Thank you. As someone who knows all 6 foot 4 inches of my dad best-6 foot 6 if you count the hair-I'm here to share some secrets.
Over the years, I've come to know him in many ways-through the silly moments, when he laughs with his head thrown back and his shoulders rocking, and through sad moments such as when my grandmother lay dying and also through warm moments when he enveloped me in that Dad hug that overwhelmed me with a feeling of safety.
People ask why Alex and I are so close to our dad-especially since he loved to mortify us when we were little by showing up to our sports games in a bright orange hunting hat and cheered what seemed just a tad too loudly. As I've thought about it, I realize it is because he and our mother have given us great gifts: a willing ear, unwavering respect for our choices, and unconditional love.
During the course of this campaign, I've heard people talk about John Kerry the father and John Kerry the public servant as if they were two people divided. But, I can assure you all they are truly one and the same. I know his values-revealed in quiet 11 p.m. phone calls of frustration from what he's seen at work, or the simple reminder that we never turn our backs on those in need. What drives my father to serve is exactly what has made this public servant the father I'm proud of, look up to, and love.
I would like to give you all an inside scoop on this past December. I traveled with my father almost every day of that long, cold month. And I promise you there was not one moment where he doubted his ability to win. Not one week when he lost his fight. He was convinced when others were not. He had the courage to take risks and to fight for his beliefs when others may have given up. He never wavered, he never faltered and he stayed the course.
In that snowy month at a Derry, N.H., chili feed, my father looked to the packed crowd and said, "I want you to look at my heart, my mind and my gut and ask yourself, what kind of president will I be?" It is an important question. What will guide the conscience of a man in his toughest hours, amid the hardest decisions?
Here's my answer. My father loves this country and is ready to lead it. He believes in challenging oneself to dream and to follow. He believes that fear is limiting, while determination, innovation and optimism will allow us to surpass our own best hopes. And at my father's core is integrity.
I was reminded of this one fall day two years ago. My grandmother was ailing, and no longer able to leave her bed. She loved autumn, and my father wanted to find a way to bring the foliage to her. Together, we devised a plan that involved copper wire, collected leaves and a little imagination. I watched my 6'4" father hunch over a tiny 8" copper tree. And I watched the focus and the love with which he twisted the wire into a trunk, teasing out the branches and finally weaving the foliage into a rounded tree top. And I noticed the gleam in my grandmother's eye as her son brought a little bit of autumn to her bedside.
A little while later, he told her his plan to run for president. With a sigh of relief, she said "It's about time." And then she smiled, and said, "Johnny, remember integrity." But it was not so much a reminder as a value she knew her son shared. A statement of need for the times we face today.
We are in a season of great possibility and great hope. And for me that possibility is marked by a tree now on my father's desk. The leaves are a little worn but the message is still strong. It is one of promise, and hope, of a willing ear and unconditional love, of unwavering respect, and the most important quality which makes all else possible (and I assure you is in his gut) - integrity. And now I'd like to introduce my sister, Alexandra Kerry.
It's great to be here tonight. It hasn't been easy to sift through years of memories about my father and find those few that might best tell you who John Kerry really is. Let me just begin with one July day when Vanessa and I were kids. It's a silly story, but it's true, and it's one of my favorite memories of my father.
We were standing on a dock waiting for a boat to take us on a summer trip. Vanessa, the scientist, had packed all her animals including her favorite hamster. Our over-zealous golden retriever got tangled in his leash and knocked the hamster cage off the dock. We watched as Licorice, the unlucky hamster bubbled down to a watery doom. That might have been the end of the story. But my dad jumped in, grabbed an oar, fished the cage from the water, hunched over the soggy hamster and began to administer CPR. There were some reports of mouth-to-mouth, but, I admit that's probably a trick of memory. He was never quite right after that, but Licorice lived. Like I said, it may sound silly. We still laugh about it today. But, to us it was serious and that's what mattered to my father.
Years later, when I was driving back to college with him, brooding as only a nineteen-year-old can, my father told me to look outside. He said, "Ali, this is a beautiful day. Feel the sun. Look at the country you live in." The passion of his words makes me remember them, still, ten years later. He said: "I know men your exact age, who thought they had the same future you have. Whose families were never born, who never again walked on American soil. They don't feel this sun. Ali," he said. "If there's something you don't like, something that needs to be changed, change it. But never, ever give up. Remember that you are alive. And that you are an American. Those two things make you the luckiest girl in the world."
Even now, I look back at that and think about what my dad's been through in his life. Because he's quiet about those things, my sister and I had to sneak upstairs, when we were kids, to read his letters from Vietnam. Who knew a 23 year-old could have seen so much, so young?
To every little girl her father is a hero. It's taken some getting used to, that my father actually is one. And not just in the obvious ways. Because he likes to listen as much as he likes to talk; because he's studious in the way someone is when everything in the whole world interests them; because he leads by example; because he trusts people with the truth and doesn't pander or play to our baser instincts.
And let me tell you this, when he loves you-as he loves me and my sister and his family, as he loves the men who fought beside him-there is no sacrifice too great. When he cares for you, as he cares for this country, there are no surer hands, and no wiser heart.
And so when he teaches you, by the life he has led, as he has taught me and my sister all of our lives, there is no better lesson: That the future of this country is not only his life's work. It's mine and yours. It is all of our life's work, all of us.
And if we want our children to breathe clean air and drink clean water, if we want them to control their own bodies, if we want them to protect the liberties and opportunities that are our birthrights, we must be involved in the struggle. Because on that day, my father was right, we are the luckiest people in the world. We walk on this soil. We feel this sun. And we are Americans. And now, we'd like to present, our dad, John Kerry!
In 1995, John Kerry became part of my life when he married my mother, and it didn't take me very long to see that he is an incredible man.
I've seen him as a husband, a father, a public servant, a sportsman, and a stepfather one could only dream of, while he sees me as the person that I am.
What does it say about someone who is able to be all those things? What must he possess to excel at every one of them?
He must be loving, he must be devoted, he must be humble, compassionate, decisive, and a peacemaker, especially if you know my brothers and sisters.
When John Kerry came to our lives, we knew we would be stronger at home because he commands resect and he knows how to give it.
This is the John Kerry I know: my stepfather, my friend, and the next president of the United States.
Just kidding. It's only Chris.
HEINZ: My brother and I now have the pleasure to introduce two remarkable people we have grown to know and love and admire over these last nine years, our two sisters, Alex and Vanessa Kerry.