Sen. John McCain accepted the Republican nomination for President Thursday, telling the American people he "will stand on your side and fight for your future."
"I don’t mind a good fight. For reasons known only to God, I’ve had quite a few tough ones in my life," he said. "But I learned an important lesson along the way. In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test. I fight for Americans. I fight for you."
He talked movingly about his military record and how his experience as a POW in Vietnam changed his life.
"I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s," he said. "I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s."
He praised his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin saying, "I’ve found just the right partner to help me shake up Washington."
He countered Democratic talking points that Palin doesn’t have the experience to be vice president, playing up her record of reform and bipartisanship as governor of Alaska.
"She has executive experience and a real record of accomplishment," McCain said. "She’s tackled tough problems like energy independence and corruption. She’s balanced a budget, cut taxes, and taken on the special interests. She’s reached across the aisle and asked Republicans, Democrats and Independents to serve in her administration."
To huge cheers from the convention delegates he said: "But I can’t wait until I introduce her to Washington. And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big spending, do nothing, me first, country second Washington crowd: change is coming.
Unlike Palin’s address on Wednesday night, McCain spoke little about his opponent Sen. Barack Obama, pointing out policy differences on several issues but without the sharp jabs that Palin landed on the Illinois Democrat.
On energy, he charged that "Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. But Americans know better than that. We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and to restore the health of our planet."
He also pointed out differences between himself and Obama on education policy.
"Sen. Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I’m President, they will," he said.
During the address, several demonstrators disrupted the proceedings. McCain stayed cool while the delegates shouted down the protestors with chants of ‘USA, USA, USA."
"Please don’t be diverted by the ground noise and static," McCain ad-libbed.
McCain returned over and over again to the theme that he was a fighter. "I’ve fought corruption, and it didn’t matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans." And later he said, "I fight to restore the pride and principles of our party."
At the start of his address, McCain gave credit to President Bush, who addressed the convention by video earlier this week, saying, "I’m grateful to the President for leading us in those dark days following the worst attack on American soil in our history, and keeping us safe from another attack many thought was inevitable."