(The following is a draft speech that I hope a candidate would give. It is an expression of my anxious search for a leader who can rise to the challenges that now face our nation and our democracy. This expression is by no means mine alone. It is a product of the deep understanding and faith that has grown in me as the result of ten years of working with, and getting to know, a diverse group of volunteer community leaders, from conservative evangelicals to liberal secularists, who have joined together in my small city to break down divisions and improve our ability to work together. This speech is an attempt to express the possibilities that we have found still living deep in the hearts of the citizens and the local communities of our city.)
My fellow Americans, today we face challenges that threaten the future of our democracy and our nation. It is time for us to come together as a nation, all of us across our divides, and assemble the awesome power of a democratic people to meet these challenges. It is time for us to turn these challenges into an opportunity for us to create a better nation and a better democracy, a democracy that will restore our nation’s ability to lead the world in the 21st Century. It is time for us to do again what we, as a nation, have done so often in the past. As we did when we came together to lead the world to defeat fascism. As we did when we followed the lead of our Civil Rights Movement and turned the tide on the racism of the Jim Crow era and began the long and continuing journey to justice for all. It is time for us as a nation to face our challenges and once again take the next great step in our nation’s long history of democracy.
Today, as we all participate in this process of choosing your President, we need to start by recognizing the challenges facing our communities. We need to recognize that our governments have failed too many of us too often over the past years and that it is time for us to create a new and better politics that will leave no one behind. We need to recognize the suffering and the feeling of abandonment in our rural communities, towns, and manufacturing cities left on their own to deal with the challenge of globalization. We need to recognize the suffering and feeling of abandonment in our inner-city neighborhoods and communities still devasted by the effects of racism. We need to recognize the fear felt in our immigrant communities that are questioning their welcome in our nation. We need to recognize the fear in our communities who feel like their views and beliefs have no place and no voice in our changing world. We need to choose a President that can help lead us in a national effort that will demonstrate our fundamental commitment to every community, that will demonstrate our commitment to value and respect all of our diverse nation and leave no one behind. If I am elected, we will demonstrate this commitment to leave no one behind by launching a “Marshall Plan for America” and will bring the resources, understanding, and help needed to make a difference in all of our suffering communities. We will use our nation’s resources to invest in our greatest resource, our citizens and in our citizens ability to understand each other. And, by doing this, we will begin to restore our faith and trust in each other and strengthen our ability to engage all of us in the work to meet our challenges.
My fellow Americans, let’s all be clear: we can guarantee health care to all in our nation, we can turn around the growing inequality that is undermining our democracy. We can respond to the demands of the young Americans who are challenging us to address the threats to their lives and their futures. We can respond to the Parkland students and to the climate change activists and say to them, “We will show you by our actions that we will do what is needed to address gun violence so you can feel safe in your classrooms; we will address climate change so you and your children have a secure future.”
We can and will do all these things, but to succeed, we will also need to work to create a better kind of politics, a politics that can bring us together and engage all of us in these historic efforts. As the inheritors of our democratic traditions, we all understand that we cannot unite and engage all of us if we don’t give everyone a voice and role in the work we need to do. For too many years we have allowed our respect for citizens and their capacity to be undermined. Instead of citizens, we have been convinced that we must rely on our experts and politicians, our governments and professionals to make the decisions and do the public work of the nation for us. Without hands on engagement in work to solve the problems of our nation, citizens have no chance to get to know each other and learn how to work together. That has made it easy to divide us and made it impossible to unite to address our challenges. We need to rebuild a democracy that places citizens and not experts and politicians at the center of our politics.
As your President, to begin this work to rebuild our democracy, I will do something radical. I will not assemble experts, develop policies, and tell you how we will provide health care for all, or how we will reduce gun violence, or how we will meet the challenge of climate change. Instead, I will ask your government to support a national conversation starting in our neighborhoods, faith-based organizations, schools and community organizations across the nation to begin the work to find the common ground we need to work together. Your government will ask experts to advise you and help you get the information you need to make informed decisions; it will help provide you with the opportunity to meet together and share ideas with other citizens, and we will give back to you the responsibility of citizens to do the important work to find the common ground we need to meet our challenges. This may take some time and effort, but there is no short cut to this work to restore our ability to find common ground. The result will be a stronger nation with citizens who know each other and who are united and committed to make the kind of historic efforts that can change the world. We will make democracy work again and together we will rediscover for our generation the power that only a democracy can unleash.
My fellow Americans, we know that this will be no ordinary election. We know that to begin the work to heal our nation and restore our ability to work together to meet our challenges, we must first reject a President who is working to undermine the basic institutions and the rule of law that make our democracy possible. We must reject a President who is working to cement our divisions, not heal them. As your candidate, I promise to work with all my fellow candidates, and with all Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who understands the threat of this President to our democracy, to do everything we can to ensure the record turnout we need to defeat this President, take back the Senate from the Trump party and defeat his attack on our democracy. To my fellow citizens who have supported this President, I know that you have legitimate concerns, but I ask you to consider if relying on this President who is working to divide us, rather than relying on your fellow citizens will create the change and bring the help you need. We hope you will join us in rejecting division and work with us to create a better politics that respects and can unite all of our diverse nation.
Fellow candidates, our nation will need all of us to work together before and after the election to meet the challenges we face. Let’s remember that in a democracy everyone deserves a voice and role. Everyone has important skills and ideas that we can learn from. We will need to work to ensure that there is less inequality and we will need to work to ensure that those with the least resources have an equal voice to those with the most. But, in our democracy we believe that “all are created equal” and we give everyone a voice and we value and respect everyone’s contribution. In a democracy, we don’t believe that your class or your religion, or you race or your gender or your sexual orientation determines your views. Each of us is a citizen with unique and important experiences. The only enemies in a democracy are those who try to take away or drown out the voices of other citizens. And, while I understand and respect the sincere and honest motives behind those who believe that building a working class movement is the answer to our problems, I firmly believe that this strategy is mistaken and out of place in a democracy. It is out of place because it does not treat us all as equal citizens. It is out of place because it cannot speak to the real needs of citizens that go beyond class. And, most importantly, it can never come close to bringing us together as citizens and realizing the potential of a united democratic community working together to change the world.
My fellow citizens, like it or not we now have both the heavy responsibility and the honor to work together to defeat the attack on democracy, to create a new politics that can engage all of us, and to use the unmatched power of our citizens working together to meet the challenges that threaten our nation’s future and the future of our planet. We now have the opportunity to join the great American generations who have managed with great sacrifice to accept this responsibility to preserve and improve our democracy and pass it on to future generations. As we do the same, we will ensure “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”