responsibility. And the bridge-builders to a brighter future.
You will find no better champions than President Clinton and my husband, Al Gore. Because they are working to give you better tools to raise your children. And create a more civil society. As you know.
I began a difficult fight long before it became fashionable, to give parents the tools to protect their children from violence, obscenity and degradation of women. We won voluntary labeling of records and CDs. And today, parents have a more powerful tool to ensure that their values will not be undermined.
Then, the battle was over music. But now, thanks to President Clinton and Vice President Gore, parents will have even more powerful tools: the V-chip that gives the TV controls back to families. Voluntary ratings. And three hours of children’s educational programming a week on the networks. That’s one way in which President Clinton and Vice President Gore are shifting the balance of power back to America’s families.
Here’s another way this administration considers the impact of their policy decisions on the American family. For too long diseases of the brain have had second-class status, but President Clinton has fought alongside compassionate members of Congress for equal coverage for mental health – and to change the lives and outlook of families living with mental illness.
I’m proud to be a Democrat because our party fights not just for families, but also for children. Parents and children need strong communities, strong schools, strong congregations and strong neighborhoods.
I’m proud to be a Democrat because our party has always sought to create a civil society not only in the policies we promote but in the politics we practice. I really believe, as I know you believe, that it is our responsibility to America’s voters to eliminate viciousness from our political discourse, to choose language that unites, rather than divides, to disagree with decency and dignity, and to keep our sense of humor.
Civil discourse advances the Democratic party’s vision of a society that embodies Mrs. Burn’s simple advice to do the right thing.
Let us pledge tonight that we will continue building a future that is more caring, more humane, more civil, more tolerant and more virtuous. For America’s parents, for America’s families, and for the American communities.
Now, it is my honor and privilege to introduce a woman who has devoted her life to building a more civil society for America’s families, a woman who has had the courage to blaze new trails, who has the gift of a great mind, and the blessing of a compassionate heart.
A woman who is a strong and unwavering voice for those who haven’t yet found their voices – our children – a woman who always maintains her grace, dignity and humor even while being subjected to unimaginable incivility, a woman I am proud to call a dear and loyal friend, a woman parents and children are proud to call their champion, and a woman America is proud to call our first lady – Hillary Rodham Clinton.