Just the thought of writing about “what Texas means to me” brings a smile to my face. My first job in politics was in Texas, and it remains one of the best I’ve ever had. It was 1972, and I took a job heading up the Democratic Party’s voter-registration drive in Texas. Bill and I lived in Austin-then still a sleepy little town-where he helped run the George McGovern campaign in the state. I quickly fell in love with the strong character of Texans and their determination to take on the things others think are too hard-a spirit I’m now trying to bring to my own campaign.
I spent most of my time that year driving throughout South Texas registering primarily Hispanic voters, as well as African Americans and young people. Alongside union organizers and Hispanic leaders like Franklin Garcia, I went door to door through border towns looking for every new voter. When the voter registration period was over, I moved to San Antonio to work for the campaign there.
That campaign, of course, didn’t turn out as we had hoped, but the personal rewards couldn’t have been greater. I was immersed in Texas’ culture and met a wonderful group of idealistic and committed political organizers, whose friendships have lasted a lifetime. Many of them, like Raul Yzaguirre and George McGovern himself, are supporting me today because 36 years ago we were in the trenches together trying to change the world. And we still are.
Going door to door in Texas gave me the privilege of meeting people face to face and really listening to their concerns. It’s harder to make that same personal connection as a national candidate, but that’s what I’ve been trying to do in this campaign.
For the past year, I’ve been in the homes and workplaces, churches and community centers of America, listening to the voices of the American people. And I’ve heard from so many people who are struggling in this economy.
People who work the day shift and the night shift but still can’t make ends meet. People who whisper to me about the mortgages they can’t afford, medical bills that wiped out their savings, and tuition bills that cut short their children’s dreams. Moms and dads who want the world for their children-and young people who deserve a world of opportunity.
After seven years of a president who’s listened only to the special interests, the American people need a fighter and a champion on their behalf. A president who will take on our toughest problems and deliver solutions.
That’s another thing I’ve learned from Texas-the importance of determined leaders with courage and conviction, leaders like my heroes Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards. Ann was a dear friend of mine, and it is difficult to be in Texas this year without her. But I’m carrying in my heart a simple conviction-this one’s for Ann. We’re going to fight for a Texas-sized agenda that would make her proud.
As president, I’ll fight for an economy that works for everyone-not just those at the top. An economy where prosperity is shared and we create good jobs that stay right here in America. I’ll address the housing crisis with a plan to freeze foreclosures, so Americans can keep their homes and their families intact. And I’m the only candidate-in either party-who has a health care plan that will cover every single man, woman, and child in this country-no one left out.
We’ll pass comprehensive immigration reform that is true to our traditions as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. We’ll honor our commitment to our troops, because when a young man or woman signs up to serve our country, we sign up to serve them, too.
And we’ll restore America’s standing in the world by ending the war in Iraq, reaching out to our allies, and confronting our shared challenges-from global terrorism to global warming to global epidemics.
Together, we can take back our country and start solving our problems. But we know the Republicans won’t give up the White House without a fight. So let me be clear: If I’m our nominee, no one will swift-boat this country’s future. For 16 years, they’ve thrown everything you can imagine at me. I’ve been vetted and tested, and I’ve beaten them in two landslide elections. I’m ready to do it again.
Thirty-six years ago, our friends used to get together at Scholz Garten in Austin to sit outside and talk politics. I never imagined then that I would be back in Texas one day as a candidate for president in my own right. But I’m so glad that I am. I will listen to the voices of Texans throughout my campaign, and I’ll bring those voices and Texas’ can-do spirit with me to the White House.