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Pelosi Remarks at Campaign for America's Future's Take Back America 2007

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke today at Campaign for America's Future's Take Back America 2007 conference in Washington, D.C.  Below are her remarks:

'Good morning.  Thank you, Jack Murtha for your generous work and especially for your great leadership.  Jack Murtha has the courage to speak truth to power.  He served his country on the battlefield and is a decorated war hero from Vietnam.  As a young man, he showed that conviction.  As an experienced, respected Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, he continues to make that fight for the American people.

'Thank you to the Campaign for America's Future for what you have done.

'A year ago, we were here and I said to you every step we take, walking precincts, whatever we do will take us closer to a New Direction for America.

'As Speaker of the House, I'm pleased to be here to say, on behalf of all the Democrats in the House: 'Thank you to Campaign for America's Future for helping to make us the majority.'

'Thank you to Bob Borosage for your tremendous leadership and for the intellectual resource you are on all the issues that help us advance a progressive economic agenda for America.  Thank you Roger Hickey for, not only your kind words this morning, but for your great leadership as well.

New Direction

'One year ago, we promised that if we won, we would take the country in a New Direction.  In the first 100 Hours, we signaled that change to a New Direction.

'First, we said we would make America safer by passing the 9/11 Commission recommendations and following up on that with policies that say: 'We can protect and defend America, but at the same time we must protect and defend our civil liberties and our Constitution.  That is the oath of office that we take.'

'We said we were going to make our economy fairer, and we did so in the first 100 Hours, the first day, by passing a raise in the minimum wage.  We followed that by passing the Employee Free Choice Act so every person in America could belong to a union without fear of intimidation.  And we owe that to the leadership of Congressman George Miller. 

'On July 24, many of you will be with us at rallies around the country to observe the minimum wage coming into effect for the first time in 10 years.  Because of the neglect of the Republicans, we were never able to pass an increase in the minimum wage and get it signed into law.  But because of your work, our victory, and our majority, on July 24 millions of Americans will get an increase in their wage.

'The economic security of America's families is essential to the well-being of our children.  Protect our country, grow our economy, strengthen our endeavors, and care for our children - that must begin with universal access to quality health care for all Americans.

'That is why I am so pleased that in our New Direction budget, we were able to triple the funding for SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, from $25 billion to $75 billion.  It is a budget that puts children first.  

'It also puts, right under our children, our veterans.  And on Friday, we passed legislation giving our veterans the biggest increase in their health benefits in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration.  They have done their jobs magnificently.

'We owe them more than to send them into battle without the training, without the equipment, without a plan for success and one based on a false premise.  In the military they say: 'On the battle field we will leave no soldier behind.'  Democrats say: 'And when they come home, we will leave no veteran behind.'

Preserving the Environment

'Preserving our planet is a moral responsibility that we have.  That is why we are working with business groups.  We are working with environmental groups and energy groups across the board.  It is a national security issue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  It is a health issue to clean up our environment.  It is an economic issue for us to create good-paying, green-collar jobs in a new economy where again all kinds of people - young and old alike - can participate.  It is something that we must do, and America is lagging behind because the President doesn't accept the science. But we do.

'Today, they are debating the energy bill in the Senate.  We will be taking it up in the House soon.  We have our energy independence package for the 4th of July that we will be introducing.  This is revolutionary for our country.  It's no longer nipping at the edges of the issues; it's going right down the middle making it the strong economic issue and national security issue that is deserves to be.  And I thank you all for your activism on that subject.

Accountability

'When the American people asked for a New Direction, they wanted a New Direction on how we conducted our business in Washington, D.C., and that's why I want to commend some of our Chairmen.  Henry Waxman has been outstanding on oversight of this Administration, scrutinizing the Iraq contracts among other things.  John Conyers is investigating the U.S. Attorney scandal.

'George Miller investigated the student loans fraud.  In committee a couple days ago, Chairman Miller engineered a bill that is the biggest proposal for student loans for helping middle and aspiring middle-income families in America to receive a higher education.  It's the biggest bill since the G.I. Bill of Rights.

'So elections make a difference - whether it's in how we grow our economy, how we educate our children, how we provide access to quality health care, how we respect our veterans, or how we end discrimination, and so much more.  How we promote embryonic stem cell research to give hope to millions of families in America.

Iraq

'Democrats are conducting Congress in the highest ethical standard with the most fiscal discipline - no new deficit spending - and the most civil way.  We have to recognize that the biggest ethical challenge facing our country is the war in Iraq.  

'I voted against it nearly five years ago.  At the time, I was the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, and I was part of something called the Gang of Four - House Democrat and Republican, Senate Democrat and Republican.  We saw all of the intelligence, and I read it all.  And after I saw it, I said: 'I'm voting against the war because the intelligence does not support the threat.'

'Democrats have a vision for stability in the Middle East.  And the generals tell us, including in our weekly radio response to the President, General William Odom said, 'Any strategy for stability in the Middle East must begin with the redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.'

'While we don't yet have the 60 votes to overcome the Republicans in the Senate, while we don't have the President's signature, we have the right position on this issue and the American people know it.

'Your impatience for the war is totally justified.  On May 1, 2003, the President said, 'Mission Accomplished.'  Four years later and counting, what a tragedy - a war that started as a grotesque mistake.  We mourn the loss of life that is our greatest loss, more than 3,500 soldiers who have died.  Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have also been killed; they are all God's children, too.

'The opportunity cost of a trillion dollars and more - what we could have done for universal access to quality health care, the education of our children.  Think of all that we could do with that money.  Internationally, we could help stop the spread of AIDS and disease, the alleviation of poverty, and all the values that we have not only domestically but internationally.  Instead, because of stubbornness that is hard to explain, our President is committed to a war without end.  He is so deeply dug into the hole, he cannot see the light of day.  But we have to help him see the light, and we must do it as soon as possible.  It is long overdue.

Darfur

'I visited Darfur last year, and I came back and talked about it many places.  Darfur challenges the conscience of our country.  Actually, within a week, I was in Darfur, and I was at Katrina.  And it was amazing.  When I was in Darfur, I thought how could this ever be allowed to happen?  We know about it.  It's not that we can say we didn't realize it; it's right before our eyes.  The government of Sudan, when we went to visit them after we saw what we saw in Darfur, told us that what we saw wasn't there.  But we saw with our own eyes the children, the little children, two years old, three years olds, still with a spark in their eyes.  Older than that, they had seen too much - their mothers raped, their fathers killed, their villages pillaged, living in total abject poverty.  The world knows about it.  We must do something about it.  It is a challenge to our conscience that we have not yet responded.  

Katrina

'And then to come home and see the challenge to the conscience of Katrina - in our own country were these little children in Houston and other places they had gone to because they could not go back home.

'And even my grandson, four years old at the time, in kindergarten, he came to us and said: 'Some of the children from New Orleans are in my class.' He goes to public school in Houston.  He said, 'Mimi,' that's my grandmother name, 'Mimi, these children just want to go home!'

'Finally, a year and a half later, under a Democratic Congress, we were able to pass $6.3 billion for victims of Katrina, waiving the Stafford Act match, which is as important in some cases as the money.  But we must do more and never ever again break the compact between the American people and the government that when disaster strikes for whatever purpose that we will be there.

'In my travels, I have met with presidents, kings, and prime ministers since I have become Speaker.  But the conversations that are most important to me are the ones that I have had with young people, especially throughout the Middle East, certainly in our own country.  And I know there are lots of young people here.

'There are people in Saudi Arabia, people in the street in Damascus, and the young people in the Palestinian territories, in Lebanon, wherever I was - kids, young people, are weary of war.  They're tired of politicians who do not show political courage to end war, to make the difficult decisions.  But they said to me: 'We wonder if our political leaders even know how to govern without having the excuse of war for not raising the standard of living, providing health care, educating the people, stopping global warming.'

'The impatience of youth is what gives me hope about the future of this world, of this planet.  They are saying: 'End the fighting.  End it in Iraq, in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in Darfur, all of Africa, where all f that violence and conflict is.  End these conflicts.  Focus on making the future better for the next generation.'

'The fact that some leaders don't want to engage in dialogue is a complete mystery to me.  I don't need to tell you that those young people are completely in dialogue - internationally, on the Internet.  People are in touch with each other.  So when they hear leaders say: 'We won't talk to this one, and we're not talking to that one,' that is so of the past.  It is not about the future.

'Our country, for all the issues that we want to make a difference on that add up to better public policy to improve the quality of life of the American people and make our democracy.  

'The world is waiting for America to assume its rightful place in the community of nations, a place where we are not condescending and disregarding people's values and beliefs, but that we are cooperative, respectful, and looking for ways forward. 

'I probably said this to you last year because it's a constant inspiration, when I was a student - and this is probably ancient history to you, but it was my youth - I was standing on the steps of the Capitol when President Kennedy made his Inaugural Address.  And in his Inaugural Address, as you all know, he said, 'ask not what your country can do for you.'  Everyone in the world knows that statement.  But the very next sentence in his speech, President Kennedy said: 'To the citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but ask what we can do working together for the freedom of mankind.'

'What we can do working together - cooperative, respectful, again not condescending and disrespectful - a vast contrast to what is happening now.

'Since Democrats became the majority in January, we think we're making a difference and taking the country in a New Direction.  That New Direction cannot be complete until we bring our troops home.  And help us do that.

'We can't just say, and it's a real reason: 'Well, we can pass whatever we can in the House, but they need 60 votes in the Senate, and the President has to sign it.'  Those are facts.  Those are obstacles, but they cannot be insurmountable.  We have the will of the American people to end this war.  We have the enthusiasm of the American people to end this war.

'Instead of fighting us, which is your right to do, let's all work together to end the war and bring the troops home.'