2000 RNC Speech
Philadelphia PA, August 1, 2000
I want to thank Governor Bush for that very, very kind introduction. And I am deeply honored to again have the privilege of addressing a Republican National Convention. In San Diego in 1996, I followed former First Lady Nancy Reagan to the lectern, after her moving tribute to President Reagan.
I am delighted this time to follow Laura Bush, a lady of passion, dedication and grace. She will be a great first lady. Do you agree with me or not?
She'll be great.
During the almost seven years since I retired from the Army, I've traveled all across America. I've seen people hard at work providing for their families, giving of themselves, taking care of each other. I've seen them creating wealth for the nation. I've seen an economy transforming itself to seize the promise of the information revolution.
I've met so many of our fellow citizens who believe in America to the depths of their heart and who are doing everything they can in their communities to make our nation that more perfect union spoken of in our Constitution.
I've been moved yet again to stand in awe of the American dream, which was given birth in this city over 200 years ago, a dream that I have been privileged to live.
I've met so many young people who believe in the dream. They're on a road to success. They're being raised in strong families, going to good schools, filling the finest universities, graduating and then going on to find their place and fortune in this blessed land of ours. Even the youngest of them, still in elementary school, are getting ready for the future, using computers, logging onto the Internet, while still enjoying the magic of childhood by curling up with a Harry Potter book.
There is so much that is so good and right in America tonight, my friends, that we ought to be very, very proud of this wonderful country of ours.
And yet, I cannot ignore and we cannot ignore other things I've seen in my travels. I've seen poverty. I've seen failing communities. I've seen people who've lost hope. Tragically, I've seen too many young Americans who were overwhelmed by the daily struggle just to survive. I've seen kids destroying themselves with drugs, kids who see violence and crime as the answer to their hopelessness, kids who no longer believe in themselves and who don't see a reason to believe in America. I've seen kids in utter despair. I've visited kids in jail doing adult time for the crimes they've committed.
They are part of a growing population of over 2 million Americans behind bars -- 2 million convicts, not consumers; 2 million Americans who while paying for their crimes are not paying taxes, are not there for their children and are not raising families. Most of them are men and the majority of those men are minorities.
The issue of race still casts a shadow over our society. Despite the impressive progress we have made over the last 40 years to overcome this legacy of our troubled past, it is still with us.
So with all the success we have enjoyed and with all the wealth we have created, we have much more work to do and a long way to go to bring the promise of America to every single American.
And with all we have to do on our national agenda, I am convinced that to deliver on that promise, we must begin with our children. So many of the problems we worry about go back to how we raised our children.
The problem is as simple and as direct as this: We either get back to the task of building our children the way we know how, or we're going to keep building jails in America. And it's time to stop building jails in America and get back to the task of building our children.
And listen, listen, listen very carefully. Our children are not the problem. They are our future. They are America's promise. The problem is us, if we fail to give them what they need to be successful in life. The burden is on us, not on our children.
That mission -- that mission of providing for our children has become the passion of my life because what I've seen over the last several years convinces me of the following truths: One, that if you want to solve our drug problem, you won't do it by trying to cut off supply and arresting pushers on the street corners alone. It will only be solved when we place into the heart of every child growing up in America the moral strength never to fall for the destructive lure of drugs. The strength.
We will only solve and cure this plague of drugs is when we have given to each and every one of our children the strength to just say -- and you've heard it before -- just say, "No. Not me. I won't do it. I've got too much to live for. I'll never do drugs."
And that's what we owe our children, to give them that strength to fight against the curse of drugs.
I believe that if you want to solve the problem of violence and crime on our streets, it begins with us teaching children to value life, their own and others, and to have respect for themselves and to have respect for others.
If you want young people to become contributing citizens and not convicts, then early in life we must give them the character and the confidence they need to succeed in this exciting new world that we are laying out before them.
And it begins in the home. It begins with caring, loving parents and family members who pass on the virtues of past generation, who live good lives which serve as models for their children. Children learn from watching the adults in their family and their lives, and where the family is broken or the where the family is not up to the task, the rest of us must step in to help as mentors, tutors, foster parents, friends to kids who desperately need responsible adults to show them the way.
Tens of thousands of our neighbors have already stepped forward, tens of thousands who realize that our children are a gift from God, not only to their parents, but to all of us. They belong to us all. We are all responsible for them.
We need to provide a safe place for those kids to learn and to grow, more clubs and after-school programs to protect them from the dangers that exist in our society and our streets. We need to surround them with more adults in this clubs who will keep them in play.
We are obliged to make sure that every child gets a healthy start in life. With all of our wealth and capacity, we just can't stand by idly.
We must make sure that every child in America has access to quality health care. We owe them nothing less. It has to be done. It is our responsibility to do that for our children.
As we are giving these necessities and other necessities to our children, let's ask them to also give something back to the community of which they are a part. Early in life, help them learn of the joy that comes from giving to others, help them learn that through service to others, service to community, they will put virtues in their heart that will make them absolutely beautiful adults when they grow up; and that what's important in life is giving to others, not whether your sneakers cost more than someone else's sneakers. That's the kind of value and virtue we have to put into the heart of our children. Let our children be part of the solution.
With character in their hearts, with nurturing adults in their lives, our youngsters will be ready for the schooling that will give them the education needed to win those jobs of the future.
There is work for all of us here to do -- parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, the government at all levels, the private sector, our great non-profits, our houses of worship, all joining in the crusade to point kids in the right direction of life.
And tonight, we focus on education, the keystone to it all. Governor Bush has rightly made children and education the centerpiece of his campaign for president. You heard him say it earlier, we can't leave any child behind.
Every child -- every child deserves and must receive a quality education. Because when you give a quality education to a child who believes in himself or herself, then even with the bleakest beginning in life, that child can make it. And once that child makes it and gets out into the workplace and is earning a decent living, you have broken the cycle of poverty and failure for that family forever. Education is the key to breaking that cycle of poverty and failure.
So many, many of our public schools are doing a fine job preparing our youngsters. I have been given no greater honor than to have had four public schools named after me, an honor that is greater than any medals I have received.
In those four schools and so many others that I visited, you've never seen better facilities, you've never seen more dedicated teachers, you've never seen more involved parents. It makes your heart pound with pride to see those great schools that we have in America.
But I've also seen too many schools that are failing. They are trapped in fossilized bureaucracies -- bureaucracies that have low expectations for children and consequently set low standards for them. These schools are failing our children, and they must be fixed, and they must be fixed now.
You know, if we truly believe -- if we truly believe they are all our children, then all of us must be willing to spend more to repair our schools and spend more to pay our teachers better. But we must also be open to new ideas. Let's not be afraid of standardized testing for students. Let's not be afraid of testing teachers' qualifications. Let's not be afraid of charter schools.
Let's not be afraid of using private scholarship money to give poor parents a choice that wealthy parents have.
Let's not be afraid of home schooling. Let's experiment prudently with school voucher programs to see if they help.
What are we afraid of?
Let's use innovation and competition, good old American innovation, good old American competition to help give our children the best education possible.
Why? You know, we invite skilled workers to come to America from all over the world to fill the good jobs that are waiting here. I think that's great. Immigration is part of our life's blood. It's part of the essence of who we are as Americans.
I am the son of immigrants. But I also want our kids here educated and trained for those jobs. We owe it to them, and we've got to get on with the task right now.
Governor Bush has shown in Texas in just a few short years what can be done for education. As governor, he ended social promotions for kids. He increased state funding by $8 billion. He put new textbooks in every school in the state of Texas. He strengthened standardized testing in all Texas public schools.
He insisted on teacher competency, and he expanded the charter school movement. Seventeen thousand Texas kids are now in charter school. Seventy-eight percent of those kids are minorities. Their parents had a choice, and they decided what was best for their children.
And the results -- the results in Texas have been dramatic.
The number of students in Texas passing all parts of the standardized tests since 1994, when Governor Bush came in the office, the number has increased by 51 percent.
Even -- even more exciting -- even more exciting, the number of minority students passing the tests has increased by 89 percent.
That's what we can do for our children.
He hasn't stopped there. He hasn't stopped there. To ensure a diverse college population, with the loss of affirmative action, Governor Bush has guaranteed acceptance at public universities to the top 10 percent of every high school graduating class in the state.
And above all -- above all -- he has insisted on accountability for results that will tell us whether we're getting our money's worth.
You see, Governor Bush -- Governor Bush has shown us that it works. It all comes together. Governor Bush doesn't just talk about reform, he reforms. And he as done it in Texas with education.
Governor Bush now offers the leadership that he has demonstrated in Texas to the nation. In pursuing education reform, as well as in all other parts of his agenda in Texas, Governor Bush has reached out to all Texans -- white, black, Latino, Asian, Native American.
He has been successful on bringing more and more minorities into the tent by responding to their deepest needs. Some call it compassionate conservatism. To me, it's just caring about people.
I believe he can do the same thing as president. I am convinced he will bring to the White House that same passion for inclusion. I know that he can help bridge our racial divides. I know that. Recently
Recently, Governor Bush addressed the annual meeting of the NAACP. He spoke to the delegates about his plans for housing and health and educational programs to help all Americans. He also spoke the truth to the delegates when he said that the party of Lincoln has not always carried the mantle of Lincoln. I talked with him again today and I know that with all his heart, Governor Bush welcomes the challenge. He wants the Republican Party to wear that mantle again.
But he knows and I know and all of you must know that it's going to take hard work.
He knows that that mantle will not simply be handed over, that it will have to be earned. The party must follow the governor's lead in reaching out to minority communities and particularly the African-American community.
And not just during an election year campaign. My friends, if we're serious about this it has to be a sustained effort, it must be every day, and it must be for real. The party must listen to and speak with all leaders of the black community, regardless of political affiliation or philosophy.
We must understand, my friends, we must understand that there is a problem for us out there. We must understand the cynicism that exists in the black community, the kind of cynicism that is created when, for example, some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education, but you hardly hear a whimper when it's affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax code with preferences for special interests. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. You can't make that case.
Overcoming the cynicism and mistrust that exists, and raising up that mantle of Lincoln, is about more -- it's much more about than just winning votes, it is about giving all minorities a competitive choice.
They deserve that choice. And if we give them that choice, it will be good for our party. But above all, it will be good for America, and we need to work to give them that choice.
Good for America -- that must be the measure for all that we do. I believe that's the measure that Governor Bush will use to guide his actions as president. Whether it's economic policy or military strategy or seeing what we can do to make our American family more inclusive, he will always try to do that which is good and right for America.
Ladies and gentlemen
Ladies and gentlemen, we stand at an historic turning point in world history. For the first time in almost a century, America does not face an enemy fueled by an ideology claiming to be superior to our beloved system of democracy, free enterprise and the rights of men and women to pursue their individual destinies.
We defeated communism. We defeated fascism. We defeated them on the field of battle, and we defeated them on the field of ideas.
The sick nations that still pursue the fool's gold of tyranny and weapons of mass destruction will soon find themselves left behind in the dust bin of history.
They are investing in their own demise as surely as the Soviet Union did by investing in the Red Army. They are of the past, and we are of the future. Count on it.
Today, we are the most powerful nation on earth -- militarily, economically, by any measure. We are that rarity in history, a trusted nation whose power is tempered by compassion, whose leadership is earned by example and whose foreign affairs will be guided by common interests and common sense.
The world is watching to see if all this power and wealth is just for the well-to-do, the comfortable, the privileged, or are we a nation that can make our dream real for all Americans so that all share in what we have been given by a generous God?
We must show to the rest of the world, the beauty and potential of democracy. Our greatest strength is the power of our example to be that shining city on the hill that Ronald Reagan spoke of and that the whole world looks up to.
To continue to be that place, we must all work together. We must reach down, back and across. All of us coming together to show the world what our American family can do. That is the challenge. This is the time. And in Governor George Bush, we have the leader.
Governor Bush -- Governor Bush is a man who believes deeply in this country. He is a man who comes from a family with a generations-long tradition of public service. He will bring character and integrity to the Oval Office.
He is a man of principle who will make partners and not enemies. He will use government to help where it makes sense and get rid of it where it doesn't.
He will win respect on the world stage by exemplifying the best ideals of America. He will not repeat the mistakes of the past and let our insurance policy, our armed forces, fall into disrepair. Ronald Reagan
Let me tell you something, Ronald Reagan and George Bush didn't let that happen, and I know that President George W. Bush will not let that happen either.
At his side as vice president will be a man I have known and respected for many years and with whom I shared many difficult days and nights during Desert Storm and other crises. He was a loyal and faithful steward of the young GIs entrusted to his care by the American people. Dick Cheney is one of the most distinguished and dedicated public servants this nation has ever had. He will be a superb vice president.
The Bush-Cheney team will be a great team for America. They will put our nation on a course of hope and optimism for this new century. The century historians will look back on and record not that it was the American century or the European century or the Asian century, instead let us pray that when they look back, they will call it the century of democracy, a time when America led the world that wants to be free to an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity.
For all our children's sake, above all, let us as a party strive from this moment on to make that century a reality.
Fellow Republicans, fellow Americans, let's elect George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Thank you very much and God bless America.