Archives for category: Special Education

Valerie Strauss clearly explains who were the losers in the bruising battle between the billionaires and de Blasio: students with disabilities.

Jersey Jazzman reports on Camden’s portfolio district plan.

What does that mean? More charters.

What is the secret of their success?

Excluding children with disabilities.

Excluding the kids with the highest needs.

Doesn’t federal law prohibit this?

Apparently this is not a priority for the U.S. Department of Education or the Obama administration.

As hedge funders will sometimes acknowledge, those kids are not our problem.

Arne Duncan, Raj Chetty, Eric Hanushek, John King, Kevin Huffman, John White, and Michael Johnston, and the other evaluation hawks did not think about this teacher when they said full steam ahead on evaluating teachers by student scores:

Beth writes:

“As Diane points out, teachers are already, and always have been, evaluated. Here is the problem: I am a special education teacher in an alternative high school. I teach students with severe psychological and behavioral disorders. These students are not exempt, and must take all the same state tests (including Regents) that other students take. My evaluation is based upon what percentage of my students improve their test scores by an amount estimated at the beginning of the year. Because I teach what are called 8-1-1 classes (8 students, 1 teacher, 1 teacher’s aide), my evaluation will be based upon, at most, 16 students. However, at this point in the year, it looks like only 6 of the students I began the year with will still be in our school at the end. This isn’t unusual–students move, get put in residential facilities, drop out, or become chronically truant at a high rate in my school. Of the 6 students left, one has become pregnant and has gone off her meds. Most days she can’t even make it into class because of her emotional breakdowns. One student has been hospitalized for months, not receiving instruction from me. One comes to school about once a week. Two swear at me whenever I try to get them to do work, and tell me they don’t care, they’re dropping out as soon as they’re 16. Their parents tell me they can’t help, they can’t make their sons do anything, either. One is facing incarceration, and may not be here at the end of the year. If 4 of these 6 don’t reach their goals on the end of the year test, that will “prove” I’m a bad teacher.

“I wanted to work with students who really needed me, to help students who are struggling the most. But because I work with students who are impoverished, disabled, homeless, incarcerated, and mentally unstable, I may very well be labeled as “ineffective.” Does this really mean I’m a bad teacher?”

Andrea Rediske is perplexed. After the death of her son Ethan, she thought the Florida legislature would pass a law named in his honor as “Ethan’s Law” to allow local school officials to grant waivers so that children like Ethan, in medical emergency, would not be required to take the state test.

Then Pam Stewart, the state commissioner, accused Andrea of trying to advance her “political agenda,” (Stewart didn’t say what that agenda might be other than to protect children like Ethan from being harassed by bureaucrats like Stewart). Then the legislature quietly dropped Ethan’s Law and added a few sentences in a general accountability bill that would a hire e the same purpose.

But trouble ahead! The U.S. Department of Education weighs in to warn Florida that if it dares to excuse more than 1% of students with disabilities,the state would not be in compliance with federal law.

So the Federal officials have joined forces with those that believe poor Ethan should have been tested as he lay dying.

What kind of a country is this? Who are these people?

Florida politicians have hearts of stone.

When 12-year-old Ethan Rediske lay dying in hospice, the state wanted him to take a mandated test. After his death, his mother Andrea sought passage of a law to protect children like Ethan from harassment by state bureaucrats. Ethan’s Law would have allowed local officials to waive the testing requirement for severely impaired children, instead of seeking a waiver from the state commissioner of education. Not only did the Legislature kill Ethan’s Law, look what else they did. Frankly, this looks like spite work directed towards a grieving parent.

This is a letter from Ethan’s mother, Andrea Rediske:

Dear Family and Friends,

I am forwarding a letter from Representative Karen Castor-Dentel’s aide explaining what is going on right now with what is left of the Ethan Rediske Act. The original bill as it was written is dead, but some of the verbiage has been incorporated into a house bill (HB 7117) and a senate bill (1642) that has other legislation that is not exactly palatable.

Unfortunately, Senator Andy Gardiner is using his political power to add an amendment onto the bill that would force families of severely disabled children to again appeal to the Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart, for approval waivers lasting more than a year. The original bill allowed approval through local superintendents. Pam Stewart, in a letter to all Florida teachers, in addition to tacitly accusing me of using our tragedy to further my “political agenda” also stated that she only approved 16 out of 30 waivers last year — a little more than a 50% approval rate. This amendment makes it harder, not easier for families already burdened with the tremendous demands of caring for a severely disabled child to be granted waivers for standardized testing. I’m asking for your help to try and persuade Senator Andy Gardiner and Senator Kelli Stargel not to push this amendment on the existing bills. Please call or email them directly and let them know that you are family and friends of Ethan Rediske and ask them to remove this amendment.

There are a lot of ugly politics at play here, but we don’t have to stoop to their level. Please be civil when contacting these individuals — we need to help them understand what a tremendous burden it is to care for a severely disabled and medically fragile child and ask them to make one small part of this burden lighter. Please feel free to forward this information to family and friends who might be willing to help.

Contact information:

Senator Andy Gardiner
20 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
Phone: (850) 487-5013

Senator Kelli Stargel
324 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
Phone: (850) 487-5015

Thanks for your help, love, and support,


Begin forwarded message:

From: “Gelin, Dominique”
Subject: A brief legislative update
Date: April 3, 2014 at 4:24:58 PM EDT
To: “‘’”

Hello Andrea,

We have never spoken, but my name is Dominique Gelin and I work as the aide in Rep. Castor Dentel’s Tallahassee office. She wanted to be sure you knew about some changes taking place with Senator Legg’s education accountability bill, Senate Bill 1642. It seems that Senator Stargel has filed an amendment which adds a Section 9 to the bill. As you know, this is the companion to Chair Adkins’ House Bill 7117, which included some of the language and intent that was originally included in the bill named for your son, Ethan.

The changes proposed by Senator Stargel combines language from SB 1642 and HB 7117. Briefly stated, Senator Stargel’s amendment offers three exemption options. The first is a one-year exemption which can be approved by the district school superintendent. The second is a one-to-three year exemption coming from the Commissioner’s office, and the final one is a permanent exemption, also to be approved by the Commissioner, and directs the Dep. of Ed. to devise rules to implement.

To me, it doesn’t make the process any easier and makes it unclear when someone needs to apply for a one-year, one-three year or permanent exemption. I don’t understand why this process gets more complicated with each step, especially when the whole purpose is to simplify and remove an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on families.

As you know, the bills are moving through both chambers. We will continue to work with committee staff to clarify our position to alleviate the burden of testing requirements on families and children with disabilities. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions.


Dominique Gelin
Legislative Aide
Rep. Karen Castor Dentel
Florida House District 30

District Office: (407) 659-4818
Capitol Office: (850) 717-5030

Andrea Gabor, the Michael Bloomberg Professor of Journalism at Baruch College of the City University of New York, has an opinion article in today’s New York Times, where she patiently explains that charter schools enroll a smaller proportion of students with disabilities, causing the neighborhood public schools to have a larger proportion of the students with the highest needs than the charter schools.


She writes:


In Harlem, there is a marked disparity between the special-needs populations in charter and traditional public schools, according to the city education department’s annual progress reports. In East Harlem, data for the 2012-13 school year shows that most of the public open-enrollment elementary and middle schools have double, and several have triple, the proportion of special-needs kids of nearby charter schools. At most of these public schools, at least a quarter of students have Individualized Education Programs, or I.E.P.s, which are required for children who receive special-education services.


Read that again slowly: the local public schools “have double, and several have triple, the proportion of special-needs kids of nearby charter schools.”


Noting that the latest legislative boon to favors allows them to expand at will inside public school buildings, pushing out the students who are there, Gabor asks the obvious question:


“Is there a point at which fostering charter schools undermines traditional public schools and the children they serve?”


Gabor makes a sensible recommendation:


If charter schools are allowed to push out existing public schools, they should, at the very least, be subject to the same accountability measures for enrollment, attrition and disciplinary procedures, to ensure that the neediest students are being treated fairly.


Gabor did not mention that charters do not accept the same proportion of English language learners, which causes the nearby public schools to have higher proportions of these students as well. One wonders why the reporters at the New York Times have not discovered these obvious disparities, which can easily be found in public records? Any school that manages to enroll fewer needy students and can push out those it doesn’t want will have higher scores than any school that must accept those that were unwanted by the first school. This is the charters’ secret sauce.


Gabor concludes, We should not allow policy makers to enshrine a two-tier system in which the neediest children are left behind. 


But with the latest favors to the billionaire-supported charter industry, that is exactly what New York legislators are doing. The legislature guaranteed that charters don’t have to pay rent, even though the latest legal ruling says that they are not “technically” units of the state and cannot be audited by the State Comptroller. The legislature guaranteed that if the charters rent private space, the New York City public schools must pay their rent. The legislature said that if they are already co-located in a public school building, they can expand at will and take public school space away from the children who are already enrolled there, who have far higher needs. The legislature also reversed Mayor de Blasio’s decision to deny approval to three charter proposals–all belonging to Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy–because she wanted to place elementary schools in high school buildings and because she wanted to grow an elementary school into a middle school in a Harlem public school, which would require the relocation of students with severe disabilities.


The legislature accepted the charters’ claim that the needs of children with high test scores trump the needs of children with disabilities. They assume that those with high scores deserve the right to kick out those with disabilities. There is an ideology behind this but I forebear from naming it.

Florida legislators king to expand vouchers, even though the voters turned down an effort in 2012 to change the state constitution to permit vouchers for religious schools. The
measure was defeated 58-42, despite Jeb Bush’s efforts to pass it.
An earlier voucher program was struck down as unconstitutional by
the state courts. The only current voucher program is for students
with disabilities, called the McKay Scholarship Program. A journalistic
exposé called it a “cottage industry” of fraud.
writer won a major national award for this story from his
colleagues. Yet legislators want more.

The good news–for the moment–is that parents and teachers recently beat back the latest attempt to give away public money to religious schools. But be vigilant. Jeb & Co. will be back.

A comment from a reader:


Hi! I’m going through the same problem right now with my son who will be taking the state testing for the first time this year. He is on the spectrum, and is incredibly bright, but can only demonstrate it on tests if it is presented to him in a way he understands. He thinks, reasons, and understands at a different level of comprehension than what is on these tests. I asked his school if his questions could be reworded for him to understand, and they won’t do it. My friend has a great FB page where she is fighting for severely disabled children, but changes need to be made for ALL the disabled/special needs kids. //

Andrea Rediske, the mother of Ethan Rediske, worked tirelessly to persuade the State Legislature in Florida to pass an act that would have eliminated the state’s relentless demand to test Ethan as he lay dying in hospice.

Ethan was born with profound disabilities; he was blind and suffered from cerebral palsy, yet the state tormented him to take its standardized tests. Read Andrea Rediske’s testimony to the state legislature here. 

The act, which was to be called the Ethan Rediske Act, would have allowed local officials to make the decision not to test students like Ethan, rather than going through an elaborate process that required a waiver from the state, one that must be signed by the Florida Secretary of Education, who must review and personally sign every single waiver.

You see, in Florida, standardized testing has become the Holy Grail. It is the Golden Calf. It is the one idea that has permeated the thinking of almost every legislator. If they cannot measure children’s ability to pick the right box or bubble on a test purchased from a major vendor, then education ceases to exist in the state of Florida. This might be thought of as Jeb Bush’s theology, and he has a large number in his testing cult.

Andrea Rediske thought that it was madness to try to test Ethan. She “knew it made no sense for her son, who couldn’t speak and was fed through a tube, to be asked about how a peach tastes.

Or to ask a blind child to point to a picture of a monkey. (That’s another real-life example for another student in Orange County.)

Or to then professionally evaluate those kids’ teachers based on how the kids score on tests they could never really take.”

After Ethan’s death, his mother pushed hard for passage of “The Ethan Rediske Act,” to protect children like him from being harassed by the state. Pam Stewart, the State Commissioner of Education, then wrote a letter to every educator in the state, implying  that Andrea Rediske’s valiant fight to protect other children with severe disabilities was “a political effort to attack assessments by using the tragic situations of children with special needs.” In other words, the state commissioner chastised Andrea Rediske for “politicizing” her son’s death. There are times when you do wonder whether  public officials have any sense of shame. This is one of them. The appropriate response from Stewart would have been to offer her sincere condolences to the Rediske family and to offer to help change the law so that children like Ethan were never again harassed by state officials. Conservatives claim to be against “big government,” but it appears from this example that “big government” is just fine so long as they are in charge and can invade other people’s privacy, their confidential student data, their hospital rooms, their hospices, and their bedrooms.

Andrea Rediske wrote to tell me that the Ethan Rediske Act will not be passed, but language protecting children in his condition will be inserted into another bill. The state bureaucracy–especially the highly politicized and intellectually vacuous Florida Department of Education, could not bear the thought of the act passing. But Andrea Rediske wins anyway because the heart of Ethan’s Act survives.


Andrea Rediske wrote:

Ethan’s Act is indeed dead, but it’s been incorporated into a larger bill on school accountability.

Here is the link to the bill:

Page 38 has the verbiage on children with medical complexity. It states that a child with a medical complexity determined by their physician and IEP team will not be required to take standardized testing.


Assuming this bill passes, we may conclude that in the future, children like Ethan will not be tortured by the state of Florida to take meaningless tests. Nor will their parents be tortured by insensitive, heartless bureaucrats in the Florida Department of Education.

Ethan has won a victory for other children.

God rest his soul.








Thirty years ago, the governor of New York addressed the Democratic National Convention, held in New York City. His name was Mario Cuomo. His theme was “A Tale of Two Cities,” ironically, the same campaign theme as Bill de Blasio in 2013. He denounced tax breaks for the rich. He spoke of caring for the family of America. This is not the same Cuomo who is now governor of New York, who wants to be known as the business-friendly Democrat who didn’t raise taxes and who puts the needs of the 3% of children in charter schools funded by his campaign contributors over the needs of the 97% of children in public schools.

This is what Mario Cuomo said. Remember when Democrats talked like this?

Mario Cuomo: “A Tale of Two Cities”
delivered 16 July 1984 to at Democratic National Convention, San Francisco

On behalf of the Empire State and the family of New York, I thank you for the great privilege of being able to address this convention. Please allow me to skip the stories and the poetry and the temptation to deal in nice but vague rhetoric. Let me instead use this valuable opportunity to deal immediately with questions that should determine this election and that we all know are vital to the American people.

Ten days ago, President Reagan admitted that although some people in this country seemed to be doing well nowadays, others were unhappy, even worried, about themselves, their families and their futures. The president said that he didn’t understand that fear. He said, “Why, this country is a shining city on a hill.” And the president is right. In many ways we are a shining city on a hill.

But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city’s splendor and glory. A shining city is perhaps all the president sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there’s another city; there’s another part to the shining the city; the part where some people can’t pay their mortgages, and most young people can’t afford one, where students can’t afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate.

In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can’t find it. Even worse: There are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. And there are people who sleep in the city streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn’t show. There are ghettos where thousands of young people, without a job or an education, give their lives away to drug dealers every day. There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don’t see, in the places that you don’t visit in your shining city.

In fact, Mr. President, this is a nation –. Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a “Tale of Two Cities” than it is just a “Shining City on a Hill.”

Maybe, maybe, Mr. President, if you visited some more places. Maybe if you went to Appalachia where some people still live in sheds, maybe if you went to Lackawanna where thousands of unemployed steel workers wonder why we subsidized foreign steel. Maybe, maybe, Mr. President, if you stopped in at a shelter in Chicago and spoke to the homeless there; maybe, Mr. President, if you asked a woman who had been denied the help she needed to feed her children because you said you needed the money for a tax break for a millionaire or for a missile we couldn’t afford to use.

Maybe, maybe, Mr. President. But I’m afraid not.

Because, the truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that this is how we were warned it would be. President Reagan told us from very the beginning that he believed in a kind of social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. “Government can’t do everything,” we were told. “So it should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest. Make the rich richer — and what falls from their table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.”

You know, the Republicans called it trickle-down when Hoover tried it. Now they call it supply side. But it’s the same shining city for those relative few who are lucky enough to live in its good neighborhoods. But for the people who are excluded — for the people who are locked out — all they can do is to stare from a distance at that city’s glimmering towers.

It’s an old story. It’s as old as our history. The difference between Democrats and Republicans has always been measured in courage and confidence. The Republicans believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail. The strong, the strong they tell us will inherit the land.

We Democrats believe in something else. We democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact. And, we have more than once. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees — wagon train after wagon train — to new frontiers of education, housing, peace; the whole family aboard, constantly reaching out to extend and enlarge that family; lifting them up into the wagon on the way; blacks and Hispanics, and people of every ethnic group, and native Americans — all those struggling to build their families and claim some small share of America.

For nearly 50 years we carried them all to new levels of comfort, and security, and dignity, even affluence. And remember this, some of us in this room today are here only because this nation had that kind of confidence. And it would be wrong to forget that.

So, here we are at this convention to remind ourselves where we come from and to claim the future for ourselves and for our children. Today our great Democratic Party, which has saved this nation from depression, from fascism, from racism, from corruption, is called upon to do it again — this time to save the nation from confusion and division, from the threat of eventual fiscal disaster, and most of all from the fear of a nuclear holocaust.

That’s not going to be easy. Mo Udall is exactly right, it’s not going to be easy. In order to succeed, we must answer our opponent’s polished and appealing rhetoric with a more telling reasonableness and rationality.

We must win this case on the merits. We must get the American public to look past the glitter, beyond the showmanship – to reality, to the hard substance of things. And we will do that not so much with speeches that sound good as with speeches that are good and sound. Not so much with speeches that will bring people to their feet as with speeches that bring people to their senses. We must make the American people hear our “Tale of Two Cities.” We must convince them that we don’t have to settle for two cities, that we can have one city, indivisible, shining for all of its people.

Now we will have no chance to do that if what comes out of this convention is a babel of arguing voices. If that’s what’s heard throughout the campaign – dissident voices from all sides – we will have no chance to tell our message. To succeed we will have to surrender small parts of our individual interests, to build a platform we can all stand on, at once, comfortably – proudly singing out the truth for the nation to hear, in chorus, its logic so clear and commanding that no slick commercial, no amount of geniality, no martial music will be able to muffle the sound of the truth. We Democrats must unite.

We Democrats must unite so that the entire nation can unite because surely the Republicans won’t bring this country together. Their policies divide the nation – into the lucky and the left-out, into the royalty and the rabble. The Republicans are willing to treat that division as victory. They would cut this nation in half, into those temporarily better off and those worse off than before, and they would call that division recovery.

We should not, we should not be embarrassed or dismayed or chagrined if the process of unifying is difficult, even wrenching at times. Remember that, unlike any other party, we embrace men and women of every color, every creed, every orientation, every economic class. In our family are gathered everyone from the abject poor of Essex County in New York, to the enlightened affluent of the gold coasts at both ends of the nation. And in between is the heart of our constituency. The middle class — the people not rich enough to be worry-free, but not poor enough to be on welfare. The middle class, those people who work for a living because they have to, not because some psychiatrist told them it was a convenient way to fill the interval between birth and eternity. White collar and blue collar. Young professionals. Men and women in small business desperate for the capital and contracts that they need to prove their worth.

We speak for the minorities who have not yet entered the mainstream. We speak for ethnics who want to add their culture to the magnificent mosaic that is America. We speak, we speak for women who are indignant that this nation refuses to etch into its governmental commandments the simple rule “thou shalt not sin against equality,” a rule so simple — I was going to say, and I perhaps dare not but I will, it’s a commandment so simple it can be spelled in three letters — E.R.A.!

We speak for young people demanding an education and a future. We speak for senior citizens who are terrorized by the idea that their only security – their Social Security – is being threatened. We speak for millions of reasoning people fighting to preserve our environment from greed and from stupidity. And we speak for reasonable people who are fighting to preserve our very existence from a macho intransigence that refuses to make intelligent attempts to discuss the possibility of nuclear holocaust with our enemy. They refuse. They refuse, because they believe we can pile missiles so high that they will pierce the clouds and the sight of them will frighten our enemies into submission.

Now we’re proud of this diversity as Democrats. We’re grateful for it. We don’t have to manufacture it the way the Republicans will next month in Dallas, by propping up mannequin delegates on the convention floor. But while we’re proud of this diversity as Democrats, we pay a price for it. The different people that we represent have different points of view. And sometimes they compete and even debate, and even argue. That’s what our primaries were all about. But now the primaries are over and it is time when we pick our candidates and our platform here to lock arms and move into this campaign together. If you need any more inspiration to put some small part of your own differences aside to create this consensus, all you need to do is to reflect on what the Republican policy of divide and cajole has done to this land since 1980.

Now the president has asked us to judge him on whether or not he’s fulfilled the promise he made four years ago. I believe that as Democrats, we ought to accept that challenge. And, just for a moment let us consider what he has said and what he’s done. Inflation is down since 1980. But not because of the supply- side miracle promised to us by the president. Inflation was reduced the old-fashioned way, with a recession, the worst since 1932. We could have brought inflation down that way. How did he do it? Fifty-five thousand bankruptcies. Two years of massive unemployment. Two hundred thousand farmers and ranchers forced off the land. More homeless than at any time since the Great Depression in 1932. More hungry, in this nation of enormous affluence, the United States of America, more hungry. More poor – most of them women – and he paid one more thing, a nearly $200 billion deficit threatening our future.

Now we must make the American people understand this deficit because they don’t. The president’s deficit is a direct and dramatic repudiation of his promise to balance our budget by 1983. How large is it? The deficit is the largest in the history of this universe; President Carter’s last budget had a deficit of less than one-third of this deficit. It is a deficit that, according to the president’s own fiscal adviser, may grow as high as $300 billion a year for “as far as the eye can see.”

And, ladies and gentlemen, it is a debt so large that as much as one-half of our revenue from the income tax goes just to pay the interest. It is a mortgage on our children’s future that can be paid only in pain and that could bring this nation to its knees.

Now don’t take my word for it – I’m a Democrat.

Ask the Republican investment bankers on Wall Street what they think the chances of this recovery being permanent are. You see, if they’re not too embarrassed to tell you the truth, they’ll say that they are appalled and frightened by the president’s deficit. Ask them what they think of our economy, now that it has been driven by the distorted value of the dollar back to its colonial condition – now we’re exporting agricultural products and importing manufactured ones. Ask those Republican investment bankers what they expect the rate of interest to be a year from now. And ask them, if they dare tell you the truth you will hear from them, what they predict for the inflation rate a year from now, because of the deficit.

Now, how important is this question of the deficit.

Think about it practically: What chance would the Republican candidate have had in 1980 if he had told the American people that he intended to pay for his so-called economic recovery with bankruptcies, unemployment, more homeless, more hungry and the largest government debt known to humankind? Would American voters have signed the loan certificate for him on Election Day? Of course not! That was an election won under false pretenses. It was won with smoke and mirrors and illusions. And that’s the kind of recovery we have now as well.

And what about foreign policy? They said that they would make us and the whole world safer. They say they have. By creating the largest defense budget in history, one that even they now admit is excessive. By escalating to a frenzy the nuclear arms race. By incendiary rhetoric. By refusing to discuss peace with our enemies. By the loss of 279 young Americans in Lebanon in pursuit of a plan and a policy that no one can find or describe.

We give money to Latin American governments that murder nuns, and then we lie about it. We have been less than zealous in support of our only real friend, it seems to me, we have in the Middle East, the one democracy there, our flesh and blood ally, the state of Israel. Our foreign policy drifts with no real direction, other than an hysterical commitment to an arms race that leads nowhere – if we’re lucky. And if we’re not, it could lead us into bankruptcy or war.

Of course we must have a strong defense!

Of course Democrats are for a strong defense. Of course Democrats believe that there are times when we must stand and fight. And we have. Thousands of us have paid for freedom with our lives. But always – when this country has been at its best – our purposes were clear. Now they’re not. Now our allies are as confused as our enemies. Now we have no real commitment to our friends or to our ideals – not to human rights, not to the refuseniks, not to Sakharov, not to Bishop Tutu and the others struggling for freedom in South Africa.

We have in the last few years spent more than we can afford. We have pounded our chests and made bold speeches. But we lost 279 young Americans in Lebanon and we live behind sand bags in Washington. How can anyone say that we are stronger, safer, or better?

That is the Republican record.

That its disastrous quality is not more fully understood by the American people I can only attribute to the president’s amiability and the failure by some to separate the salesman from the product.

And, now it’s up to us. Now it’s now up to you and me to make the case to America. And to remind Americans that if they are not happy with all the president has done so far, they should consider how much worse it will be if he is left to his radical proclivities for another four years unrestrained. Unrestrained.

If July brings back Ann Gorsuch Burford – what can we expect of December? Where would another four years take us? Where would four years more take us? How much larger will the deficit be? How much deeper the cuts in programs for the struggling middle class and the poor to limit that deficit? How high will the interest rates be? How much more acid rain killing our forests and fouling our lakes? And, ladies and gentlemen, the nation must think of this: What kind of Supreme Court will we have? We must ask ourselves what kind of court and country will be fashioned by the man who believes in having government mandate people’s religion and morality?

The man who believes that trees pollute the environment, the man that believes that the laws against discrimination against people go too far. The man who threatens Social Security and Medicaid and help for the disabled. How high will we pile the missiles? How much deeper will the gulf be between us and our enemies? And, ladies and gentlemen, will four years more make meaner the spirit of the American people?

This election will measure the record of the past four years. But more than that, it will answer the question of what kind of people we want to be.

We Democrats still have a dream. We still believe in this nation’s future. And this is our answer to the question, this is our credo:

We believe in only the government we need but we insist on all the government we need. We believe in a government that is characterized by fairness and reasonableness, a reasonableness that goes beyond labels, that doesn’t distort or promise things that we know we can’t do.We believe in a government strong enough to use the words “love” and “compassion” and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities. We believe in encouraging the talented, but we believe that while survival of the fittest may be a good working description of the process of evolution, a government of humans should elevate itself to a higher order.

Our government should be able to rise to the level to where it can fill the gaps left by chance or a wisdom we don’t fully understand. We would rather have laws written by the patron of this great city, the man called the “world’s most sincere Democrat” – St. Francis of Assisi – than laws written by Darwin.

We believe, we believe as Democrats, that a society as blessed as ours, the most affluent democracy in the world’s history, one that can spend trillions on instruments of destruction, ought to be able to help the middle class in its struggle, ought to be able to find work for all who can do it, room at the table, shelter for the homeless, care for the elderly and infirm, and hope for the destitute. And we proclaim as loudly as we can the utter insanity of nuclear proliferation and the need for a nuclear freeze, if only to affirm the simple truth that peace is better than war because life is better than death.

We believe in firm but fair law and order. We believe proudly in the union movement. We believe in privacy for people, openness by government, we believe in civil rights, and we believe in human rights. We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be. The idea of family. Mutuality. The sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all. Feeling one another’s pain. Sharing one another’s blessings. Reasonably, honestly, fairly – without respect to race, or sex, or geography or political affiliation.

We believe we must be the family of America, recognizing that at the heart of the matter we are bound one to another, that the problems of a retired school teacher in Duluth are our problems. That the future of the child in Buffalo is our future. That the struggle of a disabled man in Boston to survive, and live decently, is our struggle. That the hunger of a woman in Little Rock is our hunger. That the failure anywhere to provide what reasonably we might, to avoid pain, is our failure.

Now for 50 years, for 50 years we Democrats created a better future for our children, using traditional Democratic principles as a fixed beacon, giving us direction and purpose, but constantly innovating, adapting to new realities: Roosevelt’s alphabet programs; Truman’s NATO and the GI Bill of Rights; Kennedy’s intelligent tax incentives and the Alliance for Progress; Johnson’s civil rights; Carter’s human rights and the nearly miraculous Camp David Peace Accord.

Democrats did it, Democrats did it – and Democrats can do it again. We can build a future that deals with our deficit. Remember this, that 50 years of progress under our principles never cost us what the last four years of stagnation have. And, we can deal with the deficit intelligently, by shared sacrifice, with all parts of the nation’s family contributing, building partnerships with the private sector, providing a sound defense without depriving ourselves of what we need to feed our children and care for our people.

We can have a future that provides for all the young of the present, by marrying common sense and compassion. We know we can, because we did it for nearly 50 years before 1980.

And we can do it again. If we do not forget. If we do not forget that this entire nation has profited by these progressive principles. That they helped lift up generations to the middle class and higher: gave us a chance to work, to go to college, to raise a family, to own a house, to be secure in our old age and, before that, to reach heights that our own parents would not have dared dream of.

That struggle to live with dignity is the real story of the shining city. And it’s a story, ladies and gentlemen, that I didn’t read in a book, or learn in a classroom. I saw it, and lived it. Like many of you. I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work 15 and 16 hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example. I learned about our kind of democracy from my father. And, I learned about our obligation to each other from him and from my mother. They asked only for a chance to work and to make the world better for their children and they asked to be protected in those moments when they would not be able to protect themselves. This nation and this nation’s government did that for them.

And that they were able to build a family and live in dignity and see one of their children go from behind their little grocery store in South Jamaica on the other side of the tracks where he was born, to occupy the highest seat in the greatest state of the greatest nation in the only world we know, is an ineffably beautiful tribute to the democratic process.

And, ladies and gentlemen, on January 20, 1985, it will happen again. Only on a much, much grander scale. We will have a new president of the United States, a Democrat born not to the blood of kings but to the blood of pioneers and immigrants. And we will have America’s first woman vice president, the child of immigrants, and she, she, she will open with one magnificent stroke, a whole new frontier for the United States. Now, it will happen.

It will happen – if we make it happen; if you and I can make it happen.

And I ask you now – ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters – for the good of all of us – for the love of this great nation, for the family of America – for the love of God. Please, make this nation remember how futures are built.

Thank you and God bless you.


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