The last 19 days have been extraordinary ones. As our nation watched, we were all reminded on a daily basis of the importance of each and every vote. We were reminded of the strength of our democracy, that while our system is not always perfect, it is fundamentally strong and far better than any other alternative.
The election was close, but tonight, after a count, a recount and yet another manual recount, Secretary Cheney and I are honored and humbled to have won the state of Florida, which gives us the needed electoral votes to win the election.
We will therefore undertake the responsibility of preparing to serve as America's next president and vice president.
During the past year and a half of the presidential campaign, I've had the privilege of traveling America and meeting so many of my fellow Americans: the teachers who mold our future, the volunteers who take time to help neighbors in need, the police and firemen who risk their lives to protect ours, the workers who keep our economy strong and growing.
These experiences have confirmed that ours is a strong and vibrant nation, full of people whose hearts are bigger than even our most bountiful harvest.
As our country ends its Thanksgiving weekend, we have so much to be thankful for, beginning with the fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of every America: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And with our freedom comes responsibility, for all of us. Once our elections are behind us, once our disagreements are expressed, we have a responsibility to honor our Constitution and laws, and come together to do the people's business.
Two hundred years ago, after a difficult election, President Thomas Jefferson reminded his fellow citizens that every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.
Vice President Gore and I had our differences of opinion in this election, and so did the many candidates who ran for the United States Congress. But there is broad agreement on some important principles.
Republicans and Democrats agree we need to provide an excellent education for every child at every public school.
Democrats and Republicans agree that our seniors deserve a secure retirement and a prescription drug coverage in Medicare. Already there is some bipartisan groundwork on efforts to reform Social Security and Medicare. We have a duty to find common ground to reform these vital programs for the greatest generation and for future generations.
Republicans and Democrats want a strong military to keep the peace and a foreign policy that reassures our friends and restrains our enemies.
There is growing consensus in Congress and America on the need to reduce taxes by reducing the marriage penalty and eliminating the death tax.
And I will work with members of the Congress from both prties to reduce tax rates for everyone who pays income taxes in America.
Progress on these issues will require a new tone in Washington. The path to progress is consideration and fair-dealing. I've worked with Democrats and Republicans in Texas, and I will do so in Washington. I will listen and I will respect different points of view, and, most of all, I will work to unite our great land.
This has been a hard-fought election, a healthy contest for American democracy. But now that the votes are counted, it is time for the votes to count.
The vice president's lawyers have indicated he will challenge the certified election results. I respectfully ask him to reconsider.
Until Florida's votes were certified, the vice president was working to represent the interests of those who supported him. I did not agree with his call for additional recounts, but I respected his decision to fight until the votes were finally certified. Now that they are certified, we enter a different phase. If the vice president chooses to go forward, he is filing a contest to the outcome of the election, and that is not the best route for America.
All of us in this election fought for our views. Now we must live up to our principles. We must show our commitment to the common good, which is bigger than any person or any party. We cannot change yesterday, but we share a responsibility for tomorrow.
Time runs short, and we have a lot of work to do. So tonight I'm naming Secretary Dick Cheney to chair our transition effort, and Secretary Andy Card to serve as my chief of staff.
I've asked Secretary Cheney to work with President Clinton's administration to open a transition office in Washington. And we look forward to a constructive working relationship throughout this transition.
The end of an election is the beginning of a new day. Together we can make this a positive day of hope and opportunity for all of us who are blessed to be Americans.
Thank you very much, and God bless America.