We come here today from the four corners of this nation. We are blacks and whites, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans; Christians, Muslims, and Jews; gay, lesbian, and straight; immigrants and native-born Americans; rich and poor.
Here today are representatives of all sections of society: students, union members . . .union members on strike . . .homeless veterans . . .and everyday warriors on the battlefield for justice.
But despite all our differences, we are here today . . . one community with one thing in common: a desire to see the restoration of the true ideals of America. America -- where fundamental rights to vote, speak, and practice religion mean something. A country that has a democratic form of government, a democratic way of life and a nation in which all can participate freely in political activity and share in the abundance of its harvest.
But America today is still a far cry from the noble Republic founded upon those words: "All men are created equal." We have not dealt well with our diversity and too many of our citizens suffer needlessly.
Unjust, undemocratic society
Each day millions of Americans suffer poverty, hunger, the sting of discrimination . . .arbitrary arrest, racial profiling, and brutality from rogue police . . .inadequate health care, drug abuse, and unemployment.
For the millions of poor Americans, ours is not a just society. More than 31 million Americans live in poverty. One in every six of our children lives in poverty. Some of our nation's poor even sleep each night on the steps of the buildings just visible from the bedrooms of the White House. And sadly, many of those who sleep on America's streets are our veterans from US wars . . .
Sadly, nor is ours a democratic society. In November 2000, the Republicans stole from America our most precious right of all: the right to free and fair elections. Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his Secretary of State Katherine Harris, created a phony list of convicted felons--57,700 to be exact--to "scrub" thousands of innocent people from the state's voter rolls. Of the thousands who ultimately lost their vote through this scrub of voters, 80% were African-American, mostly Democratic Party voters. Had they voted, the course of history would have changed. Instead, however, Harris declared Bush the victor by only 537 votes.
Wage peace instead of war
Now President Bush occupies the White House, but with questionable legitimacy. But however he got there, his Administration is now free to spend one to four billion dollars a month on the war in Afghanistan . . . free to cut the high deployment overtime pay of our young service men and women fighting in that war . . . free to propose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve National Park . . . free to stonewall on the Enron and Energy Task Force investigations . . . free to revoke the rules that keep our drinking water free of arsenic . . . free to get caught in Venezuela . . . and free to propose laws that deny our citizens sacred freedoms cherished under the Constitution.
We must dare to remember all of this. We must dare to debate and challenge all of this. And that is why we are here today.
We come here today to chart a new course for our communities and for America:
To fight against bigotry, we stand together as one, and we must.
To fight against injustice, we stand together as one, and we must.
To fight against poverty, we stand together as one, and we must.
To fight against the destruction of our environment, we stand together as one, and we must.
To wage peace instead of war, we stand together as one, and we must.
Because, through our efforts, I believe we can once again make America a force for good in the world.
We, as the world's most powerful nation have a responsibility to act in defense of the weak and to protect them from harm. We failed in Rwanda. We failed in Srebrenica. We failed in East Timor. And now, as we speak, we fail in Jenin.
Let us dedicate ourselves here today, to join together as one. When one person stands up and speaks out for the suffering of the weak, a tiny ripple of hope is created. When numerous people stand and demand justice for the multitude who have been forgotten, a strong current of possibilities is created. When an entire community stands up and demands change a mighty wave of freedom and justice is created.
We gather here today and we speak with one voice . . .And let us remember, that one person can make a ripple. One ripple can make a movement. One movement can make a voice. And one voice can make mighty change.
Let us leave here today and make the change this country needs to be loved and respected around the world once again. And remember one thing: Register and Vote!