Most American voters went to the polls to vote for Al Gore. Not George W. Bush, but Al Gore. Most Floridians did as well, although many of their votes remain uncounted, and may never be counted. Despite nearly three weeks of unending and intense partisan and media pressure on him to "concede," Al Gore has made a principled decision to fight for us, the voters who voted for him, just as he vowed to do throughout the entire 2000 presidential campaign. Al Gore has a promise to keep, and he is keeping it, and honoring us. Tonight, he reaffirmed his vow:AL GORE'S ADDRESS TO THE NATION
NEXT: TWO NUMBERS: 567 AND 168
Good evening. Thank you for taking the time to listen tonight.
Every four years there is one day when the people have their say. In many ways the act of voting and having that vote counted is more important than who wins the majority of the votes that are cast, because whoever wins, the victor will know that the American people have spoken with a voice made mighty by the whole of its integrity.
On that one day every four years, the poor as well as the rich, the weak as well as the strong, women and men alike, citizens of every race, creed and color, of whatever infirmity or political temper, all are equal. They're equal, that is, so long as all of their votes are counted.
A vote is not just a piece of paper, a vote is a human voice, a statement of human principle, and we must not let those voices be silenced. Not for today, not for tomorrow, not for as long as this nation's laws and democratic institutions let us stand and fight to let those voices count.
If the people do not in the end choose me, so be it. The outcome will have been fair, and the people will have spoken. If they choose me, so be it. I would then commit and do commit to bringing this country together. But, whatever the outcome, let the people have their say, and let us listen.
Ignoring votes means ignoring democracy itself. And if we ignore the votes of thousands in Florida in this election, how can you or any American have confidence that your vote will not be ignored in a future election?
That is all we have asked since Election Day: a complete count of all the votes cast in Florida. Not recount after recount as some have charged, but a single, full and accurate count.
We haven't had that yet. Great efforts have been made to prevent the counting of these votes. Lawsuit after lawsuit has been filed to delay the count and to stop the counting for many precious days between Election Day and the deadline for having the count finished. And this would be over long since, except for those efforts to block the process at every turn. In one county, election officials brought the count to a premature end in the face of organized intimidation. In a number of counties, votes that had been fairly counted were simply set aside. And many thousands of votes that were cast on Election Day have not yet been counted at all, not once.
There are some who would have us bring this election to the fastest conclusion possible. I have a different view. I believe our Constitution matters more than convenience. So, as provided under Florida law, I have decided to contest this inaccurate and incomplete count, in order to ensure the greatest possible credibility for the outcome.
I agree with something Governor Bush said last night. We need to come together as a country to make progress. But how can we best achieve that? Our country will be stronger, not weaker, if our next president assumes office following a process that most Americans believe is fair.
In all our hands now rest the future of America's faith in our self-government. The American people have shown dignity, restraint and respect as the process has moved forward. This is America. When votes are cast, we count them. We don't arbitrarily set them aside because it's too difficult to count them.
In the end, in one of God's unforeseen paths, this election may point us all to a new common ground, for its very closeness can serve to remind us that we are one people, with a shared history and a shared destiny.
So this extraordinary moment should summon all of us to become what we profess to be: one indivisible nation. Let us pledge ourselves to the ideal that the people's will should be heard and heeded, and then, together, let us find what is best in ourselves and seek what is best for America.
Two hundred years from now, when future Americans study this presidential election, let them learn that Americans did everything they could to ensure that all citizens who voted had their votes counted. Let them learn that democracy was ultimately placed ahead of partisan politics in resolving a contested election. Let them learn that we were indeed a country of laws.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.