Big Turnout For Kerry Speech


    GRAND RAPIDS — A huge group of enthusiastic supporters, estimated by city police as approaching 25,000, wildly welcomed Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic Party presidential candidate, and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, to downtown today.

    Kerry, who spoke for roughly 40 minutes from a platform on the north side of Calder Plaza, used the theme “Help is on the Way” to talk about the Iraq war, fighting terrorism, education, the environment, family values and the economy.

    “We’re going to put more people to work in jobs that pay more,” he said.

    The senator from Massachusetts told the crowd that he would invest more dollars in the auto industry and manufacturing, with much of those funds to come from eliminating the current tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

    Kerry also said he would erase the tax loopholes that make it profitable for U.S. firms to close plants here and produce overseas. In addition, he pledged to negotiate for labor and environmental standards in all future trade agreements made with foreign nations.

    Kerry said he would lower the cost of health care for businesses and individuals by taking catastrophic coverage out of the private system, a plan that he said took him eight months to put together.

    “We are going to stop being the only nation in the industrialized world who thinks health care is only for the wealthy and the elected,” he said.

    Kerry said his tax plan would cut tax payments for 98 percent of Americans and 99 percent of U.S. companies. He also remarked that his energy policy would “liberate” the nation from foreign oil, but didn’t provide any details on how he would accomplish that.

    Lastly, Kerry promised to keep every American safe and not put one U.S. soldier in harm’s way unless it was absolutely necessary.

    “I defended this nation as a young man and I will defend it as President of the United States,” he said. “I can fight a tougher and smarter war on terrorists. Working with other countries is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”

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