The Manhattan skyline at his back, Vice President Dick Cheney (search) remembered the terrorist attacks on this city and promised that with a second term President Bush would be strong and steadfast in keeping the nation safe.
Traveling to historic Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants arrived to this country, Cheney spoke of the American dream. He stayed far removed from the tens of thousands of protesters who turned out on a sweltering Sunday to urge defeat of the Bush-Cheney ticket.
Speaking to local supporters, Cheney said it is the duty of his generation to keep the nation safe for generations to come.
"A sure reminder of that is the skyline of this great city, which was altered so violently on Sept. 11, 2001," said Cheney, who spoke with the lower Manhattan skyline sprawling behind him. Missing were the Twin Towers that fell that day.
"We remember what we don't see," said New York Gov. George Pataki (search).
Cheney arrived at Ellis Island with his wife, Lynne, and three granddaughters on a tugboat dubbed Liberty IV. Sunday was also the Cheneys' 40th wedding anniversary; they celebrated at a private party a night earlier.
The welcome rally for the vice president was billed as a kickoff to the convention, which convenes Monday across New York Harbor in Madison Square Garden.
"It's a special honor to kick things off here on this island, the gateway to America for so many people," said Cheney.
He recalled President Bush's trip to New York in the days after the attacks and his promise to retaliate.
"He is a man of his word, as the Taliban were the first to find out," he said. "My job here this week and in the two months ahead is to tell people all across America about how strong and steadfast our president is. ... He is exactly the leader we need for these times and we need him for four more years."
The vice president also recounted the story of an Italian grandmother who sent her son off to the United States, to pass through the buildings of Ellis Island.
"The gold you will find will not be in the streets. It will be in the dreams you realize," Cheney quoted her as saying.
"America is still the land of golden dreams," he said while facing the Great Hall, the centerpiece of Ellis Island, where about 22 million immigrants were processed between 1892 and 1924.
At least a third of today's Americans can trace their heritage to someone named on a steamship manifest recorded here. Cheney is not among them, though. His ancestors came in 1635, as part of the Puritan migration from England.
Cheney spoke to a relatively small gathering of a few hundred people, all of whom were invited by the local Republican Party. The crowd did not fill the fenced-in grassy lawn set aside for supporters, and volunteers implored people in the back to move to a spot in front of TV cameras.
Later Sunday, Cheney visited the podium at Madison Square Garden, where he'll deliver his acceptance speech Wednesday evening. "Four score and seven years ago ..." he intoned, practicing reading from the teleprompter. Lynne Cheney, who is to introduce her husband, also practiced. "It works. It feels good," she said.
Unlike many vice presidential candidates, Cheney plans to be on hand for most of the convention, watching the opening session Monday morning and each evening's proceedings inside Madison Square Garden.
He also plans to visit his home state of Wyoming's delegation and the Republican Jewish Coalition, as well as meet privately with friends and donors. And he'll be putting final touches on his speech Wednesday accepting the nomination.
In his speech, Cheney plans to offer a personal tribute to Bush and his leadership and will contrast that with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's record during 20 years in the Senate, campaign spokeswoman Anne Womack said.
Cheney regularly has attacked Kerry in public appearances, although he did not mention him by name on Sunday.