Monday, September 05, 2005

Two Americas

John Edwards used parts of this speech in his 2004 Presidential and Vice-Presidential campaigns
And we have so much work to do. Because the truth is, we still live in two different Americas: one for people who have lived the American Dream and don't have to worry, and another for most Americans who work hard and still struggle to make ends meet.

It doesn't have to be that way. We can build one America.

We can build one America where we no longer have two health care systems. One for people who get the best health care money can buy and then one for everybody else, rationed out by insurance companies, drug companies, and HMOs millions of Americans who don't have any health insurance at all.

It doesn't have to be that way.

We shouldn't have two public school systems in this country: one for the most affluent communities, and one for everybody else.

None of us believe that the quality of a child's education should be controlled by where they live or the affluence of their community.

It doesn't have to be that way.

We shouldn't have two different economies in America: one for people who are set for life, their kids and grandkids will be just fine, and then one for most Americans who live paycheck to paycheck.

And you know what I'm saying. You don't need me to explain it to you, you know you can't save any money, can you? Takes every dime you make just to pay your bills, and you know what happens if something goes wrong a child gets sick, somebody gets laid off, or there's a financial problem, you go right off the cliff.

And what's the first thing to go. Your dreams. It doesn't have to be that way.

Now I have friends who told me that the Two Americas idea was just a load of political nonsense. Of course they would say that. I'm pretty sure most of them have never seen the "other" America from the comfort of their small town or sterile suburb. Oh, they think they know. They'll hear the buzzwords of welfare mom, or food stamps, or Medicaid and then go into some rant about how "those people" are too lazy to get a job. Well this past week, the "other" America showed up in their living rooms in the faces of the thousands of people too poor to have a car in which to escape or enough money to pay for gas and a hotel room on the way out of town. The "other" America was shown living in squalor inside a sporting arena on every single news channel. But those who refuse to acknowledge the Two Americas focused on the few thugs whose opportunistic crime sprees gained airtime. "That's just how 'those people' are." Those who refuse to acknowledge the Two Americas watched Hardy Jackson break down as he described having to let go of his wife as the storm surge ripped their house in half, and then had the nerve to say that Hardy should have left town sooner.

Katrina has brought a much needed spotlight on the "other" America. People all over the country have opened up their wallets to help those in need, because that's what Americans do. But this is the face of the "other" America. It won't vanish whenever the last family leaves the shelter and disappears back into anonymity in another city, in another state, in the "other" America. They will still be there wondering why it takes a natural disaster for anyone to notice, or to care.

Like all of us, I have learned a lot of lessons in my life. Two of the most important are that first, there will always be heartache and struggle. You can't make it go away. But the other is that people of good and strong will, can make a difference. One lesson is a sad lesson and the other's inspiring. We are Americans and we choose to be inspired.

We choose hope over despair; possibilities over problems; optimism over cynicism. We choose to do what's right even when those around us say, "You can't do that." We choose to be inspired because we know that we can do better because this is America where everything is still possible.

What we believe is that you should never look down on anybody, that we should lift people up. We don't believe in tearing people apart. We believe in bringing people together. What we believe what I believe is that the family you're born into and the color of your skin in our America should never control your destiny.

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