He then described Kerry as "a man who captured the conscience of the nation" and at no point during the introduction (except inadvertently while reading a Mary McGrory newspaper column about the hero) did he mention the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He closed by calling Kerry "a true Profile in Courage."
The crowd of more than 500 gave Kerry a standing ovation, except for the people at one table in the middle of the room who remained seated, and didn't even applaud.
Kerry was easy at the podium, with the kind of presence that few people can claim. His poise made the "eloquence" of the MC seem strained. He started his audience off lightly with a few jokes at his own expense (an old Kennedy trick), but gradually pulled them into his web and they became so engrossed they didn't even cough.
"The young man of 17 looks at the recruitment poster of Uncle Sam which says, 'I want you.' So he joins the army and learns how to kill in Vietnam and when he returns home he finds the country doesn't really want him at all. He can't find a job – Vietnam veterans make up the largest block of unemployment in the country – and if he's wounded, he has to go through the misery of the Veterans' Hospitals. If he's lost a limb, he has to wait months because of red tape to get an artificial arm or leg. And if it doesn't fit or doesn't work, he has to wait months again for another one.
"These men who have been taught to kill are going to learn to use a gun again if something isn't done to stop this war. When we were down in Washington a few weeks ago, I heard a vet say, 'I know how to do two things: be an accountant and kill ...; and they won't let me be an accountant.'
"And the government cares more about the legality of the veterans sleeping on the mall in Washington than about the legality of dropping one-and-a-half Hiroshimas on Vietnam. We kill 200,000 civilians a year in Vietnam and they have the gall to talk about a bloodbath if we leave.
"They have the gall to say only 35 were killed last week, but I'd like to know what comfort the grieving mother has when she learns her son was one of 'only' 35. We can't accept that, those of us who were over there, we can't accept only 35 casualties, because we remember their names. You see, we remember the names of our friends who were blown to bits and we can't understand why another young man has to lose his life to save his country's face.
"This country seems to have lost the moral guts to admit we were wrong and get out. Have we really lost our will to do what is right? Must we continue to do what is wrong when we know it was wrong?
"I prefer not to be totally pessimistic about those who have died without reason in Vietnam. I hope these sacrifices have taught us something for the future. I hope we never forget this scar...;"
The words and phrases flowed easily, and even when John Kerry talked about the veterans picking up their guns again it sounded so...;rational. Quotes from Bobby Kennedy, Edmund Burke mixed in easily.