Remarks by the Vice President at the Democratic National Convention
Time Warner Cable Arena
Charlotte, North Carolina
9:29 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hey, Delaware! (Applause.) Hello, my fellow Democrats -- (applause) -- and my favorite Democrat.
Jilly, I want you to know that Beau and Hunt and Ashley and I, we’re so incredibly proud of you. We admire the way when every single, solitary young person -- and they’re not all young -- walks into your classroom, you not only teach them, you give them confidence. You give me confidence. And the passion she brings to trying to ease the burden on the families of our warriors -- Jilly, they know you understand them, and that makes a gigantic difference. (Applause.)
And, folks, I tell you what, it was worth the trip -- (laughter) -- to hear my wife say what I’ve never heard her say before -- she’s always loved me. (Laughter and applause.) If that’s the case, why in the heck did it take five times of asking you? And that’s true. Five times. I don’t know what I would have done, kiddo, had you, on that fifth time, said no. (Laughter.) I love you. You’re the love of my life and the life of my love. (Applause.)
We’ve got three incredible kids. And, Beau, I want to thank you for putting my name in nomination to be Vice President of the United States. I accept. I accept. (Applause.) With great honor and pleasure, I accept. Thank you. Thank you, my fellow Democrats. (Applause.)
And I say to my fellow Americans -- my fellow Americans, four years ago, a battered nation turned away from the failed policies of the past, and turned to a leader who they knew would lift our nation out of the crisis. A journey we haven’t finished yet. We know we still have more to do, but today, I say to my fellow citizens, in the face of the deepest economic crisis in our lifetime, this generation of Americans have proven itself as worthy as any generation before us. (Applause.) For we possess that same grit, that same determination, that same courage that has always defined what it means to be an American, has always defined all of you.
Together, we’re on a mission. We’re on a mission to move this nation forward from doubt and downturn, to promise and prosperity. A mission I guarantee you we will complete -- a mission we will complete. (Applause.)
Folks, tonight what I really want to do is tell you about my friend, Barack Obama. (Applause.) No one could tell it as well or as eloquently as Michelle -- as you did last night, Michelle
-- on Monday night. (Applause.) But I know him, to state the obvious, from a different perspective. I know him, and I want to show you -- I want to show you the character of a leader who had what it took when the American people literally stood on the brink of a new depression. A leader who has what it takes to lead us over the next four years to a future as great as our people.
I want to take you inside the White House to see the President as I see him every day -- because I don’t see him in sound bites. I walk 30 paces down the hall into the Oval Office, and I see him, I watch him in action.
Four years ago, the middle class was already losing ground. And then the bottom fell out. The financial crisis hit like a sledgehammer on all the people I grew up with. You remember the headlines. You saw some of them in the previews -- highlights: "Highest Job Losses in 60 Years." Headlines -- "Economy on the Brink." "Markets Plummet Worldwide."
From the very moment President Obama sat behind the desk Resolute in the Oval Office, he knew -- he knew he had not only to restore the confidence of the nation, but he had to restore the confidence of the whole world. (Applause.) And he also knew that one false move could bring a run on the banks, or a credit collapse, to put another several million people out of work. America and the world needed a strong President with a steady hand and with the judgment and vision to see us through.
Day after day, night after night, I sat beside him as he made one gutsy decision after the other -- to stop the slide and reverse it. I watched him. (Applause.) I watched him stand up to intense pressure and stare down enormous challenges, the consequences of which were awesome. But most of all, I got to see firsthand what drove this man -- his profound concern for the average American.
He knew that no matter how tough the decisions he had to make were in that Oval Office, he knew that families all over America sitting at their kitchen tables were literally making decisions for their family that were equally as consequential.
Barack and I, we’ve been through a lot together in these four years. And we learned about one another -- a lot about one another. And one of the things I learned about Barack is the enormity of his heart, and I think he learned about me the depth of my loyalty to him. (Applause.) And there’s another thing that has bound us together these past four years. We had a pretty good idea what all those families, all you Americans in trouble, were going through -- in part because our own families had gone through similar struggles.
Barack, as a young man, had to sit at the end of his mother's hospital bed and watch her fight with her insurance company at the very same time she was fighting for her life. When I was a young kid, in third grade, I remember my dad coming up the stairs in my Grandpop’s house where we were living, sitting at the end of my bed and saying, Joey, I’m going to have to leave for a while, go down to Wilmington, Delaware, with Uncle Frank. There are good jobs down there, honey. In a little while I’ll be able to send for you and mom and Jimmy and Val, and everything is going to be fine.
For the rest of our lives -- my sister and my brothers -- for the rest of our life, my dad never failed to remind us that a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. (Applause.) It’s about respect. It’s about your place in the community. (Applause.) It’s about being able to look your child in the eye and say, honey, it’s going to be okay, and mean it and know it’s true. (Applause.)
When Barack and I were growing up, there was an implicit understanding in America that if you took responsibility, you’d get a fair shot at a better life. And the values, the values behind that bargain were the values that had shaped both of us and many, many of you. And today, those same values are Barack’s guiding star. Folks, I’ve watched him. He has never wavered -- he never, never backs down. (Applause.)
He always steps up and he always asks in every one of those critical meetings the same fundamental question: How is this going to affect the average American? How is this going to affect people’s lives? (Applause.) That’s what’s inside this man. That’s what makes him tick. That’s who he is. (Applause.)
And, folks, because of the decisions he’s made and the incredible strength of the American people, America has turned the corner. The worst job loss since the Great Depression -- we’ve since created 4.5 million private sector jobs in the past 29 months. (Applause.)
Look, folks, President Obama and Governor Romney -- they are both loving husbands, they’re both devoted fathers. But let’s be straight -- they bring a vastly different vision and a vastly different value set to the job. (Applause.) And tonight, although you’ve heard people talk about it, I want to talk about two things from a slightly different perspective, from my perspective.
I’d like to focus on two crises and show you the character of the leadership that each man would bring to this job, because as I’ve said, I’ve had a ringside seat. The first of these, a lot has been talked about -- and God love Jennifer Granholm, wasn’t she great? (Applause.) Wasn’t she great? I love Jennifer. (Applause.) But the first story I want to talk to you about is the rescue of the automobile industry.
And let me tell you -- from this man’s ringside seat, let me tell you about how Barack Obama saved more than a million American jobs. In the first days, literally the first days that we took office, General Motors and Chrysler were literally on the verge of liquidation. If the President didn’t act -- if he didn’t act immediately, there wouldn’t be any industry left to save.
So we sat hour after hour in the Oval Office. Michelle remembers how -- what he must have thought when he came back upstairs. We sat. We sat hour after hour. We listened to senators, congressmen, outside advisors, even some of our own advisors. We listened to them say some of the following things. They said, well, we shouldn’t step up. The risks were too high. The outcome was too uncertain.
And the President, he patiently sat there and he listened. But he didn’t see it the way they did. He understood something they didn’t get. And one of the reasons I love him -- he understood that this wasn’t just about cars. It was about the people who built and made those cars and about the America those people built. (Applause.)
In those meetings, I often thought about my dad. My dad was an automobile man. He would have been one of those guys all the way down the line -- not on the factory floor, not alongside the supply chain, but one of those guys who were selling American cars to American people. I thought what this crisis would have meant for the mechanics and the secretaries and the salespeople who my dad managed for over 35 years. And I know for certain that my dad, were he here today, he’d be fighting like heck for the President, because the President fought to save the jobs of those people my dad cared so much about. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, my dad respected Barack Obama -- would have respected Barack Obama had he been around for having had the guts to stand up for the automobile industry when so many others just were prepared to walk away.
When I look back now, when I look back on the President’s decision, I think of another son of another automobile man -- Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney grew up in Detroit. My dad managed; his dad owned -- well, his dad ran an entire automobile company, American Motors. Yes, but I don’t understand that in spite of that, he was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt. Look, no, I don’t think he is a bad guy. No, no -- I don’t think he is a bad guy. I’m sure he grew up loving cars as much as I did. What I don’t understand -- what I don’t think he understood, I don’t think he understood that saving the automobile worker, saving the industry, what it meant to all of America, not just autoworkers.
I think he saw it the Bain way. I mean it sincerely -- I think he saw it in terms of balance sheets and write-offs. Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profits, but it’s not the way to lead our country from the highest office. (Applause.)
When things hung in the balance -- I mean, literally hung in the balance -- the President understood this was about a lot more than the automobile industry. This was about restoring America’s pride. He understood -- he understood in his gut what it would mean to leave a million people without hope or work if he didn’t act. And he also knew -- he also knew, he intuitively understood the message it would have sent around the world if the United States gave up on an industry that helped put America on the map in the first place. (Applause.)
Conviction, resolve, Barack Obama -- that’s what saved the automobile industry. (Applause.) Conviction, resolve, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
Look, you heard my friend, John Kerry -- this President -- this President has shown the same resolve, the same steady hand in his role as Commander-in-Chief. Look -- which brings me to the next illustration I want to tell you about, the next crisis he had to face.
In 2008 -- 2008, before he was President, Barack Obama made a promise to the American people. He said, if I have -- if we have bin Laden in our sights, we will -- we will take him out. (Applause.) He went on to say, that has to be our biggest national security priority.
Look, Barack understood that the search for bin Laden was about a lot more than taking a monstrous leader off the battlefield. It was about so much more than that. It was about righting an unspeakable wrong. It was about -- literally, it was about healing an unbearable wound -- a nearly unbearable wound in America’s heart. And he also knew the message we had to send around the world: If you attack innocent Americans we will follow you to the end of the Earth. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Most of all, President Obama had an unyielding faith in the capacity and the capability of our Special Forces -- literally the finest warriors in the history of the world -- the finest warriors in the history of the world. (Applause.)
So we sat -- we sat, originally, only five of us -- we sat in the Situation Room, beginning in the fall of the year before. We listened. We talked. We heard. And he listened to the risks and reservations about the raid. He asked, again, the tough questions. He listened to the doubts that were expressed. But when Admiral McRaven looked him in the eye and said, sir, we can get this job done, I was sitting next to him -- I looked at your husband, and I knew at that moment he had made his decision. And his response was decisive. He said, do it -- and justice was done. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Folks, Governor Romney didn’t see things that way. When he was asked about bin Laden in 2007, here’s what he said -- he said, it’s not worth moving heaven and Earth, and spending billions of dollars just to catch one person.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But he was wrong -- he was wrong. Because if you understood that America’s heart had to be healed, you would have done exactly what the President did, and you would move heaven and Earth to hunt him down and to bring him to justice. (Applause.)
Look, four years ago -- the only thing missing at this convention this year is my mom -- four years ago my mom was still with us, sitting up in the stadium in Denver. I quoted her -- (applause) -- I quoted her, one of her favorite expressions. She used to say to all her children, she said, Joey, bravery resides in every heart and the time will come when it must be summoned.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you what I think you already know, but I watch it up close. Bravery resides in the heart of Barack Obama, and time and time again I witnessed him summon it. This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and a spine of steel. (Applause.)
And because of all the actions he took, because of the calls he made, because of the determination of American workers and the unparalleled bravery of our Special Forces, we can now proudly say what you’ve heard me say the last six months: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. (Applause.) That’s right. One man. (Applause.)
Folks, we know we have more work to do. We know we’re not there yet. But not a day has gone by in the last four years when I haven’t been grateful as an American that Barack Obama is our President, because he always has the courage to make the tough decision. (Applause.)
Speaking of tough decisions, speaking of tough calls, last week we heard at the Republican Convention, we heard our opponents -- we heard them pledge that they, too -- they, too had the courage to make the tough calls. That’s what they said. (Laughter.) But, folks, in case you didn’t notice -- and I say to my fellow Americans, in case you didn’t notice, they didn’t have the courage to tell you what calls they’d make. They never mentioned any of that. (Laughter and applause.)
Mrs. Robinson, you watched from home, I guess, from the White House, you heard them talk so much about how they cared so much about Medicare, how much they wanted to preserve it. That’s what they told you. But let’s look at what they didn’t tell you.
What they didn’t tell you is that the plan they have already put down on paper would immediately cut benefits for more than 30 million seniors already on Medicare. What they didn’t tell you is the plan they’re proposing would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016. And what they really didn’t tell you is they -- if you want to know, if you want to know -- they're not for preserving Medicare at all.
They're for a new plan. It's called Vouchercare.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Look, folks, that's not courage. That's not even truthful. That's not even truthful.
In Tampa, they talked with great urgency about the nation's debt and the need to act, to act now. But not once, not one single time, did they tell you that they rejected every plan put forward by us, by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission they referenced, or by any other respected group -- to reduce the national debt. They were not for any of them. Why? Because they're not prepared to do anything about the debt if it contained even one dollar -- I'm not exaggerating -- even one dollar, or one cent in new taxes for millionaires.
Folks, that's not courage. And that’s not fair. (Applause.)
Look, in a sense, this can be reduced to a single notion. The two men seeking to lead this country over the next four years, as I said at the outset, have fundamentally different visions and a completely different value set.
Governor Romney believes in this global economy, it doesn’t much matter where American companies invest and put their money, or where they create jobs. As a matter of fact, in his budget proposal -- in his tax proposal, he calls for a new tax -- it's called a territorial tax -- which the experts have looked at and they acknowledge it will create 800,000 new jobs -- all of them overseas. All of them.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And what I found fascinating, the most fascinating I found last week was when Governor Romney said that, as President, he would take a jobs tour. Well, with his support for outsourcing, it's going to have to be a foreign trip. (Laughter and applause.) It will.
Look, President Obama knows that creating jobs in America, keeping jobs in America, bringing jobs back to America is what the President's job is all about. That's what Presidents do -- or at least supposed to do. (Applause.)
Folks, Governor Romney believes it’s okay to raise taxes on the middle class by $2,000 in order to pay for another -- literally another trillion-dollar tax cut for the very wealthy.
President Obama knows that there's nothing decent or fair about asking people with more to do less and with less to do more.
Governor Romney believes -- he believes that kids -- kids like our DREAMers, those immigrant children who were brought to America's shores through no fault of their own -- he thinks they’re a drag on the American economy. President Obama believes that even though these DREAMERs, those kids didn’t choose to come here, they have chosen to do right by America, and it's time for us to do right by them. (Applause.)
Governor Romney looks at the notion of equal pay in terms of a company’s bottom line. President Obama, he knows that making sure our daughters get the same pay for the same jobs as our son is every father’s bottom line. (Applause.)
Look, I kind of expected all that from them, but one thing truly perplexed me at their convention -- the thing that perplexed me most was this idea they kept talking about, about the culture of dependency. They seem to think you create a culture of dependency when you provide a bright, young, qualified kid from a working-class family a loan to get to college, or when you provide a job-training program in a new industry for a dad who lost his job because it was outsourced.
Folks, folks, that's not how we look at it. That's not how America has ever looked at it. What he doesn't understand is all these men and women are looking for is a chance, just a chance to acquire the skills to be able to provide for their families so they can once again hold their heads high and lead independent lives with dignity. That's all they're looking for. (Applause.)
Look -- and it literally amazes me they don't understand that. I told you at the outset, the choice is stark: Two different visions, two different value sets. But at its core, the difference is able to be reduced to a fundamental difference. You see -- you, me, most Americans, have incredible faith in the decency and hard work of the American people, and we know what has made this country. It’s the American people. (Applause.)
As I mentioned at the outset, four years ago, we were hit hard. You saw -- you saw your retirement accounts drained, the equity in your homes vanish, jobs lost or on the line. But what did you do as Americans? What you’ve always done -- you didn't lose faith; you fought back. You didn't give up; you got up. (Applause.) You’re the ones, the American people. You’re the ones! You’re the reason why we are still better positioned than any country in the world to lead the 21st century. (Applause.) You never quit on America, and you deserve a President who will never quit on you! (Applause.)
And, folks, there’s one more thing -- one more thing our Republican opponents are just dead wrong about: America is not in decline. America is not in decline. (Applause.)
I’ve got news for Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan: Gentlemen, never, ever -- it never makes sense, it’s never been a good bet to bet against the American people. (Applause.) Never.
My fellow Americans, America is coming back, and we’re not going back. And we have no intention of downsizing the American Dream. (Applause.) It’s never -- never a good bet.
Ladies and gentlemen, in a moment -- in a moment, we’re going to hear from a man whose whole life is a testament to the power of that dream, and whose presidency is the best hope to secure that dream for our children.
For, you see -- you see, we see a future -- we really, honest to God do -- we see a future where everyone, rich and poor, does their part and has a part; a future where we depend more on clean energy from home and less on oil from abroad; a future where we’re number-one in the world again in college graduation; a future where we promote the private sector, not the privileged sector -- (applause) -- and a future where women once again control their own choices, their destiny, and their own health care. (Applause.)
And, ladies and gentlemen, Barack and I see a future -- it’s in our DNA -- where no one -- no one is forced to live in the shadows of intolerance. (Applause.)
Folks, we see a future where America leads not only by the power -- the example of power, but by the power of our example; where we bring our troops home from Afghanistan just as we proudly did from Iraq -- (applause) -- a future where we fulfill the only truly sacred obligation we have as a nation, the only truly sacred obligation we have is to prepare those who we send to war and care for them when they come home from war. (Applause.)
And tonight -- tonight, I want to acknowledge -- I want to acknowledge, as we should every night, the incredible debt we owe to the families of those 6,473 fallen angels, and those 49,746 wounded -- thousands critically -- thousands who will need our help for the rest of their lives. Folks, we never -- we must never, ever forget their sacrifice and always keep them in our care and in our prayers. (Applause.)
My fellow Americans, we now find ourselves at the hinge of history. And the direction we turn is not figuratively -- is literally in your hands. It has been a truly great honor to serve you and to serve with Barack, who has always stood up with you for the past four years. I’ve seen him tested. I know his strength, his command, his faith, and I also know the incredible confidence he has in all of you. I know this man.
Yes, the work of recovery is not yet complete, but we are on our way. The journey of hope is not yet finished, but we are on our way. And the cause of change is not fully accomplished, but we are on our way. So I say to you tonight with absolute confidence, America’s best days are ahead, and, yes, we are on our way. (Applause.)
And in light -- in light of that horizon, for the values that define us, for the ideals that inspire us, there is only one choice. That choice is to move forward -- boldly forward -- and finish the job -- and reelect President Barack Obama. (Applause.)
God bless you all and may God protect our troops. God bless you. Thank you. Thank you.
10:10 P.M. EDT