Text of Tommy G. Thompson’s Campaign Kickoff Speech – Prepared for Delivery
April 4, 2007
Thank you to my good friend Governor Brandstad. I miss the good-old days when we were governors of Iowa and Wisconsin, helping our states become shining stars in the Midwest.
Bill Dix, my state chairman; Charlotte Mohr, my honorary state chair; Ron Corbett, a senior advisor to the campaign; and Republican Party Chairman Ray Hoffman – thank you all for joining me here today and welcoming me to the bountiful state of Iowa.
Before I begin, I’d like to introduce you my family to you – my wife Sue Ann, my daughters Kelli and Tommi, and my son Jason. You’ve been with me for each of my campaigns, and I’m deeply grateful that you all are here once again as we embark on this new journey. You all have given me so much – and I’m not just talking about our five grandchildren.
It’s great to be an American, and isn’t it great to be a Republican!
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no better place in the world to live than the United States of America. We know that very well living here in America’s breadbasket – the great Midwest, which feeds our nation and the world.
And it is here, in the Midwest, where the American Dream takes special hold – an ideal planted by our forefathers, nurtured by our parents and set free in us as adults.
It was another Midwestern, who grew up in a neighboring state just east of here, who came along in troubled times and reminded us about the power of the American Dream to lift our nation to a new era of prosperity and peace. Ronald Reagan said, "The cynics may call it corny, but this way of life we all cherish is best summed up in three simple words: The American Dream."
Of the American Dream, President Reagan said: "The dreams of people may be different, but everyone wants their dreams to come true. … Everybody wants to do something in one’s life that will give him or her pride and a sense of accomplishment. And America, above all places, gives us the freedom to do that, the freedom to reach out and make our dreams come true."
President Reagan had great expectations for America because he had such great expectations for the American people. He believed we were capable of anything. So do I – and so must America once again.
So it is with the greatest expectations for the future of our nation, that I officially announce today my candidacy for President of the United States of America.
It’s a long way for this boy from Elroy to the grand white home on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. But it’s a journey that only a child in America can dream of making one day. And it’s a dream that could only come true in this land of opportunity.
Yes, America is facing tough times…uncertain times. But it is time for American to come together, roll up our sleeves and get to work addressing the problems of our time. And roll up your sleeves is what I’m asking you to do with me today.
Solving problems with innovation and determination is what we do best.
Throughout my career as governor of Wisconsin and later as US Secretary of health and human services, we have taken on society’s toughest challenges and moved beyond them to a better, stronger place.
· We ended welfare and replaced it with the hope and opportunity of a job.
· We moved our children to the head of the class, making sure low-income, inner city parents could choose the best school so their children could receive the best education possible.
· Together, we cut taxes, investing in entrepreneurs and workers to build better jobs and more secure futures. I’m not afraid to veto when spending and taxes get out of line. I cut taxes by $16.4 billion in taxes and vetoed $287 million in spending, making sure that government lived within the same means our families must. … That’s why I will ask Congress to give me the line-item veto, to cut earmarks and wasteful pork barrel spending.
· In Wisconsin, we proved to a nation that economic prosperity and environmental stewardship were not an either-or proposition – we built a healthy economy and a healthy environment.
· We saw the promise of ethanol and renewable energy far before it was fashionable.
· And we made affordable health care accessible to working families and their children through innovation and efficiency.
· And in Washington, after 10 years of failed attempts, we finally added prescription drug coverage to Medicare – and we made it affordable by introducing private-sector competition to the government-run system.
It’s been a remarkable success.
From Madison to Washington, this is the record of a reliable conservative; one who puts principles into practice.
It is a record driven by our shared Midwestern work ethic -- we don’t just talk about solving problems, we get the job done in these parts. This is why I have been in Iowa the past four months, talking to you about specific ways we can address the issues of most concern to you, to your fellow Americans, and to the future of this great nation.
And I’m going to keep talking specifics. Keep offering ideas. I want to ignite and fuel a national debate on the best ways to get America back on track.
Everywhere I go, the first question people ask is: "What are you going to do about Iraq?"
We must give the Iraqi people a stake in their nation and stability in their future. Look, the problems in Iraq go back centuries. We’re not going to miraculously change such deep-seeded animosities and hatred. We must stop trying to force people who hate each other to live together, and instead focus on giving these diverse cultures their own piece of Iraq and the incentive to live peacefully within a larger nation.
I have a three step plan to create stability in Iraq so our troops can leave sooner rather than later.
1. The Iraqi government should vote on whether they want us there. If they do, we have greater world standing to be there. If not, that certainly sends a strong message upon which we can base our next move.
2. As do here in America, we should work with Iraqi leaders to form governments in 18 self-governing provinces that would operate under a national government. What this will do is give Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds their own pieces of Iraq – their own land and their own say in how it is run.
3. We should encourage the Iraqi government to give every Iraqi a stake in the nation’s rich oil reserves. Oil revenues should be divided in thirds among the national government, the provincial governments and individual Iraq citizens. This will create great incentive for all Iraqis to protect their oil reserves, while ensuring that their federal and provincial governments govern fairly. And it will create wealth amongst all the people, inspiring entrepreneurship and economic growth.
Taken together, these three steps will give Iraqis – both the government and its citizens – an ownership stake in their newly free nation.
Iraq is just one front in the War on Terror, and our enemies plotting in caves will never rest until we win the war. That is why we must recommit ourselves to rebuilding the American military.
Our armed forces must have the capacity to dominate any war or any conflict we must enter – all while having the capability to fight a multi-front war. Our military is simply stretched too thin to protect American interests overseas and at home in these dangerous times.
At the same time, our foreign policy cannot be based solely on military might. We must reach out to the rest of the world, and a good place to start is with medical diplomacy. My initiative would take America’s great doctors and health professionals, along with our medicines and technology, to some of the most distraught places in the world, helping to comfort and nurse the poor to better health. By doing so, we can begin to heal some of the wounds with our global neighbors.
Speaking of wounds, our health care system – while the best in the world – simply is not what it should be. The cost of health care continues to soar – threatening the bottom line and competitiveness of American industry, and leaving too many American families uninsured or underinsured.
We must build a system affordable and accessible for everyone. And we can do this without government-run health care that robs our great nation of its ingenuity in developing new cures and treatments for deadly illnesses.
And we can do it, if only we take some common-sense steps to bring our health care system into the 21st century:
1. Build a system centered on preventive medicine, rather than curative. In this country, we wait until people get sick and then spend billions of dollars to try to make them well again. Why not invest up front in keeping our families healthy in the first place? Improving our families’ health and saving money at the same time is common-sense conservativism at its very core.
2. Use information technology to cut costs, reduce medical errors and create a more efficient health care system. Our doctors use the latest technology to cure your illnesses, but manila folders to keep track what’s wrong with you. We need to bring the administration of medicine into the 21st century, along with the practice of medicine. If we can put all our financial information on a wallet-size card, and have our money at our fingertips anywhere in the world, then we can certainly do the same for our health information. And in doing so, cut the bureaucracy of the health care system in half. Common sense.
3. Third, we must use the private sector and public sector to require health insurance for all. This isn’t a heavy-handed mandate. It is a basic common sense approach to keeping people healthy and reining in health care costs. It makes no sense for a system to force the uninsured to wait until they get really sick or injured and then get treatment in emergency rooms – the most expensive care there is. Especially when we can cover everyone for a fraction of the cost.
4. We must, once and for all, make sure health care and longterm care is affordable. For government, our Medicare and Medicaid systems will soon break federal and state budgets at the same time families across America are grappling with how to pay for longterm care for themselves and for their parents. This isn’t a problem that will go away if we simply ignore it.
On education, we must hold our schools to world-class standards from Kindergarten through college. And we must make sure all our children get a world-class education, regardless of what neighborhood they live in or how much money their parents make. We can make No Child Left Behind stronger, and do so without wavering on its core principles.
On the Environment and Energy, America must become independent in its energy needs and break reliance on foreign oil. We must begin with greater investments in renewable energy, like ethanol, so we can bring these technologies to market faster and more efficiently. And we must come together and deal with our changing climate.
Our economy has bounced back from the difficult days after 9/11, and the tax cuts are a major reason why the economy is strong. That’s why I’m committed to making sure American workers keep more of their hard-earned money. Not only that, money that Washington does take must be spent wisely and responsibly – something that doesn’t always happen in the nation’s capital, even among my fellow Republicans.
You see, Republicans went to Washington and we lost our way. We tried to spend like Democrats, and voters saw through the act. If they want to vote for people who will spend their money, they’ll vote for the professionals – not the amateurs – and that’s what they did in the last election.
Which reminds me: We’re just 11 days away from tax day, when we force taxpayers to hand over even more of their money – and we make them jump through countless hoops to have the privilege of doing so. That is unacceptable. Isn’t it strange that the federal government makes us compute our taxes twice – and pay whichever amount is highest? I propose we add a flat tax to the equation – and let our hardworking families pay whatever amount is least. Our hardworking families should have a choice of what’s best for them, when it comes to paying taxes.
Finally, I would like to wrap up by saying a few words about my children – and how much they inspire me.
A few years ago, my younger daughter Tommi was diagnosed with breast cancer – just like her mother a few years earlier. Even with her cancer in remission, Tommi couldn’t conceive because of the drugs she was taking.
But she was able to save one egg, which she and her husband saved for two years.
Two years later, my older daughter Kelli carried the baby … One egg. One long-shot chance. And today, there is one more child in the world. A miracle. But, as we all know, life truly is a miracle…one that must be treasured, nurtured and protected.
Now, more than ever, our nation’s bedrock culture of life is essential. In a day where young boys and girls are being raised to brutally kill themselves by strapping bombs to themselves and then exploding them to murder hundreds of innocent lives. … Boy, do we need to value life and celebrate our culture of life.
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no doubt we have an inordinate amount of serious issues facing our nation – the type of issues that will shape generations. I’ve just touched on the biggest; clearly there are more.
America is being challenged. And in the face of great challenges, America must have great expectations.
Together, we must rise to the great expectations we have for ourselves, our children and our future.
How do we do this? Together.
We’re not going to overcome our problems by blaming American first, or by tearing each other apart. We’re going to overcome them as we always have.
By working together, as one nation, under God, with the vision, the passion and the determination to build a better way of life.
It’s time to get to work. And today, I ask you to join me as we build the America of the 21st Century. And with God’s grace and hard work, we will ensure the American Dream that Ronald Reagan renewed for this generation will live on in our children and their children.
Thank you and God Bless America!