Bill Bradley
Crystal City, Missouri
September 8, 1999
[As Prepared for Delivery]

     Less than a mile from where I'm standing, near the banks of the 
     Mississippi River, there once stood the Pittsburgh Plate Glass 
     Company. It was there for a hundred years. In its heyday, it 
     employed 4,000 people and turned out thousands of tons of glass a 
     year. It seemed that just about everybody in town worked for what 
     we called PPG. We didn't grow corn or wheat here in Crystal City; 
     we made glass. 

     Today, I want to be as clear as that glass about who I am and why 
     I am running for President of the United States. 

     I have come back to my hometown because for me, this is where 
     the world of possibility and hope all began, a world I want to open 
     for all Americans. 

     I was raised here in Crystal City - Im a small-town boy. I had a 
     paper route, and every afternoon I delivered copies of the Daily 
     News Democrat to the doorsteps of my neighbors. I could tell the 
     time of day or night by the trains that passed near our home. 

     As a boy, I used to explore the bluffs to the south of town, looking 
     for fossils and arrowheads. When I was a little older, my 
     grandfather and I sometimes took a .22 and went down to the river 
     and shot at logs floating by. We watched the great river ebb and 
     flow. We felt its incredible force and marveled at its beauty. Later, 
     when the river flooded the town's main intersection under six feet of 
     muddy water, we also saw its destructive power. 

     Crystal City had only one stoplight then, but it had a rich array of 
     ethnic families. Among others, I remember the Auddifreds, the La 
     Prestas, the Trautweins, the Pouliezoses, the Fortneys, the 
     Ryans, the Shapiros, the Cooks, the Salvos, the Evans - families 
     drawn by the factory that used their special skills. 

     But no one ever asked where you were from - we were all just from 
     Crystal City. 

     When it came to race, the town was a little ahead of its time. The 
     little league was integrated before the schools. As a teenager, I 
     remember our team walking out of restaurants in the boot heel of 
     Missouri because they wouldn't serve our black catcher. Racism 
     disturbed me then, and still angers me now. For me, the only thing 
     deserving of hate is hate itself. 

     Many of you here knew my parents. They believed in America and 
     its promise. And they gave me the confidence of my own 

     My father never went to college. At 16, he quit high-school and 
     went to work for the railroad to support his widowed mother and two 
     sisters, and later got a job here at the local bank, "shining pennies" 
     as he called it. He worked his way up assistant cashier, cashier, 
     manager, vice-president - until eventually he was the majority 

     Now that's the American dream. 

     But my father struggled in ways that few could know - today we 
     would call him disabled - he suffered from calcified arthritis of the 
     lower spine. I never saw him drive a car, or throw a ball, or walk 
     farther than a few blocks. My mother dressed him every morning 
     and I tied his shoes, attached his suspenders, picked up the paper 
     from the doorstep. 

     I once asked him, as a son sometimes asks his father, what had 
     been his proudest moment. He said that during the years of the 
     Great Depression he had never foreclosed on a single home; he 
     always managed to work something out. He also told me that the 
     color of someone's skin could never predict whether he would repay 
     his loan on time. He'd say, "Character is where you find it." 

     My mother was as exuberant as my father was reserved. She and 
     my father married late in life, and I was their only child. I was also 
     her greatest project. 

     She graduated from Central Methodist College, and then became a 
     fourth grade teacher. Teaching for her was not only about 
     transmitting knowledge, but also imparting values - every day she 
     began her class with a lesson about some character trait such as 
     honesty, courage, integrity or trust. Decades after she left 
     teaching, men and women would knock on our front door to 
     express their thanks and appreciation for the dedicated Miss 
     Crowe, my mother. 

     Here in Crystal City, she taught Sunday school, led summer bible 
     study and organized dances in our basement. As Ernestine can 
     testify, I still can't get beyond the same awkward two-step she 
     taught in our living room. 

     And it was just behind where I am standing now, on the hardwood 
     gymnasium floor of Crystal City high, that I found my first great 
     love. The feel of the leather ball in your hands, the squeak of your 
     sneakers on the floor, the swish of the net - I loved everything about 
     the game of basketball. 

     I wasn't the most talented player in the world, but I had three 
     strengths: I had a sense of where I was on the court; I had quick, 
     sure hands; and I could out-work anyone. I would practice for more 
     hours than I care to remember in that gym. I would shoot set shots 
     from five different areas on the floor and not quit until I had made 25 
     in a row from each spot. I loved the fact that on that gleaming 
     wooden floor, hard work paid off and dreams became reality. 

     It was there that I also absorbed the idea that a team is not just 
     about winning. It is not about applause, or endorsements, or even 
     championship rings. It's about shared sacrifice; it's about giving up 
     something small for yourself in order to gain something large for 

     It's the same for our country. 

     I got my education at Princeton and Oxford, and after leaving 
     school, I played professional basketball for the New York Knicks. 
     For 10 years I crisscrossed the country, learning about America 
     from my travels and from my teammates, white and black. When I 
     decided it was time to stop running around in short pants, I took up 
     Thomas Jefferson's challenge of being a citizen- politician. 

     In 1978, I ran for the U.S. Senate in my adopted state New Jersey 
     and won. For 18 years I was privileged to represent New Jersey. 
     With its mixture of different races and ethnic groups, its 
     combination of old cities and new townships, its glacial lakes and 
     long Atlantic shore, New Jersey is a microcosm of America. As a 
     Senator, I saw my role as both representing my state and the best 
     interests of our country. I worked hard... followed my conscience... 
     tried not to hog the spotlight... and reached across party lines to 
     get things done. I attempted to do big things without ever losing 
     sight of the little things. I sought to find a balance between public 
     and private interest. I tried to help people where they lived their 

     In 1996, I decided to leave the Senate and resume the private 
     citizen side of Jefferson's equation. In the last three years, I have 
     taught at Stanford, Maryland and Notre Dame. I lived in California 
     for a year and worked in the private sector. I wrote and spoke. I 
     thought and I traveled and I listened -always listened. I realized that 
     I had a strong sense of where America is and where we need to go, 
     and I had a passionate conviction that I could help us get there. So, 
     I talked with Ernestine and our daughter, Theresa Anne, for they 
     more than anyone else would be affected by my decision. And then 
     I began what for me has been a joyous journey. 

     We are at a special moment in American history, not just because 
     we are on the eve of a new millennium, but because our country 
     and the world are changing at a dazzling rate. There are 2 billion 
     more people in the world market today than only 10 years ago. 
     More of our jobs are dependent on exports than ever. Interest rates 
     in Crystal City are set by millions of individual investors worldwide 
     who everyday render their verdict on the economic health of the 
     United States. 

     The nature of work itself is changing. The new global economy 
     values knowledge above all. Indeed, capital follows knowledge. In 
     such a world, physical distance disappears, life expectancy 
     increases, natural resources can be better preserved. The 
     entrepreneurial spirit is once again pushing America forward. 

     But, the positive effects of globalization and technological change 
     are falling on us unequally. The economy soars, but some of us are 
     slipping behind. Median family income seems stuck; personal debt 
     and bankruptcy are at all-time highs; one out of five children live in 
     poverty; and while kings and dictators come to this country for the 
     best health care treatment in the world, you and I both know that 
     this care is not available for the 45 million citizens who have no 
     health insurance at all. 

     Is this who we want to be? 

     Is this our best self as Americans? 

     The numbers tell us that we are living at a time of unprecedented 
     prosperity. But what are we doing with that prosperity? After 10 
     years of a robust economy, are the important things truly better? 
     Our healthcare system? Our schools? Our civic life? Our family 
     life? Our children's future? 

     In so many ways we have failed to use our prosperity to improve 
     the well-being of all our citizens. Shouldn't we be fixing our roof 
     while the sun is shining? Shouldn't we be shoring up our foundation 
     before the rain gets in? Now, above all, is not the time for 
     complacency. I feel an urgency to seize this moment in history, to 
     strengthen the weak and to challenge the strong to lead us into our 
     full greatness as a nation. 

     We are at the end of what has been called, "The American 
     Century." We started it as a minor power, we end it as the 
     undisputed giant among nations. For the first time in human 
     history, one nation can truly become a light into the future. We 
     believe that the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness 
     are not just American values - but human values. 

     But first we must embody those values at home. 

     What we need in America is a deeper prosperity; deeper not only in 
     the sense that it touches the people who have been left out - that it 
     saves family farms caught in the whirlwind of change, that it brings 
     a hot breakfast to children who go to school without it, that it brings 
     security to worried seniors - but deeper in the sense that we have a 
     prosperity that adds up to more than the sum of all our 
     possessions; a prosperity that makes us feel rich inside as well as 

     The Dow Jones is at record heights, but as Robert Kennedy 
     reminded us, such numbers are not the measure of all things. They 
     do not measure what is in our heads and our hearts. They do not 
     measure a young girl's smile or a little boy's first handshake or a 
     grandmother's pride. They convey nothing about friendship or the 
     self-fulfillment of helping a person in need. They tell us little about 
     the magic of a good marriage or the satisfaction of a life led true to 
     its own values. They can't comfort us when personal tragedy 
     strikes or supersede the pleasure of a job well done. They say 
     nothing whatsoever about us being "one nation, under God, 
     indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." 

     To me, the American Dream is not just for the lucky among us. It is 
     not just an ideal to wish on. It should be a possibility available to 

     Isn't it just common sense that we make sure every child in 
     America is covered by healthcare? Isn't it just common sense that 
     we protect our natural world from destruction, and do what it takes 
     to achieve racial unity? Isn't it common sense that all our schools 
     should perform well, and that more Americans should do better 

     What others may call idealism is a common sense reality I know 
     we can achieve. 

     I'm more interested in leadership than polls and politics. And I 
     believe we need a new kind of leadership in America, a leadership 
     that puts the people front and center - not the president. A 
     leadership that understands the people's fears as well as their 
     hopes. A leadership that respects the people as well as challenges 

     We must unleash the potential of Americans as public citizens, for 
     only then will America be the place that it can be. We must put 
     every American on the train of that deeper, broader prosperity - for 
     only then will justice ring. 

     Does this goal mean that I believe government can solve all our 
     problems? No. 

     A growing private sector and caring community institutions are 
     essential parts of the equation. Government cannot be all things to 
     all people all the time. Nor should it do trifling things much of the 
     time for some people. But it should do some large and essential 
     things all of the time for the whole nation. 

     I believe in self-reliance and I think initiative deserves its reward, but 
     I also know that disaster can strike any of us, and when it does, it's 
     important to know that someone's there to help. Government 
     cannot guarantee any of us happiness, but government can help 
     give people the tools to pursue that happiness. 

     What do I mean by "government can? 

     I mean we can. 

     We the people. 

     To see what we can do, you need look no further than a few feet 
     over my shoulder. Around the corner from the principal's office there 
     is a plaque which commemorates the building of Crystal City High 
     School. It was constructed in 1939, and the top of the plaque reads 
     WPA -- Works Project Administration. Government built this school 
     at the end of the Great Depression, it put people to work and 
     helped educate the children of this town. At the bottom of the 
     plaque there is the name of the treasurer of the school board: 

     It is William Warren Bradley - my father. 

     He was a Republican, but he knew that problems come without 
     party affiliation and must be solved by all Americans of good will. 
     No one asked the men who laid the brick and mixed the cement 
     whether they were Democrats or Republicans. They had a big job 
     to do, and that was all they needed to know. 

     We can do big jobs again - together. 

     But today, so many Americans - young and old - are fed up with 
     national politics. Our campaigns often end up doing the very 
     opposite of what they intend. Instead of engendering hope and 
     optimism, they breed mistrust and cynicism. Just last week in 
     Iowa, after I spoke about political involvement, once again making 
     our nation better, a woman came up to me and said, "It all sounds 
     so wonderful, if only it could be true." 

     People feel their voices are not heard, that they're drowned out by 
     the power of big money. And it hurts me to have to say that such a 
     view is not all wrong. It represents a healthy skepticism about the 
     process. Yes, the American people have a right to be skeptical. 
     But I have a right to try to change that skepticism. 

     All of us know that in a democracy as in life, the smallest hope can 
     make all the difference; the mightiest river begins with a single drop 
     of water. That is how it all starts. 

     With its numberless streams and tributaries coming together, the 
     Mississippi River is like democracy itself. We're small and 
     individual when we go our own way, but we're mighty and 
     unstoppable when we flow together. One of the reasons I am 
     running for president is to restore trust in public service and 
     confidence in our collective will - only then will the river of 
     democracy flow as it should. 

     To that end, I am trying to run a different kind of presidential 
     campaign. I'm calling us to renew our faith in each other. I am 
     listening to America, not to the pundits. I am raising money from 
     ordinary citizens, not from special interest PACs. I'm hoping that 
     by Election Day, we will be choosing between two people whom we 
     esteem, not the candidate we can still tolerate. 

     Today, I'm telling the American people that if they elect me, I'll 
     define more clearly America's role in the world. I'll guard the 
     economic fundamentals of our prosperity and invest in our common 
     future. I'll use the growth of the new economy and do some of the 
     big things that need to be done in this country: 

     We can reduce childhood poverty. We can increase the number of 
     Americans with quality healthcare. We can mute the voice of big 
     money in our elections. And we can enact long overdue gun 
     control. If we do these things, we will be safer, healthier and more 
     in control of our future. 

     Time and again, I will urge Americans to bridge the divide of 
     prejudice so that the America of the new millennium sees deeper 
     than skin color or eye shape to the individual. 

     Finally, together we can bolster the economic security of working 
     families and thereby set the table for future economic growth. We 
     will do fewer things, but they will be essential things, and we will do 
     them more thoroughly. 

     In the end, when more of us have a world of possibilities, all of us 
     will be stronger. 

     There are two kinds of politicians: those who talk and promise, and 
     those who listen and do. I know which one I am. 

     As president, you must listen and consult, study and examine, 
     pray and plan. But in the end, you must be guided by the compass 
     of your own convictions, and do what's right as you are given to see 
     the right, and then trust that the people will understand. 

     I believe America should be made whole, but I don't want to erase 
     our differences. It's those differences that give us our uncommon 
     energy and wonderful creativity. The beautiful paradox of America is 

     That we are many, that we are individual, that we are different, but 
     that we are also one - one people, one family, one nation. 

     I still see an America of endless possibility. An America that is as 
     generous as it is prosperous, that is as decent as it is strong. An 
     America that is, as Abraham Lincoln said, "The last best hope of 

     We may be at the end of a millennium, at the end of two centuries 
     of American history, but we still have it in our power, as Thomas 
     Paine said, "To begin the world [all] over again." 

     The leadership that is called for at this moment goes beyond a 
     presidency, and into every home and heart. The renewal of the 
     American Dream has to shine so bright that we can dream dreams 
     we never thought possible before. 

     I have confidence in this Dream because it is the theme of my life - 
     because without a famous family name or great wealth, I was given 
     the encouragement and love and the opportunity that enabled me to 
     forge a path on my own. 

     I've never forgotten the people who were my support, many in this 
     town to whom I will always be grateful. They were ordinary 
     Americans who did extraordinary things for me. 

     Americans are like that - ordinary people doing extraordinary 

     They inspired me and gave me hope and confidence. And I want 
     that hope, that encouragement, that sense of possibility to be a 
     reality for everybody. 

     I want the American Dream for all of us - at last. 

     Ladies and gentlemen, it can happen. 

     Come with me. 

     Let us walk toward that dream together.