2004 Democratic National Convention Address
delivered 29 July 2004, Fleet Center, Boston
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
Thank you. Thank you, Vanessa.
Well, it is an incredible experience to be here tonight. And I have to admit that it hasn't been easy to sift through years of memories about my father and find those few that might best tell you who John Kerry really is. So, let me just begin with one July day, when Vanessa and I were kids. It's a silly story, but it's true, and it's one of my favorite memories about my father.
We were standing on a dock, waiting for a boat to take us on a summer trip. Vanessa, the scientist, had packed all of her animals, including her favorite hamster. Our over-zealous golden retriever got tangled in his leash and knocked the hamster cage off the dock. We watched, as "Licorice," the unlucky hamster -- as he became termed -- bubbled down into a watery doom.
Now, that might have been the end of the story: A mock funeral at sea and some tears for a hamster lost. But my dad jumped in, grabbed an oar, fished the cage from the water, hunched over the soggy hamster, and began to administer CPR.
Now -- Now there are still to this day, there are some reports of mouth-to-mouth, but I admit it's probably a trick of memory.
The hamster was never quite right after that, but he lived.
Now like I said, it may sound silly, and we still laugh about it today, but it was serious to us. And that's what mattered to my father.
Years later, when I was driving back to college with him, brooding, as only a 19-year-old can, my father told me to look outside the car.
He said, "Allie, this is a beautiful day. Feel the sun. Look at the country you live in."
The passion of his words makes me remember them still, ten years later.
He said to me, "I know men your exact age who thought they'd have the same future you have, whose families were never born, who never again walked on American soil. They don't feel this sun."
"Allie," he said, "If there's something you don't like, something that needs to be changed, change it. But never, ever give up."
"Remember," he said, "Remember that you are alive and that you are an American. Those two things make you the luckiest little girl in the world."
Even now -- Even now, I look back at that and I think about what my dad has been through in his life. Because he's quiet about those things, my sister and I had to sneak upstairs when we were kids and read his letters from Vietnam. Who knew a 23-year-old could have seen so much so young.
To every little girl, her father is a hero. And it's taken some getting used to, but my father actually is one.
And it's not just -- it's not just in the obvious ways, because he likes to listen as much as he likes to talk; because he's studious in the ways someone is when everything in the whole world interests them; because he leads by example; because he trusts people with the truth, and doesn't play to our baser instincts.
And let me tell you this -- thank you -- let me tell you this: When he loves you, as he loves me and my sister and his family, as he loves the men who fought beside him, there is no sacrifice too great. And when he cares for you, as he cares for this country, there are no surer hands and no wiser heart. And so when he teaches you by the life he has led, as he taught me and my sister all of our lives, there is no better lesson -- that the future of this country is not only his life's work, it's mine and yours -- it's all of our life's work; it's all of ours.
And if we want our children to breathe clean air and drink clean water, if we want them to control their own bodies, if we want them -- if we want them to protect the liberties and opportunities that are our birthright, we must be involved in this struggle, because on that day in that car my father right -- we are the luckiest people in the world: We walk on this soil. We feel this sun. And we are Americans.
And now, it is our great pleasure and our great, great pride to introduce our father, John Kerry.
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