Gov. Martin O'Malley
NHDP 2013 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner
The Expo Center at the Radisson Hotel Manchester
Manchester, NH
November 16, 2013

an hour into the evening program...

Female Dispatcher: ...I copy, shots fired on Mission just south of the off-ramp of the 15.

[Portentious Music]

Male Announcer: It's hard to know where dreams end, but we know where this one began.  Baltimore in the late 1990s.  For many in the city back then a cauldron of crime, drugs and profound despair.

So one city councilman ran for mayor by walking its mean streets.  Maybe it was right here at the intersection of Park Heights and Belvedere where the intersection between what was and what could be took hold. 

Assaulted by batteries and bottles hurled by drug dealers angered at having their business interrupted, Mayor O'Malley formulated an assault on hopelessness.  He didn't make a campaign promise to make the city safer, he made a pledge and he kept it.

[Music up tempo]  Mayor O'Malley implements a data-driven initiative called CitiStat, because you need to konw where the problem is before you can fix it, and things that get measured...are things that get done.

After two terms, crime was driven down—the greatest 10-year reduction in any major U.S. city.  Drug overdoese were driven down, racial tension was down, and for most families in the city things were finally looking up.

And this belief began formulating inside Mayor O'Malley, if it was possible to turn things around in Maryland's most troubled city, why not Maryland itself, a state that had a $1.7 billion structural deficit and some severly underperforming schools.  If CitiStat helped O'Malley change a city, couldn't StateStat help change a state? 

Because each statistic told a story, about a child needing a better education, a new father needing a job, a state worker needing pension security, and a community needing neighborhood security. 

And in 2007 Mayor O'Malley became Governor O'Malley and things that were measured did get done and the things that were done got measured.

Maryland became number one in education five years in a row, number one in holding down the cost of college tuition, number one in innovation and entrepreneurship, number one in research and development, number one in median family income, with a certain public official named number one in the nation.

And as StateStat was transforming a state, BayStat was transforming the Chesapeake Bay, halting decades of decline from pollution, sewage and runoff, and making it a healthier place for blue crabs, oysters and the numerous fishermen, restaurants and people that depend on them. 

And because O'Malley believes in the dignity of every individual, he transformed a few other things, allowing two people who happen to be the same sex to join in the same union everyone else can, and giving new Americans a chance to dream the same dreams as every American by giving them the opportunity for a college education.

And while he was cutting statewide pollution, crime and illegal guns, he was cutting the cost of statewide government.  Because sometime you need to prune in the present to foster growth in the future.

Way back when, Martin O'Malley forged a belief while walking the streets of Baltimore, and a belief that changed a city, changed a state, and changed more than a few lives along the way.

ANNOUNCER: Please welcome the governor of the great state of Maryland, Martin O'Malley.

...Thank you so very, very much.  Thank you.  My goodness.  Thank you so very, very much.  It is—it's really—really great to be with so many good friends here in New Hampshire and to also be in the company not only of so many good friends in New Hampshire, but also so many good friends who are Marylanders who have come to New Hampshire. 

So, Governor Hassan, Senator Shaheen, Congresswoman Shea-Porter, Congresswoman Kuster, Speaker of the House Speaker Terri Norelli, Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, Chairman Ray Buckley—happy birthday, Ray—First Vice Chair Fuller Clark, Second Vice Chair Solomon it is a great honor to be with all of you in the Granite State, a place that is very special to me and also very special to the people of our country, really a bedrock state in more ways than one.

And it's a special honor to be here tonight with Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan.  Last year I had the honor to be able to—and the privilege to serve as the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, and the DGA had a terrific year.  We won five out of six competitive governors races, but no win was as sweet as helping you and Gov. Hassan win here in New Hampshire.  Well done, Maggie. 

Of course I knew she would be a fantastic governor, but I am even more impressed with how quickly she and her team have gotten to work, how much she's gotten done in such a short period of time. 

Listen to all of this.  In less than one year bringing people together—what a great idea—to create good jobs, doubling the R&D tax credit, strengthening public safety, increasing funding for mental health, passing a bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget—way to go—and making college education more affordable for more families by freezing in-state tuition.  All of that in one year. 

And none of us should be entirely surprised because we know that she had the benefit of following in the tradition and the footsteps of another great governor who serves you so very well in the United States Senate—my friend Jeanne Shaheen.  Jeannie, thank you for everything you do for our country.

So next year is going to be huge for Democrats in New Hampshire, isn't it?  And under Chairman Buckley's leadership, great things are indeed possible.  But, you know what?  The future is not inevitable.  I had a meeting earlier today with a number of you; many of you are here in the room, and my friend Dave Lang with the Fire Fighters [David Lang, president of Professional Fire Fighters of NH] said to me earlier today, you know continued progress really is possible, but we have to keep helping each other, for environmental progress, for progress in women's health, worker's rights, equal rights for all Americans.  These things are all connected and they can only happen if we continue to stand together, right?  And help one another.  So let's keep moving forward.

In our time together this evening I wanted to, I wanted to talk with you about the story of us, about the story of Baltimore and New Hampshire, of Maryland and America, and I want to begin by thanking you for your indulgence in watching that little introductory video a few moments ago.  And I'm sorry if some of you thought you were about to watch another episode of "The Wire."

You know the luxury of age is the giving up of vanity, and seeing a younger me with a fuller and darker head of hair, it all reminded me of a story that I wanted to share with you at the start tonight.  It was 14 years ago this month that I was elected mayor of Baltimore.  Baltimore had by that year sadly become the most violent, the most addicted, and most abandoned city in America.  At one of the very first community meetings that we organized after the election, in a hard-hit neighborhood of East Baltimore, citizens assembled to talk with their new mayor.  And yes, there was some tension and apprehension in the auditorium.  And I'll never forget, a little girl came up to one of the microphones and she said this, she said, "Mr. Mayor, my name is Amber and I am 12 years old and because of all of the addicted people and all of the drug dealers in my neighborhood, there are people in the newspaper who call my neighborhood Zombieland.  And I want to know if you know they call my neighborhood Zombieland, and I want to know if you're doing anything about it?"

You see there was a big difference at that time between the Baltimore that we carried in our hearts and the Baltimore that we saw in our headlines and on our streets.  And you know what, our biggest enemy wasn't even the drug dealers; it was our own lack of belief, a culture of failure that had too many of us all wallowing in some sense that somehow nothing would ever work, and we all had countless excuses for why we shouldn't even try.

So to respond to that, to change that, we took action.  We started to make things work.  We saw trash in our streets and alleys so every day we picked it up.  We saw open air drug markets, and we began to relentlessly close them down.  We saw neighbors suffering from addiction so we actually expanded drug treatment, and we took action to get more people into recovery. 

And then, [gesture finger to mouth] then after a year of steady, hard-earned progress we took direct aim at the heart of our own despair, and we launched a campaign that we called simply "Believe."  The first ad was a four-minute commercial which the local news affiliates agreed to air simultaneously. 

Picture this.  A 10-hear old African-American boy is warming his hands next to a homeless addicted person at an open air fire on a cold Baltimore corner.  His thoughts are given voice.  And he says, "My grandmother says that we're all part of one big fire.  I don't know if that's true, but I know that there's a fire inside of me."  And then you travel with this little boy, you travel through his world, past vacant houses, past drug dealers and drug addicts, pimps and prostitutes, and as night falls you hear the boy say, "My sister's gone to the store to buy some candy.  I wonder what's keeping her?"  As the camera moves down the street to a gathering crowd of people, an ambulance flashing emergency lights, you hear the announcer's voice say, "The people of Baltimore are in a fight, it's a fight for their future, it's a fight that we've been losing one life at a time."  And then the camera finds the little boy's sister lying in a pool of her own blood, another victim of the crossfire, her carefully braided hair, her lifeless eyes wide open  And as the camera flashes on those anguished faces, black and white, civilian and police, the voice continues, "There are some who say it's over.  Give up.  We've lost.  But for the strong, for the brave, this fight is not over.  What will it take to make us stand together and say enough?"  And then from the ashes of that same corner fire where that story had begun come the stark white on black words: "Believe.  Believe in us.  Believe in yourself.  Baltimore.  Believe."

Now for three very uncomfortable and painful weeks we ran those ads, and you can well imagine the angry calls I got from civic boosters and businessmen.  Why did you run these ads? 

Why?  I'll tell you why. We ran those ads to change the culture, to awaken the spirit of a great people, to make our city a safer and better place.  We then ran ads calling people to real, individual and specific actions.  "Mentor a child in an hour a week can save a life.  Call 1-800-BELIEVE."  "Join the police department.  Believe in your self.  Believe in us.  Call 1-800-BELIEVE."  "Get someone you love into drug treatment.  It works.  Call 1-800-BELIEVE."

And you know what.  It did work.  The people of Baltimore rallied.  And it wasn't about bumper stickers or the signs, it was about something deeper.  The belief we share that in our city there is not such thing as a spare American.  And we continue to act on that belief, and over the next ten years Baltimore actually went on to achieve the biggest reduction in crime of any major city in America.

Gov. Hassan, like you I am so very, very proud of the people I have had the privilege to serve.  Belief is important.  Belief drives action. 

Now like Baltimore in 1999, we as Americans are going through a cynical time of disbelief.  A time quite frankly with a lot more excuses and ideology than cooperation or action.  We seem to have lost a shared conviction we once had that we actually have the ability to make things better and we have the ability to do it together.  There is a big difference, isn't there, between the America that we carry in our hearts and the America that we see to often in our headlines. 

The America we carry in our hearts is that land where anybody who works hard, who plays by the rules, who gets up early in the morning can make a better future for themselves and their children.  But the America in our headlines is too often a place where corporate profits are now higher than ever, the rich are richer than ever, but the paychecks of working families keep shrinking over time.  The America in our hearts remains that nation that created the greatest and strongest middle class in the history of the world.  The America in our headlines is a nation where too many kids can't afford to go to college and too many college graduates can't find jobs after college. 

It reminds me of the story of the prize fighter who finds himself being beaten against the ropes, being pummeled, getting the worst of it in the ring, pounded down by his opponent.  And his trainer finally gets a chance to sit him down in the corner, and he looks him dead in the eye and he says, you know what's the problem, isn't what the other guy is doing to you, it's what you're not doing for yourself.  Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you're probably right. 

I don't know about you, but I've had enough of this cynicism, I've had enough of the apathy, I've had enough of us giving in to self-pity and small solutions and low expectations of one another.  Let's remember who we are.  For 235 years we have been the country that thrilled the world, the country that led the world, in large part by making ourselves stronger at home.  Don't you think it's time to do it again?

And when others said it wasn't possible, when others said that the odds were too great and that it couldn't be done, we actually made it happen.  And we did it together. 

Now America is the greatest job-generating, opportunity-expanding nation ever created in the history of the free world, and yes we all know that our country works better when both of our parties are actually working and functioning.  But we, as Democrats nonetheless have an urgent responsibility today, don't we?  And it's about jobs, and it's about a stronger middle class now, and it's about giving our children a better future.  The truth is, the truth is that after Hoover, America needed Roosevelt; after Eisenhower, we needed Kennedy; after Reagan we needed Clinton, and after eight miserable years of George W. Bush, we needed Barack Obama.

No president, no president since FDR, no president since FDR inherited a worse economy, bigger job losses, as many wars or as large a deficit as President Obama did, but thanks to his leadership, and thanks to each of you, America is now moving forward again.

But let's look at the alternative here that we see on the other side of the aisle.  The current crop of Tea Party Republicans, funded by wealthy economic royalists who all have a very small view of America.  And we've seen this story before, right?  Hoover called it supply-side economics.  Reagan called it trickle down economics.  George W. Bush called it "focusing on my base."  And we call it selling America short.

And I don't know about you, but Ive had enough of Tea Party Republicans like Ted Cruz, haven't you.  These guys are too much.  Twisting the words of our Founders to justify their own mean-spirited, short-sighted pro-shutdown ideology.  What Sen. Cruz doesn't understand is that patriots who founded New Hampshire, the patriots who founded Maryland, they didn't pray for their president to fail, they prayed for their president to succeed. 

And they didn't belittle intelligence, they didn't belittle learning; they actually aspired to it, and they hoped others would as well.  They didn't appeal to America's fears; they brought forward American bravery.  And they would never, they would never have abandoned the war on poverty to declare a war on women, a war on workers, a war on immigrants, a war on the sick and war on hungry children.

Now I know, I know that people like Mitch McConnell and Kelly Ayotte [boos from audience; O'Malley makes defensive gesture], I know that they've been trying to distance themselves from the Tea Party ever since they nearly drove our country into default, but the truth is sadly there is very little difference today between the Tea Party and so-called mainstream Republicans.  Just ask Carol Shea-Porter; just ask Annie Custer.  They see it first-hand every day in the now sadly and but temporarily unrepresentative House of Representatives.  Yes there's very little daylight between the Tea Party and the Republican Party.  Think about it.

Both would have millionaires do less, cut taxes for big oil, cut taxes for multinationals, reduce Social Security benefits and Medicare coverage, cut student loans, cut veteran's benefits, invest less in education, invest less in affordable college, do less to combat climate change, do less on gun safety, do nothing to fix our immigration system and keep families that are trying to survive on the minimum wage from every earning even another penny.  It would appear that the only thing they want more of is Rush Limbaugh.  [joke falls flat]  Rush Limbaugh didn't get an applause line here in New Hampshire I see. 

But the real and serious question that we have to ask one another, the question we have to ask one another as Americans is this.  How much less do we believe would be good for our country?  How much less education would make our children smarter.  How much less opportunity will allow the next generation to succeed?  How many hungry American children can we no longer afford to feed?

You know on Veteran's Day, just last week, I had occasion to be with some of our nation's finest at the World War II Memorial in our nation's capital, and I was very blessed, humbled to be in the presence of four recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.  You know my parents, like so many of yours, they grew up in the Depression, they won the second World War.  My dad flew 33 missions over Japan in a B24 Liberator, and my mom at the age of 16 got a pilot's license and joined the Civil Air Patrol.  Our parents and our grandparents understood the essence that we share as Americans and it is the truth that lies at the heart of the American Dream.  The stronger we make our country, the more she gives back to us and to our children and to our grandchildren. 

They did not serve, fight, sacrifice, work and in many cases die so that their grandchildren could grow up in a country of less.  They gave to us a larger and stronger country than that, a country of more, a country of more opportunity, a country of more freedom and more justice, a country that we now have the ability to pass forward to our own grandchildren stronger and better than we received her, if only we choose to do so.

Progress is a choice.  Job creation is a choice.  In Maryland we have followed our president's call to make better choices so that we can achieve better results.  We've done more not less to build a modern infrastructure.  We've done more not less to create new jobs in those emerging new industries. We've done more not less to improve our children's education and to make college more affordable for more families by freezing college tuition four years in a row.  The result?  The result: more jobs.  There is no progress without jobs. 

Last month we reach the milestone now in Maryland of having recovered 100-percent of the jobs we lost in the Bush recession.  And last year we achieved the fastest rate of new job growth of any of the states in our region.  Not only do people now earn the highest median income in the nation in our state, but we're also one of the top states for upward economic mobility and for the last two years in a row, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—hardly a mouthpiece for the Maryland Democratic Party—the U.S. Chamber of Commerce named Maryland number one for innovation and entrepreneurship. 

I share those results with you because none of these things were the product of chance.  They were the product of choice.  Hope drives belief, belief drives action, and action achieves results.  That's the sort of leadership that's moving New Hampshire forward.  That's the leadership our country needs, and that's why you're going to elect more Democrats in New Hampshire in 2014. 

And so, my friends, conclusion, not that it's ever over—America's work is unfinished—but in conclusion tonight, I wanted to share this final story.  You know I am joined tonight by my son, of whom I am very, very proud.  His name is William, he is 16, and William was born a very old and wise soul from the first moments he could talk.  And I would remember very distinctly when he was about 9 years old, we found ourselves at home watching a History Channel special, and it was about Rosa Parks and civil rights and the Montgomery bus boycott, and as William watched this story, he turned to me and he said, "Hey, dad, back then—by which he meant sometime between the extinction of the dinosaur and the Paleozoic Era—  He said, "Back then somebody told you that some of you had to ride in the front of the bus and some of you had to ride in the back of the bus and you guys actually listened?" And I said, you know, I said well it's hard to imagine but that was just the way it had always been.  And he turned to me or turned to me with the clear wisdom of youth, and he said, "Dad, didn't you guys realize that you were all going to the same place?

The truth is, we're all going to the same place, and we're all on the same bus—New Hampshire and Maryland, California and Mississippi—and we will move forward or slip back together.  We will succeed or fail together, and we will rise or we will fall together, and we cannot allow ourselves to become the first generation of Americans to give our children a country of less.  This is not a matter of wishing or hoping, it's a matter of believing, and taking action.  We are Americans—we make our own destiny.  It means that New Hampshire must stand up.  It means that Maryland must stand up.  It means that each and every one of us must stand up.  It only takes one person, then another, and then another, to stand up and say, enough.  Enough finger pointing, enough obstruction, enough wasted time.  Let us achieve like Americans again, let us lead like Americans again, let us believe like Americans again—in ourselves, in our nation and in one another.  Together we can, together we must, and together we will.  God Bless you, New Hampshire.

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Ed. note: About one thousand people attended; according to NHDP chair Ray Buckley it was the party's biggest Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in ten years.