Speech given at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on October 24, 2004 in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

America has always been driven by one powerful idea: with hard work and a moral compass, we can give our children a better life. Our economy and even more, our society, are built on that basic compact.

And that compact goes all the way back to the moral teachings of the great preachers and educators who taught the founders of our nation to believe that we could create a great and shining City on a Hill here in America.

Not long ago, that middle-class dream was within reach of all those willing to work for it. But today, America's great middle class is in danger because of leadership that doesn't share their values and won't fight for their way of life.

Tell me this: Is it worthy of the good society to, not once, not twice, but three times deny health care to millions of children while giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans - those who earn more than $200,000 a year?

Are we living up to our values when we pass on the costs of a war to future generations instead of asking the wealthiest among us to bear a measure of the wartime sacrifice?

Are we living up to our values when government creates deficits so massive that they threaten the Social Security on which millions of our seniors depend for dignity and decency in their retirement?

How can we accept anyone breaking the fundamental compact with those who worked all their lives, raised our families, defended our nation, and lifted America to a place in the world never known before?

Are we living up to our values - are we serving the common good - by rewarding companies for shipping jobs overseas?

For me, this campaign is about more than a set of policies; it is about a set of ideals: fairness and opportunity, stewardship and community, concern for the middle class and the poor, and the on-going struggle for the security of our nation and a more peaceful world.

So today, I want to share with you my vision for America and the values that inspire it. For months now, you have heard President Bush and me debate the critical foreign and domestic challenges before us. There are clear differences between us. And while I am convinced that I offer the new direction and the fresh start America needs at this critical moment, today I want to talk about the foundations of belief and commitment that brought me to public service, that have sustained me in the best and worst of times, and that I will carry with me everyday as president.

It all began with my parents who, in addition to making sure I learned and lived my faith, also taught me at an early age that we are all put on this earth for something greater than ourselves. What they taught me was truly put to the test when I was in Vietnam. Faith was as much a part of our daily lives as the battle itself. Some of my closest friends were killed. I prayed. And I even questioned how all the terrible things I'd seen fit into God's plan.

But I got through it. I came home with a sense of hope and a belief in a higher purpose. For more than 30 years, as a soldier, a prosecutor, a senator, and now as a candidate for president, I have tried to live that belief. And for the past two years, I have had the privilege of meeting people like you all across this land -- people who love their families, love their country, and are determined to build a better life for their kids. The single mother who lies awake worrying that her child's health care might cost more than she makes in a month. Moms and dads who save and save and still come up short when they get a bill for college or child care that's higher than they thought. The families hoping and praying that loved ones serving our country a world away will be safe in battle and soon return home. The factory workers whose jobs were sent overseas and who now have to take two jobs just to earn what they used to make.

In the Book of James we are taught: "It is not enough, my brother to say you have faith when there are no deeds.Faith without works is dead."

For me, that means having and holding to a vision of a society of the common good, where individual rights and freedoms are connected to our responsibility to others. It means understanding that the authentic role of leadership is to advance the liberty of each of us and the good that can come to all of us, when we work together as one united community.

Catholics call this solidarity. We simply mean that as children of the same God, we share a common destiny. We express our humanity by reaching out to our fellow citizens, and indeed, to all our brothers and sisters in this country and on this earth. It means that the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties are not felt in isolation, they are shared by all. The anxieties of hard-pressed families are as much in our hearts as those who enjoy much more comfort.

Those values will guide me as president. I will put middle class families and those struggling to join them ahead of the interests of the well-to-do and the well-connected. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with success. But if we mean what we say when we talk about lifting up the good society, then we have an obligation to give everyone the chance to succeed.

It's time to stop making middle-class families work harder for less while paying more and more for health care, college, and all the necessities of life.