Davis’ remarks in Birmingham

Published 3:32 pm Friday, February 6, 2009

“Seven years ago, this is the place I stood when the voters of the 7th District gave me the privilege to speak for them in the United States Congress. I would have never dreamed that I would be so blessed to serve so many people. And I had no idea that night where this journey that literally began next to the railroad tracks in West Montgomery would take me.

But I believed then and I believe now in a few stubborn, unchanging values about who we are in Alabama, and I have tried to hold true to those things: I believed then and now that while government is not the answer to every problem, that when people are hurting through no fault of their own, a good government will never be indifferent enough to stay on the sidelines. I believed then and I believe now that education is the only instrument on earth that made my dreams possible and that other children deserve the same bridge that I crossed. Seven years ago I won a campaign that was noted for its divisiveness, but I believed then and now that you can prevail in politics by standing on the ground that says we are all bound to each other. I believed then and now that no one political party has a lock on faith, and that work and personal responsibility are neither Democratic nor Republican values, but American values.

And above all, I believed then and now that we do not have to judge our future in Alabama by our past. There was a time in Alabama when we had never built a rocket and now look at what we done in Huntsville at Marshall and Redstone. There was a time when we had never built a car and now the cars we make in Vance and Montgomery and Lincoln make us the envy of the world.

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And yes, there was a time when what I am about to try to do seemed as inconceivable as the idea of a Kenyan and a Kansan with Confederate roots joining to give birth to an American President.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will always cherish the honor of having served a season of my life in the United States House of Representatives. But wherever I have gone in my life, every path I have followed has always led me back home. So I have come back to my state today to tell you that if God will bless my path again, I intend to be the next Governor of Alabama.

I will not promise you that this path will be easy because change never is. I have no doubt that there will be days along the way and people that we will meet that will that test our faith in the progress we have made. But if you are ever tempted to think this too hard, I want to tell you for just a few minutes what I think is at stake in this campaign. The next governor will have to undo the damage from a run of budgets that have shortchanged our priorities. If that governor is serious about our schools, he will have the burden of convincing our teachers and parents to accept reforms that demand more from them than they have ever been asked before. If the next governor is wise, that governor will recognize that our world has been rearranged by an economic storm that we have not seen in a generation and that what we have done the last 15 years is good but it isn’t good enough to keep Alabama’s economy strong in the 21st Century.

Lastly, our next Governor has a very good chance to be the man or woman who stands at the helm when our ship of state turns 200 years old 10 years from now. It is that opportunity more than anything that will make this campaign so different from the ones we have had before. Because exactly what we get to celebrate, exactly what we can say we did while we are here still hangs very much in the balance. Will we be a state known more for our shared prosperity for or for the walls that separate our people and our regions from each other? Will our schools be known for the solutions they found in the 21st Century for making our children more competitive, or will they be defined more by the kids who dropped out, or for the young people we educated but who left us because we haven’t built the job base to keep them here? Will we be known for the transparency and accountability of our political institutions or will public service still be as discredited as it is today? And will we have learned what it was like to lead the South, or will we still believe in the excuse that progress costs too much for us to change?

So, yes this will be hard. But if we do it well, in a way that honors the decency and the hard work of the people who live here, we can build a state that we have never known, not at some distant point called one day, but right now, in our season. May God bless this wonderful state called Alabama.”