The following is a transcript of a speech, as prepared for delivery, by Doug Stern, Cincinnati, Ohio Firefighter, at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, September 4, 2012.
Hello, my name is Doug Stern. I am an Ohio firefighter and an unlikely choice to be addressing you tonight, because for the vast majority of my voting life I have been a Republican. So why am I here?
Well, something happened recently. The Republican Party left people like me. As a member of the middle class, they left me; and they certainly left me as a public employee. Somewhere along the way, being a public employee—someone who works for my community—made me a scapegoat for the GOP. Thank goodness we have leaders like President Obama and Vice President Biden who still believe that public service is an honorable calling. When I go to work, when there is an emergency, I want someone on my crew who has my back, someone who helps me get the job done, someone who is willing to go through hell with me. I expect the same out of my elected leaders.
And that's what we get with Joe Biden and Barack Obama. From maintaining grant programs so fire departments nationwide have safe staffing and equipment, to supporting our right to have our voices heard on the job through collective bargaining, President Obama has had our backs. President Obama has kept thousands of firefighters, police officers, and first responders on the job. And he's sent plans to Congress to keep even more of us working. The Republicans must stop obstructing progress and do the right thing for the middle class. They must pass the president's plan.
For me this election is about who respects my profession and my family. I saw firsthand what the Republicans thought of me and my fellow public employees when last year Ohio legislators passed Senate Bill 5 in an attempt to silence us. And we all know how that ended up! While they were not successful cutting our collective bargaining rights, they were successful in cutting funding for cities and towns. We've watched these so-called leaders claim they didn't raise taxes, all the while knowing that they are forcing the local governments to raise those taxes or cut essential services, including police and fire. We feel their disdain for our right to voice concerns about safety matters, not just for ourselves but for the public as well, when the right-wing extremists threaten to take away the ability to negotiate for how much I make and the type of health care benefits I can provide my family.
But let me tell you what else we feel. We feel unified and stronger than ever. We've seen that the people of Ohio are on to their parlor tricks. Last year, 63 percent of Ohio voters took a stand with public employees and rejected Governor Kasich's Senate Bill 5. They said enough! And this year they have the opportunity to say the same all across the country. Enough of the vilification of people who work! Enough of the disrespect for the middle class! Enough of their far-right agenda!
We have a clear choice in this campaign. Firefighters have adopted a simple theory: support those who support us. That's why this former Republican stands here today with you. In November we will do exactly that, and support President Obama and Vice President Biden. Because they have our backs! And it is our turn to have theirs!
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.