Acceptance Speech of the Democratic Vice Presidential Nomination

"George McGovern and I have a dream for America. It is a vision of millions of men and women, convinced of a different concept of America’s destiny, understanding that they can reach across every barrier of age and race, of income and class and geography, to reclaim control over their own lives, to make their government once again an instrument of concern for every man and woman."
Washington, DC • August 08, 1972

My fellow Americans, I am filled with gratitude and joy--gratitude to George McGovern for selecting me and to the Democratic Party for nominating me--joy for this new chance to serve my country. I accept the nomination of this great party. I pledge myself to your service.

I look forward to working with George McGovern--one of the most honorable and courageous men in public life, who loves the land and its people, who has bestirred the best memories our people share, the highest hopes our people nourish.

At Guadalcanal, we suffered more casualties and sustained more hits by major caliber projectiles than any capital ship in the modern history of the U.S. Navy. It was rough for the South Dakota then. It is rough now. But the South Dakota sailed through to victory--and so will George McGovern.

I am not embarrassed to be George McGovern’s seventh choice for Vice President. We Democrats may be short of money. We’re not short of talent. Ted Kennedy, Ed Muskie, Hubert Humphrey, Abe Ribicoff, Tom Eagleton--what a galaxy of stars. Pity Mr. Nixon--his first and only choice was Spiro Agnew.

And let us not forget, as we unite this evening, to express our admiration for Senator Tom Eagleton. The way he took his case to the people and the grace with which he bore himself have given an enduring and unforgettable example of courage under fire.

Tonight, George McGovern has given another new example. John Kennedy’s victory ended discrimination against Catholics. Lyndon Johnson’s victory ended discrimination against Southerners. And now George McGovern has proved there is no discrimination against in-laws.

The Democratic Party is the party of life. It has been the party of my family in Maryland since 1796, when Thomas Jefferson started it. It renews itself with every generation. It seeks new people. It is the, party of Franklin Roosevelt’s concern for the depressed and the weak, of Harry Truman’s toughness. It is the party of John Kennedy’s courage and Lyndon Johnson’s desire to help people as poor as he had been. It is the party of Eugene McCarthy’s witness in cold New Hampshire, and of Robert Kennedy’s desire “to tame the savageness of man.”

It is the party of Mayor Daley and Shirley Chisholm, of Averell Harriman and Philip Murray, of Hubert Humphrey and Cesar Chavez, and of Ted Kennedy and Ed Muskie. It is the party of immigrants, of diversity, of hope.

“The United States is not merely a nation,” Walt Whitman said, “but a teeming nation of nations.” George McGovern and I will give a voice to all the teeming nations of America.

We will build again the coalition Robert Kennedy dreamed of--of Poles, Jews, Italians, Irish, of Blacks and Latinos, of farmers and workers--the party of the streets, the neighborhoods. The party dedicated to children and families.

Unless all move together, white and black, poor, middle class and rich, we do not move at all. There must be fairness for each, or else there is fairness for none. But are we fair to all? Where is justice missing today in America? It’s missing mostly in the life and circumstances of the working man and woman of America, white and black. We used to look on massive unemployment only as a problem of the ghetto. But now it appears in Youngstown, as well as Watts; in the steel mills of Buffalo and the aerospace industry of California; and the textile mills of Lowell and South Carolina. Tragedy falls upon a man when his plant closes, or his job is taken by a machine in Japan or an exporter of shoes from Italy; when he suddenly loses his medical coverage and, the seniority and pension rights built up over the years, when he feels the clutching fear of not enough money to meet the mortgage or put dinner on the table.

Crime is not only a problem for racial minorities. Millions of citizens of every race live every day under the silent oppression of violence. The new life within our cities is not the dream we saved and worked for. It is uncivilized to live behind triple-locked doors, or with a dread of empty and dark streets, and fumbling noises at the door. Those who work hard for an ordinary living often find their dreams disappointments. Their neighborhoods are not safe. Their schools do not educate. Expensive new appliances fall apart. Tax laws relieve the rich. Social welfare helps the poor. Nobody helps them.

We have recognized racial oppression, but not job oppression. One worker endures the killing monotony of the assembly lines; another works on top of coke ovens where the bricks are 180 degrees under his feet; another, hour after hour, sits in the fumes of the city bus he drives.

The money they make is taxed more heavily than the investments of those of leisure. A young man of 35 or 40, who entered the work force 15 or 20 years ago, has never had a chance for a college education, for a clean-collar job, for an open future of promotion and advancement, as far as his talents can carry him. Millions of workers, afraid of unemployment, feel imprisoned by their jobs.

Three months from today, Americans will choose between jobs and unemployment, between peace and four more years of war, between special treatment for corporate interests and general neglect of the public interest, between equal justice for all versus special justice for some.

The people will choose not merely between two men or two parties, but between national greatness and national decline.

In 1960, Richard Nixon represented national decline—the people rejected him. In 1972, Richard Nixon has created national decline and the people will reject him again.

It is not just the economy that has declined, nor the cities. It is not just devaluation of the dollar at home and abroad, not just the unfair prices, the soaring taxes, loopholes for the rich and strict controls on ordinary citizens. The worst decline is in the people’s spirit.

Americans have been numbed by years of useless war, the savage bombing of Vietnam, by the cruel, unusual prosecution of technological war in a simple land. We will not feel clean until we rid our souls of this obsession.

But the war is not our only sickness. The best-fed nation in the world suffers famine of the spirit. We have a sense of something lost, something missing.

Historically, Americans have been a people of the spirit; this Administration doesn’t seem to understand that. Historically, Americans have been a people of compassion; this Administration doesn’t seem to understand that. Americans are people of transcendent goals, a people of highest moral purpose. But this Administration seems to think we are impressed by men concerned with power and manipulation. The present Administration has led our people into the desert of empty technique.

The fact is that America is strong and must remain strong, not just in military power but also in the power of the spirit.

George McGovern and I have a dream for America. It is a vision of millions of men and women, convinced of a different concept of America’s destiny, understanding that they can reach across every barrier of age and race, of income and class and geography, to reclaim control over their own lives, to make their government once again an instrument of concern for every man and woman.

We go out and ask of our young people, not just to protest against inadequate schools, but to teach children; not just to complain about the quality of law enforcement, but to enlist in our over-burdened police forces and to join the staffs of prisons; not just to make speeches about the Third World, but to serve abroad in a revived Peace Corps; not just to talk about love, but to work with the retarded, the elderly, the lonely, the ill, the blind, the millions of hungry children on this planet.

This is what America at its best has been. That is what we will be again. In the early days of the Peace Corps, 400 miles upcountry in Africa, on a hot afternoon, an African mother and her son were sitting on the side of a burning dusty road. They looked up and saw a figure striding down the road toward them. “Look, mother,” said the boy, “there’s a white man.” And the mother answered, “No, son, that’s a Peace Corps volunteer.”

We must achieve the day when no one will say, “Look, there goes a white man,” or “look, there goes a black man,” but “Look, there goes an American working for mankind in his community, in his country and around the world.”

Now we mount a wider stage, with new and greater responsibility in a harder world than we have ever known. “But some day,” as the philosopher told us, “after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” --Teilhard de Chardin

Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
Get the Quote of the Week in Your Inbox