Presidential Campaign and Candidates


George Bush 1988 Letterhead


Houston, Texas

October 12, 1987


I am here today to announce my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States. I mean to run hard, to fight hard, to stand on the issues -- and I mean to win.


For seven years, I have devoted myself, as a Vice President should and must, to helping a President conduct the most difficult job on earth. The President asked for, and received, my candor he never asked for, but received, my loyalty. I had much to say to him, and I spoke with trust. But now I am a candidate for President, and now it is my responsibility to turn to the American people and share with them my hopes and intentions, and why I wish to lead.


I am following a great Presidency -- and a great President. Ronald Reagan returned dignity and good sense to the high office he holds. Seven years ago, a nation that needed to trust again turned to him -- and refound its spirit. I am proud to have been his partner; I am proud to have been part of his great work.


But there are those who forget, in the warmth of 1987, how cold it was in 180. Seven years ago, our nation was rocked by high winds and heavy sees -- an economy buffeted by incompetence and intrusion -- a military without morale -- and an America of lost stature in the world.


But now, after seven years of hard work, we have righted ourselves. We have weathered the storm. Our economy has recovered to become the strongest in history. And once again, our flag is recognized as a force for good in the world.


We have righted ourselves -- the platform is firm again, the base is stable -- and from this strong platform we can now launch the great endeavors of the future.


We don't need radical new directions -- we need strong and steady leadership. We don't need to remake society -- we just need to remember who we are.


We are a great people in a great nation. We have earned our optimism, we have a right to our confidence -- and we have much to do.


We mark next week the longest peacetime economic expansion in our nation's recorded history. Us have made great strides in the economy, but there is new ground to be won. Our triumph is real -- but it is incomplete.


There are those who need help. There are those who've been hurt -- and as far as I'm concerned, we will never be a truly prosperous nation until all within it prosper.


I want a prosperity that we can rely on; I want a prosperity that stays, that broadens, that deepens and that touches, finally, all Americans, from the hollows of Kentucky to the sunlit streets of Denver, from the suburbs of Chicago to the coldest caverns of New York, from the farms of Iowa to the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas.


We must continue to remove the barriers to growth. For five years now, steadily and surely, we have been lowering the unemployment rate. I mean to continue our pursuit of those three little words -- jobs, jobs, and jobs.


We must continue -- and accelerate -- our efforts to cut the federal budget deficit. There is much to be done in this area -- and an impasse to be broken. But I will not break it by breaking you.


There are those who say we must balance the budget on the backs of the workers -- and raise taxes again. But they are wrong. I am not going to raise your taxes -- period.


I want to add here that I do not hate government. I'm proud of my long experience in government. I've met some of the best people in the world doing the people's business in the Congress and the agencies. A government that serves the people effectively and economically, and that remembers that the people are its master, is a good and needed thing.


Our government has a proper and legitimate role in the collection and dispersal of tax revenues. And we must all pay our fair share. But for too long the rules of the game have been cloaked in The rules about what the IRS can do -- and what the taxpayer's rights are -- are often unclear. I think it's time on this anniversary of our Constitution, for a taxpayer's bill of rights, a bill of rights that spells out explicitly what the limits of IRS power are.


I will put the force of my Presidency behind this idea -- whose time has more than come.


Jobs, growth, a sound government and a sound economy -- these are great and good goals. But they are not enough. For our prosperity means little if it lacks purpose. We diminish our triumph when we act as if wealth is an end in itself.


The fact is prosperity is not an end, but a beginning. It has a point: It gives us time to think and care; it frees us up to learn, to grow, to be better than we are, to develop the things of the spirit and the heart.


Prosperity with a purpose means giving back to the country that has given you so much:


It means helping a child from a dysfunctional home learn how to read, and teaching him through your presence that there is such a thing as healthy and reliable affection:


It means taking your idealism and making it concrete by real action aimed at making life better for the people of our country;


It means helping a church when it asks for volunteers; it means helping a civic group build a library or a local theater. It means pitching in and building up.


And prosperity with a purpose means taking time after high school or college to serve and protect our nation in the armed forces of the United States,


Prosperity with a purpose means, in short, helping your brothers and sisters whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever their needs.


There are those who would say it's soft and insufficiently tough to care about these things. But where is it written that Republicans must act as if they do not care, as if they are not moved? I say to my fellow Republicans: We are the party of Lincoln. Our whole history was protecting those who needed our protection and making this a kinder nation.


We were also formed to stand for justice, and personal decency. But increasingly we see those who have dropped their standards along the way -- as if ethics were too heavy and slowed their rise to the top. There's greed on Wall Street and graft in city Hall, there's influence pedaling in Washington -- and it's all so shameful


Have we forgotten who we are? We're the people who sundered a nation rather than allow a sin called slavery -- we're the people who together pushed past the snows and deserts of the West. And when we got there what did we build, what did we care about? You could see the answer as you rode toward a new town and saw the silhouette against the sky: You'd see just two buildings, a church and a schoolhouse. A place for the spirit, and a place for our children to learn the great thoughts of man.


We weren't saints -- but we lived by standards.


We celebrated the individual -_ but we weren't self-centered. We were practical -- but we didn't live for material things. We believed in getting ahead -- but a narrow careerism wasn't our way.


We were shrewd idealists, and we believed in big things. These days, some of us act as if we've forgotten who we are. The truth is we make ourselves small by pursuing small things. And I find myself saying to my children: You've got to live by values if you want to live a life of meaning.


I have learned these past seven years that the Presidency provides an incomparable opportunity for moral leadership. A President must never intrude -- but a President can set a tone, an atmosphere, a mood.


I mean to stand for a new harmony, a greater tolerance, and a renewed recognition that this country is and always has been a partnership.


We need a new harmony, too, among the races in our country. The sadness of racial tensions in America should have ended completely by now. We are on a journey to a new century and we must, finally, leave the tired old baggage of bigotry behind us.


For all our faults, America is still a magnet for those people of the world who want a chance, who need a job, or who just don't want to be anywhere else in this "American age."


To those who have come to our country, to the Hispanics who have joined us, let me say: You are not only welcome, but needed. For who knows about family and faith better than you? We need your leadership.


Nuestro partido es su partido. Estamos todos en familia.

(Our party is your party. We are all family.)


All our hopes for our children will mean little if we don't make sure that the education they're given is outstanding. The founders knew this 200 years ago, they used to say: To plan for a decade, plant a tree -- but to plan for a century, teach the children.


We have made improvements, but it's not enough. The younger, hungrier nations are passing us by -- and we've got to compete and surpass.


We support an expanded college scholarship program to help those who need it -- and deserve it. And if we have to spend a little more money on our schools -- well, what could be a better investment?


There are two things that are permanent in this country, two things that we pass on from generation to generation without even speaking of our pride or their preciousness.


One is the treasure of our minds and hearts. The other is the treasure of our land -- the environment, the terrain. I don't think we've done enough to protect it these past dozen years or so. I don't think we've given the land its due.


Sooner or later, we're going to pay the price of our distraction -- unless we act now and recommit ourselves to protecting the land we love.


All of these things, these domestic concerns, mean a great deal. But one issue overwhelms the rest, and that is the issue of peace. It carries within it a host of challenges: how to make sure our yearning for calm does not become an acquiescence to injustice -- how to pursue peace wisely and deliberately and resist the clamor for a deal -- and how to avoid confusing stasis for stability.


We must continue to face the challenges of our times with high resolve and high hopes -- but also with a strength that is not only real, but is recognized by the world as real.


Today, we are on the verge of a historic arms agreement with the Soviet Union. It didn't come free, and it didn't come easy. We waited them out, we increased our strength, and we refused to budge until the agreement was good. Some people used that against us, saying we didn't really want a treaty at all -- when the truth was we just didn't want a bad one.


If this treaty is finalized, we will, for the first time in the nuclear age, actually reduce -- not just limit, but reduce -- the number of nuclear weapons in the world. It is a beginning -- and it was born of the stability and strength of the Reagan era. But it's not enough. We must do more. We must view a final agreement on nuclear arms as a prelude to serious talks on strategic arms, conventional weapons, chemical weapons, biological -- all these things.


And what is the proper attitude toward the Soviets as we pursue progress? Praise God -- and keep your guard up.


There are those who say that all's well, all's fine, everything's changed over there. And maybe they're right and maybe they're wrong and history will tell; and as we wait for history to render judgment, a prudent skepticism is in order.


We must recommit ourselves to a doctrine that expresses the best in our history and our heritage. We must be true to the knowledge that the interests of the world are best served -- and the cause of peace best served -- by not merely containing communism, but by spreading freedom.


Let me be very specific: I intend to help the freedom fighters of the world fight for freedom. In the hills of Afghanistan -- we will help them. In the plains of Africa -- we are on their side. And in a place called Nicaragua, we will help the Contras win democracy. This doctrine -- this doctrine of democracy -- must thunder on.


And so we have much ahead of us -- a triumph to complete, challenges to be met, and the essential question of who will lead.


Many this year will ask for your support; much will be made of our characters, our abilities, and our histories. And this is good. If I have learned anything in a lifetime in politics and government, it is the truth of the famous phrase, "History is biography" -- that decisions are made by people, and they make them based on what they know of the world and how they understand it. This is true of everyone, including Presidents. So you must know us.


As for me, I have held high office and done the work of democracy day by day. I am a practical man. I like what's real. I'm not much for the airy and abstract; I like what works. I am not a mystic, and I do not yearn to lead a crusade; my ambitions are perhaps less dramatic, but they are no less profound.


I am a man who, as a Navy flier in World War II, was shot down by the enemy and rescued by an American sub that just happened to come by -- and so I am a man who has learned how precious life is, and how frail our hold on it.


I am a man who 40 years ago threw everything he had into the back of a Studebaker and tooled on out to west Texas -- where I started a business and tried to meet a payroll and experienced the tensions and the satisfactions of having a business in America. I felt the deep joy of being able to provide for my wife and children; I felt joy when I was able to give a fellow a job and know that his children would be cared for. And so I am a man who knows in his heart that it all comes down to family -- that all our best endeavors come back to that core.


I am a man who in two terms in Congress learned that democracy stays new by reinventing itself every day in the interplay between the Hill and the White House.


I am a man who was chairman of a great political party at a painful time in our history; and so I am a man who learned that fidelity and loyalty reach their truest expression when they are applied not to individuals, but to unchanging principles.


I am a man who represented our country's interests in the oldest culture in the world, in China, when the door was newly open and our relations were as delicate as they were crucial.


I am a man who, as head of the CIA, learned that the world is full of danger for the decent, but will be safe as long as we keep our eyes wide open and see the world as it really is.


And I am a man who learned first hand in 7 years as Vice President that a modern President must be many things:


He must be a shrewd, cool watcher of the world who looks first and foremost to protect American interests.


And he must be an idealist who desires -- rightly -- to help those who move for a freer and more democratic planet.


He must keep government as little intrusive as possible in the lives of the people; and yet remember that it is right and proper that a nation's leader take an interest in the nation's character.


For seven years now, I have been with a President -- and I have seen what crosses that big desk. I have seen the unexpected crises that arrive in an urgent cable; I have seen the problems that simmer on for decades and suddenly demand a resolution. I have seen modest decisions made with anguish, and crucial decisions made with dispatch.


The Presidency isn't like anything else. It isn't like the Senate, only more so. And it isn't like a governorship. A presidency can shape an era -- and it can change our lives. A successful presidency can give meaning to an age; a failed presidency can give us problems it takes generations to undo.


And so I know what it all comes down to, this election -- what it all comes down to, after all the shouting and the cheers -- is the man at the desk. And who should sit at that desk.


I am that man.


I love my country too much -- I love my children and grandchildren too much -- to campaign for the job if I didn't think, if I didn't know that I am the best man for it.


And so it begins. And I ask for your help.


Will you join me?


Will you help me complete our triumph? It's going to be a great adventure. Come -- and we'll do it all, with trust in the future, with trust in each other -- together, as one nation, under God.


Thank you all -- thank you very much.


Source: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum


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