2004 Democratic National Convention Address
delivered 29 July 2004, Fleet Center, Boston
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
As someone who knows all 6 foot 4 inches of my dad best, and -- or as we've long joked in the family, 6 ' 6 if you count -- the hair Iím here to share some secrets.
Over the years, Iíve come to know him in many ways -- through silly moments, when he laughs with his head thrown back and his shoulders rocking, through sad moments such as when my grandmother lay dying, and also through warm moments when he enveloped me in that "dad hug" that overwhelmed me with a feeling of safety.
People ask why Alex and I are so close to our dad -- especially since he loved to mortify us by showing up to our sports games in a bright orange hunting hat and seemed to cheer just a little too loudly. As Iíve thought about it though, I realize it's because he and our mother have given us great gifts: a willing ear, unwavering respect for our choices, and unconditional love.
During the course of this campaign, Iíve heard people talk about John Kerry the father and John Kerry the public servant as if they were two people divided. But I can assure you, they are truly one and the same. I know his values. They're revealed in quiet 11 p.m. phone calls of frustration from what heís seen at work, or the simple reminder that we never turn our back on those in need. And what drives my father to serve is exactly what has made this public servant the father Iím proud of, look up to, and love.
I would like to give you all an inside scoop into December. I traveled with my father almost every day of that long, cold month. And I promise you there was not one moment when he doubted his ability to win. Not one week when he would [sic] lost his fight. He was convinced when others were not. He had the courage to take risks -- our house -- and to fight for his beliefs when others may have given up. He never wavered; he never faltered, and he stayed the course.
In that snowy month at a Derry, New Hampshire chili feed, my father looked at the packed crowd and said, ďI want you to look at my heart, my mind, and my gut and ask yourself, what kind of President will I be?Ē It's an important question. What will guide the conscience of a man in his toughest hours, amid the hardest decisions?
Hereís my answer: My father loves this country and is ready to lead it.
He believes in challenging -- He believes in challenging oneself to dream and to follow. He believes that fear is limiting, while determination, innovation, and optimism will allow us to surpass our own best hopes. And at my fatherís core is integrity.
I -- I was reminded of this one fall day two years ago. My grandmother was ailing, no longer able to leave her bed. She loved the autumn, and my father wanted to find a way to bring the foliage to her. Together, we devised a plan that involved copper wire, collected leaves, and a little imagination. I watched my 6 foot 4 father hunch over a tiny 8 inch copper tree. And I watched the focus and the love with which he twisted the wire into a trunk, teasing out the branches, and finally weaving the foliage into a rounded tree top. And I noticed the gleam in my grandmotherís eye as her son brought a little bit of autumn to her bedside.
A little while later, he told her his plan to run for President. And with a sigh of relief, she said ďItís about time.Ē
And then she smiled -- And then she smiled and said, ďJohnny, remember: integrity.Ē But it was not so much a reminder as a value she knew her son shared. A statement of a need for the times we face today.
We are in a season of great possibility and great hope. And for me that possibility now sits on a tree in my fatherís desk. The leaves are a little worn but the message is still strong. It is one of promise, and hope, of a willing ear and unconditional love, of unwavering respect, and the most important quality which makes all else possible (and I assure all of you is in my father's gut) -- integrity.
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