Read Kirsten’s speech from her official presidential campaign kickoff, in front of Trump International Hotel in New York City.
It’s a gorgeous day, and looking around at this diverse and beautiful crowd, there’s no doubt that America is great.
Our Declaration of Independence was the start of a conversation about how to achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every citizen. Our Constitution was always intended to grow and adapt as we formed a more perfect union, established justice, and ensured peace, security, and the blessings of liberty.
Even our national anthem ends in a question: “Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, over the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
That open-ended question is what defines us: not just who we are or were, but who we will be. It challenges us to choose to take the next step, to fight that next fight, to answer that fundamental question: will brave win?
And the truth is, brave hasn’t always won. And brave isn’t winning right now.
Brave doesn’t spread hate or bully the vulnerable. Brave doesn’t put greed and self-interest over millions of lives. Brave doesn’t cower behind lies and walls. Brave doesn’t pit people against one another. That’s what fear does.
This President has tried to reduce America to its smallest self. By attacking the values and institutions of our democracy, and turning our most cherished principles inside-out. Rooting for bigotry and discrimination and violence, closing our doors to immigrants and refugees, taking from the many to line the pockets of a few.
President Trump is tearing apart the moral fabric of this country.
He demonizes the vulnerable and he punches down. He puts his name in bold on every building. He does all of this because he wants us to believe he is strong. He is not. Our President is a coward.
That’s not what we deserve — not what you deserve. We deserve a president who is brave; a president who will walk through fire to do what is right.
We deserve a president who inspires us to stand for something greater than ourselves. Look up at that tower — a shrine to greed, division and vanity. And now look around you. The greater strength, by far, is ours.
We are here to reject the politics of fear and hate — to listen to what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Because the ideals of this country — opportunity, equality, compassion and justice — are worth fighting for.
We are here to embrace our shared humanity and rise above our differences. We don’t build walls that are emblems of racism and fear. We build bridges, communities and hope. Because our unity of purpose lifts us higher than any tower.
We are here today because we know that when we join together and fight for our values, brave wins.
Americans prove this with their own bravery, every single day. You’ve already heard from some of them today. But there are countless more examples all around us.
The high school students who responded to unimaginable tragedy by organizing, marching and inspiring millions to end the epidemic of gun violence. That is brave.
The DREAMers who defiantly tell their stories and stand up for their right to call this country home. That is brave.
The sexual assault survivors who raise their voices against the powerful that tell them to stay silent. That is brave.
The millions of Americans who are speaking out against this Administration’s cruelty toward women, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and children at our border. That is brave.
And of course, the formerly well-behaved women who organized, ran for office, voted in record numbers and won in 2018. That too, is brave.
Day in and day out, Americans are making a choice to resist the backward pull of this Administration and pushing us toward a better future.
And it’s brave choices like yours that have inspired me to take on the fights that others won’t. It’s because of you that I’ve chosen to be brave too.
Because the people of this country deserve a president worthy of your bravery. A president who not only sets an example, but follows yours.
Your bravery inspires me every day. And that is why I’m running for President of the United States.
By coming here today, we are sending a powerful message: We will not let anything or anyone divide us. We will not cede control of our country to corruption, greed and the powerful interests. We will keep showing up and we will keep fighting back.
The fight ahead may seem daunting, but there is hope when we look down at our feet and see whose shoulders we stand on. We all have our heroes who inspire us in this struggle.
My grandmother, Polly Noonan, was one of mine. She would be proud of us standing here today. She was larger than life. She was a firebrand and a Democratic organizer, who cursed like a sailor. She spent her life fighting for women to have a seat at the table.
She never let anyone tell her that she couldn’t or that she didn’t belong. And she instilled that in me.
But more than anything else, my grandmother taught me that being brave doesn’t just mean standing up for yourself, it means standing up for other people who need you and raising your voice on behalf of others who aren’t being heard.
It’s that core principle from my grandmother that has driven my life in public service. Over the years, I have learned that bravery means standing up to the powerful, and summoning the courage to confront them head on.
That’s what I did when I first ran for Congress in a red red red district that nobody thought I could win. Except for my mother — which tells you a lot about her. People told me: “It has more cows than Democrats — you just can’t win!”
But, I took those long odds, and I won. And the next election, I won again — that time by a 24-point margin.
Why? Because I never forgot who I served.
That’s why I stood up to greed and voted against the bank bailout that would leave taxpayers holding the bag. Even though I was warned it would end my career.
It’s why I stood up to corruption by making insider trading illegal for members of Congress. No one in our government should be lining their pockets as a public servant.
It’s why I stood up to callousness by demanding the 9/11 heroes be given the respect, compensation and healthcare they deserved.
And why I stood up to indifference and lies in the Pentagon, Congress, and Colleges on behalf of survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
And it’s why I stood up to bigotry and demanded the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which was a corrosive and harmful policy that undermined our character and our national security.
And it’s why I’m proud to have stood up to Donald Trump more than anyone else in the U.S. Senate.
I will go toe-to-toe with anyone to do the right thing. Whether it’s powerful institutions, the President, or even my own party.
But I’m not running for President because of who I’m fighting against. I’m running for President because of who I’m fighting for.
I’m fighting for an America where power truly belongs to the people.
Where our leaders care about everyone in this country, and lead not from weakness of ego, but from strength of character.
Where compassion and integrity define our government, not self-interest and corruption.
Where we don’t just care about the profits we make today, but the future we’re leaving to our grandchildren.
I know we can be that America. But it means starting at the root of our problems. Greed.
Right now, special interests are displacing the voices of the people of this country. Find me a so-called unsolvable problem, and I will point you to the greed and corruption in the way.
Polluter profits take precedence over drinking water.
Opioid manufacturers get a pass instead of indictments they deserve, while our neighbors are sold more addictive drugs on purpose.
The NRA stops popular, common sense gun reform, while stray bullets kill children in our communities.
Dark, unaccountable money is at the heart of this outrageous inaction. We need to crack open our government, flip the switch, and let the light flood in.
That’s exactly what I did when I came to Washington and challenged Congress by making my meetings, finances and taxes public. I wanted my constituents to know that I was working for them, not the powerful.
I will keep leading on transparency within my own office and campaigns. That’s why I am not taking any corporate PAC money in this campaign, no federal lobbyist money and no individual Super PACs.
As president, I will fight for publicly-funded elections. It would change the way Washington works overnight. Imagine your voice was just as loud as the Koch Brother’s. What a concept!
By leveling the playing field, our democracy will thrive and we will protect against the dysfunction that’s poisoning Washington now.
As your president, I will be answerable to you alone, elevating the concerns that you would raise at a town hall or at your kitchen table. I will govern based on the principle that our democracy only works when elected leaders hear directly from you.
Only then can we finally start making progress on the problems we face. Our goals are ambitious, but the truth is, they’re not controversial. Americans across party lines support these common-sense ideas.
It is time for this country to make quality, affordable healthcare a right and not a privilege, by passing Medicare for All.
I’ve fought for this since my very first House race in 2006. We have a plan to get from our current system to single-payer and I know, because I helped write it. We will create competition, get costs down, and eliminate greed.
On education, it’s time to guarantee universal pre-K, affordable daycare and a high-quality public education for every kid, no matter what block they grow up on.
We must make higher education affordable and accessible for everyone, and reduce the crush of student debt. The federal government should not be making money off the backs of our students. In my administration, we would refinance all federal student debt to the lowest available rate.
And here’s a big idea! Let’s improve and expand the GI bill to make college free for anyone who agrees to do national public service. That way our young people can pursue their dreams debt-free, while also helping others.
To grow the middle class, we need to start rewarding work again. We must make “full employment” a national priority, by investing in free job training through apprenticeships, not for profits, community colleges and state schools. We will work with employers to connect underemployed and unemployed workers with the training, skills and jobs that are available in their communities and in their fields of interest.
With workers’ rights under attack more than ever, we need to protect the right to collectively bargain and form unions, fighting right to work and supporting card check. And let’s do right by our workers and raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour nationwide.
We have to transform the infrastructure of work by finally making national paid leave a reality. It’s outrageous that we are the only industrialized country in the world without it. You should never have to risk your job and income to take care of a new baby, a sick family member, or your own medical issues. I refuse to accept the false choice between your paycheck and your family.
I’ve led this fight in Congress since 2013, when it was not part of our national conversation. And hear me when I say this: Paid leave, equal pay and affordable daycare are not just “women’s issues.” These are economic issues, ones that will determine whether or not our country succeeds.
At the same time, we need to dismantle the institutional racism that pervades our society and holds back millions of families. It’s in our health care, education, economic and criminal justice systems.
It’s in the growing crisis of black women’s maternal mortality. It’s in the sentencing disparities that keep black men in prison for years while white-collar criminals go home on bail. It’s in the wealth gap between communities of color and white communities that only widens from generation to generation.
These challenges call for solutions both targeted and broad, like higher standards for maternity care, a national commitment to full employment, postal banking, ending cash bail, and legalizing marijuana.
We need to restore our moral leadership in the world. We must secure our borders effectively and fight terrorism relentlessly, but let’s be very clear: Racism and fear are not a national security strategy.
Building a wall, ripping apart families, banning Muslims and turning our backs on refugees and asylum seekers isn’t just wrong — it makes us LESS safe.
We need to repair our relationship with allies and stop fawning over our adversaries. We need to leverage our diplomatic tools to make Americans more prosperous and more secure, and always treat military force as the last resort. We must bring an end to our endless wars. America’s commander in chief is not a dictator, and the decision to deploy our troops can never be made lightly or unilaterally without Congress.
And we need to protect the integrity of our elections, by holding accountable any threats to our democracy, from abroad or right here at home.
The stakes on this just got higher on Friday. The Mueller report MUST be made public. All of it. Nobody in this country — not even the president — is above the law or immune from accountability. It’s not often that I agree with Richard Nixon, but he was right to say that the American people have a right to know whether or not their President is a crook.
And finally, we need to treat climate change like the existential threat it is, and pass a Green New Deal. Let’s make this our generation’s moonshot. Addressing a global challenge of this urgency will take massive effort and transformative vision which is exactly why we should do it.
Let’s invest in our crumbling infrastructure, create sustainable green jobs, and protect clean air and clean water as a universal human right. And I’d go further than others who support this plan. I’d also put a price on carbon to use market forces to steer companies away from fossil fuels and towards clean and renewable energy.
We can’t afford not to do this. And we don’t have time to waste.
John F. Kennedy said he wanted to put a man on the moon in the next ten years, “not because [it’s] easy, but because [it’s] hard”. I believe we should look at climate change in the exact same way. We should aspire to net zero carbon emissions in the next ten years, not because it’s easy but because it’s hard and “it’s a challenge that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one that we intend to win.”
None of these big fights and equally big goals will be easy. Nothing worth fighting for ever is. But I’ve never backed down from a fight for what’s right… and I’m not about to start now.
My faith tells me to care for the least among us, feed and clothe the poor, help the stranger, the sick and the incarcerated. I believe we are called to be the Light of the World, to defeat the darkness, and to treat others the way we want to be treated.
I am running for President to fix what’s been broken, to repair our moral fabric, and to rebuild the common bonds between us as Americans. This fight is so much bigger than any one election. It’s about making a choice and deciding who we are, and who we are going to be.
After all, America is, and will always be, the “home of the brave.” No matter how difficult the course before us, no matter how dark the hour, the lesson of our history is that justice, fairness and truth are possible but only if we are willing to put everything we have on the line to achieve it.
So, each one of us has a choice today: Will we defend this democracy? Will we speak out for what we believe in? Will we reject hate and fear, greed and corruption? Will we fight, with every fiber of our being, because everything we care about is at stake?
Will we be brave?
You’ve already answered that question just by being here today. And if you’re with me — if you’re ready to take on this fight — join my campaign by going to KirstenGillibrand.com and contribute to help power this movement forward.
I believe, in my bones, that we can do this. And I know that years from now, we will look back on this moment in our history, and we’ll be able to say that we did something about it.
We stood up, locked arms, and proved to America, and the world, that when people come together to drive out darkness…
And brave wins.
Thank you. God bless you all. And God bless America.