Good afternoon. I'm Al Gore, and I'd like to tell you about myself. I know a lot about hardship, because I came into this world as a poor black child in a tiny town in the backwoods of Tennessee. I was born in a log cabin that I built with my own hands. I taught myself to read by candlelight and helped support my 16 brothers and sisters by working summers as a deck hand on a Mississippi River steamboat. My mother taught me the value of education, so every day, I would walk 5 miles to a one-room schoolhouse.
I was a mischievous, fun loving scamp, thought I never dreamed that one day, my youthful escapades would serve as the inspiration for "Huckleberry Finn."
Back then, black folks in the south were second-class citizens. One day, a traveling minister came through town, and I asked him if anyone was ever going to do something to guarantee civil rights for all Americans. Well, I guess I made an impression. You see, the minister's name was Martin Luther King, Jr.
My father was a United States Senator. He once perched me on his knee and said, "Son, if you work hard and listen to your mama, someday you can live in a hotel in Washington, D.C., and go to an exclusive prep school."
But life of privilege was not for me. After getting my high school diploma, I took a job in a hot, dirty textile mill. I was so appalled at the treatment of the workers there that I organized a union. Later, that experience inspired a movie - which is why, to this day, my close friends at the AFL-CIO call me "Norma Rae."
When word got out what an 18 year old factory worker had done, Harvard called and offered me a scholarship. I captained the hockey team to four consecutive national championships, but I also played football and was good enough to win the Heisman Trophy.
During my college years, I lived in a housing project and moonlighted playing lead guitar for a little rock band. You may have heard of it-the Rolling Stones. But there was a war going on, and I felt I had to serve my country. So I enlisted in the U. S. Army and went to Vietnam. I was deeply opposed to the war, but I did my duty as a soldier and came back home with the Medal of Honor and the Croix de Guerre.
When I got back, I took a long journey across this great land of ours. I've crossed the deserts bare, man, I've breathed the mountain air, man, I've traveled, I've done my share, man, I've been everywhere. And the people I met at truck stops and campgrounds and homeless shelters on that journey all said the same thing: "Al, we need you in Washington." I knew they were right, but first I had to take care of some other business--building the World Trade Center, founding the Audubon Society, doing the clinical research that proved smoking caused cancer, and coming up with the recipe for Mrs. Field's chocolate chip cookies. (Let's not forget inventing the Internet)
Finally, I deferred to the demands of the people of Tennessee and allowed them to elect me to the House of Representatives and the Senate. And then one winter day nearly nine years ago, for no particular reason, I answered the call of the people once again and took the oath of office as Vice President of the United States. Since then, I've been part of the most successful administration in American history. Many times Bill Clinton has been pondering some grave decision and has asked me what to do. And when I would give him my thoughts, he would invariable say, "Of course. That's brilliant. Why didn't I think of that?" During the darkest days of the impeachment battle, the president told me he only wished he had listened when I told him to stay away form that dark-haired intern.
So after I decided to run for president, I sat down with him and asked if he had any suggestions about how to conduct my campaign. And Bill Clinton gave me a few simple words of advice-words I'll never forget. He looked me in the eye and he said, "Al, just tell the truth, it's always worked for me."