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Transcript: Sen. Joe Biden's acceptance speech

  • Story Highlights
  • Biden says he and Obama had different journeys but a common story
  • "We don't have to accept a situation we cannot bear; we have the power to change it"
  • Biden criticizes Bush and McCain on foreign and economic policies
  • Americans must "get back up" together, he says
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(CNN) -- Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, Barack Obama's choice for vice president, accepted the nomination Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. He was introduced by his son Beau Biden, Delaware attorney general.

Sen. Joe Biden: You know, folks, my dad used to have an expression. He'd say, "A father knows he's a success when he turns and looks at his son or daughter and know that they turned out better than he did." I'm a success; I'm a hell of a success.

Beau, I love you. I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud of the son you've become; I'm so proud of the father you are.

And I'm also so proud of my son Hunter and my daughter, Ashley.

And my wife, Jill, the only one who leaves me both breathless and speechless at the same time.

It's an honor to share the stage tonight with President Clinton, a man who I think brought this country so far along that I only pray we do it again.

And last night, it was moving to watch Hillary, one of our great leaders, a great leader of this party, a woman who has made history and will continue to make history, a colleague, my friend, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

And I am truly honored to live in a country with the bravest warriors in the world.

And I'm honored to represent the first state, my state, the state of Delaware.

Since I've never been called a man of few words, let me say this simply as I can: Yes. Yes, I accept your nomination to run and serve with Barack Obama, the next president of the United States of America.

Let me make this pledge to you right here and now. For every American who is trying to do the right thing, for all those people in government who are honoring the pledge to uphold the law and honor the Constitution, no longer will you hear the eight most-dreaded words in the English language, "The vice president's office is on the phone."

Barack and I took very different journeys to this destination, but we share a common story. Mine began in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and then Wilmington, Delaware.

My dad, who fell on hard times, always told me, though, "Champ, when you get knocked down, get up. Get up." I was taught that by my dad. And, God, I wish my dad was here tonight.

But I thank God and I'm grateful that my mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, is here tonight.

Mom, I love you.

You know, my mom taught her children -- all the children who flocked to our house -- that you're defined by your sense of honor and you're redeemed by your loyalty. She believes that bravery lives in every heart, and her expectation is that it will be summoned. Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable.

As a child, I stuttered, and she lovingly would look at me and tell me, "Joey, it's because you're so bright you can't get the thoughts out quickly enough."

When I was not as well-dressed as the other kids, she'd look at me and say, "Joey, oh, you're so handsome, honey, you're so handsome."

And when I got knocked down by guys bigger than me -- and this is the God's truth -- she sent me back out and said, "Bloody their nose so you can walk down the street the next day." And that's what I did.

You know -- and after the accident, she told me, she said, "Joey, God sends no cross that you cannot bear." And when I triumphed, my mother was quick to remind me it was because of others.

My mother's creed is the American creed: No one is better than you. Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you.

My parents taught us to live our faith and to treasure our families. We learned the dignity of work, and we were told that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough. That was America's promise.

And for those of us who grew up in middle-class neighborhoods like Scranton and Wilmington, that was the American dream.

Ladies and gentlemen, but today, today that American dream feels like it's slowly slipping away. I don't have to tell you that. You feel it every single day in your own lives. I've never seen a time when Washington has watched so many people get knocked down without doing anything to help them get back up.

Almost every single night, I take the train home to Wilmington, Delaware, sometimes very late. As I sit there in my seat and I look out that window, I see those flickering lights of the homes that pass by, I can almost hear the conversation they're having at their kitchen tables after they put their kids to bed.

Like millions of Americans, they're asking questions as ordinary as they are profound, questions they never, ever thought they'd have to ask themselves.

Should Mom move in with us now that Dad's gone? Fifty, sixty, seventy dollars just to fill up the gas tank? How in God's name, with winter coming, how are we going to heat the home? Another year, no raise. Did you hear they may be cutting our health care at the company? Now we owe more money on our home than our home is worth. How in God's name are we going to send the kids to college? How are we going to retire, Joe?

You know, folks, that's the America that George Bush has left us. And that's the America we'll continue to get if George -- excuse me, if John McCain is elected president of the United States of America. Freudian slip. Freudian slip.

And, folks, these are not isolated discussions among families down on their luck. These are common stories among middle-class people who worked hard their whole life, played by the rules, on the promise that their tomorrows would be better than their yesterdays.

That promise is the promise of America. It defines who we are as a people. And now it's in jeopardy. I know it. You know it.

But John McCain doesn't seem to get it. Barack Obama gets it, though. Like many of us in this room, like many of us in this hall, Barack Obama has worked his way up. He is the great American story, you know?

I believe the measure of a man is not the road he travels but the choices he makes along that road.

And, ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama could have done anything after he graduated from college. With all his talent and promise, he could have written his own ticket to Wall Street. But what did he choose to do?

He chose to go to Chicago, the South Side of Chicago. There, there, in the South Side, he met women and men who had lost their jobs. Their neighborhood was devastated when the local steel plant closed. Their dreams had to be deferred; their self-esteem was gone. And, ladies and gentlemen, he made their lives the work of his life.

That's what you do when you're raised by a single mom who worked, went to school and raised two kids on her own. That's how you come to believe to the very core of your being that work is more than a paycheck. It's dignity. It's respect.

It's about whether or not you can look your child in the eye and say, "We're going to be all right."

Because Barack Obama made that choice, 150 more children and parents have health care in Illinois. He fought to make that happen.

And because Barack Obama made that choice, working families in Illinois pay less taxes and more people have moved from welfare to the dignity of work. And he got it done.

And when he came to Washington, when he came to Washington, John and I watched with amazement how he hit the ground running, leading the fight to pass the most sweeping ethics reform in a generation.

He reached across party lines to pass a law that helped keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

And then he moved Congress and the president to give our wonderful wounded warriors the care and dignity they deserve.

You know, you can learn a lot about a man campaigning with him, debating him, seeing how he reacts under pressure. You learn about the strength of his mind. But even more importantly, you learn about the quality of his heart.

I watched how Barack touched people, how he inspired them. And I realized he had tapped into the oldest belief in America: We don't have to accept the situation we cannot bear; we have the power to change it.

And change it -- and changing it is exactly what Barack Obama will do. That's what he'll do for this country.

You know, John McCain is my friend. And I know you hear that phrase used all the time in politics. I mean it. John McCain is my friend.

We've traveled the world together. It's a friendship that goes beyond politics. And the personal courage and heroism demonstrated by John still amazes me.

But I profoundly disagree with the direction John wants to take this country, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Amtrak to veterans.

You know, John thinks that, during the Bush years, quote, "We've made great economic progress." I think it's been abysmal. And in the Senate, John has voted with President Bush 95 percent. And that is very hard to believe.

And when John McCain proposes $200 million in new taxes for corporate America, $1 billion alone for the largest companies in the nation -- but no, none, no relief for 100 million American families, that's not change. That's more of the same.

Even today, as oil companies post the biggest profits in history, nearly $500 billion in the last five years, John wants to give them another $4 billion in tax breaks. That's not change. That's the same.

And during the same time, John voted again and again against renewable energy, solar, wind, biofuels. That's not change. That's more of the same.

Millions of Americans have seen their jobs go offshore, yet John continues to support tax breaks for corporations that send them there. That's not change. That's more of the same.

He voted 19 times against the minimum wage for people who are struggling just to make it to the next day. That's not change. That's more of the same.

And when he says he'll continue to spend $10 billion a month, when the Iraqis have a surplus of nearly $80 billion, that's not change. That's more of the same.

The choice in the election is clear. These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader. A leader who can change -- the change that everybody knows we need.

Barack Obama's going to deliver that change, because, I want to tell you, Barack Obama will reform our tax code. He will cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people who draw a paycheck. That's the change we need.

Barack Obama will transform the economy by making alternative energy a national priority and in the process creating 5 million new jobs and finally, finally freeing us from the grip of foreign oil. That's the change we need.

Barack Obama knows that any country that out-teaches us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That's why he'll invest in the next generation of teachers and why he'll make college more affordable. That's the change we need.

Barack Obama will bring down health care costs by $2,500 for the average family and, at long last, deliver affordable, accessible health care for every American.

That's the change we need.

Barack will put more cops on the street, put security back in Social Security, and he'll never, ever, ever give up until we achieve equal pay for women.

That's the change we need.

And as we gather here tonight, our country is less secure and more isolated than it has been at any time in recent history. The Bush foreign policy has dug us into a very deep hole, with very few friends to help us climb out.

And for the last seven years, the administration has failed to face the biggest forces shaping this century: the emergence of Russia, China and India as great powers; the spread of lethal weapons; the shortage of secure supplies of energy, food and water; the challenge of climate change; and the resurgence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front in the war on terror.

Ladies and gentlemen, in recent years and in recent days, we've once again seen the consequences of the neglect -- of this neglect, with Russia challenging the very freedom of a new democratic country of Georgia. Barack and I will end that neglect. We will hold Russia accountable for its actions, and we will help the people of Georgia rebuild.

I've been on the ground in Georgia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms: This administration's policy has been an abysmal failure.

America cannot afford four more years of this failure. And now, now, despite being complicit in this catastrophic foreign policy, John McCain says Barack Obama is not ready to protect our national security.

Now, let me ask you this: Whose judgment do you trust?

Should you trust the judgment of John McCain, when he said only three years ago, "Afghanistan, we don't read about it anymore in papers because it succeeded"?

Or should you believe Barack Obama who said a year ago, "We need to send two more combat battalions to Afghanistan"?

The fact of the matter is, al Qaeda and the Taliban, the people who actually attacked us on 9/11, they've regrouped in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and they are plotting new attacks. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has echoed Barack's call for more troops.

John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was right.

Should we trust John McCain's judgment when he rejected talking with Iran and then asked, "What is there to talk about?" Or Barack Obama, who said, "We must talk and make clear to Iran that it must change"?

Now, after seven years of denial, even the Bush administration recognizes that we should talk to Iran because that's the best way to ensure our security.

Again and again, John McCain has been wrong, and Barack Obama is right.

Should we trust John McCain's judgment when he says we can't have no timelines to draw down our troops from Iraq, that we must stay indefinitely? Or should we listen to Barack Obama, who says shift the responsibility to the Iraqis and set a time to bring our combat troops home?

Now, after six long years, the administration and the Iraqi government are on the verge of setting a date to bring our troops home. John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was right.

Again and again, on the most important national security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama has been proven right.

Folks, remember when the world used to trust us, when they looked to us for leadership? With Barack Obama as our president, they'll look at us again, they'll trust us again, and we'll be able to lead again.

Folks, Jill and I are truly honored to join Michelle and Barack on this journey. When I look at their young children, when I look at my grandchildren, I know why I'm here.

I'm here for their future. I'm here for everyone I grew up with in Scranton and Wilmington. I'm here for the cops and the firefighters, the teachers and the assembly line workers, the folks whose lives are the very measure of whether the American dream endures.

Our greatest presidents, from Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt to John Kennedy, they all challenged us to embrace change. Now it is our responsibility to meet that challenge.

Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans together we get back up, back up together.

Our debt to our parents and our grandparents is too great. Our obligation to our children is too sacred. These are extraordinary times; this is an extraordinary election.

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The American people are ready. I am ready. Barack is ready. This is his time; this is our time; this is America's time.

God bless America, and may God protect our troops. Thank you very much. Thank you.

All About Joseph BidenBarack ObamaIraq War

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