Shirley Chisholm

Presidential Candidacy Announcement

delivered 25 January 1972, Brooklyn, New York


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States of America.

I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud.

I am not the candidate of the women's movement of this country, although I am a woman and I'm equally proud of that.

I am not the candidate of any political bosses or fat cats or special interests.

I stand here now without endorsements from many big-name politicians or celebrities or any other kind of prop. I do not intend to offer to you the tired and glib clichés, which for too long have been [an] accepted part of our political life.

I am the candidate of the people of America. And my presence before you, now, symbolizes a new era in American political history. I have always earnestly believed in the great potential of America. Our constitutional democracy will soon celebrate its 200th anniversary, effective testimony to the longevity of our cherished Constitution, and its unique Bill of Rights, which continues to give to the world its inspirational message of freedom and liberty.

We Americans are a dynamic people because of our rugged individuality and our cherished diversity, because of our belief in human dignity, because of our generosity and good will to our fellow man -- and most importantly, because of our tradition of moving forward, forward to actively confront those problems which plague us in a world growing more complex each year.

Like all human beings, we have made mistakes. Our involvement in Vietnam was and remains at this very moment a terrible tragedy. To have intervened in the civil war in that country, and then later to have intervened in still two more countries, Laos and Cambodia, was an ill-conceived blunder whose consequences all of us have had to suffer. To leave our men there, or to increase massive bombing in the process of withdrawing them, is to compound the havoc and misery which we are inflicting on the peoples of Indochina; [on our] own young men who have been killed and mutilated and rendered drug addicts; and ourselves -- ourselves, whose hard-earned has, during a serious economic recession, made up the billions of dollars spent in Vietnam when we so urgently needed these resources at home.

During last year, 1971, more civilians were killed and wounded in Indochina, and many more made refugees, than at any time in our history. And Vietnam continues to cost us one million dollars a day -- this despite President Nixon's promise, four years ago, to end this nightmare.  

Script: "Never has so much military, economic, and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively as in Vietnam. If, after all of this time, and all of this sacrifice, and all of this support, there is still no end in sight, then I say that the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership not tied to the policies and mistakes of the past. I pledge to you: We shall have an honorable end to the war in Vietnam."

Our unique economic system has made America the wealthiest nation in history. Yet, we have undergone another economic recession in which millions of Americans have lost their jobs and are unable to find work -- the highest number in ten years. And at the same time, prices have soared on even the essentials of life -- food, clothing, and medical care.

And beyond Vietnam and its horrors, which have dominated our newspapers and television[s] for eight long years; and beyond the economic recession, which has caused severe hardship [at] home to so many Americans, is the visible, ongoing destruction of our natural environment, and our loss of a sense of personal security in our own daily lives.

Perhaps even more fundamental is our loss of the feeling of community; shock at the continuing injustices and inequities in the land that we love;  our suspicions of pervasive constitutional incompetence and corruption; our feeling that there's an absence of respectable authority in our nation; and our loss of confidence in ourselves, with apathy or despair arising from the conviction that we are powerless to make ourselves heard or felt in remedying our ills.  

Fellow Americans, we have looked in vain to the Nixon Administration for the courage, the spirit, the character, and the words to lift us, to bring out the best in us, to rekindle in each of us our faith in the American Dream.1 Yet, all that we have received in return is just another smooth exercise in political manipulation, deceit and deception, callousness and indifference to our individual problems, and the disgusting playing of divisive politics -- pinning the young against the old, labor against management, North against South, black against white.2

The abiding concern of this Administration has been one of political expediency rather than the needs of man's nature. The President has broken his promises to us, and has therefore lost his claim to our trust and confidence in him.

I cannot believe -- I cannot believe that this Administration would have ever been elected four years ago if we had known then what we know today -- that we are entering -- we are entering a new era in which we must, as Americans, demand stature and size in our national leadership -- leadership -- leadership which is fresh, leadership which is open, and leadership which is receptive to the problems of all Americans.

I have faith in the American people. I believe that we are smart enough to correct our mistakes. I believe we are intelligent enough to recognize the talent, energy, and dedication which all Americans, including women and minorities, have to offer.

I know from my travels to the cities and small towns of America that we have a vast potential which can and must be put to constructive use in getting this great nation together.

I know that millions of Americans from all walks of life agree with me that leadership does not mean putting the ear to the ground to follow public opinion, but to have the vision of what is necessary and the courage to make it possible -- not by force, violence, or intimidation, but by persuasion, example, and law.

We must turn away from the control of the prosaic -- the privilege[d], and the old-line, tired politicians -- to open our society to the energies and abilities of countless new kinds of groups of Americans -- women, blacks, browns, Indians, Orientals, and youth, so that they can develop their own full potential and thereby participate equally and enthusiastically in building a strong and just society, rich -- rich in its diversity and noble in its quality of life.      

I stand before you today to repudiate the ridiculous notion that the American people will not vote for a qualified -- qualified candidate simply because he is not white, or because she's not a male. I do not believe that in 1972 the great majority of Americans will continue to harbor such narrow and petty prejudices. I am convinced that the American people are in a mood to discard the politics and the political personalities of the past. I believe that they will show, in 1972 and thereafter, that they intend to make independent judgments on the merits of a particular candidate based on that candidate's intelligence, character, physical ability, competence, integrity, and honesty.

It is -- It is, I feel, the duty of responsibility leaders of this country to encourage and maximize -- not to dismiss or minimize -- such judgment. Americans all over are demanding a new sensibility, a new philosophy of government from Washington.

Instead of sending spies to snoop on participants at Earth Day, I would welcome the efforts of concerned citizens of all ages to stop the abuse of our environment.

Instead of watching a football game on television, while young people beg for the attention of their President concerning our actions abroad, I would encourage them to speak out, organize for peaceful change, and vote in November.

Instead of blocking efforts to control the huge amounts of money given political candidates by the rich and the powerful, I would provide certain limits on such amounts, and encourage all the people of this nation to contribute small sums to the candidates of their choice.

Instead of calculating the political costs of this or that policy, and of weighing favors of this or that group, depending on whether that group voted for me in 1968, I would remind all Americans at this hour of the words of Abraham Lincoln: "A house divided [against itself] cannot stand."3

We Americans -- We Americans are all fellow countrymen, one day confronting the judgment of history in our country. We are all God's children and the will of each of us is as precious as the will of the most powerful General or corporate millionaire.

Our will -- our will can create a new American in 1972: one where there's freedom from violence and war at home and abroad; where there's freedom from poverty and discrimination; where there exists at least a feeling that we are making progress and assurance for everyone, medical care, employment, and decent housing; where we more decisively clean up our streets, our water, and our air; where we work together, black and white, to rebuild our neighborhoods, and to make our cities quiet, attractive, and efficient; and, fundamentally, where we live in the confidence that every man and every woman in America has at long last the opportunity to become all that he was created of being, such as his ability.          

In conclusion, all of you who share this vision, from New York to California, from Wisconsin to Florida, are brothers and sisters on the road to national unity and a new America.  Those of you -- Those of you who were locked outside of the convention hall in 1968, those of you who can now vote for the first time, those of you who agree with me that the institutions of this country belong to all of the people who inhabit it, those of you who have been neglected, left out, ignored, forgotten, or shunned aside for whatever reason: Give me your help at this hour! Join me in an effort to reshape our society and regain control of our destiny as we go down the Chisholm Trail for 1972.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Asyndeton

2 Ibid

3 Notable anaphora

Images of Chisholm (Screenshot + Groovy Art Rollover) Source: YouTube

Image of Button Source:

Page Updated: 8/14/20

U.S. Copyright Status: Text = Uncertain. Video and Images of Chisholm = Fair Use. Image of Button = Public domain.
































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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.