Campaign Kickoff Speech

Let me just thank everyone and say to the Minnesota journalists that really what we have here are men and women, Minnesotans that Sheila and I really are proud to call some of our dearest friends. People that we are so proud of, people that do such good work across the board; dealing with domestic violence, veterans, law enforcement, business, labor, I mean the list goes on and on and we'd just like to thank them for being here.

Mayor Covey, Northfield, thank you for letting me be here today. Northfield is a town that we love very much. I would say that what is so moving about being here at this beautiful school, there's two things. First of all if I'm going to kick off another campaign we've got friends in Minneapolis, in St. Paul and other places; but if we're going to kick off another campaign that means that we're going to have to do it in Northfield because this is where we raised our children, this is where I coached Northfield Junior High to an undefeated wrestling season and this is home.

And as a matter of fact as I would walk from my office at Carleton to the junior high school just a block and a half away I thought of a song, "Two Different Worlds." "Two Different Worlds," we live in two different worlds. It is a different world, but I loved doing it. And then to be here at this beautiful school, I'm saying to the principal that I wish every school was like this. It's so inviting I think that when children come to such a school they know they're valued and I wish every school was the same way. I really do. Thank you for coming out today.

And so let me just start out this way I was trying to figure out a way of talking about this in a relatively brief period of time and I thought about, well some of you know the story. Interesting account of a story about a speech that Winston Churchill made. It was graduation at Oxford and he worked for hours and hours and hours on this speech and he walked in and there was a very good, warm, supportive applause and he looked down at everybody and he said, " Never give up, never give up." And he said this in a very resolute voice and there was more applause and then he shouted out, "Never give up! Never give up!" And that was the end of the speech. You're not going to be so lucky.

But, I thought about that because I see here in this room, inner city I see greater Minnesota and I see the suburbs all. And I think about my work as a United States senator for Minnesota and I would just tell you all that about every two weeks I've averaged about every two weeks being in a school, usually high schools and usually teaching. It's important to try to give back what you've learned and I now have seen something that is very disturbing to me as a United States senator and I think the people of Minnesota.

That David Wise is here is an educator, is running for the legislature. That Patti Fritz is here I know that Patti is going to be talking about this. What I see in Minnesota and across the country are really good, young teachers who are now losing their jobs. Pearl Johnson up in Minneapolis just had tears in her eyes and she said, "I just don't want to do this. I don't want to do this to some of these teachers. I don't want the class size going up. I don't want to cut the teachers. I don't want to cancel the after school programs. I don't want to drop some of the teaching assistants who are helping kids who are falling behind in reading and math do better and all of that."

And I see it. So I want to say here today as we kick off our campaign I will as a United States senator never give up until the administration and Republican leadership in the House of Representatives and you already have it in the Senate will live up to their commitment to deliver $2 billion back to education in Minnesota so that we can fund education in our state. I will never give up on that.

And I say it with a lot of feeling, because you know that sometimes the only realists are the dreamers. And I will not give up and we will not give up until we realize what is really our national vow which is equal opportunity for every child in Minnesota and equal opportunity for every child in America. That's what we believe in and that's what brings us together here today. That's "the why" of this Senate election and for me I know what the trade off is. I will always put Minnesota education, I will always put Minnesota education and Minnesota children first before tax giveaways to multi-national corporations.

I could go on and on about some of the work that some of you all have done in what I consider to be such an important area. You've been Sheila's teachers and Sheila has been my teacher; but as long as we're talking about children and education, you know we've passed Violence Against Women Act and then we reauthorized it. And we passed a lot of good legislation that makes a difference and no longer is this taken lightly it’s taken seriously.

But it is also true for too many children the issue isn't the violence on television or violence in the movies. The issue is the violence in the living room, what they see, what they experience. I will never give up, and Sheila will never give up until we achieve the goal of homes where there is no longer this violence against women and children and we will succeed.

I think yesterday, Memorial Day, we were at Fort Snelling, and we went over to the Minnesota Nursing Home, and to the wall for Vietnam Vets, and last night we were out on Harriet Island. We were out on Harriet island earlier in the afternoon just talking to people and I could go on and on about this; but just to say to the veterans here and there are many. Just, thank you for all your help and we've done a lot together.

It felt so good and it surprised me at Fort Snelling because I didn't realize there would be a response but I talked about Smokey Parrish. I didn't realize people knew Smokey was a veteran. He and other veterans have been waiting forever for some justice because they went to ground zero and nobody told them they were in harm’s way. So, many of them have had to struggle with cancer and so many of their children have. And they've been waiting for compensation and they've been waiting for care. It took us nine years to be able to get that, but we finally did. It's a question again about being tenacious as a senator and never giving up for people that you represent.

And the whole question of homelessness among veterans, the scandal that it is, that maybe a third of the men that are homeless are veterans. Too many of them Vietnam Vets, too many of them struggling with substance abuse, too many of them struggling with mental health issues. And the truth of the matter is we can do better in this country and finally we can after what, two and a half years of struggle, we passed the homeless veterans bill.

But that's just the beginning; the real point is this: I know what's happening in my state. I am the senator from Minnesota and I've never seen a more serious situation right now. Where there are so many gaps and veteran who need specialty care and can't get it and long waiting lines. There's about a year waiting line for prescription drug coverage right now for veterans, so I know that what I need to do is to fight and fight and advocate until our country lives up to the commitment it has made to veterans. I will never give up until we have good health security!

I told you that it was in Northfield that I first learned about farming. And I began to organize some of the farmers out in Rice County, then began to organize out in other parts of the state, way before I thought I would ever run for the Senate. And we've been living with a pretty vocal bill which I call Freedom to Fail Farm Bill passed in '96. A farm bill finally passed and it took six years of work.

The good part of that farm bill is for dairy farmers and the soybean farmers and the corn farmers and for some of our independent livestock producers is that finally there will be a better price. Finally there's going to be a countercyclical income that's going to come in. We haven't seen that for a long time and finally there's going to be some money for economic development. And finally there's going to be an energy policy that relies less on oil and more on wind and biomass for electricity. And finally there's going to be more of an emphasis on conservation and land stewardship.

So, we wrote a good farm bill that's going to deliver a lot of resources and I think it's going to help some of our farmers; but I also know this. We still have a few conglomerates that have muscled their way to the dinner table. We still don't have the competition you need in this industry and so as a United States senator I will never give up until we have real competition in the food industry.

And so what I get to say to you today is that we've traveled a long ways, we've had some legislation in '96. But we're close to a historic breakthrough and there is a lot of opposition on the part of the insurance industry, no question about it. But, I will always put families in Minnesota first, I will always put ending discrimination in the health care industry first.

I am a senator for the families of Minnesota. I am not a senator for the insurance industry and we will not give up and we will pass it.

You know it's amazing. Estes Kefauver as a senator tried to take on the pharmaceutical industry, it was rough going for him. David Pryor from Arkansas tried to do it. Actually we've been talking about decent health coverage and affordable prescription drugs in our country for a long time, for the better part of the last half a century. Well I think the pressure is building and for senior citizens and for that matter many other working families they just can't afford this.

And it's essential for people's health. And I know what happens if you have a prescription drug benefit where the co-pays and deductibles are too high and the premiums are too high and it doesn't cover catastrophic coverage. I know what a good prescription drug benefit is all about. It's a benefit that people can afford.

This is for seniors, but this is for other families as well. So, in the United States Senate, and the debate will start this summer, the debate will be whether or not we add prescription drug coverage onto Medicare. But the debate will also be whether we can re-import back from Canada with the same FDA safety requirements prescription drugs at half the cost. And the debate will be whether or not the federal government can step forward for Medicare recipients and say, "We're a bargaining nation and we're going to represent Medicare recipients like we do Medicaid, like we do veterans. We're going to say to you pharmaceutical industry we want a 50% discount so people can afford these prescription drugs."

I want to say to all of you here today that the truth of the matter is so many people fall between the cracks. People that aren't old enough to receive Medicare or even if you are it doesn't cover prescription drugs and it doesn't cover catastrophic injury. People who aren't poor enough to qualify for Medicaid and they're not fortunate enough to afford health coverage. These people just get murdered by costs.

So, to me you just say stay at your work as the United States senator for Minnesota and I will never give up until we achieve the goal of health security for each and every citizen in the United Sates of America and we will do that. We will do that.

To the sounds of good education, good health care and good jobs, we now introduce the bill to raise minimum wage from 5.15 by a dollar fifty over the next three years. But it's not just minimum wage, it's living wage jobs and the truth of the matter is it’s not just living wage jobs its also affordable housing and its affordable childcare and its affordable health care. And it's a commitment to issues that are important to families in the state of Minnesota.

When you're young or when your children are young we want our children to get the best education. And when we are out of school we want to be able to grow a business or have a job at a decent wage and support our family with decent health care coverage.

And when we're older we want to make sure that Medicare is there and our pensions are not robbed. And nobody privatizes social security!

I'm going to conclude this way. In this room, there are a lot of people that we love and believe in. You guys are the confidence that we have. In this room it's not the pharmaceutical industry. In this room, I don't see the health insurance industry represented. I don't see the oil companies here. I don't see the oil companies here, I don't see the energy companies here, I don't see the tobacco companies here, but and I see all of the money that's pouring in to the state of Minnesota and it's unbelievable.

But that's okay, because Sheila and I have you and I am a senator that will not give up until there is a good education for every child. I will not give up until there is health security for our citizens. I will not give up until there is affordable prescription drugs. I will not give up until there is affordable housing, I will not give up until our family farmers get a fair shake. I will not give up until there is economic justice. II will not give up until our country the United States of America, until we become all that we can be.

I am a senator form a state that represents good public policy. I am a senator form a state with a rich justice tradition. I am a senator from a state that cares deeply about health and people. And this is a tradition that I have been proud to represent. Minnesota is a state that I love, Minnesota is a state that I believe in and we intend to win this race.

Since nothing is scripted. You know when you say something and then you want to say one other thing. And I want to say one other thing, if it's okay with you. I also consider some of the best work I've been able to do would be the day when I met with some other parents whose little boy struggled with a disease, Duchene’s disease. And we have passed the legislation and now we have a center of excellence and we are determined to get the funding. We are determined to have research done and we are very determined to find the cure to this disease. And I want to say today that again I will never give up and I know you will never give up until we find a cure for that disease.

Thank you everybody!