Senator Kennedy died early this morning at the age of 77. Here, some excerpts from his 1980 speech to the Democratic Convention, in which he conceded defeat to Jimmy Carter. The speech is incredibly rich; it is about economic justice as the center of the progressive movement, and about cities as the center of the American economy and culture. (It was delivered in New York.) It touches on the history of American liberalism, and how its successes have been co-opted, in generation after generation, by the conservatives who initially opposed progress:
The serious issue before us tonight is the cause for which the Democratic Party has stood in its finest hours, the cause that keeps our Party young and makes it, in the second century of its age, the largest political Party in this republic and the longest lasting political Party on this planet.
Our cause has been, since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the cause of the common man and the common woman.
Our commitment has been, since the days of Andrew Jackson, to all those he called "the humble members of society -- the farmers, mechanics, and laborers." On this foundation we have defined our values, refined our policies, and refreshed our faith. ...
Let us pledge that employment will be the first priority of our economic policy.
Let us pledge that there will be security for all those who are now at work, and let us pledge that there will be jobs for all who are out of work; and we will not compromise on the issues of jobs. ...
The 1980 Republican convention was awash with crocodile tears for our economic distress, but it is by their long record and not their recent words that you shall know them.
The same Republicans who are talking about the crisis of unemployment have nominated a man who once said, and I quote, "Unemployment insurance is a prepaid vacation plan for freeloaders." And that nominee is no friend of labor.
The same Republicans who are talking about the problems of the inner cities have nominated a man who said, and I quote, "I have included in my morning and evening prayers every day the prayer that the Federal Government not bail out New York." And that nominee is no friend of this city and our great urban centers across this nation.
The same Republicans who are talking about security for the elderly have nominated a man who said just four years ago that "Participation in social security should be made voluntary." And that nominee is no friend of the senior citizens of this nation.
The same Republicans who are talking about preserving the environment have nominated a man who last year made the preposterous statement, and I quote, "Eighty percent of our air pollution comes from plants and trees." And that nominee is no friend of the environment.
And the same Republicans who are invoking Franklin Roosevelt have nominated a man who said in 1976, and these are his exact words, "Fascism was really the basis of the New Deal." And that nominee whose name is Ronald Reagan has no right to quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The great adventures which our opponents offer is a voyage into the past. Progress is our heritage, not theirs. What is right for us as Democrats is also the right way for Democrats to win.
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