Thank you Kevin Miller the Emcee for the day, who came all the way from Alabama to be here.
Andrea Tufts and Kelly Thomson for inviting me to come here for the announcement and that wonderful introduction. I made a promise to Kelly and Andrea and all the students last year that if I ran ran for President, I would announce here at Kingswood. Well, let this be the first of many campaign promises that I will keep.
Thank you, Heidi Harris for that beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, and thanks to the Kingswood band for the music.
Student Body, because I know they'd much rather be in class studying.
Principal Paul McMillan for all his cooperation, Phil Decelle a teaching colleague, and Father Ed, for your moving invocation, and for being a spiritual advisor and friend to my family.
To my fellow Legionnaires, particularly Bill Diamond, Post 21, and the Legion State headquarters in Concord -- and also Bob Jones, of the Northeast POW/MIA Network. Thank you for organizing today's color guard.
Captain McDaniel, who was a POW for 6 years, tortured by the North Vietnamese, found out what it was like first-hand to lose his freedom. Red, I can't tell you how proud I am to have you here and how much I appreciate what you've said. Let me just say to the youth of America, if you want a role model, they just don't come any better than Captain McDaniel.
And, of course, the people who are the most special to me, My family, Jason, Bobby, Jenny and Eric, and my wife Mary Jo.
This is very emotional for me. I taught here, I coached here. I'll always cherish the happy memories here at Kingswood.
I remember standing right here in this building 19 years ago, standing next to another Republican Presidential candidate as he asked for the support of the people of Wolfeboro and New Hampshire. And he got it. His name was Ronald Reagan.
You picked one President. Let's make it two for two.
What kind of a President will I be? In order to know that, you have to know what kind of person I am.
I don't have a big name or a huge family trust fund. I was raised on a small farm by a single mom and two loving grandparents. My beliefs came not through political calculation or polling or focus groups or consultants or the talking heads on the Sunday Morning talk shows. They were ingrained in my spirit through my life's experiences. Today, I want to share with you how those experiences in life have molded my conservative philosophy, and how I would like to use those experiences and that philosophy to lead this nation into the 21st century as President of the United States.
The great conservative New Hampshire Governor Meldrim Thomson (Kelly's granddad) told me once "You either stand for something, or you stand for nothing." That is why I have never wavered. I am in politics to make a difference for you, not to make a career for me.
I am not a leap year conservative, showing up every four years telling you what you want to hear. I have been fighting the fight, day after day for 15 years in the House and Senate. I might be a new face, but I'm an old warrior.
Before we can find out where we want to go as a nation, we need to know where we came from.
The Pilgrims came here on the Mayflower on a Divine Mission. They had a rough voyage, but they knew where they wanted to go, and they followed their compass.
And they founded a new nation.
Three centuries later, there was another ship, the Titanic. The unsinkable ship. They cruised in luxury, and ignored their navigational charts and their compass, and they went off course, hit an iceberg and went to the bottom of the icy cold Atlantic.
I want the American Ship of State to be the Mayflower and not the Titanic. So, I am asking all of you to join me today, to chart the right course for America and sail safely into the 21st Century with a commitment to keep America strong and free for millions yet unborn.
We HAVE the charts -- The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Holy Bible.
We need a Captain and a crew who will read those charts, and steer us past the sea of icebergs that threaten our God-given rights. Jefferson wrote about those rights in the Declaration of Independence. The right to Life, the right to Liberty, and the right to the Pursuit of Happiness.
Like Jefferson, I want to start with the right to life. I lost my father two days before my fourth birthday. I lost a lifetime of experiences that I would have had with him. No dad there to watch me play baseball. No dad there for graduation. No dad to seek advice and counsel like only a father could give.
This experience has taught me two things. First, it has inspired me to be a good father to my own children, because I know the pain of not having a father myself. Second, it has taught me that life is the most precious gift that God gives to each of us.
You cannot have liberty or pursue happiness if you are denied your right to be born. Since 1973, over 35 million babies have lost their lives by abortion. That is immoral, it's unconscionable. It is below the dignity of a great nation. Did you ever stop to think how many doctors, teachers, moms, dads, pastors... perhaps even a President could be in that 35 million? Maybe even a scientist who came up with a cure for cancer or heart disease.
They never had a chance to live their dreams.
My life's goal is to protect ALL unborn children. As President, I will nominate only pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. Within the first few days of my administration, I will send Congress a bill defining life as beginning at fertilization.
In the 1860s, Lincoln ended the moral outrage of slavery because he knew it was wrong. Abortion is the moral outrage of the 20th Century, and I will end it because it too is wrong.
I don't want to get in your face on abortion, I want to get in your heart. Another issue dear to my heart is the U.S. military. When you go home tonight you will sleep soundly with the knowledge that the United States is free and secure. That is one of our richest blessings. But that freedom and that security is not without cost.
Mary Jo and I went to visit Normandy in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of the invasion. As we were walking down the rows and rows of crosses, Mary Jo happened to look closely at one of the crosses. On it was the name of a young man who had died on her birthday, May 29, 1944. That soldier died so that she could be born free. We should thank our veterans every day for their sacrifice and always strive to remain worthy of their sacrifice.
Heroes, role models, America's best. My comrades here today, and soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and veterans across America and around the world, I salute you.
As a little boy, I remember a handsome naval officer hugging a beautiful young woman as he walked out the door. That handsome officer was my dad, and that beautiful woman was my mother. My dad never came back. He was a naval aviator who flew combat missions in the Second World War and lost his life in a military aircraft accident at the end of the war. He was my hero. It is through my mother and my father's example that I gained my respect and admiration for the sacrifice that military families make. They both are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
That is why my brother and I were both proud to serve our country in the Vietnam war.
Many of you upon graduation will join the service. You will then become a link in a long chain of patriots who have kept America free and secure. Today, our military is ready. But I want to issue a warning. Danger is on the horizon.
Our nation is completely vulnerable to a nuclear, biological, or chemical missile attack from rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran, and Libya. Terrorists are poised to strike our embassies around the world and America herself might be on the target list.
The suffocating cloak of the cold war has been lifted, but the embers of old passions have drawn a fresh breath. Ethnic, cultural, and religious hatred fuel civil war in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Middle East. This Administration has placed our soldiers right in the middle of this chaos with no exit strategy in sight. They serve magnificently, but the President has asked them to do more with less, and the foundation of our military readiness is crumbling.
By 2002, the airforce will be 2000 pilots short of their requirement. The Army and Navy combined are below enlistment levels Our Marine Corps is flying aircraft that saw action in Vietnam and should have been replaced years ago.
Throughout the armed forces, there is a shortage of spare parts for our military equipment. We need a strong, forceful, Commander in Chief with the background, the credibility, the knowledge, and the passion to lead and inspire our troops. And someone who cares about them and appreciates their sacrifices.
Here is what I would do as President.
I will ask the Joint Chiefs an immediate assessment of the operational needs of each of the services, and send a bill to Congress with the funding necessary to correct those shortages.
I will develop and deploy as soon as technologically possible a National Missile Defense system and theater defense systems to protect our troops in the field.
I will never send your sons and daughters into military action unless it is in national interest of the United States, and they will only be led into battle under U.S. Command.
I will immediately raise military pay, and restore military retirement and health care benefits which have been cut so drastically over the years. Commitments to our veterans will be honored and there will be no military personnel on food stamps.
Our nation's POWs and MIAs sacrificed their own freedom to protect our freedom and were never heard from again. Their ultimate fate is still unknown. I have traveled to every corner of the world on behalf of the POW/MIA families searching for answers -- trying to end their uncertainty. I have had to bang on the doors of our own Government to open up intelligence files. Never again will these families have to beg our government and foreign governments for answers about their loved ones. Never again, Captain McDaniel.
There will be no trade rewards to oppressive regimes like Communist China that continue to violate basic human rights and target US Cities with their missiles.
There would never be any agreements that give away our sovereignty to international tribunals. The veterans in this room didn't fight for the IMF or the World Bank or the Dow Jones average. They fought to keep us free.
To be certain that those sacrifices were not in vain, you must participate in the Democratic process. You must be good citizens, good parents, good community leaders.
When I was a teacher, I used to tell my students that they had no more important civic responsibility than to pass America on to future generations -- strong and free. It's a debt that we owe our founders. Christa McAuliffe, one of New Hampshire's finest teachers, once said "I touch the future, I teach." And let me say to the young people of America. You are the future. So, learn. Accept personal responsibility. Be a good citizen. You are America's posterity.
There is no public policy where my personal life experiences have had a more profound impact on my political views than on the issue of education. As a teacher, school board member, and parent, I learned first-hand that it's not the bureaucrats and the Washington elitists in the Department of Education that teach our students. It is the local school boards, teachers, and Administrators, parents.
Mark Twain said "I never let my schoolin' interfere with my education." I say we shouldn't let the Department of Education interfere with our schoolin'.
Parents, not the Department of Education, should have total control over their children's education, whether in the public schools, private, parochial, charter schools, or home schooling.
Washington is a city of takers. They take away your decision making power over your children's education. They are able to do it because they take so much of your money. Lets take our money back from Washington.
There's a funny story about my son Bobby when he came home one night after receiving his first pay check. He had an unhappy look on his face. He came up to me and said "Dad, what's FICA?" I said, "Son, we need to have a talk."
Americans pay too much in taxes. They spend countless hours every year agonizing over complicated tax forms. I would throw out the exisiting tax code and start over. I would eliminate the marriage penalty and the inherritance tax. I would offer an across the board ten percent tax cut for every American, cut the capital gains tax, and double the personal exemption, and I would fire any IRS agent that harasses an American taxpayer.
I will present no budget to the Congress that is not in balanced, and will use all budget surpluses to pay down the debt, strengthen our military, and to implement reforms in Social Security to begin the process of allowing individuals to set up their own personal savings accounts. Washington, DC. the City of Takers.
They are obsessed with taking away the right to keep and bear arms from innocent gun owners. We must stop them. Two friends of ours, Carlos and Maria Fiol, escaped from Castro's Cuba. They told me that one of the first things Castro did was take the guns away from the citizens so they were defenseless against his tyranny.
I have always marveled at the brilliance and foresight of the Founding Fathers. It seems as if the Constitution prepared us for every challenge, and they were certainly right when they wrote the Second Amendment, which guarantees us the right to bear arms. I have been proud for the past fifteen years to lead in battle after battle on behalf of the rights of the gun owners of America. As President, I will repeal these infringments on our Second Amendment liberties.
We have talked about a number of icebergs that threaten to sink the American Ship of State. But the largest and the most dangerous of them all is the attack on our moral fiber and character as a nation.
George Washington said "the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principle of private morality."
It has been said that character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking.
I want to make a comment at this point about the impeachment trial of President Clinton. I took an oath as an impartial juror, to judge the President based on the evidence and the facts. I kept that oath. I did not go on national television, I turned down countless invitations to do interviews, and I declined them all because I did not feel that it was proper for me to comment at that time. But, now, I must speak. I voted to remove President Clinton from office because I believe that the evidence showed that he committed perjury and obstructed justice. In spite of my guilty vote, the President was not removed from office. The President's acquittal is a sad commentary on the prevailing values in America today.
This is not about whether I forgive President Clinton for his actions. This is about criminal behavior and personal acccountability. Any teacher, school board member, military officer, or CEO would lose their job and be prosecuted for these offenses. So, the message to the American public is that the mighty can commit crimes against the weak and use the power of their office to escape justice.
I taught history and civics, and this is not what I taught my kids that America was all about. What is happening to America?
In the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Senator Jefferson Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart, came to Washington as a good, decent man. He believed that America was a great country, that its people were of good character, and that they have the right to expect good character in their leaders. As Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, I agree.
Yes, my fellow Americans, character does matter. We can restore America to the "the Shining City on the Hill" as President Reagan called it. A nation with respect for the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bible.
Respect for freedom. Respect for life.
Respect for the sacrifices of our military.
Respect for our families.
Respect for each other.
Respect for the truth.
But, it's not going to be easy.
Ferdinand Magellan (1520) "The sea is dangerous and its storms terrible. But these obstacles have never been sufficient reason to remain ashore... Unlike the mediocre. Intrepid spirits seek victory over those things that seem impossible...it is with an iron will that they embark on the most daring of all adventures... To meet the shadowy future without fear, and conquer the unknown. Don't be the mediocre. Be the intrepid spirit, and don't be discouraged by the nay sayers.
The pollsters and the pundits and the experts said that a vote for Jesse Ventura was a wasted vote. He's now the Governor of Minnesota. If you vote for the candidate you believe in, your vote is never wasted.
When you get down, and you think you've got it tough, think about our political heroes and learn from them.
George Washington at Valley Forge. Had he lost, 56 signers of the Declaration would have been hanged as traitors instead of being revered as heroes.
Or Caesar Rodney, from Delaware. The deciding vote to pass the Declaration of Independence. He had cancer of the face, and he was scheduled to go to Britain to have surgery. Instead, he walked into that room, bandages on his face, and signed the Declaration, and sacrificed his life.
Today we make heroes out of the dealmakers, and vilify the principled, the courageous.
It wasn't the dealmakers and the pollsters who won our independence. They were men and women of courage and character, and they were not indecisive.
In Alice in Wonderland, Alice comes to a fork in the road and encounters the Cheshire cat sitting in the tree.
"Which way should I go?" said Alice.
"That depends on where you want to get to?" Said the cat.
"Well, I'm not sure. I just want to get some place. Said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go, because you're bound to get some place if you only walk long enough."
Today, the politicians take polls to find out what where they should go. Can you imagine Patrick Henry, preparing for his "Give Me Liberty, or Give me Death" speech, turning to his pollster, and saying "this sounds a little harsh. Lets do a poll to see whether they want liberty, or do they want death?"
You've heard of the "Country Club" Republicans. Well, I'm a "Country MUSIC" Republican.
One of my favorite singers, Merle Haggard said "Are we rollin' down a hill like a snowball headed for Hell with no kind of chance for the flag and the liberty bell."
I don't think so. But, I have come to the conclusion that we're not going to save our country from ruin with dealmaking, compromise, and support of the status quo.
It will take a passionate, principled, grass roots crusade to restore American values and freedoms. This campaign will be conducted on Main Street, not Wall Street. I am going to fund this campaign with small contributions, and lots of them. So right now I am asking every American who is watching today who cares about the future of this country to join my campaign. Let's take stock in America.
It's not going to be a campaign for the faint of heart.
The Senate Chaplain Lloyd Oglive, a role model, once told me: "Our time in history -- is God's gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to Him." We need to climb up on the deck. Take a deep breath, get some wind in our sails, get a firm hand on the ship's wheel, and navigate this ship of state past these icebergs into the 21st century -- a century of freedom, morality, respect for the Constitution, and respect for the sacrifices the founders made for us.
Political leadership is NOT about who gives the best speech,
it's NOT about who has the most money,
It's NOT about who the media thinks is the front runner.
It's NOT about political resumes.
It IS about CHARACTER.
It's about INTEGRITY.
It's about a commitment to principle.
And it is about bold, courageous, passionate, committed leadership.
Finally, it's about each one of us joining together to rediscover our compass and our navigational charts. There's nothing wrong with the charts.
It's our leaders who have gone in the wrong direction.
Each of us can make a difference in his own way.
We can't be frustrated by how BIG the problem is.
In Canfield and Hanson's book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, he tells a story about two friends walking on a deserted beach. This man was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach, and one at a time, he was throwing them back in the water. The action, of course, prevented the starfish from dying on the beach. Although his friend understood the spirit of the act, he was puzzled.
"There must be thousands of starfish on this beach, he told his friend, don't you realize that this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches up and down this coast. Don't you see that you can't possibly make a difference."
The man smiled, and bent down to pick up yet another starfish. As he threw it back in to the sea, he replied, "Made a difference to that one."
If we are to change this great country one star fish at a time, we need a leader who will make a difference. It is without hesitation, and with a deep respect for the promise of America, that I declare my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States.