Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Convention Speech
Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
July 15, 1992

[Democracy in Action Transcript |  C-SPAN Video]

JODIE EVANS: Fellow Democrats, good evening.

When I was 18, I met a politician that was different, who was destined to be a force for vision, integrity, and conscience for his state, his country, and the protection of this planet.

His need to touch hearts and minds inspired me. It inspired me to action. It inspired me to serve. It inspired me to care for things I hadn't until he showed them to me.

His constant dedication to things he believed in, moved me to do the same.

Over 4 million Americans have shared a similar experience.

Jerry has touched their hearts, felt their needs, and articulated their frustrations. He's fought for them, and he's promised to continue to fight for them without compromise.

He is leading a revolution for the change this country needs to break the stranglehold of the corporate interests by starting a campaign that only accepted $100 and no PAC money.

It was an act most thought impossible, but we did it.

And now, 19 years later, on behalf of those voters and the tens of thousands of volunteers—our winter soldiers that have shared their passion, their commitment, their creativity, caring and ideas—I am proud to place the name of my friend Edmund G. Brown Jr. into nomination for president of the United States.

KELLY ALDRICH: My name is Kelly Aldrich. I'm 15 years old.

My trip to New York began I was chosen to be a member of the Scholastic kids caucus, a group of 12 students from across the country who were chosen to write a youth platform as a way to get our voices heard. Then I met Jerry Brown.

Jerry Brown, even though I'm not yet at the voting age, you asked to meet me when you found out I supported you. You talked to me and invited me to join in your nominating process. You gave me this chance of a lifetime. The chance to tell America my feelings about you, a person I admire and strive to be like. I have admired you ever since I saw you on the Donahue show debating Charlton Heston about the Persian Gulf War. Your eloquence and conviction moved me.

You said things that I always wished I could have said in my history class. I knew then that you are a person I would always support to make this country better and get America back into the hands of the people.

I'm glad you ran for president. I know you really listened to people. You know that the decisions we make today will affect our lives tomorrow.

You listened to my views and opinions, and that is all young people ask for: the chance to be heard.

I know you are working, I know you work hard in getting young people involved. Your plan for an Environmental Youth Committee is proof enough for me. I'm ready to join whenever it's ready.

In closing, I would just like to thank you for being you. By watching you, you taught me how to speak my mind no matter how many people disagree with me.

When you, when you spoke to me,  you made me feel important.

American needs a president who will listen to people and who thinks all of us are important. America needs you Jerry Brown.

And so it is my honor to second the nomination of Edmund G Brown. Jr. for the President of the United States of America.

Jerry Brown.

[Music: "California here I come"]

JERRY BROWN: Thank you. 

My name's Jerry and I'm here to speak.

And I want to thank, I want to thank all of you all across this country and across this convention hall that have made it possible for this campaign to get here.

And I want to thank one other person who is not here tonight and is missing his first convention since the Depression. A man who beat Richard Nixon in 1962 and almost stopped Ronald Reagan in 1966 and in my view is the greatest Democrat in this country: my father, Pat Brown.

Dad, thanks a lot for everything you've done.

Give him a round of applause. He's given his whole life to this Democratic Party, which we all love.

Almost a year ago when this journey began, it was evident that we faced not merely another election, but the deepening crisis of democracy itself. What was at stake was nothing less than the life of our nation, its soul, its core principles, the last best hope on Earth.

President Lincoln faced crisis too that led to a bloody civil war, triggered by the secession of one third of the states. Today, half the people individually have seceded from our political democracy because they don't believe their vote makes any difference.

Yeah, they're out there. And we got to go get them back.

Now those of us, those of us on the inside, find it easy to fall into the complacent illusion that we're making change when we engage in politics, and speak of change. But the growing skepticism and discontent in every corner of America with the  party system and the refusal to vote on the part of the majority has to sound an alarm for all who care to listen.

You know, and everyone watching knows that effective government is breaking down, that the system is paralyzed, and that as a result, our society deteriorates. Even to convene here, the homeless had to be swept off the streets and out of sight.

Tonight one out of every five of our children is in poverty. Millions of their parents are laboring for four dollars and 25 cents an hour. Men and women who've worked their whole lives are sitting idle, as smug custodians of global finance move their jobs to Mexico. The air, the soil, and the water are poisoned for profits' sake, and the future of our grandchildren is stolen to pay for the most bloated arms industry ever to exist in a time of peace. And it's not right.

Instead of government by the people, and for the people, and of the people, President Bush and his allies give us government of, by, and for the privileged.

It's not citizens who carry the day, but the growing concentration of wealth beyond any boundary of nation or conscience and its influence over our governing institutions through money.

Whatever nice programs we speak of, whatever dreams we share, unless the basic fact of unchecked power and privilege is acknowledged and courageously challenged, nothing will ever change.

President Bush talks of AFDC—aid to families with dependent children—as though these thoroughly powerless people cause our present predicament. Yet he and his reactionary allies hypocritically overlook the real AFDC—aid to financially dependent corporations.

Bailouts, subsidies, loan guarantees, giveaways of natural resources in our public lands, tax breaks—just add them up. Tens of billions of dollars of federal wealth payments, federal welfare payments to well connected corporations. It's far more than all the welfare mothers put together could ever dream of, much less obtain through the paltry payments they receive every month.

In recent months, President Bush has demanded—so far unsuccessfully—$10 billion in debt forgiveness that the nuclear power utilities owe Uncle Sam for uranium enrichment. At the same time Bush and his Republican allies are fighting against fully funding Headstart, the auto safety agency infant nutrition, immunization programs, drinking water safety programs, the meat and poultry inspection service, the Occupational Health and Safety Agency, and critical federal cancer prevention programs. All these efforts to save life and promote health are less than three quarters of the money that Bush wants to give in forgiveness to those utilities. Again, it's the Democrats that are stopping the giveaway, and together we will continue to block giveaways and fight for the people we serve.

In the New Hampshire primary, a woman stood up at a town meeting and asked me about jobs for her unemployed neighbors. She said they wanted to work as teachers or nurses aides, and they didn't want much. They'd be glad to work for $5.50 an hour. That shocked me when she stood up at that town meeting. But local officials she said, said there was no federal money. Yet the Resolution Trust Company of that same federal government was ladling out $600 an hour to pay one lawyer working a few dozen blocks, blocks from here to clean up the S&L mess that a lot of lawyers, investment bankers and politicians created in the first place.

And so when I heard that woman speak, it really hit me. It was not lack of federal money. It was lack of her political power.

And it is that power for the powerless, that we've come here to create. And create it we will. Whatever the odds, whoever the adversaries, however long it takes, we will create the power for the powerless, for there is no other reason for a Democratic Party to exist.

Except for the influence of power and money, how can we explain why high priced corporate lunches are tax deductible, but not the hard-earned tuition payments of struggling students? You tell me, 'cause you know the answer. It's money, it's contacts, it's everything that's wrong with this country.

Except for the influence of power and money, how can we explain the tens of thousands of homeless men and women and children on our streets or doubled up in hallways for lack of federal housing assistance, when billions, and I mean billions, go to subsidized mortgages for millionaires. It's not right, and we've got to do something about it.

Except for the influence of power and money, how do you explain billions that go for nuclear submarines with non-existent missions, while desperate cries from our cities, they go unheeded? Are our mayors wrong, or do they just lack the special influence that gets things done in Washington?

You know, the billion dollars the cities got a few weeks ago is less than one day of additional borrowing to our national debt that we do every day of this year.

For many, many years, I believed that we could change politics through a series of changes, some small, some large, but all incremental within the framework of politics as we know it: progressive appointments, more money for college scholarships, good environmental laws, urban assistance programs. Yet when I was governor, I'm sorry to acknowledge, wages toward the end started to fall, factory jobs started moving abroad, and the numbers of the poor began to grow. Ten years later, South Central Los Angeles exploded. How I tried to make that system work as governor of California.

And then, more recently as party chairman, I raised the money, we registered the voters, and won incredible campaigns with our statewide candidates devoting every working day to collecting thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, from the top 1% of income earners, but always far removed from ordinary people.

But victory, it still eluded us. So we were counseled to raise even larger sums to overcome the opposition and the voter indifference. But in my heart, I knew and I know now that the problem was not the lack of money. There is never enough and there will never be enough to buy back the disappearing loyalty of the disillusioned. It's not there.

What we need, what we needed then, was something more basic. We had to break the growing and dangerous tie-in of economic and political power. We have to save our souls as Democrats, return to our roots, listen to our ancestors, and once again fight on the side of the people who pay the bills and fight the wars but never come to our receptions. Those are the people I want to fight for, I know you want to fight for, and we have to start doing that as we walk out of here.

Look. Let's put it simply. The words of politics will remain empty, forever, unless we challenge and challenge honestly and directly and in a measurable, credible way the corrupt money and the influence that today powers our campaigns and puts our words and faces across TV screens in five and 10 and $20 million campaigns. We've got to get it that root or we're never gonna build the trees of progress.

That's what started this candidacy, as much a cause as a campaign to redeem our own past and to reclaim what belongs to all of us: our democracy, and real justice, social and economic. We didn't begin on a political analysis or personal calculation but on a moral necessity to speak truth to power. That's what we did, that's what we're doing, and we'll continue to do that.

Our goal was to give people, especially those who stopped believing, a real choice and an equal opportunity to participate. That's why we limited donations to $100. And why we relied on an 800 number. We wanted people who had no access. They didn't know any particular person with power. We wanted them to take ownership of this cause.

You see, I don't believe that our predicament can be resolved by the election of any one politician, even a president. The future will be determined not in the White House or on Capitol Hill alone, but it has to be won in every living room, and every company office, and every classroom, and in every neighborhood of America. What we need is not a campaign as usual, but a common cause to recast the nation's politics, revive our democracy, and reclaim our economic future.

Listen to our founder, Thomas Jefferson, when he said the purpose of representative government was to counteract the excesses of the moneyed interests, and to President Andrew Jackson, when he stated that when a democracy is in trouble, the remedy is more democracy.

That's why every citizen in America should have not only the right but the real opportunity to vote. And it's the responsibility of government to ensure that by registering every American, and that's why we have to fight to see the government does the job with all its bureaucracy and its computers. They know how to get our taxes. Why don't they get our votes and the votes of everyone in this country?

That's why we have to fight to take back the airwaves and make it possible for candidates to speak to the people and for the people that hear them on television without the corrupting influence of money.

That's why we have to fight to take back our own Post Office so the candidates and parties and the people can communicate without mortgaging their future and their integrity to the special interests. That's a basic right. Why can't we make it free and available to those who wish to participate?

And that's why we have to ban political action committees so people in corporations are put on the same level.

And that's why we have to fight to ensure that the minimum wage, the presidential wage, and the congressional wage show we're all in it together. All together and the closer the better. That's where solidarity comes from.

And let's not get fooled by the false populism that comes to us out of the very concentration of wealth and power that we're sworn to oppose.

Outside of advertising, there is no such thing as a billion dollar populist.

Mr. Perot, Mr. Perot, we can afford to pay for our own democracy. We don't need you to lend it to us.

And with these tools to democracy, we're gonna move to higher ground and restore the promise of democracy. And then truly, we'll be able to fight trade treaties that reduce wages and weaken environmental standards. And we can fight to assure that every child has a decent education, and every family a decent house, and every single American the health care they deserve. And we can fight to see that we have an environment that isn't poisoned, but depends on clean, renewable energy that the people of this country make for themselves.

Ours is the oldest party in the world. Whatever change had to be made in this country, in this century that is, it was made through the Democratic Party. But the real changes—the things that really shook things up—these came from below, from the people themselves.

The Democratic Party gave us the Wagner Act from the 30s for working people. But it was only after brave men and women marched and picketed, even unto death, that that law went on the books.

In the 60s the Democratic Party gave us civil rights laws, but only after a courageous woman Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of a bus and tens of thousands of ordinary people marched and protested and went against what was popular, even to the point of their own blood and even their own lives.

And its the Democratic Party today which stands behind the women of America and protecting the right to choose. But it was one woman, Anita Hill, who galvanized us all by standing up and speaking truth to power.

And its the Democratic Party which has the courage and the decency to champion in its platform the rights of gay and lesbian Americans, but only, but only because courageous men and women were not afraid to talk back, act up, and call us to our better selves.

Conventions and nominations are never ending, but only steps along the way. I intend to fight for this party, its ideals tonight, tomorrow, this year, and every year until together we overcome. I want you to join me in that undertaking.

And as we join together in this spirit, no obstacle will stand in our way. Victory will be ours because in our veins runs the blood through those of the darkest hour gave their lives so that this nation under God should have a new birth of freedom and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.

We shall overcome, all of us together working for what we believe.

Thank you very much.

Brown spoke for 20 minutes.