1988 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION : Bentsen Text: We Agree a Good Job Is Passport to Opportunity

Associated Press

Following is a transcript of the speech Thursday night by Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas to the Democratic National Convention as he accepted the party’s vice presidential nomination:

Thank you very much.

John Glenn is one of the most talented, respected figures in America. And I thank him for a very gracious introduction.

And Danny Rostenkowski, Tom Daschle, Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland, what great friends you are.


Thank you very much.

And I thank you, my fellow Democrats, for this high honor.

I am proud and pleased to accept your nomination for vice president of the United States of America.

In four months America will elect a new President. And his name will be Michael Dukakis. His theme will be economic opportunity for all. His values will be honesty, integrity and fairness. And his party will be a united Democratic Party.


Hopes of a Nation

Twenty-eight years ago, our party nominated a President from Massachusetts and a vice president from Texas. The Texan on that ticket was Lyndon Baines Johnson. Lyndon Johnson knew then what you and I know so well today. The equality of opportunity is the ultimate civil right.

His vision and his victories paved the way for Democratic leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose eloquence, whose leadership and achievements transcend pride of party and inspire a nation.

Tonight the hopes of a nation--the incredible energy and diversity of America--are focused on Atlanta. This convention reflects that energy and diversity.

We are a mirror of America.

We Democrats don’t march in lock step behind some narrow, rigid ideology of indifference. We are not gray grains of oatmeal in a bland porridge of privilege.

Our way, the Democratic way, is to tackle the tough problems. Our way is to search out the honest answers and stand by our principles.

Of course, we have differences of opinion. But on the basic issues of justice and opportunity, we stand united.


Democrats agree that a good job at a fair wage is the passport to opportunity in America.

Democrats agree that America needs a trade policy based on the simple premise of fairness. We demand that nations selling goods freely into our country, that we have full access to their markets.

Reeling in Crisis

Democrats agree that the economic, trade and energy policies of the Reagan-Bush Administration have devastated vast areas of America. We see an agricultural economy that has been driven to its knees. We see the energy economy reeling in crisis. We see the loss of more than one million high-paying jobs in manufacturing.

Democrats agree that the American worker who has struggled for 20 years to support his or her family, has earned 60 days’ notice when that management closes down a plant.

But the Reagan-Bush Administration thinks a pink slip in the mail is notice enough. That’s their notion of fairness. That’s their message to the working men and women of America.

Democrats want a strong national defense, and we will pay the price to defend freedom. But we also demand a careful accounting for our hard-earned dollars. And we will not tolerate the corruption and greed that threaten to undermine our military might.

A Clean Environment


Democrats agree that decent housing, a clean environment, a good education, and quality health care should be the birthright of every American citizen and not the private domain of a privileged few.

So make no mistake about it. We are united in our commitment to do better for America.

My friends, America has just passed through the ultimate epoch of illusion: an eight-year coma in which slogans were confused with solutions and rhetoric passed for reality; a time when America tried to borrow its way to prosperity and became the largest debtor nation in the history of mankind; when the Reagan-Bush Administration gave lip service to progress while fighting a frantic, losing battle to turn back the clock on civil rights and equal opportunity; a time of tough talk on foreign policy and strange tales of double-dealing Swiss bank accounts, and a botched campaign against a drug-running, tin-horn dictator.

The Reagan-Bush Administration likes to talk about prosperity. But the farmers in Iowa don’t hear them. The oil field workers in Texas and Oklahoma and Louisiana don’t hear them. The factory workers in John Glenn’s Ohio don’t hear them.

My fellow Democrats, it is easy enough to create an illusion of prosperity. All you have to do is write hot checks for $200 billion a year. That’s what the Reagan-Bush Administration has done. That’s how they doubled our national debt in just seven years.

At long last the epoch of illusion is drawing to a close. America is ready for the honest, proven, hands-on, real-world leadership of Michael Dukakis backed by the power of a united, committed Democratic Party.

Individual Opportunity

For 200 years America has worked better than any society in history. A major reason for our success is that every generation of Americans has accepted a responsibility to expand the frontiers of individual opportunity. We have expanded that opportunity through universal education, the Homestead Act, land-grant colleges, women’s suffrage, Social Security, the GI Bill, civil rights and health care.

Taken together and placed in the context of the free enterprise system, these progressive actions made America the land of opportunity. They created a magnet that drew millions of people from around the world to America--people like Michael Dukakis’ father from Greece, like my grandfather from Denmark, like your relatives who came here willing to accept enormous risks and dangers in return for the chance for a step up in life.

Recently, it has become more difficult for working Americans to take that step up. Oh, I see the charts and numbers that suggest prosperity. But I also talk with those people and I hear what they say.

I know that if you are a teacher, or a factory worker, or if you are just starting a family, it’s almost impossible to buy a house--no matter how hard you work or how carefully you save.

A college education is slipping beyond the reach of millions of hard-working Americans. If you have a child that’s born today, plan on having $60,000 in the bank when that child reaches the age of 18 in the hopes of sending that child to a public university. And if the Republicans have their way, you won’t have any college loan program to help work it out for you.

When Michael Dukakis talks about the economics of opportunity, he is talking about making our country work again. He’s talking about putting the American dream back in the reach of all the American people. He is talking sense--and America is listening.

Entrepreneurial System

Michael Dukakis understands the reality of America. But even more important, he understands the potential of America. He turned around the economy of Massachusetts, not by writing hot checks but by careful planning, careful management of the taxpayers’ dollar, and a healthy respect for the entrepreneurial system.

When the nation’s governors were asked: Who among you is the most effective leader? the answer was Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. When millions of Democrats went to the polls this year to choose the leader who will blaze America’s path during the 21st Century, they chose Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.

Michael Dukakis has the uncanny knack of bringing forth the very best in America. He knows that government can’t solve all our problems. But he also understands that government has an obligation to lead.

Michael Dukakis and I will lead a government that cares about people, about jobs, about all regions of America, about housing and the homeless, about the defense of freedom, about education and health care, about justice and opportunity for all Americans.

We believe America deserves an administration that will obey the law, tell the truth, and insist all who serve it do the same.

We believe the best way to lead America is by force of character and personal integrity.

This convention has been a triumph for Michael Dukakis and the Democratic Party. It has certainly been a proud moment for me and for my family. My wife, B.A., my sons, my daughter and their families are here tonight to share this honor with me.

My father is also here. He is 94 years old, proud of his country and proud of his son.

Dad, you have been telling the reporters stories about me lately, so let me tell one about you. My father is a symbol of what people of courage and vision and daring can achieve in America.

He has lived the American dream--the dream we want to come true for our children.

Talk about risk-takers. His family came to this country across the ocean, across the prairie, and homesteaded on the plains of South Dakota when the government would bet you 160 acres that you couldn’t make it through the winter.

Built a Sod House

They built a sod house, and when that first blizzard blew in, they took turns staying awake for 36 hours, burning bundles of straw so they wouldn’t freeze to death.

But like your ancestors, they made it through the storm. They made it through the winter. They planted and harvested and eventually they prospered.

They made their way in America.

My father made his way to Texas. And I’ve made my way to Atlanta with Michael Dukakis to stand before my family, before a united Democratic Party, before the American people, to accept your nomination as vice president of the United States of America.

Now, that’s the American dream that we have nourished and protected for 200 years--the dream of freedom and opportunity, the chance for a step up in life.

I want to help Michael Dukakis protect that dream for the next generation. And I want to help Michael Dukakis maintain freedom as the most powerful and persuasive force on Earth. And I want to thank all of you for the opportunity to serve America.

Thank you very much.