As Elizabeth and I look back on the past year, we feel blessed to have you as a supporter and a friend. When I think of what we've accomplished together — the candidates we've supported, the initiatives we've championed, the thousands of lives we've touched — I know that none of it would have been possible without you. You've been one of our most vital supporters. You've made generous contributions, which are the very lifeblood of a grassroots organization like this one, and you have been right there with us as we've worked to reduce poverty and to get our country back on track. Elizabeth and I thank you for all that you've done, and we are inspired by your firm commitment to the many causes we share.
I want to start by letting you know that Elizabeth is doing very well. She completed her treatment earlier this year, and she feels great and has her energy back. Throughout this ordeal your compassion and loving support have given us great courage and strength. You've become a part of our family, and we're so glad that you've been there for us in our time of need.
I want to talk a little about the issues we care about so deeply. Sadly, millions of Americans still suffer in poverty every day, and it took a disaster like Hurricane Katrina to remind many Americans how dangerous and tragic this poverty is. But you and I have known about the true nature of poverty for a long time, and that's why we've been working tirelessly all year to shine a spotlight on poverty around the country, especially among working Americans. Together, we have pushed for important anti-poverty initiatives like increasing the minimum wage and expanding the earned-income tax credit, and in the coming year we will continue to push for these initiatives and others so that thousands of working Americans have a real shot at getting out of poverty and creating safe, stable lives for their families. Fighting poverty is the most basic and important cause we share, and Elizabeth and I are so glad that you've joined us in that fight.
In fact, this fight against poverty is so important that I believe it will become the cause of the next generation. That's why this past fall I went on a college tour to encourage students to join us in this fight. At ten campuses across the country I spoke to young people about the ways that we can work together to lift thousands of working Americans above the poverty line, and I encouraged them to apply their tremendous energy and creativity to our all-important effort. I knew that young people would be particularly eager to get involved, but I admit I was overwhelmed by the support I saw. Thousands of students signed up, and the devotion they've shown so far has been amazing.
Thanks to your generous support I've also been able to commit my time to traveling the country, rallying our fellow Democrats and telling others why I think America needs the Democratic Party. We know that it's important to project our message all over the country — not just in our Democratic strongholds — because we know that in every state there are Americans who are eager to fight poverty and to get this country back on track. Like you, I believe that our Party fights for the core American values — educating our children, expanding health care, governing with integrity, recognizing the dignity and honor of hard work, and making sure our workers have a voice at work. When I speak about these values in states around the country, I know that I speak for you as well, and that makes my voice stronger. Thank you for always being right there by my side.
I'm also glad that you've committed to strengthening our Democratic Party from the ground up, and together we have helped raise over $4.5 million to help elect Democratic candidates around the country. This money we've raised is so vital. With these candidates in office, we can pass crucial reforms at every level — reforms that will fight poverty, improve health care and education, and raise the minimum wage. These candidates will also serve as the future leaders of our Democratic Party, providing a foundation at the state level that we can build on nationwide, and that's why our Raising the States program is so important. All Democrats want our Party to be stronger, but you set yourself apart — you made the Party stronger by stepping forward and supporting our candidates. I am so proud of what we've done through the Raising the States campaign, and you should be proud to know that none of it could have happened without your generous contributions.
It's amazing to think about how much we've already accomplished together. Just this past September we started the College for Everyone pilot program. This program helps low-income North Carolina high school students in a poor rural county by offering them a bargain: if they earn admission to participating state universities or community colleges, if they pledge to work at least ten hours a week during their first semester (either at a job or doing community service), and if they pledge to abstain from alcohol and drugs and stay out of trouble, then we will pay for their tuition, books and fees. I feel like we are already making a difference for these kids and I can't wait to see the paths they decide to take once they finish college.
We've also done some great work abroad. I had a chance to meet with British leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when I visited London earlier this year to discuss the fight against poverty in America and in Britain. I traveled to India in November to see how the Indian government is dealing with the rampant poverty there, and I had an opportunity to discuss the issue in-depth with not only the leaders of India, but also with a number of Indians who struggle with poverty every day. And on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on American-Russian Relations, I traveled to Moscow with Jack Kemp to determine how America should help Russia become a more open, free, and democratic society.
These are only a few of the many things we have accomplished together over the past year. I'm so proud to think of how many lives we've touched with our efforts, and you should be proud to know that your generous contributions made these efforts possible. I thank you for the tremendous work you've done, and I look forward to the even greater work we have yet to do.
God Bless you, and I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.