Using his knowledge of Missourians’ lifestyles — and their struggles — Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry told a Jefferson City audience Thursday that he has the ability to find solutions and “reach for the next horizon.”
A crowd of several thousand rallied to see Kerry and vice presidential nominee John Edwards’ speeches, held outside the state Capitol.
Kerry discussed his interest in Lewis and Clark’s expedition, an appreciation for Jefferson City’s Central Dairy ice cream and emphasized his respect for Harry S. Truman. But his campaign also acknowledged Missouri’s problems, among them job losses, declining health-care coverage and the rising cost of education.
“Senators in Congress give themselves the best health-care coverage and then give you the bill,” Kerry said. “Health care is not a privilege for the elected.”
He pledged to repeal what he described as President Bush’s “unaffordable” tax cutback and invest part of the money lost into health care and promised to not privatize Social Security.
Kerry said he wants to put the rest of the money from the tax cutback into education, specifying his plan to increase Pell grants, which are loans for college students that do not have to be repaid. Kerry’s plan would also provide a $4,000 yearly tuition tax credit for all families to encourage college enrollment and “defer the cost of education.”
His plan provides incentives for high school graduates by offering four years’ college tuition at in-state public universities in exchange for mentoring and helping seniors and at-risk students. .
“We’re going to renew America’s commitment to service,” Kerry said.
Kerry vowed to fully fund Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and invest in additional programs such as Early Start, which he said will prevent delinquency later in life.
The war in Iraq and services for veterans were another focus of Kerry’s speech.
Kerry highlighted his own service in Vietnam, saying he defended America as a young man and would continue to defend it as president. He said American troops are currently over-extended and lack a plan for peace.
“I will never hesitate to use force — swift and often — to protect this country,” Kerry said, adding that he would never send troops without a valid cause.
Alliances, Kerry said, are necessary both during war and throughout its aftermath. In rebuilding Iraq, he said, he would call upon international organizations such as NATO to help with the current effort.
Edwards, who introduced Kerry, said he and Kerry would also continue to wage a war on terrorism by protecting ports and borders and by closing “loopholes” in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“You can’t run, you can’t hide, and we will destroy you,” Edwards said as a message to al-Qaida.
While both Kerry and Edwards stressed the importance of creating a more unified America, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill and Gov. Bob Holden said they’d already found a unified Democratic party in Missouri.
“The values we share are so much more important than individual people,” McCaskill said before Kerry’s and Edwards’ speeches.
After the rally, Kerry and Edwards continued their train tour to Kansas City, where they will speak today. They spoke in Hannibal and St. Louis earlier in the week.