Kerry returned repeatedly to the subject of his military service in the speech. "I know what kids go through when they're carrying an M-16 in a dangerous place, and they can't tell friend from foe," he said. "I know what they go through when they're out on patrol at night and they don't know what's coming around the next bend. I know what it's like to write letters home telling your family that everything's all right, when you're not sure that that's true. As president, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war."
Kerry insisted he would "never hesitate to use force when it is required" and to "build a stronger military." He promised to add 40,000 active-duty troops to the military ranks, "to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended and under pressure." He also pledged to double the size of special forces troops, purchase the "newest weapons and technology," and end the practice of extending the deployments of guard and reserve troops in Iraq.
In his speech, Kerry reiterated his call for full acceptance of the recommendations of the recent national commission on the Sept. 11 attacks. "The 9/11 commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans and the 9/11 families," Kerry said. "As president, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement all the recommendations of that commission."
Kerry listed a series of other initiatives that would beef up the federal government's role in the economy, saying that he would roll back tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to pay for education and health care programs. "As president, I am determined that we stop being a nation content to spend $50,000 a year to send a young person to prison for the rest of their life, when we could invest $10,000 in Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, a real start to the lives of our children," he said.
The only "bureaucrats" Kerry criticized in the speech were insurance company officials in a health-care system he characterized as being filled with "greed and abuse."
Still, Kerry sought to establish some distance between himself and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, saying, "When I came to the Senate, I broke with many in my own party to vote for a balanced budget, because I thought it was the right thing to do. I fought to put 100,000 police officers on the streets of America."