delivered 19 July 1984 at the Democratic National Convention, San Francisco
Ladies and gentlemen of the convention:
My name is Geraldine Ferraro. I stand before you to proclaim tonight: America is the land where dreams can come true for all of us. As I stand before the American people and think of the honor this great convention has bestowed upon me, I recall the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who made America stronger by making America more free. He said, “Occasionally in life there are moments which cannot be completely explained by words. Their meaning can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” Tonight is such a moment for me.
My heart is filled with pride. My fellow citizens, I proudly accept your nomination for Vice President of the United States.
And I am proud to run with a man who will be one of the great Presidents of this century, Walter F. Mondale. Tonight, the daughter of a woman whose highest goal was a future for her children talks to our nation’s oldest party about a future for us all. Tonight, the daughter of working Americans tells all Americans that the future is within our reach, if we’re willing to reach for it. Tonight, the daughter of an immigrant from Italy has been chosen to run for [Vice] President in the new land my father came to love.
Our faith that we can shape a better future is what the American dream is all about. The promise of our country is that the rules are fair. If you work hard and play by the rules, you can earn your share of America’s blessings. Those are the beliefs I learned from my parents. And those are the values I taught my students as a teacher in the public schools of New York City.
At night, I went to law school. I became an assistant district attorney, and I put my share of criminals behind bars. I believe if you obey the law, you should be protected. But if you break the law, you must pay for your crime.
When I first ran for Congress, all the political experts said a Democrat could not win my home district in Queens. I put my faith in the people and the values that we shared. Together, we proved the political experts wrong. In this campaign, Fritz Mondale and I have put our faith in the people. And we are going to prove the experts wrong again. We are going to win. We are going to win because Americans across this country believe in the same basic dream.
Last week, I visited Elmore, Minnesota, the small town where Fritz Mondale was raised. And soon Fritz and Joan will visit our family in Queens. Nine hundred people live in Elmore. In Queens, there are 2,000 people on one block. You would think we’d be different, but we’re not. Children walk to school in Elmore past grain elevators; in Queens, they pass by subway stops. But, no matter where they live, their future depends on education, and their parents are willing to do their part to make those schools as good as they can be. In Elmore, there are family farms; in Queens, small businesses. But the men and women who run them all take pride in supporting their families through hard work and initiative. On the 4th of July in Elmore, they hang flags out on Main Street; in Queens, they fly them over Grand Avenue. But all of us love our country, and stand ready to defend the freedom that it represents.
Americans want to live by the same set of rules. But under this administration, the rules are rigged against too many of our people. It isn’t right that every year the share of taxes paid by individual citizens is going up, while the share paid by large corporations is getting smaller and smaller. The rules say: Everyone in our society should contribute their fair share. It isn’t right that this year Ronald Reagan will hand the American people a bill for interest on the national debt larger than the entire cost of the federal government under John F. Kennedy. Our parents left us a growing economy. The rules say: We must not leave our kids a mountain of debt.
It isn’t right that a woman should get paid 59 cents on the dollar for the same work as a man.
If you play by the rules, you deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. It isn’t right that, if trends continue, by the year 2000 nearly all of the poor people in America will be women and children. The rules of a decent society say: When you distribute sacrifice in times of austerity, you don’t put women and children first. It isn’t right that young people today fear they won’t get the Social Security they paid for, and that older Americans fear that they will lose what they have already learned [earned]. Social Security is a contract between the last generation and the next, and the rules say: You don’t break contracts.
We are going to keep faith with older Americans. We hammered out a fair compromise in the Congress to save Social Security. Every group sacrificed to keep the system sound. It is time Ronald Reagan stopped scaring our senior citizens.
It isn’t right that young couples question whether to bring children into a world of 50,000 nuclear warheads. That isn’t the vision for which Americans have struggled for more than two centuries. And our future doesn’t have to be that way. Change is in the air, just as surely as when John Kennedy beckoned America to a new frontier; when Sally Ride rocketed into space; and when Reverend Jesse Jackson ran for the office of President of the United States.
By choosing a woman to run for our nation’s second highest office, you send a powerful signal to all Americans: There are no doors we cannot unlock. We will place no limits on achievement. If we can do this, we can do anything.
Tonight, we reclaim our dream. We’re going to make the rules of American life work fairly for all Americans again. To an Administration that would have us debate all over again whether the Voting Rights Act should be renewed and whether segregated schools should be tax exempt, we say, Mr. President: Those debates are over. On the issue of civil rights, voting rights, and affirmative action for minorities, we must not go backwards. We must — and we will — move forward to open the doors of opportunity.
To those who understand that our country cannot prosper unless we draw on the talents of all Americans, we say: We will pass the Equal Rights Amendment.
The issue is not what America can do for women, but what women can do for America.
To the Americans who will lead our country into the 21st century, we say: We will not have a Supreme Court that turns the clock back to the 19th century.
To those concerned about the strength of American and family values, as I am, I say: We are going to restore those values — love, caring, partnership — by including, and not excluding, those whose beliefs differ from our own. Because our own faith is strong, we will fight to preserve the freedom of faith for others.
To those working Americans who fear that banks, utilities, and large special interests have a lock on the White House, we say: Join us; let’s elect the people’s President; and let’s have government by and for the American people again.
To an Administration that would savage student loans and education at the dawn of a new technological age, we say: You fit the classic definition of a cynic; you know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.
To our students and their parents, we say: We will insist on the highest standards of excellence, because the jobs of the future require skilled minds. To young Americans who may be called to our country’s service, we say: We know your generation will proudly answer our country’s call, as each generation before you.
This past year, we remembered the bravery and sacrifice of Americans at Normandy. And we finally paid tribute — as we should have done years ago — to that Unknown Soldier who represents all the brave young Americans who died in Vietnam. Let no one doubt, we will defend America’s security and the cause of freedom around the world. But we want a President who tells us what America’s fighting for, not just what we are fighting against.
We want a President who will defend human rights, not just where it is convenient, but wherever freedom is at risk — from Chile to Afghanistan, from Poland to South Africa. To those who have watched this administration’s confusion in the Middle East, as it has tilted first toward one and then another of Israel’s long-time enemies and wonder: “Will America stand by her friends and sister democracy?” we say: America knows who her friends are in the Middle East and around the world. America will stand with Israel always.
Finally, we want a President who will keep America strong, but use that strength to keep America and the world at peace. A nuclear freeze is not a slogan: It is a tool for survival in the nuclear age. If we leave our children nothing else, let us leave them this Earth as we found it: whole and green and full of life.
I know in my heart that Walter Mondale will be that President.
A wise man once said, “Every one of us is given the gift of life, and what a strange gift it is. If it is preserved jealously and selfishly, it impoverishes and saddens. But if it is spent for others, it enriches and beautifies.” My fellow Americans: We can debate policies and programs, but in the end what separates the two parties in this election campaign is whether we use the gift of life for others or only ourselves.
Tonight, my husband, John, and our three children are in this hall with me. To my daughters, Donna and Laura, and my son, John Junior, I say: My mother did not break faith with me, and I will not break faith with you.
To all the children of America, I say: The generation before ours kept faith with us, and like them, we will pass on to you a stronger, more just America.