It is for the people of America that I stand here tonight, and by their generous leave. And as my voice echoes across darkness and desert, as it is heard over car radios on coastal roads, and as it travels above farmland and suburb, deep into the heart of cities that, from space look tonight like strings of sparkling diamonds, I can tell you that I know whose moment this is: It is yours. It is yours entirely.
And who am I, and who am I, that stands before you tonight?
I was born in Russell, Kansas, a small town in the middle of the prairie surrounded by wheat and oil wells. As my neighbors and friends from Russell, who tonight sit in the front of this hall, know well, Russell, though not the West, looks out upon the West. And like most small towns on the plains, it is a place where no one grows up without an intimate knowledge of distance.
And the first thing you learn on the prairie is the relative size of a man compared to the lay of the land. And under the immense sky where I was born and raised, a man is very small, and if he thinks otherwise, he’s wrong.
I come from good people, very good people, and I’m proud of it. My father’s name was Doran, my mother’s name was Bina. I loved them, and there is no moment when my memory of them and my love for them does not overshadow anything I do, even this, even here.
And there is no height to which I have risen that is high enough to allow me to forget them, to allow me to forget where I came from and where I stand, and how I stand, with my feet on the ground, just a man, at the mercy of God.
And this perspective has been strengthened and solidified by a certain wisdom that I owe not to any achievement of my own, but to the gracious compensations of age. And I know that in some quarters I may not, I may be expected to run from the truth of this. But I was born in 1923, facts are better than dreams, and good presidents and good candidates don’t run from the truth.
I do not need the presidency to make or refresh my soul. That false hope I will gladly leave to others, for greatness lies not in what office you hold, but in how honest you are, in how you face adversity, and in your willingness to stand fast in hard places.
Age has its advantages. Let me be the bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth. Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquillity, faith, and confidence in action. And to those who say it was never so, that America has not been better, I say, you’re wrong, and I know, because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember.
There are whole sections later that are almost entirely bullshit, of course, but God, that’s a piece of art, there. That’s how you sound brave and humble at once, that’s how you put yourself forward for a task you have to be almost unimaginably arrogant to even want, without that arrogance taking you over. That’s how you make your voters proud, as well as angry.