Remarks of John Kerry

This election is about choices. The most important choices a President makes are about protecting America, at home and around the world. A president’s first obligation is to make America safer, stronger and truer to our ideals.

Only a few blocks from here, three years ago, the events of September 11 reminded every American of that obligation. That day brought to our shores the defining struggle of our times: the struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism. And it made clear that our most important task is to fight… and to win… the war on terrorism.

With us today is a remarkable group of women who lost loved ones on September 11th ? and whose support I am honored to have. Not only did they suffer an unbearable loss ? they helped us learn the lessons of that terrible time by insisting on the creation of the 9/11 Commission. I ask them to stand. And I thank them on behalf of our country — and I pledge to them and to you that I will implement the 9-11 recommendations.

In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straightforward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies. But billions of people around the world yearning for a better life are open to America?s ideals. We must reach them.

To win, America must be strong. And America must be smart. The greatest threat we face is the possibility Al Qaeda or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon.

To prevent that from happening, we must call on the totality of America?s strength. Strong alliances, to help us stop the world?s most lethal weapons from falling into the most dangerous hands. A powerful military, transformed to meet the new threats of terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And all of America?s power ? our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, the appeal of our values ? each of which is critical to making America more secure and preventing a new generation of terrorists from emerging.

National security is a central issue in this campaign. We owe it to the American people to have a real debate about the choices President Bush has made? and the choices I would make? to fight and win the war on terror.

That means we must have a great honest national debate on Iraq.

John Kerry speech at New York University: 09-20-2004