It is a great honor to be here with Chief Justice Frye, and so many other distinguished elected officials from across your state.
It is also a great honor to be here with Governor Jim Hunt. No Governor in North Carolina or — for that matter — the history of our country, has done more to advance the cause of Public Education than Jim Hunt.
Congratulations to all of you for electing a Governor in Roy Cooper who once again will move North Carolina forward, not back!
This year the North Carolina Democratic Party has filed candidates for every legislative seat in the State House and State Senate!
There is a big change coming this fall if we all keep working.
Say what you will about Donald Trump–he has been the greatest candidate recruitment tool our party has ever had.
And yes, I just called him a tool.
The Question for U.S.
The question for us today in North Carolina is really the question our entire country must answer in 2018:
Will we make ourselves a stronger, more generous, more compassionate nation with opportunity for all, or, will we become something less?
Great countries sometimes make really bad mistakes, good countries correct them quickly.
Every state is needed. Every person is needed.
So, let me share some good news with you from different states across our country.
Are you ready for some good news? Touch your neighbor, tell ’em, “he has good news…”
Stories from the Field
Stephanie Hansen’s state senate win in Delaware. Kevin Cavanaugh’s huge margin of victory several months ago to the New Hampshire State Senate. Michael Brooks, Karen Gaddis, Allison Ikley-Freeman elections to Oklahoma’s house and senate. Oklahoma!?
Annette Taddeo, Margaret Good, and Javier Fernandez in Florida?!
What do they all have in common???
[crowd — they are Democrats!]
Yes, they are Democrats. But they are winning Democrats!
Each of these candidates won special elections with margins that were 15 to 20 points higher than they would have been before Donald Trump!
We must win back our states, if we are going to save the United States!
Today, here in Raleigh, North Carolina, we are going to face the work ahead of us.
And we are going to do so with the joy that comes from knowing our country has never needed us more.
Why We Are Democrats
Why are we Democrats?
Because of the powerful beliefs that unite us.
Our belief in the dignity of every person.
Our belief in the Common Good we share.
Our understanding that we are all in this together; and we must help each other if we are to succeed.
Our mission as Democrats?
To strengthen and grow our middle class — including our family-owned businesses and our family farms.
To improve public safety and public education in every part of our country.
To expand opportunity — the opportunity to learn and to earn; the opportunity to enjoy the health of the people we love and need; and the health of the environment we need to more people, not fewer — including future generations: our children and grandchildren.
Darkness Makes a Great Canvas
Now I will grant you, this first year, five months, and 14 days of the Trump Administration have been exhausting, haven’t they?
This administration is malice tempered only by incompetence.
He has set the all-time speed record for the fastest appointment of a Special Prosecutor in Presidential history.
Every new day brings new revelations about secret dealings with the Russians.
These guys aren’t modeling the Founding Fathers, they’re modeling “The Godfather”.
I used to say — metaphorically — that watching this presidency was like 24/7 political pornography. But now that phrase has taken on a literal meaning!
Herbert Hoover once promised a “chicken in every pot.”
Donald Trump’s cabinet looks more like a fox in every henhouse.
His new federal Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos — bless her heart — who has never spent a day working in public education, seems hell-bent on defunding public education by spending taxpayer dollars on private charter schools.
It seems that, “less education for all” has become a new plank in the Republican Party of Donald Trump.
But fear not, North Carolina, and believe.
Darkness makes a great canvas.
And there is a goodness within our country than cannot be eclipsed for long.
The Tyranny of the Super-Majority, here in North Carolina has tried to suppress Voting rights.
The Tyranny of the Super-Majority, here in North Carolina has sought to perpetuate racist gerrymandering.
The Tyranny of the Super-Majority, here in North Carolina has tried to strip your duly elected governor of the very powers he needs to govern.
The Tyranny of the Super-Majority, here in North Carolina… has tried to cut education funding to the bone and deny your kids the ability to make themselves winners in this changing economy.
Strange, isn’t it? The tyranny of the super majority won’t help you send your kid to college, but they love to tell your neighbor which bathroom they have to use!
Repeat after me — 4 in the House (“four in the House”).
6 in the Senate (“Six in the senate.”)
That’s what you need to flip here in North Carolina to break the tyranny of the super majority.
And I have no doubt, that come the fall — we shall overcome!
From the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville to the sandy shores of the Outer Banks, we shall overcome!
From Murphy to Manteo, we shall overcome!
The United States of America
If you ever have doubts about where our country is headed, talk to her young people under 30.
You will rarely find among them people who deny climate change, or want to bash new American immigrants, or deny rights to gay couples or their kids, or young people who think we need more guns in schools.
Talk to our young people — they will tell you where our country is headed.
You see, you and I are part of a living, self-creating mystery, called the United States of America.
But the promise at the heart of that mystery is actually a very real and concrete thing.
It is the promise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should get ahead — you should be able to give your children a better life.
In another period of rapid industrial change and rising income inequality, a great Republican President, Teddy Roosevelt, said it well: “Our Republic has no justification unless it is a genuine democracy, a democracy economically as well as politically, a democracy in which there is a real and sincere effort to realize the ideal of equal opportunity for all…”
The Truth of the American Dream
From the depths of the Great Recession, our country achieved the longest stretch of consecutive monthly job growth since 1932, thanks to the Democratic leadership of President Barack Obama!
That job growth legacy continues mostly unbroken — for now…
And yet, the number of white male suicides in our country has never been higher.
Anthony Bourdain is one name that you know. There are tens of thousands more, most of them you don’t know — and I bet there are some you do – we all do – we all know someone.
That is the economic, political, moral, and spiritual question of our times.
Bruce Springsteen — the great poet laureate of the American Dream — once asked: “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?”
The truth is, our jobs recovery has been uneven.
Uneven across the map of the United States, and uneven across the skills and education levels of our people.
Lots of us have been left behind.
There was no jobs recovery for those of us with a high school diploma or less.
And when people feel fear their country no longer works for them, voting becomes merely an act of protest.
Fear that I am becoming worth less, fear my children’s lives will be worth less.
We have work to do.
But the truth remains — you cannot create jobs by concentrating wealth in the hands of the few!
You cannot lift up the middle class by holding down wages!
And, you cannot increase the well-being of Americans by pushing 23 million people off of health care!
Our diversity is our greatest strength. We are all in this together, and we must help each other if we are going to succeed!
Our Economy is Not Money, It’s People
As Democrats, we understand, our economy is not money, it is people — all of our people.
The more our people learn, the more our people can earn. The more our workers earn, the more our workers spend, the more inclusive our economy becomes, the stronger our country grows.
But right now, our world is fast moving into a Third Industrial Revolution — a coming together of new technologies in
energy, transportation, and communications that is rapidly changing whole economies the world over.
Some jobs will be lost, new jobs will be created. Lots of people will get hurt if their government isn’t on their side.
Our country came out a big winner in the last two industrial revolutions — not by clinging to a fading past — but by squaring our shoulders to the challenge of a changing future.
Do we still have what it takes to make our own children winners in this changing economy?
I believe we do.
Think of your parents and grandparents. Picture their faces. Their world had challenges and changes too.
But they understood a powerful American truth: the stronger we make our country, the more she can give back to us, to our children, to our grandchildren.
Actions, Not Words
As Americans, we don’t cower in the face of change, we anticipate change and we make the future ours!
But, we need a government that’s on our side — fighting for us, not against us.
Unlike the Trump Administration, we Democrats believe our government should actually work!
When I led my own state as Governor through a recession, we achieved the highest median income in the country, a faster rate of job growth than our neighbors to the north and south, and we made our schools the number one public schools in America for five years in a row.
We didn’t do it by disparaging our teachers, we did it by supporting our teachers!
“To govern is to choose” — so said John Kennedy, so say we all!
Let’s make our children winners in this changing economy by investing in a quality education for every child in North Carolina!
Climate change is also the greatest business opportunity to come to the United States in a hundred years.
Let’s call it what it is, for all it is.
We can win this Third Industrial Revolution, and a big part of winning it, is moving our country forward to a 100% renewable energy grid!
Let’s make the minimum wage a living wage again.
Let’s make affordable college a gateway to opportunity, not a trap door to life-long debt.
Let’s make it easier for people to join labor unions and bargain collectively for better pay — because that helps all of us!
Overtime pay for overtime work.
We must expand – not cut – Social Security so all of our seniors can retire with dignity.
Comprehensive immigration reform — because the enduring symbol of our country is not the barbed wire fence. It is not immigrant internment camps. It is the Statue of Liberty!
And always will be!
Let’s make good on the promise of equal pay for equal work for men and women — because when women succeed, America succeeds!
These are the choices that strengthen and grow our middle class.
These are the choices that make our country better.
These are the actions that create opportunity for all!
It’s not one thing — it is all of these things and more!
Our country is not some bankrupt hotel chain that we inherit from our father to be driven into the ground. Our country remains a large and powerful idea — large enough, still to carry the hopes and dreams that all of us have for our kids.
Our Enduring American Values
In 1788, Alexander Hamilton warned that one day our country would be saddled with a candidate who was, “ambitious, avaricious, and desperate.” One who would “possess” — for a time — the people’s “confidence more than” he deserved it.
“Withstand the temporary delusion” Hamilton said. Hold fast to your public institutions, “withstand the temporary delusion.”
We have allowed our national party to become weak.
But we can make it strong again.
We have lost more Governor’s offices, Statehouses, and local offices over the last ten years than any time in memory.
But it’s not how low you go, it’s how high you bounce!
There are 36 Governor’s races up in 2018, and hundreds and hundreds of state legislative races as well.
To govern the United States again, we must first win back our states again!
So, don’t give up on your neighbors, or your family members, or your friends.
Share the truth with them. Keep inviting them back to the table of democracy we all share.
If they voted for Trump and still aren’t disappointed, don’t give up on them! They’ll be disappointed soon enough!!
Final story. True story.
Baltimore, September 11th, 1814.
The City of Washington has been burned to the ground. We could see the red glow from the fires in the skies to our south.
And we knew they were coming next for us.
The British General after burning Washington to the ground declared, “I shall march on Baltimore, and dine there…[because even then we had great restaurants…] and then I will burn Baltimore to the ground…”
Instead of running away from the shock and awe force of its day, the people of Baltimore dug trenches.
One out of five of us were African American people of a still as yet very imperfect country.
50% of us were immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrants.
But after a 26-hour bombardment, when Francis Scott Key peered through the mist expecting to see a white surrender flag being raised over our fort, he saw — instead — the giant Star Spangled Banner being raised.
A giant 32’ by 40’ foot flag that in a grand act of Revolutionary chutzpah had been sewn together in anticipation of just this moment.
We now know from historic records that the giant Star Spangled Banner was sewn together by black and white hands.
For in the home of seamstress, Mary Pickersgill, and her daughters was also one, 13-year indentured African American servant girl, named Grace Wisher.
Black and white hands – hands of mercy – hands of grace.
And I will submit to you that the thread that held that banner together then is the same thread that holds us together now.
It is the thread of human dignity of neighbor helping neighbor, that strong thread that tells us, “we are all in this together, and we must help each other if we are to succeed.”
Do you understand what I’m saying to you?
When you are out there working to win back your state — or your county — know that you are also winning back a very, very important part of your country. In fact, right now there is no more important part.
For there is a goodness within our nation — we see it in the eyes of our children and we must look for it in the eyes of our neighbors.
It is time to call that goodness forward for the future of the country we love.
It’s time to save our democracy.
It’s time to make our children winners in this changing economy.
God bless you.
God bless North Carolina.
And may God bless and protect the United States of America for the better days that are coming.