Newport High School
April 21, 1999
|I want to thank everybody that worked together
to make this morning possible. I think you can imagine what I was going
through the last couple of weeks anticipating it, wondering if anyone back
in Newport, Kentucky, my hometown, back in Newport High School - Go Wildcats!
- whether anybody would really care that I was running for the Presidency
of the United States.
I want to begin by thanking all the local officials that have helped make this morning possible - the mayor, the principal of this school have helped to the Nth degree. The good people on this platform today - former Governor Nunn, I am honored by all your involvement and grateful to each and every one of you. I assured the principal that because of his hard work, I will return the library book.
I don't know if you had a chance yet to meet my family formally, if they will please stand - my wife Carol, my daughter Sarah, my daughter Elyse, my son Zachary, and my mother Betty Bauer. And I believe we also have several other family members here, people I seldom see and wish that I saw more often. Cousins, second cousins, and I believe my Aunt Jewel is here - thank you. My aunt is recovering from a stroke and for her to be here is a very special thing. So I want to say to each and every one of you that I love you and the fact that you are all here means more to me than you'll ever know - God bless you all. I also want to thank Tete Turner, my old friend from Newport for that wonderful introduction.
I came here this morning with a fairly typical political speech. The kind of speech that many people will be giving in the weeks ahead as they decide whether to run for the Presidency of the United States or not. And that speech has been given to members of the press and there were a number of them that flew with us on the plane this morning and we have given each of them a copy of the speech. I want to make it clear that I stand behind every word of it.
In that speech I talk about the need to have lower taxes on the American family. About the need to downsize government and the need to get bureaucracy off the backs of the American people. I talk about us having an American foreign policy that we can be proud of again. A foreign policy that recognizes that China is in fact going to be the major challenge that we face in the next century. I talk about the need to rebuild America's defenses -- so that the young people here today can live in a secure country and have their families and bring their children into the world. I talk about all the issues that are going to be central to this campaign.
But last night, along with probably every American, I watched the news. I read the headlines this morning and I decided that given what happen yesterday in America, the speech I intended to give today would not have risen to the occasion.
We saw yesterday at another high school in another state in the union. American children dead. Not in Kosovo, but in Colorado. And it has been a site that we have seen too often in this country. A site that breaks our hearts. A site that has us asking ourselves "What happened to America, and what are we going to do about it?" And it is because of the things that happened in places like Littleton, Colorado, that I am here today, that I have been involved in politics, that I want to have something to say about our country and where it is going.
So I have thrown out the speech I intended to give. Instead, I want to talk to you about this country, just a few months away from a new century, and I want to ask you to join with me in asking ourselves whether or not America can still be a shining city on a hill or whether we are going to continue to sink into the despair, the violence and the death that all too often fills our television sets.
You know for the last 99 years in this country, this incredible century we've been in, America has been able to do unbelievable things. We were able to lead the free world twice to defeat the great isms of this century - Nazism in WWII. My father talked about that war, sometimes around the dinner table. He told me unbelievable things that he saw. He told me unbelievable things that he had to do in service to his country. And that war was over and men like my dad came home, perhaps some of you or your relatives, and they just wanted to begin their careers and their jobs and their families. But before they could do that we found ourselves challenged again.
This time in that great stare-down with the Soviet Union and communist China that came to be known as the Cold War. And once again, good and decent people, like those here today, rose to the occasion. We drew a line in the sand in Europe and in Asia and we said to the Communists "this far and no further. We will be the watchmen on the tower for liberty. We will make the sacrifices that need to be made."
We spent a lot of money to win the Cold War, but we did something else much more important than that. We sent young men from places like Newport and Bellevue and Dayton and Fort Thomas and from communities all across this country and we sent them to places like Pork Chop Hill and Denang and Kaysung. And there are many of them, blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh that paid the ultimate price for liberty. When the history books are written for this century, they will record that what our sons did was one of the most noble sacrifices that the world has ever seen. They didn't do it for money, or for power, or for prestige, they did it for someone else's liberty. It was a noble thing, it was an important thing, and it was what America has always done.
And it's not just that our military has prevailed in this century, our values have prevailed. American values are sweeping the globe. That's why ten years ago when students much like those of you here today stood up against their communist masters in China. That's why they waved copies of our Declaration of Independence. They had never been here before. They had not seen America, but they knew that it was our founding principles that were the only hope for them if they wanted to be free men and women. Many of those students died in that square waving the copy of our Declaration of Independence.
Our technology this century is second to none. Our space program is the wonder of the world. One accomplishment after another. The historians are calling this the American Century. It's not an exaggeration, it is the American century.
But you and I know that in spite of all those accomplishments. In spite of a Dow Jones Industrial average over 10,000, a growing economy, in spite of all those things to our credit, you and I know there is something wrong in America.
You open up the same newspapers I do every morning. Americans all over the country read the same stories. Maybe they see the story out of Jasper, Texas where a black man was dragged to his death by a couple of thugs only because he was black. All the human rights laws, the affirmative action laws, all the things we have tried to do and still in our country this hate that divides us from one anther.
You probably opened up the newspaper as I did a year ago and saw that story out of New Jersey. About a nice American suburban girl who went to her Junior prom, excused herself and went to the ladies room, where she gave birth and threw her baby into the trashcan, cleaned herself, went back into the dance, and had the last dance with her boyfriend. I saw that story and the first question that came to my mind "Where did a nice suburban girl, where did she get taught to treat her own flesh and blood like a styrofoam cup? What was the poisoned air she had to breathe to think that that was okay?"
Maybe you open up the newspaper and see names of little American cities you have never heard of before. Places like Paducha, Kentucky, Jonesboro, Arkansas, Pearl, Mississippi, and yesterday, Littleton, Colorado. Where American kids have killed American kids. I remember when the story broke out of Jonesboro, Arkansas; I was on the road someplace. I remember the immediate anger I felt towards those two boys. I imagined the hard look you expect to see on criminals. I saw their picture on the news that night. They looked just like my son Zachary or the kid he plays with down the street. I read the next morning how one of the boys could be heard in his jail cell all night long calling for his mother.
How do you explain that? How do you explain kids using other kids for target practice? Only a few hours later he is just another eleven year old calling for his mother. Why are these things happening in our country? What are we going to do about it? Why does the political leadership in Washington never talk about it? Why do they only give us platitudes? Why do they act like character doesn't matter? That reliable standards of right and wrong don't count. Why do they spend all of their time talking about money instead of about the heart and soul of our country?
Ladies and gentleman, you can measure a great nation in a lot of different ways. You can measure it by the strength of its military, the growth of its economy, the gleam of its cities. We are a great nation by those measurements and many, many others. But you can also measure a nation by how many of its families are broken, by how big its virtue deficit is, how many of its children cry themselves to sleep at night.
The fact of the matter is that tonight in Northern Kentucky and all over America too many of our children are crying themselves to sleep. Too many children without a father's arms to comfort them, too many children exploited by sex or drugs or pornography, too man children that have bought into the popular culture's song that if it feels good do it. By those measurements, this country is in danger of becoming something much less than a great, great nation.
If we continue on this path, the young men and women that you see in this room today will not be able to live in a country they can be proud of, they will not be able to bring children into the world and raise them well, will not be have a chance to live in a shining city on a hill. And I am here to tell you that I will devote every ounce of my energy to make sure that every child in America has the choice that every one of you and I have had. This country can be better than it is today and I intend to make it better.
What happened to our country and what are we together going to do about it?
I'd like to suggest to you that one of the things that has happened is that there are too many people in the elites of America, in Hollywood, on Wall Street, and in Washington D.C. Too many people that have forgotten that our liberty comes from God and not from any man.
Ladies and gentleman, that's why the founding fathers called us a shining city on a hill. A Biblical phrase that was meant to send a signal to the people of a new nation that this place will be different. That's why our money says "In God We Trust." That's why Lincoln called us the almost chosen people. And yet in spite of the fact that all the Founding Fathers knew that a miracle could only make it if it had God's blessings, in spite of that, there is an America today that's never been more secular.
When I grew up in Newport, Kentucky, with all of the problems that it had - the crime, the gambling, the open prostitution, the tough corners that were dangerous to walk down at night-in spite of all of those things in Newport High School, we could still pray every morning if we wanted to.
And now right here in Cameron County and in the back of Cincinnati, the American Civil Liberties Union files lawsuits fearful that some child in Northern Kentucky might accidentally see the Ten Commandments on display in their school. We've got drive-by shootings, babies in trash cans, out of wed-lock births, the American family under fire, and the ACLU is wondering if some child in America may be reminded where their liberty come from. I say to the ACLU - pack it up and go back to where you came from; we don't need you here.
My friends the second thing that has gone wrong with this country is that we have created a culture of death. It's in our movies, it's in our music. Our kids are exposed to it a hundred times a day and they may not even realize it. Our culture glorifies death in a thousand different ways. We've got Dr. Death in Michigan, that says that the best we can do for the aging, the sick, the handicapped is to put them out of their misery. We sum that up as some sort of hero. We have movies and television shows that show someone dying as if it were something that was as simple as the sun coming up in the morning.
Children enter kindergarten and by the time they graduate from high school they have been bombarded with thousands murders on their television sets. I think about all those people in Hollywood. They must be laughing all the way to the bank. Picking out movies and music that glorify killing - that glorify killing the innocent. In the America that I want, those Hollywood producers and directors would not be able to show their faces in public because you and every other American would go up to them and say "shame, shame, shame on you for what you have done to American culture."
I want to touch on an issue that perhaps not all of you will agree on, but I am not going to go away from this issue or ignore it because I believe it is a symbol of the culture of death we have here in America. Twenty-six years ago, the highest court in this land did an incredible thing. They issued a Supreme Court decision that really boils down to one simple and profoundly evil idea. They said that our unborn children have no rights that the rest of us were bound to respect.
And when they made that decision, they unleashed on America an unbelievable event that undermines who we are and what we believe. Every year in America, over one and a half million babies never have the opportunity to take their first breath of life.
Ladies and gentleman we are better than this. This is not some third world dictatorship or some backwater country where life is cheap. This is America - a shining city on a hill. We have always welcomed people here. We have always said that if you are a citizen, you matter. We have always had a place for those who are weak, for those who were defenseless. We must find a place for those children.
I just saw a headline here, an unbelievable article. Right here across the river in Cincinnati, an unbelievable thing happened just a little while ago. In the process of getting a partial-birth abortion, a 22-week old baby was born alive. The abortion failed. It didn't provide the outcome it was supposed to. It didn't bring a dead baby out into the world; it brought one out alive. One of the nurses held the baby in her arms for three hours before it died. They named it Baby Hope. And they watched that baby die in a nurse's arms. The doctors and nurses are in counseling now still overwhelmed from the horror they saw.
What type of operation in America would cause a doctor or a nurse to be in counseling? Ladies and gentleman, there has got to be room in America for Baby Hope. I don't care what the polls say. When I make my decision to do what I want to do politically, I will never sacrifice one American child born or unborn - you can count on it!
In 1861, Abraham Lincoln stood on the steps of Independence Hall to speak of this very principle that has kept America united through our darkest nights, and continues to inspire men and women everywhere. He said it was that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence giving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world, for all future time. The promise that in due time, the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration…and he said, "I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it."
And Lincoln did give his life for his country. In fact, from the moment the first musket shot was fired in the Revolutionary War at Concord Bridge, Americans have fought, and if necessary died, for what we believe is right. Today, those of us not called onto the battlefield can still fight for America in our daily lives. And, we can send leaders to Washington who share the vision and virtues embodied by our Founding Fathers.
I believe it is time to end the betrayal of our first principles. I believe it is time to begin advancing American values again.
I am asking fellow citizens all across our land to join this great cause. Together, we can do so much. In the words of Thomas Paine, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."
We can be an America that honors our families, reveres their values, and provides them room to grow and prosper, to build a future as big as their dreams.
We can be an America that no longer shuns its children and denies their humanity, but opens its heart and homes and welcomes them into the world.
And we can stand as a mighty force for good against evil because across this earth there is no greater force for good than America, as one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.
I still believe we can make America a special place: a city on a hill where children grow up understanding that right and wrong matter and character counts… a nation where virtue isn't seen as hopelessly old fashioned, but something to be treasured and passed on from generation to generation…a country where women who choose a career as wife and mother aren't looked down upon and seen as behind the times…and a place where criminals are behind bars again - and Americans no longer live behind barred windows.
These are the things I am about.
These are the values I think are important.
This is the good fight I am ready to wage with heart and soul.
And that is why I am proud to stand here today, in Newport, Kentucky, to ask for your strength and support, as I announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination to be President of the United States.
I will not hedge on any issue. I will not be guided by polls that show what would be best for me. I will be guided by the principle of what is best for America.
And I will run to win. I will compete in every state. And I will reach out to every citizen. Starting here. Starting now.
Thank you very much. God bless you and God bless America.