Gephardt Announcement on the 2000 Campaign

to the House Democratic Caucus
February 3, 1999
[Transcript]



Thank you.  We're going to take it back aren't we! Thank you...[applause continues].

Thank you Patrick [Kennedy] for that kind introduction, thank you David [Bonior], thank you Martin Frost, and thank all of the members of this great Democratic caucus.

Welcome to the worst kept secret in town. [laughter]

Over the last few months, I have tried to decide where I could make the greatest contribution towards furthering the goals which are at the core of our Democratic party. Whether the best path was to continue in my current role, or to seek another way to help bring about the change that we need to meet the transformations and dislocations of a new economy and a new century.

I came to one clear conclusion. I am a very lucky person to have the great honor to represent about a half a million people out in St. Louis--the privilege of representing them every day for the last 22 years in the greatest democratic institution in the history of the world.

I want to thank publicly to my constituents in St. Louis city and County, Jefferson County and Ste. Genevieve County. I have done my best to give voice to your hopes and dreams. And I hope I've succeeded at least in part to fulfill their trust.

I got into public life a long time ago to try to improve the lives of the people in my district. Their jobs -- their lives -- have been my focus. Not my own.

I want to try and help the people who are so proud of America -- of our tolerance, our commitment to freedom, our obligation to family and community. The people who work hard every day on their jobs and work hard to raise their families.

That has been my only goal -- to do right by the people who have made this great country what it is. And that goal underlies the values and beliefs of the Democratic Party, which I am so proud to lead in our House of Representatives. [applause]

The opportunity to win the majority presents the greatest challenge for the Democrats in the year 2000. This isn't a fight for committee chairs or for perks or for titles. It's a fight for our ideals and our values. [applause]

I want to wage a fight with you to help the millions of parents who have less and less time to spend with their children in a world with increasing hours and increasing work.

I want to make sure that our nation guarantees that all our people get the skills and the training that they need to compete -- the skills that are the currency of our new global information economy.

As a parent whose family has faced some serious health problems -- I want to make sure that every American family has access to the health care that they need and they deserve. [applause]

And finally I want to change the way we do business in the House of Representatives.

This Congress has lost the trust of the American people. It's allowed the politics of personal destruction, not the politics of progress, to rule the day. It's driven members of different parties apart, and has closed the book on a time when members of this precious House of Representatives could really work together, to collaborate and cooperate to address the people's problems.

We need a new Congress -- one that reflects the hopes and the dreams of the people rather than the unending drumbeat of a small minority, bent on imposing their will on the entire nation. [applause]

This is going to be a fight for the soul of this institution. To return it to a better time, better than what we've seen over these last four years.

I want to help rebuild the trust and the confidence of the people of America toward their Congress and their government. I want to make politics something that all citizens want to participate in again and to be citizens again in the highest sense of the word. And I want to make the House a more civil and respectful place. When we're in the majority, we're not going to go about business as usual. We're going start anew and make the House worthy of the high place that it holds in our democracy.

I want to help lead this campaign for this decency and this progress. And I will work to ensure that our party provides a strong vision of where we want to lead our nation in the new century with a new Congress.

I know that Democrats can compete with Republicans in a higher and better and worthy competition, in a battle of ideas. We can compete, we can test our ideas, we can advocate our beliefs and we can win.

Certainly, there are differences of opinion within our party. And every Presidential campaign, at its best, offers a distinct vision of our nation. That's what each of us strives to do in our own campaigns. But I firmly believe that what unites us as Democrats is far greater than our differences. [applause]

Our shared values and shared ideas are superior to what is offered by our opponents. We're a much stronger party because of the adversity we have faced in the last four years. It has brought us together. I think we've learned an important lesson about how strong we can be if we stand united and stand together.

We've got to remember this lesson. The best way to fight for Democratic ideas is by aiming our fire on those who would take us down the path of fiscal irresponsibility and national neglect. We must value our unity -- and work together as Democrats for this country and for its future. [applause]

I've taken that lesson to heart. In the end, it made my decision for next year an easy one.

I've handed that gavel over for the last time. [applause, cheers, sign-waving]

When the 107th Congress convenes in January of 2001, I want to take that gavel back on your behalf and on behalf of the American people. [applause, chants "Take it back," sign waving]  One more second...

Finally, let me say I want to take the gavel back not for its power and its privilege, but to put our values back in the driver's seat.

I want to get this House back to work on what really matters. Working with all of you, I want to address the sacred business of this great nation... in a manner which is worthy of our history, and in a spirit which honors our responsibility to the American people.

Thank you and God bless you.

###




[below is the prepared statement]



For Immediate Release: Feburary 3, 1999
House Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt
H-204, U.S. Capitol

Gephardt Announcement on the 2000 Campaign

WASHINGTON -- "Welcome to the announcement of the worst kept secret in town.

"Over the last few months, I have tried to decide where I could make the greatest contribution towards furthering the goals which are at the core of our party. Whether the best path was to continue in my current role, or to seek another way to help bring about the change that we need to meet the transformations and dislocations of a new economy and a new century.

"I came to one clear conclusion. I am a very lucky person to have been given a great honor by the people of St. Louis -- the privilege of representing them in the greatest democratic body in the history of the world.

"I'd like to thank my constituents in St. Louis city and County, Jefferson County and Ste. Genevieve County. I have done my best to give voice to their desires and dreams. I hope I have succeeded -- that I have at least in part fulfilled their trust.

"I got into public life to try to improve the lives of the people of Missouri's Third District. Their jobs -- their lives -- have been my focus. Not my own.

"I want to try and help the people who are proud of America -- of our tolerance, our commitment to freedom, our obligation to our communities. The people who work hard on the job and raising their children.

"That has been my only goal -- to do right by the people who have made this country what it is. And that goal underlies the values and beliefs of the Democratic Party, which I am proud to lead in the people's House of Representatives.

"The opportunity to win the majority presents the greatest challenge to Democrats in 2000. This isn't a fight for committee chairs or for perks. It's a fight for our ideals and our values.

"I want to wage a fight to help the millions of parents who have less and less time to spend with their children amidst the increasing demands of work.

"I want to make sure our nation guarantees that all our people get the skills they need to compete -- the skills that are the currency of the new global information-based economy.

"As a parent whose family has faced serious health problems -- I want to make sure that every American family has access to the health care they need and deserve.

"And I want to change the way we do business in the House of Representatives.

"This Congress has lost the trust of the American people. It has allowed the politics of personal destruction, not the politics of progress, to rule the day. It has driven members of different parties apart, and has closed the book on a time when members could really work together.

"We need a new Congress -- one that reflects the hopes and the dreams of the people rather than the unending drumbeat of a small minority, bent on imposing their will on an entire nation.

"This is going to be a fight for the soul of this institution. To return it to a better time, better than what we have seen over the last four years.

"I want to help rebuild the trust between the people and their government. I want to make politics something that all citizens want to participate in once again. And I want to make the House a more civil and respectful place. When we are in the majority, we aren't going to go about business as usual. We will start anew and make the House worthy of the high place it holds in our democracy.

"I want to help lead this campaign for decency and for progress. And I will work to ensure that our party provides a strong vision of where we want to lead our nation in the first new Congress of the 21st century.

"I know that Democrats can compete with Republicans in a higher and better and worthy competition, in a battle of ideas. We can compete, and we will win.

"Certainly, there are differences of opinion within our party. And every Presidential campaign, at its best, offers a distinct vision for our nation. That's what each of us strives to do in our own campaigns. But I firmly believe that what unites us as Democrats is far greater than our differences. And our shared values and ideas are far superior to what is offered by our opponents.

"We are a much stronger party because of the adversity we have faced in the last few years. It has brought us together. I think we have learned an important lesson about how strong we can be if we stand united.

"We've got to remember this lesson. The best way to fight for Democratic ideas is by aiming our fire on those who would take us down the path of fiscal irresponsibility and national neglect. We must value our unity -- and work together as Democrats for this country and its future.

"I have taken that lesson to heart. In the end, it made my decision for next year an easy one.

"I've handed that gavel over for the last time. When the 107th Congress convenes in January of 2001, I want to take that gavel back on your behalf.

"I want to take back that gavel, not for its power and privilege, but to put our values back in the driver's seat.

"I want to get this House back to work on what really matters. Working with all of you, I want to address the sacred business of this great nation... in a manner which is worthy of our history, and in a spirit which honors our responsibility to the American people."

###

Contact: Laura Nichols/Erik Smith 202/225-0100


U.S. House Democratic Leadership
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