After striding on stage to Bruce Springsteen’s “Never Surrender,” Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry pitched his candidacy on Sept. 24 to a crowd of thousands on the Penn campus.
Penn students, staff, faculty and other supporters filled Hill Field, at 34th and Walnut, and spilled out on the surrounding streets to hear the candidate deliver his stump speech on the economy, the Iraq war, health insurance and Medicare. Huge cheers erupted when Kerry addressed abortion rights, calling the Supreme Court “three words of motivation” for voters.
“ This is the most important election of our lifetime,” said Kerry. “This fight is a fight for your lives.”
Addressing issues important to college students—tuition reimbursements for the rising costs of college and new jobs for graduates—Kerry also hit upon themes familiar in recent weeks.
“ We don’t just want Americans in America working for the economy, we want the economy working for Americans,” he said. Citing past job-creating presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy, Kerry said, “Every one of them created jobs, and so will I.”
On the war against terror, Kerry garnered applause when he vowed to improve world opinion of the U.S. “You don’t win by alienating the most important allies in the world,” he said. “You win with statesmanship and leadership and diplomacy.”
The candidate also stressed the need to address the global AIDS crisis and said he plans to forgive debt for countries crippled by the disease.
Against the backdrop of Penn’s School of Law building and a banner that read, “Working for Pennsylvania families,” Kerry responded to some of the signs in the crowd (“Wharton MBAs: ‘Kerry—you’re hired!’”) and joked about his past experience with Penn. “I came here a couple times and you beat us,” he said, referring to visits he made here as an undergraduate from Yale.
Kerry was flanked by many of the state and city’s top Democrats, including Gov. Ed Rendell, U.S. Senate candidate Joe Hoeffel and Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who said, “I want a President to know what it’s like to be on the front lines.”
Delaware’s Joe Biden—who Rendell said is affectionally known as Pennsylvania’s third Senator—joked, “I paid $125,000 to send someone to this school, so it better be the greatest school in America.” On a more serious note, he continued, “The world doesn’t doubt our power. They doubt George Bush’s judgment.”
Originally published on October 7, 2004