Here is the C-SPAN video clip of
Richards' 1988 Keynote Address at the DNC (35 minutes).
down for the transcript.
It follows the full transcript of
Ann Richards' Keynote Address at the Democratic
National Convention, delivered at
Atlanta, Georgia - July 18, 1988.
Thank you. Thank
you very much.
ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to
be here with you this evening, because after
listening to George Bush all these years, I
figured you needed to know what a real Texas
accent sounds like.
Twelve years ago Barbara
Jordan, another Texas woman, Barbara made the
keynote address to this convention, and two
women in 160 years is about par for the course.
But, if you give us a chance, we can perform.
After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that
Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and
in high heels.
I want to announce to this nation that in a
little more than 100 days, the
Bush will be over.
You know, tonight I feel a little like I did
when I played basketball in the eighth grade. I
thought I looked real cute in my uniform, and
then I heard a boy yell from the bleachers,
"Make that basket, bird legs."
And my greatest fear is that same guy is
somewhere out there in the audience tonight, and
he's going to cut me down to size.
Because where I grew up there really wasn't much
tolerance for self-importance, people who put
on airs. I was born during the Depression in a
little community just outside Waco, and I grew up
listening to Franklin Roosevelt on the radio.
Well, it was back then that I came to understand
the small truths and the hardships that bind
neighbors together. Those were real people with
real problems. And they had real dreams about
getting out of the Depression.
I can remember summer nights when we'd put down
what we called a Baptist pallet, and we listened
to the grown-ups talk. I can still hear the
sound of the dominoes clicking on the marble
slab my daddy had found for a tabletop.
I can still hear the laughter of the men telling
jokes you weren't supposed to hear, talking
about how big that old buck deer was, laughing
about mama putting Clorox in the well when a
frog fell in.
They talked about war and Washington and what
this country needed. They talked straight talk,
and it came from people who were living their
lives as best they could. And that's what we're gonna do tonight.
We're gonna tell how the
cow ate the cabbage.
I got a letter last week from a young mother in
Lorena, Texas, and I wanna read part of it to
"Our worries go from payday to
payday, just like millions of others, and we
have two fairly decent incomes. But I worry how
I'm going to pay the rising car insurance and
"I pray my kids don't have a growth spurt from
August to December so I don't have to buy new
jeans. We buy clothes at the budget stores and
we have them fray and fade and stretch in the first wash.
"We ponder and try to figure out how we're going
to pay for college, and braces and tennis shoes.
We don't take vacations and we don't go out to
"Please don't think me ungrateful; we have jobs
and a nice place to live, and we're healthy.
"We're the people you see every day in the
grocery stores. We obey the laws, we pay our
taxes, we fly our flags on holidays.
"And we plod along, trying to make it better for
ourselves and our children and our parents. We
aren't vocal anymore. I think maybe we're too
"I believe that people like us are forgotten in
Well, of course you believe you're forgotten,
because you have been.
This Republican administration treats us as if
we were pieces of a puzzle that can't fit
together. They've tried to put us into
compartments and separate us from each other.
Their political theory is "divide and conquer."
They've suggested time and time again that what
is of interest to one group of Americans is not
of interest to anyone else. We've been isolated,
we've been lumped into that sad phraseology called
They've told farmers that they were selfish,
that they would drive up food prices if they
asked the Government to intervene on behalf of
the family farm, and we watched farms go on the
auction block while we bought food from foreign
countries. Well, that's wrong.
They told working mothers it's all their fault
that families are falling apart because they had
to go to work to keep their kids in jeans and
tennis shoes and college. And they're wrong.
They told American labor they were trying to
ruin free enterprise by asking for 60 days'
notice of plant closings. And that's wrong.
And they told the auto industry, and the steel
industry, and the timber industry, and the oil
industry, companies being threatened by foreign
products flooding this country, that you're
protectionist if you think the Government should
enforce our trade laws. And that is wrong.
When they belittle us for demanding clean air
and clean water, for trying to save the oceans
and the ozone layer, that's wrong.
No wonder we feel isolated, and confused. We
want answers, and their answer is that something
is wrong with you.
Well, nothing's wrong with you.
Nothing is wrong
with you that you can't fix in November.
We've been told that the
interests of the South and the Southwest are not the
same interests as the North and the Northeast.
They pit one group against the other. They've
divided this country. And in our isolation we
think government isn't going to help us, and
we're alone in our feelings. We feel forgotten.
Well the fact is, we're not an isolated
piece of their puzzle. We are one nation, we are
the United States of America.
Now we Democrats believe that America is still
the country of fair play, that we can come out
of a small town or a poor neighborhood and have
the same chance as anyone else, and it doesn't
matter whether we are black or Hispanic, or
disabled or women.
We believe that America is a country where
small-business owners must succeed because they
are the bedrock, backbone, of our economy.
We believe that our kids deserve good day care
and public schools. We believe our kids deserve
public schools where students can learn and
teachers can teach.
And we wanna believe that our parents will
have a good retirement, and that we will too.
We Democrats believe that Social Security is a
pact that cannot be broken. We want to believe
that we can live out our lives without the
terrible fear that an illness is going to
bankrupt us and our children.
We Democrats believe that America can overcome
any problem, including the dreaded disease
We believe that America is still a
country where there is more to life than just a
constant struggle for money.
And we believe that
America must have leaders who show us that our
struggles amount to something and contribute to
something larger, leaders who want us to be all
that we can be.
We want leaders like Jesse Jackson.
Jesse Jackson is a leader and a teacher who can
open our hearts and open our minds and stir our
very souls. He's taught us that we are as good
as our capacity for caring — caring about the
drug problem, caring about crime, caring about
education and caring about each other.
Now, in contrast, the greatest nation of the
free world has had a leader for eight straight
years that has pretended that he cannot hear our
questions over the noise of the helicopter.
And we know he doesn't wanna answer. But we have a
lot of questions. And when we get our questions
asked, or there is a leak, or an investigation,
the only answer we get is, "I don't know," or "I
But you wouldn't accept that answer from your
children. I wouldn't. Don't tell me "you don't
know" or "you forgot."
We're not going to have the America that we want
until we elect leaders who are going to tell the
truth. Not most days, but every day. Leaders
who don't forget what they don't want to
And for eight straight years George Bush hasn't
displayed the slightest interest in anything we
care about. And now that he's after a job that
he can't get appointed to, he's like Columbus
discovering America — he's found child care,
he's found education.
Poor George, he can't help it — he was born with
a silver foot in his mouth.
Well, no wonder we can't figure it
out, because the leadership of this nation is
telling us one thing on TV and doing something
They tell us that they're
fighting a war against terrorists. And then we
find out that the White House is selling arms to
They tell us that they're fighting a war on
drugs, and then people come on TV and testify
that the C.I.A. and the D.E.A. and the F.B.I.
knew they were flying drugs into America all
along. And they're negotiating with a dictator
who is shoveling cocaine into this country like
crazy. I guess that's their Central American
Now they tell us that employment rates are great
and that they're for equal opportunity. But we
know it takes two paychecks to make ends meet
today, when it used to take one. And the
opportunity they're so proud of is low-wage,
And there is no major city in America where you
cannot see homeless men sitting in parking lots
holding signs that say, "I will work for food."
Now my friends, we really are at a crucial point
in American history. Under this Administration
we have devoted our resources into making this
country a military colossus, but we've let our
economic lines of defense fall into disrepair.
The debt of this nation is greater than it has
ever been in our history. We fought a world war
on less debt that the Republicans have built up
in the last eight years. It's kind of like that
brother-in-law who drives a flashy new car but
he's always borrowing money from you to make the
But let's take what they are proudest of, that
is their stand on defense. We Democrats are
committed to a strong America. And, quite
frankly, when our leaders say to us we need a
new weapon system, our inclination is to say,
"Well, they must be right."
But when we pay billions for planes that won't
fly, billions for tanks that won't fire and
billions for systems that won't work, that old
dog won't hunt.
And you don't have to be from Waco to know that
when the Pentagon makes crooks rich and doesn't
make America strong, that it's a bum deal.
Now I'm going to tell you, I'm really glad that
our young people missed the Depression and
missed the great big war. But I do regret that
they missed the leaders that I knew, leaders who
told us when things were tough and that we'd
have to sacrifice, and that these difficulties
might last for a while.
They didn't tell us things were hard for us
because we were different, or isolated, or
special interests. They brought us together and
they gave us a sense of national purpose.
They gave us Social Security and they told us
they were setting up a system where we could pay
our own money in and when the time came for our
retirement, we could take the money out.
People in the rural areas were told that we deserved
to have electric lights, and they were going to
harness the energy that was necessary to give us
electricity so that my grandmama didn't have to
carry that coal oil lamp around.
And they told us that they were going to
guarantee that when we put our money in the bank
that the money was going to be there and it was
going to be insured. They did not lie to us.
And I think one of the saving graces of
Democrats is that we are candid. We talk straight
talk. We tell people what we think.
And that tradition and those values live today
in Michael Dukakis from Massachusetts.
Michael Dukakis knows that this country is on
the edge of a great new era, that we're not
afraid of change, that we're for thoughtful,
truthful, strong leadership. Behind his calm
there is an impatience, to unify this country and
to get on with the future.
His instincts are deeply American, they're tough
and they're generous. And personally I have to
tell you that I have never met a man who had a
more remarkable sense about what is really
important in life.
And then there's my friend and my teacher for
many years, Senator Lloyd Bentsen. And I
couldn't be prouder, both as a Texan and as a
Democrat, because Lloyd Bentsen understands
America from the barrio to the boardroom. He
knows how to bring us together, by regions, by
economics, and by example. And he's already
beaten George Bush once.
So when it comes right down to it, this election
is a contest between those who are satisfied
with what they have and those who know we can do
better. That's what this election is really all
It's about the American dream — those who want
to keep it for the few, and those who know it
must be nurtured and passed along.
I'm a grandmother now. And I have one nearly
perfect granddaughter named Lily. And when I
hold that grandbaby, I feel the continuity of
life that unites us, that binds generation to
generation, that ties us with each other.
And sometimes I spread that Baptist pallet out
on the floor and Lily and I roll a ball back and
forth. And I think of all the families like
mine, and like the one in Lorena, Texas, like the
ones that nurture children all across America.
And as I look at Lily, I know that it is within
families that we learn both the need to respect
individual human dignity and to work together
for our common good. Within our families, within
our nation, it is the same.
And as I sit there, I wonder if she'll every
grasp the changes I've seen in my life — if
she'll ever believe that there was a time when
blacks could not drink from public water
fountains, when Hispanic children were punished
for speaking Spanish in the public schools.
I want so much to tell Lily how far we've come,
you and I. And as the ball rolls back and forth,
I want to tell her how very lucky she is. That,
for all of our differences, we are still the
greatest nation on this good earth.
And our strength lies in the men and women who
go to work every day, who struggle to balance
their family and their jobs, and who should
never, ever be forgotten.
I just hope that, like her grandparents and her
great-grandparents before, that Lily goes on to raise
her kids with the promise that echoes in homes
all across America — that we can do better.
And that's what this election is all about.