Senator Tom Harkin
Gallaudet University
Washington, DC
March 9, 1992

[Democracy in Action Transcript |  C-SPAN Video]

HARKIN: For those of you that don't speak sign language, I just wanted to say that this school and the students here are very special to me, and that's why I wanted to be here this morning for this very special announcement. That I was very proud of them and proud of what they're doing. And then I said, because of time I would let the interpreter speak for me this morning so we wouldn't be here all day.

For all who are called to public service, there are people and places that serve as a source...

PROTESTER: Sen. Harkin, why don't you co-sponsor the gay rights bill? What about gay rights? We've been following you around. We want you to co-sponsor the gay rights bill.  What's wrong with gay rights? You're the only homophobe...

AUDIENCE CHANTS: Harkin.  Harkin.  Harkin.

HARKIN: Well, now as I was saying...

For all who are called to public service, there are people in places that serve as a source of special inspiration to them and their work.

My special source of inspiration is my older brother, Frank, who is deaf. Frank graduated from the Iowa School for the Deaf. And when he graduated, his horizons were limited. But today, the only limit that deaf children graduating from here or there have is their ability to dream.

To invest our national treasure in the skills and the talents of the young, to use government to empower and to lift up, to give hope to all of us so that we can demand the best from each of us, that is what a visionary government can do.

These are the values that brought me into public service 18 years ago.

And for the last six months I've had the opportunity to do something very special.

It has indeed been the privilege of a lifetime that this son of a coal miner and an immigrant mother can climb the ladder of opportunity and run for the presidency of the United States of America.

This school is a very real symbol of what our campaign has been about.

This school teaches hope and opportunity, and ever wider horizons for those who cannot hear.

You learn here to realize your potential and your value.

This school and this campaign and the wider campaign that continues during and after a presidential race is about a society that is open and welcoming to all of its citizens.

It's about inclusion, not exclusion.

It's about using government as a means to provide a ladder and a ramp of opportunity for citizens, to open doors so that each American can contribute to his or her maximum potential.

That's the philosophy that has guided my public life, and this is the reason I have run for president.

From our first day this campaign has been about human dignity and justice and about electing a president who cares, not just for the few at the top, but for all of us, and for our dreams and the hopes of our children.

Our campaign was based on the belief that America is not some at the expense of many, but many to the advantage of all. This is still our cause. Nothing that has happened in this campaign has or could ever change that.

But in politics, one's destiny is in the hands of the voters, as it should be. And while thousands have rallied to our side, other candidates have done better.

My wife Ruth, has been keeping a journal of this campaign. After the past few weeks, she told me she was thinking of entitling it after this recent Chevy Chase movie "Memoirs of an Invisible Man."

My advisers told me not to peak too soon. I think I took them too seriously.

So with sincerity, and with good humor, I congratulate my fellow candidates for a job well done.

As a result of their success, after today, I will no longer be a candidate for presidency of the United States.

But far more important than what I am not, is what I remain: a person who has stood solid for 18 years to build an America that's as good in practice as in promise. And that's what I remain, no matter what today tomorrow, the next day, as long as I shall live.

Thank you very much. 

[Music starts prematurely]  Oh oh. 

Somebody asked me. Somebody, well, maybe. Somebody asked me if this race has changed me much.

And I said, no, I'm still the same gentle, low key soft spoken guy I've always been.

And so my fellow Democrats I say to whomever our nominee is, that I'll be there. And I'll pay any price, bear any burden, learn to speak Greek...

Develop a southern accent...

Or learn to wear a turtleneck...

To ensure that a Democrat is elected president 1992.

As for me, circumstances may change but the work of care and compassion still continues. The poor may be out of political fashion, but they are not without human needs. The middle class may be angry, but they have not lost the dream that all Americans can advance together.

I believe deeply in the Democratic Party because it has been the party that most consistently has spoken out and acted on behalf of the people in the public interest. We are the party of hope and opportunity for all those who seek access to a better future, a better job, education and health care, who just want to fulfill their God given potential and be a part of the American dream.

Hubert Humphrey once said that the unfinished business of America is the business of Democrats. And it is to that unfinished business that we Democrats remain committed today.

We are committed to an America where every young child who wants to college education will get one.

We are committed to an America where the state of a person's health will not be determined by the size of their pocketbook.

We are committed to America where people have well-paying secure jobs and a workforce is the smartest and the healthiest and the most productive in the world.

We are...  We are committed to an America that says no to racism, no to sexism, no to anti-semitism and no to homophobia no matter where it occurs anywhere in America.

We are committed, we are committed to an America where our water and air are clean, our cities and farms thriving, and our imagination and ingenuity leads the world once again. Above all we are committed to in America where people who work hard, play by the rules, pay their taxes, raise their families can be sure they will pass on to their children a better life than what they had.

And for each of these commitments, we have only just begun to fight

Let me, let me say just a few words to all I have met and everyone who supported me here and across the country. The last several months have been some of the most joyous and uplifting of my entire life. And it couldn't have happened without you. You welcomed Ruth and me into your homes, your churches, your union halls, your places of business, your campuses. You shared with us your hopes and your dreams.

I will never forget the camaraderie, the fellowship, the laughter, and the long hours that people have given of themselves. We have forged bonds that will never be broken.

I will never, never forget above all those people and my friends who know me the best, the people from my home state of Iowa, my fellow Iowans who went all over this country for me. I'm proud to continue to represent them and be their voice and their vote here in Washington DC.

I've met so many people and learned so much the past few months. I met Bob and Ray Milliken, who through no fault of their own lost their jobs and face foreclosure on their home, but who want to work and believe they will.

I met Tom Trantham [phon.], family farmer, facing rough times, says all he needs a little bit better price for his milk and his cows and he'll bounce right back.

I met Marian Kessler who has a degree in education and uses a wheelchair but will not let her disability keep her from finding a job teaching the children she loves.

I met a 53-year old man standing in an unemployment line who said he just wants to be retrained so he can go back to work and take care of his family.

I met people in cities and towns all over this country who have been left out over the past 12 years. But they have not given up. They've been pushed down but they haven't been beaten and they haven't given up hope.

And that my friends is the American spirit.

And that's what our campaign has been all about—providing the opportunity to unleash their spirit make their dreams a reality. Our campaign has been about keeping the progressive agenda alive in our party.

We always knew it wouldn't be easy. The forces of reaction are dug in deeply. And that's why our candidacy has not been timid. And as always happens when you stay committed to your ideals, we have in this primary helped shape the vision of our party and of others in this campaign. Let's take some pride in that. Together, we have done that.

The next eight months pits the Democratic Party, with our message of opportunity and hope, against George Bush and his message of politics as usual.

At stake will be America's commitment to decent jobs and housing and health care and education and the clean environment, to civil rights and civil liberties, and the preservation of a woman's right to choose.

At stake will be our children's future, our leadership in the world community, and the goodwill in which we hold each other regardless of race, color or creed.

The outcome of this campaign will determine the future of America and through America the future of freedom and progress across the globe.

In this, the pursuit of a more fair and just and wise America, we will persevere.

I believe with all my heart that the best chapters in America's history are yet to be written. With our values and with our principles as Democrats, with the grand and glorious history of our party behind us, with a vision for an America growing together, working together with hope, with confidence and unity, we can defeat George Bush, win the presidency, and build a new America.

 Thank you. God bless you all. Thank you all.


Harkin began with a few comments in sign language.  As he started his spoken remarks, a gay rights protester loudly interrupted him. causing some drama.  The crowd of Harkin supporters responded by chanting "Harkin.  Harkin.  Harkin," as the man, still shouting, was escorted out.  Harkin spoke for about 15 minutes.