Joe Biden's Nomination Acceptance Speech

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Nomination Acceptance Speech  (2008) 
by Joe Biden

August 27, 2008

You know, folks, my dad used to have an expression. He'd say: "You know you're a success when he turns and looks at his son or daughter and knows that they turned out better than he did." I am a success. I am a hell of a success.

Beau, I love you. I am so proud of you. I'm so proud of the son you've become. I'm so proud of the father you are. And I'm so proud of my son Hunter, my daughter Ashley, and my wife, Jill, the only one who leaves me both breathless and speechless at the same time.

It is an honor to share this stage tonight with President Clinton, a man I think brought this country so far along that I only pray that we can repeat it. And last night, it was moving to watch Hillary, one of our great leaders of our party, a woman who has made history and will continue to make history: a colleague, my friend Senator Hillary Clinton.

And I am truly honored to live in a country with the bravest warriors in the world. And I'm honored to represent our first state - my state - the state of Delaware. Since I've never been called a man of few words, let me say this as simply as I can: Yes. Yes, I accept your nomination to run and serve with Barack Obama, the next President of the United States of America.

Let me make this pledge to you right here and now. For every American who is trying to do the right thing, for all those people in government who are honoring their pledge to uphold the law and honor the Constitution, no longer will you hear the eight most dreaded words in the English language: "The Vice President's office is on the phone."

Barack and I took very different journeys to this destination, but we share a common story. Mine began in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and then Wilmington, Delaware. My dad, who fell on hard economic times, always told me: "Champ, when you get knocked down, get up. Get up." I was taught that by my dad, and God, I wish that my dad was here tonight, but I am so grateful that my mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, is here tonight. Mom, I love you. You know my mom taught her children - all the children who flocked to our house - that you are defined by your sense of honor, and you are redeemed by your loyalty. She believes that bravery lives in every heart and her expectation is that it will be summoned.

Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable. As a child I stuttered, and she lovingly would look at me and told me, "Joey, it's because you're so bright you can't get the thoughts out quickly enough." When I was not as well dressed as the other kids, she told me, "Joey, you're so handsome honey, you're so handsome." And when I got knocked down by guys bigger than me, and this is the God's truth, she sent me back out the street and told me, "Bloody their nose so you can walk down the street the next day." And that's what I did.

After the accident, she told me, "Joey, God sends no cross that you cannot bear." And when I triumphed, my mother was quick to remind me it was because of others.

My mother's creed is the American creed: No one is better than you. Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you.

My parents taught us to live our faith, and to treasure our families. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough.

That was America's promise. For those of us who grew up in middle-class neighborhoods like Scranton and Wilmington, that was the American dream. But today that American dream feels as if it's slowly slipping away. I don't have to tell you that. You feel it every single day in your own lives.

I've never seen a time when Washington has watched so many people get knocked down without doing anything to help them get back up. Almost every night, I take the train home to Wilmington, sometimes very late. As I sit there in my seat and I look out my window and I see the flickering lights of the homes we pass by, I can almost hear the conversation they're having at their kitchen table after they put their kids to bed. Like millions of Americans, they're asking questions as ordinary as they are profound. Questions they never ever thought they'd have to ask themselves:

-Should mom move in with us now that dad is gone?

-Fifty, sixty, seventy dollars just to fill up the gas tank?

-How in God's name, with winter coming, how are we gonna heat the home?

-Another year, no raise?

-Did you hear? Did you hear they may be cutting our health care at the company?

-Now, now we owe more on the house than it's worth. How in God's name are we going to send the kids to college?

-How are we gonna retire?

You know, folks, that's the America that George Bush has left us, and that's the America we'll continue to get if George - excuse me, if John McCain is elected president of the United States of America. Freudian slip! Freudian slip! And folks, these are not isolated discussions among families down on their luck. These are common stories among middle-class people who've worked hard their whole life, played by the rules on the promise that their tomorrows would be better than their yesterdays.

That promise is the promise of America. It defines who we are as a people. And now it's in jeopardy. I know it. You know it. But John McCain doesn't get it. Barack Obama gets it though. Like many of us in this room, like many of us in this hall, Barack worked his way up. His is the great American story. You know, I believe the measure of a man is not the road he travels; it's the choices he's made along that road.

And ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama could have done anything after he graduated from college. With all his talent and promise, he could have written his own ticket to Wall Street.

But what did he choose to do? He chose to go to Chicago. The South Side of Chicago. There - there in the South Side of Chicago he met men and women who had lost their jobs. Their neighborhood was devastated when the local steel plant closed. Their dreams had to be deferred. Their self-esteem gone. And ladies and gentlemen, he made their lives the work of his life. That's what you do when you're raised by a single mom, who worked, went to school and raised two kids on her own. That's how you come to believe, to the very core of your being, that work is more than a paycheck. It's dignity. It's respect. It's about whether or not you can look your children in the eye and say: We're going to be all right.

Because Barack made that choice, 150 (thousand) more children and parents have health care in Illinois. He fought to make that happen. And because Barack made that choice, working families in Illinois pay less taxes and more people have moved from welfare to the dignity of work. And he got it done.

And when he came to Washington, when he came to Washington, John and I watched with amazement how he hit the ground running, leading the fight to pass the most sweeping ethics reform in a generation. He reached across party lines to pass a law that helps keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. And then he moved Congress and the president to give our wonderful wounded veterans the care and dignity they deserve.

You know, you can learn a lot about a man campaigning with him, debating him, seeing how he reacts under pressure. You learn about the strength of his mind, but even more importantly, you learn about the quality of his heart. I watched how Barack touched people, how he inspired them, and I realized he had tapped into the oldest belief in America: We don't have to accept a situation we cannot bear. We have the power to change it. And change it - and change it is exactly what Barack Obama will do. That's what he'll do for this country.

You know, John McCain is my friend, and I know you hear that phrase used all the time in politics. I mean it. John McCain is my friend. We've traveled the world together. It's a friendship that goes beyond politics. And the personal courage and heroism demonstrated by John still amazes me.

But I profoundly - I profoundly disagree with the direction that John wants to take the country, from Afghanistan to Iraq. From Amtrak to veterans. You know, John thinks, John thinks that during the Bush years "we've made great economic progress." I think it's been abysmal. And in the Senate, John has voted with President Bush 95 percent of the time. And that is very hard to believe. And when John McCain proposes $200 billion in new tax breaks for corporate America, $1 billion alone for just eight of the largest companies, but no, none, no relief for 100 million American families, that's not change; that's more of the same. Even today, as oil companies post the biggest profits in history - nearly a half trillion dollars in the last five years - John wants to give them another $4 billion in tax breaks.

That's not change, that's the same. And during the same time John voted again and again against incentives for renewable energy: solar, wind, biofuels. That's not change; that's more of the same. Millions of Americans have seen their jobs go offshore, yet John continues to support corporations that send them there.

That's not change. That's more of the same. He voted 19 times against raising minimum wage for people that are struggling just to make it to the next day. That's not change. That's more of the same. And when he says to continue to spend $10 billion a month when the Iraqis have a surplus of nearly $80 billion, that's not change. That's more of the same.

The choice in this election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader. A leader who can change, change - the change that everybody knows we need. Barack Obama is going to deliver that change. Because, I want to tell you, Barack Obama will reform our tax code. He will cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people who draw a paycheck.

That's the change we need. Barack Obama, Barack Obama will transform our economy by making alternative energy a national priority and in the process creating 5 million new jobs and finally, finally freeing us from the grip of foreign oil. That's the change we need.

Barack Obama knows that any country that outteaches us today will outcompete us tomorrow.

That's why he'll invest in the next generation of teachers and why he'll make college more affordable. That's the change we need. Barack Obama will bring down health care costs by $2,500 for the average family and at long last deliver affordable, accessible health care for every American. That's the change we need. Barack will put more cops on the street, put security back in social security and he'll never ever ever give up until we achieve equal pay for women. That's the change we need.

As we gather here tonight, our country is less secure and more isolated that it has been any time it has in recent history. The Bush foreign policy has dug us into a very deep hole, with very few friends to help us climb out. And for the last seven years, the administration has failed to face the biggest the biggest forces shaping this century. The emergence of Russia, China and India's great powers, the spread of lethal weapons, the shortage of secure supplies of energy, food and water. The challenge of climate change and the resurgence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front in the war on terror. Ladies and gentlemen, in recent years and in recent days we once again see the consequences of the neglect, of this neglect, of Russia challenging the very freedom of a new democratic country of Georgia. Barack and I will end that neglect. We will hold Russia accountable for its action and we will help Georgia rebuild. I have been on the ground in Georgia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms, this administration's policy has been an abysmal failure. America cannot afford four more years of this failure.

And now, now, despite being complacent in the catastrophic foreign policy, John McCain says Barack Obama, Barrack Obama is not ready to protect our national security. Now let me ask you this. Whose judgment do you trust? Should you trust the judgment of John McCain when he said only 3 years ago, "Afghanistan - we don't read about it anymore in the papers, because it succeeded"?

Or do you believe Barack Obama, who said a year ago, "We need to send two more combat battalions to Afghanistan"?

The fact of the matter is, al-Qaida and the Taliban - the people who have actually attacked us on 9/11 - they've regrouped in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and are plotting new attacks. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has echoed Barack's call for more troops and John McCain was wrong and Barack Obama was right. Should we trust John McCain's judgment? When he rejects, when he rejected talking with Iran and asked what is there to talk about? Or Barack Obama, who said we must talk and must make clear to Iran that it must change?

Now, after seven years of denial, even the Bush administration recognizes that we should talk to Iran because that's the best way to ensure our security. Again and again John McCain has been wrong and Barack Obama has been right. Should we trust John McCain's judgment when he says, when he says that we can't have no timelines to withdraw our troops from Iraq, that we must say indefinitely? Or should we listen to Barack Obama, who says shift the responsibility to the Iraqis and set a time to bring our combat troops home? Now, after six long years, the administration and the Iraqi government are on the verge of setting a date to bring our troops home. John McCain was wrong and Barack Obama was right.

Again, again and again on the most important national security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong and Barack Obama has been proven right. Folks, remember when the world used to trust us, when they looked to us for leadership? With Barack Obama as our president, they'll look at us again. They'll trust us again and we'll be able to lead again. Folks, Jill and I are truly honored to join Michelle and Barack on this journey.

When I look at their young children, and when I look at my grandchildren, I realize why I'm here. I'm here for their future. I am here for everyone I grew up with in Scranton and Wilmington. I am here for the cops and firefighters, the teachers and assembly line workers, the folks whose lives are the very measure of whether the American dream endures.

Our greatest presidents, from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt to John Kennedy, they all challenged us to embrace change. Now, it's our responsibility to meet that challenge.

Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up. Back up together. Our debt to our parents and grandparents too great, our obligation to our children is too sacred.

These are extraordinary times. This is an extraordinary election. The American people are ready. I'm ready. Barack is ready. This is his time. This is our time. This is America's time.

God bless America, and may God protect our troops! Thank you!

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).