Thursday, August 05, 2004
As promised in the post below, here is my draft of George Bush's acceptance speech for the GOP convention. I have constructed the speech with a view to the analysis of what Bush has to accomplish that I laid out in the post below this one. I'm interested to hear responses to that analysis as well as to the execution.
I want to stress that I have not constructed this speech with a view to what I think are the best policies for Bush to adopt, nor the best way to communicate with me specifically. But, necessarily, I'm going to be biased towards my own views. Where Bush is clearly going support a policy that I don't agree with, I've probably tried to make it more palatable to someone like me; where he's clearly going to support a policy that I strongly agree with, I've probably been more full-throated. But I have tried to let Bush be Bush, and not try to make him into someone else. (Well, I may have tried to make him a little more like Reagan; I did read Reagan's 1984 acceptance speech, as well as Clinton's 1996 acceptance speech, before writing this.)
Like I said, I'm interested to hear whether people think this is a good draft, in terms of *predictive* power (i.e., Bush *will* probably say something like this) and *prescriptive* power (i.e., Bush *should* probably say something like this).
Here it is.
Thank-you, thank-you. I want to salute the brave people of the city and state of New York for the great reception you've given us. A lot of folks back in Texas think New Yorkers are rude and unfriendly, but I've never felt a warmer welcome. I guess everyone really is happy when the circus comes to town.
And I want to thank Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki for opening the doors of New York to the Republican Party convention. We are truly a national party, and we speak to the American people as one people, as we have since the days of Abraham Lincoln. We are the party of Lincoln, and every Republican, whether you're from New York, New York or from Crawford, Texas, should be proud of our party's legacy.
Being back in New York is a wonderful feeling. I visited downtown with Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki earlier in the week. It is amazing how quickly New Yorkers are rebuilding. Seeing the energy and vitality of the people of this city, its fortitude in the face of adversity, well, let me just say if Alexander Hamilton were to come back today, he'd feel right at home.
Friends, fellow citizens, it is humbling to be President of the United States at any time. But at this time, a time of so much uncertainty but so much opportunity, it is especially humbling.
Four years ago, when I accepted our party's nomination to stand for the Presidency of the United States, I knew it was an awesome charge. And I prayed that I would be able to serve the People of the United States, with honor and with steadfastness. And so I am humbled all the more to once again be the repository of your trust.
Ladies and gentlemen, I accept your nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America.
Anyone who runs for reelection these days is bound to hear a voice in the back of his head, asking a question that President Ronald Reagan asked in his 1980 campaign, and again in 1984: are you better off today than you were four years ago? I ask myself that question every day: has our leadership made America better off?
Four years ago, America stood unchallenged, the only superpower, the indispensible nation. People called it the end of history, the beginning of an era when the spread of democracy and free markets would usher in a lasting peace.
One year and nine days later, we learned that history had not ended.
One year and nine days later, our nation's capital and this city, our nation's financial capital, came under attack by murderous terrorists. Their aim was to kill as many civilians as possible, to paralyze us with horror. They claimed to act in the name of a compassionate God, but they showed no compassion, not towards the innocents they slaughtered, not even towards their own co-religionists whom they massacred without pity.
They aimed to paralyze us with horror, but we were not paralyzed. The people of the great city of New York and all over America poured out their hearts to the victims of terror, to their families, and bound up our country’s wounds.
There were small stories of heroism everywhere you looked. One man heard about the attack while at work in Connecticut. An ex-Marine, he knew at once America was at war. He drove to church and asked his pastor for a blessing before driving down to New York, to the site of the attack. He climbed right onto the burning pile of rubble. And out there on the pile, he and another former Marine found two police officers, buried alive.
The man is Dave Karnes. And it’s men and women like him, like the heroes of United Flight 93 who attacked the terrorists who aimed to fly their plane into the U.S. Capitol, and saved so many lives at the cost of their own, who showed the world what kind of country the terrorists of al-Qaeda had attacked.
We were not paralyzed. America understood that, after such an atrocity, the pinprick responses of the 1990s would not suffice. We could never win a game of tit-for-tat, a war of attrition with terrorists. We had too much to lose. We could only win by taking the war to the enemy.
One month after the attacks, the United States military, with the support of most of the world, commenced combat operations against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
We were warned that Afghanistan had repelled many foreign armies in the past, that we could not sustain operations against a landlocked country, that the brutal winter and the mountainous terrain would overmatch even our best men and equipment.
But with the help of the Afghani people, who had been oppressed for years under one of the most barbaric regimes in the world, we overthrew the Taliban regime, liberated the Afghani people, and destroyed the main headquarters of our terrorist enemies.
American troops are still in Afghanistan, fighting against our enemies and the enemies of freedom in that country, and helping the Afghani people to rebuild after a long night of tyranny. And we are joined by allies from around the world.
But we did not rest after that battle, because we knew that our enemies were not resting.
Twenty weeks after our nation was attacked, I outlined our strategy for bringing the war to the enemy, and bringing our enemies to defeat.
Our nation is threatened not only by this one organization, al-Qaeda, but by those rogue states that provide al-Qaeda with aid and comfort, that provide arms, shelter, intelligence, and political cover to those who would make war against America. And we are threatened as well by those states who, having declared themselves our enemies, would miss no opportunity to do us harm. I gave notice then: those who ally themselves with our enemies will be treated as enemies.
We did not choose war; our enemies did. But we will not win that war by playing defense, by waiting to be attacked again before taking action in our own defense.
For over a year after I laid out that strategy, I worked with the U.S. Congress and with our allies to respond to the threat posed by the government of Iraq.
Iraq under Saddam Hussein had repeatedly made war on its neighbors, harbored terrorists, used weapons of terror and pursued a nuclear arsenal, violated its agreements and refused to disarm as required by the terms of the cease-fire at the end of the first Gulf War. Like most of our allies and the United Nations, we believed that Saddam Hussein maintained stockpiles of illegal weapons, and continued to pursue weapons of mass destruction. The only question was: how successful was he in pursuing his aims.
Saddam Hussein had defied the United Nations and declared himself the sworn enemy of the United States of America. We decided to be conservative in our assessment.
Seeking the widest possible support for military action should it prove necessary, we turned to the Congress, and got the support of 77 out of 100 Senators, including both Democratic Senators Schumer and Clinton of this great state, and I thank them for their support. We turned to the United Nations Security Council and obtained a resolution promising serious consequences if Iraq failed to comply immediately with its obligations. We exhausted no diplomatic avenue to eliminate this threat short of war. When that proved impossible, we turned to military action.
The war with Iraq was conducted with the utmost regard for the lives of innocent Iraqis. We came not to conquer, and bearing no grudge against the Iraqi people. We came to eliminate a bandit regime that had declared itself America’s enemy. And we intended to leave the Iraqi people a legacy not of oppression and resentment, but of freedom, and of hope.
We are still building that legacy. Saddam Hussein is no longer in power; he is now on trial before an Iraqi court with Iraqi judges for the crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. His mass graves are closed to new victims, but open to human rights investigators. Iraq is now governed by its own people, who have their first chance in history to live under a free government. Our soldiers are still in Iraq, helping the government to fight those who would restore the old tyranny or install a new one. And we will stay there as long as they are wanted and needed – and not a day longer.
America was challenged on September 11th, to defend itself against those who would do us harm, but also to show the world that there was an alternative to the appeasement of tyranny and terror. That a free society can muster the will, and find the way, to defeat its enemies, wherever they may be found.
We were challenged – and we met that challenge. But the war is not yet won.
Al-Qaeda has been denied its best sanctuary. Its leaders are dead, captured or on the run. But the organization survives, and it continues to inspire those who resent our freedom and our achievements, and need a cause to kill and die for.
Our friends and allies, in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and India, in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq, in the Philippines and Indonesia, in Britain and Poland, Spain and Italy, Germany and Russia, still face the daily threat of attack from terrorist groups cut from the same mold as the ones who targeted this city on September 11th. We must not abandon them to their enemies now any more than we did during the long struggle against Communist tyranny.
Terrorist-sponsoring states such as Iran continue to pursue nuclear weapons, the ultimate tool of terror. And rogue states such as North Korea continue to supply the technology for nuclear proliferation. We must not cease our diplomatic efforts to reverse these dangerous policies. And we must not flinch from military action should we exhaust all real alternatives.
Let me tell you something. There are folks out there who think that if you can either be a fighter, or a talker. If you talk, you must be afraid to fight; if you fight, you must be afraid to talk. Well, I think the world is a little more . . . nuanced than that.
Diplomacy without a willingness to use force is a recipe for failure. We’ve tried it before, in the 1930s, and again in the 1990s: with Hitler, with Milosevic, with Saddam Hussein.
But you know, when you put them together, things are very different. Our Administration negotiated for months, alongside our British and Italian allies, to end Libya’s nuclear weapon’s program, end their support for terrorism, and return Libya to the family of nations. And when Colonel Qaddafi was asked why he finally signed the deal, you know what he said? “I didn’t want to wind up like Saddam Hussein.”
This Administration has undertaken the most comprehensive effort in history, to slow and reverse the spread of nuclear weapons. Our Proliferation Security Initiative has the cooperation of dozens of countries and all our major allies. We have exposed the network that provides components, missile technology, and nuclear material to would-be proliferators, and we are shutting it down.
Some people have said: we need a break. Now, you know I’ve got nothing against a little vacation. That old line of Ronald Reagan’s: they say hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance? Well, I’ve got some sympathy for that point of view.
But we had our holiday from history. And history isn’t on holiday anymore.
I’m been asked many times if I’ve made mistakes. I’m sure I have. There's an old saying: you show me a man who's never done anything wrong, I'll show you a man who's never done anything. I’m sure, when history is written, there will be many decisions I made that with hindsight seem ill-timed or ill-considered. I accept that as the price of leadership. My Secretary of State, a great man whom I admire and rely upon, Colin Powell, once wisely said that a good leader acts when he has 70% of the information he needs. If he waits for 100%, he’ll never act in time.
Our Administration and our country have surely made mistakes. But when we have, we have learned from them.
We learned how vulnerable we were on September 11th to attacks on our homeland. And we responded. We established a new cabinet position – the Department of Homeland Security – to consolidate those functions essential to protecting our ports, our roads, our bridges, our office towers, our power plants and our factories from attack or sabotage.
We implemented a law, the Patriot Act – passed overwhelmingly by the Congress – that gave our law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies the tools they needed to track down those who seek to harm us before an attack is launched.
And, as recommended by the bi-partisan September 11th Commission, we will reorganize America’s vital intelligence agencies into a single cabinet position, fully accountable to the President.
But the most important lesson we’ve learned since September 11th is a simple one that the Boy Scouts still teach: be prepared. Be prepared for the unexpected as well as the expected, because however smart you are, you won’t think of everything.
Be prepared. That’s why we have continued to invest, and why we will continue to invest, in a defense against ballistic missile attack. Some people ask: why are we spending money on a defense against missiles when we’re fighting a war on terror? Well, on September 10th, nobody thought we were fighting a war against terror. But terror was already fighting a war against us, a war for which we were unprepared.
And let me tell you, our allies, like Japan, Taiwan and Israel, who live under threat of missile attack, they appreciate our efforts to defend them from that threat as well.
Be prepared. That’s why more than two years ago I proposed a comprehensive energy bill, to give incentives for domestic energy production, including environmentally-sensitive drilling in the vast oil fields of Alaska, and to invest in breakthrough technologies like fuel cells that will eventually end our dependence on oil altogether. So that we will never again be vulnerable to economic blackmail as we were in the 1970s. Congress still has not passed that bill, and I challenge them to do so.
In this business, people call you lots of things, and I don’t really mind that. I know it comes with the job. I don’t mind if people make fun of the way I talk, or even what I believe. Matter of fact, I kind of like being misunderestimated that way.
But the one thing I couldn’t bear for people to say about me is: he let his country down.
There is a saying by an ancient Jewish rabbi that I cherish. It says, in just a few words, so much of what I believe about life. “You are not obliged to complete the work. But neither are you free to desist from it.”
We are engaged in a generational struggle. We should not expect that it will be won in a year, or even in a single Presidential term. It is a struggle for the soul of a civilization, and for the defense of the civilized world.
The terrorists of al-Qaeda and their allies are determined to conquer the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, and remake that world in their hate-filled and tyrannical image. To achieve their aims, they have declared war on the United States of America.
We did not ask for this challenge; it sought us out. But sometimes God challenges us precisely so we can show Him whether we truly believe. Whether we can be as strong and compassionate when our faith is tested as we think we are when it is not.
We will not meet this challenge by relaxing our vigilance and trusting that terrorists can be hunted down after they have committed their atrocities.
We will not meet this challenge by appeasing our enemies and abandoning our allies to those who are as eager for their destruction as for ours.
We will not meet this challenge by abandoning one fifth of the world to tyranny and corruption and the death of hope for a better life.
We will meet this challenge by holding high the torch of freedom, by continuing to serve as a beacon for peoples all over the world, by continuing to be what Ronald Reagan memorably called a shining city on a hill.
President Ronald Reagan transformed this party, and then he transformed the United States of America, by placing values at the core of policy. Freedom at home – from excessive taxation and regulation. And freedom abroad – from Communist tyranny. Morality at home – support for the family, respect for life, pride in one’s work and one’s independence. And morality abroad – the conviction that the spread of freedom was in America’s interests as surely as it was consistent with American values.
Those values at home and abroad were inseparable in 1980 and 1984. And they are inseparable today.
We cannot be the last best hope of earth if we lose hope in our ability to change the world.
And we cannot be the last best hope of earth if we do not maintain our strength at home.
Our strength springs from our economic vitality, which in turn springs from our extraordinary commitment to freedom.
Four years ago, a period of enormous prosperity that began in 1995, after the election of the first Republican Congress in more than a generation, was coming to a close. The stock market had begun to drop, and business confidence was on the brink of collapse. We faced the prospect of an investment recession. And as happened in Japan over a decade ago, once the virtuous cycle of investment and growth is broken, it is very hard to restart.
To keep America strong, and to keep America free, my first priority upon my inauguration as President was: cut the excessive taxes that were discouraging productive investment. During the campaign, in 2000, we were criticized for proposing tax cuts at a time of prosperity, because, they said, we’d boost growth too much, and cause inflation. Then, when the stock market bubble burst, and the economy began to slide, we were criticized for cutting taxes during a recession – because the recession had caused tax receipts to drop, and turned the budget surplus into a deficit.
It seems to me that for some people, there’s no good time to cut taxes. But it’s always a good time to raise them.
Well, that’s not the way I feel about it. We cut taxes not once, not twice, but three times in the course of my Administration. We returned the money to the people who earned it – everyone who paid taxes got a tax cut.
We made the steepest cuts in income taxes on the lowest-income earners, because those hard-working families faced the sharpest pinch as the economy slowed. And we sent out rebate checks to every taxpayer just when the economy needed a boost.
We made the tax code support the American family, not discourage family formation, by eliminating the marriage penalty and increasing the tax credit for children.
We cut taxes because it was the best way to ensure the long-term health of the American economy, to ensure that people have incentives to invest and grow and produce jobs.
And we cut taxes because the more of your earnings you keep, to spend or invest or donate as you wish, the freer you are, and the stronger America is.
And we are not finished. Some people seem to think that the American people are eager to have their taxes raised. Or they think the American people can be fooled by calls to raise taxes on "the rich." Well let me tell you about one of those taxes on "the rich." There's a tax, the Alternative Minimum Tax, designed to hit only the wealthiest families. But as incomes rise with a growing economy, more and more middle-class families are being hit with this "rich man's tax." And even as we cut income taxes with one hand, the AMT is taking the money back with the other.
The AMT is a stealth tax on middle class, and we are going to put a stop to it.
Our tax policy has consistently aimed to improve the incentives for ordinary Americans to save and invest. Because when you save for the future, and invest your savings, you are building wealth. You are building a stake in the health of society. You are creating jobs and bringing America together and making this country stronger. And government can't do that. Only the American people can do that. The best government can do is not make it harder than it has to be.
We want an ownership society. I am proud that under our Administration, African-American homeownership rates have risen to the highest level in American history. Home mortgage rates are at historic lows. We want the dream of homeownership to become a reality for every hardworking American family - and we are making that happen, right now.
We want every American to have an ownership stake in their retirement security. They used to call Social Security the "third rail" of American politics. Well, we called for Social Security reform four years ago, and it looks to me like we survived touching that third rail. But some people didn't get the message. So I'm going to touch it again: we have got to reform Social Security.
Not only because to do otherwise would be irresponsible to the next generation of retirees.
Not only because the American people deserve a higher return on their money than they get from lending it to the government, which is what they do now.
Because it's the right thing to do.
Even the poorest working family deserves an asset they can call their own, that they can see growing, that they can pass on to their children.
It is time to end the dependency on government for our retirement security, and give Americans back some ownership.
We want an investor society. America suffers from a savings deficit. Our businesses and our markets are the most efficient in the world, and draw capital investment from all over the world. But we don't generate enough capital here at home. We have got to strengthen the incentives to save and invest, which is the best, the only sure route to financial security for most Americans.
The most revolutionary development in American finance in the past generation is the IRA. For the first time, Americans could save for retirement without the government taking a bite out of their savings every year. The accumulated earnings in IRAs are now so large, that if they were subject to tax they would wipe out the entire projected Social Security shortfall.
That is money that instead of going to government, is working in the productive free market economy, creating good paying jobs, and building America.
And that gives you an idea of just how big each of our nest eggs could be, if we could keep and save more of what we earn, and get a market rate of return instead of a government rate.
So we want to build on that success. We're going to expand and simplify this country's tax-deferred savings plans into a single, universal saving plan, to save for retirement, or to buy a first home, or to go to college, or to pay for unexpected medical costs or nursing care.
I know, so many Americans are terribly worried about the cost of education, the cost of medical care, the cost of buying a home. And some people will tell you that they have the solution: government money. But time and again, studies have shown that government subsidies only drive up the price of services.
But the key to any long-term solution is to help Americans save for these expenses. When you pay for something yourself, you pay attention to price and quality. And competition will ensure that prices stay low while quality goes up.
We can give every American the ability to save for education, for medical expenses, for a first home, and for retirement, without taxing their savings every time it earns a return. We can, and we will.
With an ownership society, an investor society, every American has a stake in the growth of our economy. And if we’re going to grow that economy, if we’re going to create good jobs, we’ve got to keep it free.
Some of the biggest threats to free enterprise today come not from Federal regulation but from the courts. Junk lawsuits based on junk science are driving up the cost of capital and inhibiting investment. And they are driving up the cost of healthcare, too, as doctors pay more for insurance, or even leave expensive fields like obstetrics, or even leave entire states when they can no longer afford to practice medicine.
The trial lawyer industry has become a powerful lobby, and it has fought any reform of American tort law to stop this kind of abuse.
And now they are hoping to put one of their own a heartbeat away from the Presidency.
Let me give you an example of the kind of abuse I’m talking about. Asbestos litigation has driven dozens of companies into bankruptcy, many of them companies that never even produced asbestos. And as much as 90% of claims go to people who by their own admission are not even sick.
So much money goes to the trial lawyers and to claimants who aren’t even sick, that many truly deserving victims of asbestosis have never seen a penny in compensation. All the money is sucked up by the system.
Now there are many people who have been seriously harmed by asbestos. And they deserve due compensation for their suffering.
But when most of the money goes to people who aren’t sick, and most of the money comes from companies that did nothing wrong, there is something very broken about our tort system.
That has got to change. The people who are hurt the most by our broken tort system are those who truly deserve compensation, whose claims are watered down and whose suits are delayed by our junk-clogged judicial system. But the American economy is hurt as well, by stealth regulation by tort that imposes irrational costs and drives honest men and women out of some businesses altogether.
The system is supposed to serve the injured, not the trial lawyers. But the system is broken. And we’re going to fix it.
Now friends, we know there are people who think that for every problem, government is the solution. And we don’t believe that, never have and never will. But we also know that there are things government must do, and we expect government to do them well. And that is what the American people expect as well.
There is no more important investment we can make in our future as a nation, than to provide our children with a quality education. But too often, our schools – even some schools that spend the most per pupil – fail to do the job.
More money can help, sometimes. But spending more money without accountability for results is often the worst thing you can do. Because once the money is gone, and the results are in, what do you do then? And what do you tell the children when they ask, where did it go?
That’s why one of my top priorities in my first term was to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, to strengthen accountability in American education.
Yes, we increased spending on public education. We increased spending at a faster rate than any of the last three Administrations. But if that money is spent wisely, it is well spent.
For the first time, the Federal government has the tools to determine which schools are performing, and which are not. And when a school fails to perform, there is a consequence.
Naturally, there are a lot of people who don’t like that. The teachers’ unions don’t like that. The education bureaucracy doesn’t like that. They don’t want to face the consequences of failure. But one day, whatever you do, someone is going to face the consequence. Isn’t it better to close a failing school than to keep failing students?
We are not going to let our students down. We are not going to weaken that bill, we are going to strengthen it. We are going to ensure that every part of our education system is accountable to parents and to taxpayers; that schools teach what works, not what’s fashionable; and that money is spent wisely, not just spent. And we are going to make sure that when the public schools are failing, parents have the option of choosing an alternative.
Empower parents. Empower teachers. And give the taxpayer the tools and the information to make informed decisions, and hold the system accountable. That’s our education policy, and I am confident that the next time I ask the question, is our children learning? the answer will be: yes, we are.
My friends, when we are strong abroad, when our economy is strong at home, when we help every American invest for retirement and when we invest in every child’s education, then we are truly on the way to building that shining city on a hill.
But the cornerstone of that building is our values.
We will be judged, as a civilization, not by how tall our buildings are, nor how strong our armies, nor how grand our estates, but by how we treat the most vulnerable among us. Do we treat them with compassion and with respect? Or with contempt, and with condescension.
Four years ago, when asked how I’d describe my philosophy, I called it “compassionate conservatism.” You know, there’s a bumper sticker some of my fans made up, it says, “Compassionate Conservatism is an Oxymoron. George Bush is just a . . .” well, I’ll let you fill in the rest.
But really, it never struck me as some kind of novel or strange idea. It’s just another way of putting common sense, and the values we all learned long ago.
One of the greatest social epidemics of the past 40 years was the growth of welfare dependency. Turns out, if you hand out money to people for not working, some of them won’t go back to work. And if you keep that up for long enough, you can pass that dependency down from generation to generation.
That kind of dependency eats your soul out from the inside. You become spiritually dead. And once you're in that rut, it's terribly hard to get out.
I don’t think there’s anyone I admire more than the millions of women who have picked themselves up out of that state and gotten a job, sometimes for the first time in years. Bit by bit, she regains her dignity.
Well there are millions more people who’ve gotten their dignity back now than there were before the Republican Congress passed their historic welfare reform, hundreds of thousands of people in this city alone. Welfare caseloads under Republican Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg have dropped in half from their peak under the last Democratic Mayor. And most of these people have gone into the job market, are contributing to their city and have regained their dignity.
There are lots of people who want to undo this historic reform. But we cannot go back to the old ways of dependency and government handouts.
I meet people sometimes who say, oh, these people are only going into dead-end jobs. Those jobs aren’t even worth doing.
Well let me tell you: look these hardworking women and men up ten years from now, and tell me if they are still in a dead end. The only dead-end is welfare dependency, and we are breaking the cycle.
Those jobs are not dead-end jobs. They are the first rung on a ladder, a ladder that rises to a better job, and a permanent home, and a better life for your children.
Our philosophy is: grab onto that first rung, and we’ll help you climb.
As any social scientist will tell you, one of the biggest obstacles to getting on that ladder is single motherhood. If I had to name the one most important thing you can do to better your long-term prospects for health and well-being, I’d say: get married. In fact, I’d say: get married to my wife. But she’s not available at the present time.
When men and women join in marriage, they create something new that didn’t exist before. They create a family. A family is not just two people who are joined at the heart. A family is something bigger than you. Everyone is born into a family and, when you marry, you build a new one with someone else. It is a place to dwell, a shelter for your children.
In marriage, we learn to give, including the greatest gift of all, the gift of life.
We do not do enough to cherish marriage in our culture today. We divorce too quickly; we are too willing to treat marriage as just another lifestyle choice. But it is something altogether more sacred.
Marriage is how men and women learn to complement each other, how to work together and not against each other. And from watching them, their children learn the same lesson. It’s not easy; it doesn’t happen automatically. It takes support, affirmation, and the belief that a marriage is worth sacrificing for.
That’s why we are committed to giving people the help they need. To make the decision to marry before they have children. And to stay married once they do.
Some people say this is none of the government’s business. It’s a private matter. But every year, the government spends more and more money cleaning up the mess left by the breakdown of the American family. And that’s a job government really isn’t very good at.
Of course, not everyone can or will marry. And we must always be compassionate towards those who, through no fault of their own, cannot be happy in marriage.
Jesus Christ, when he saw the people ready to stone the woman taken in adultery, said: let he who is without sin cast the first stone. We should be ever watchful not to condemn only sins that we ourselves would not commit.
And we must not close the door, to single mothers struggling to provide for their children, to men and women trapped in cruel marriages, and to men and women who cannot honestly love someone of the opposite sex, and are searching for the right way to bring love into their lives.
We must cherish, and show compassion, towards all Americans.
And we must strengthen and protect the American family – for their sakes as well.
Marriage and the family are the foundation of society. And whatever laws we pass, whatever arrangements we give sanction to out of compassion, we must not open cracks in that foundation.
There are those who say, it’s no business of the government to talk about values. But too often, they are eager to have the government get in the business of values – just not the values that work.
Let me give you an example. This Administration has budgeted more money to fight AIDS than any previous Administration. AIDS is a devastating scourge around the world, and nowhere more so than in the poorest countries of Africa. In some countries, more than 1 in every 4 adults is infected with the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS has reduced life expectancies in some countries by as much as ten years, and is one of the greatest causes of poverty and underdevelopment on the African continent.
We have spent money and we will spend more caring for the sick and providing life-sustaining medicine. But the only way we will ever end this plague is by preventing new infections. And that means changing behavior.
One country in Africa – Uganda – pioneered an approach focused on changing behavior, what they call ABC. Abstain if you are not married. Be Faithful if you are. And only if you cannot follow those rules do you turn to strategies for safer intercourse.
It sounds like common sense. But it flew in the face of the wisdom of the experts, who said you couldn’t change behavior. They attacked the ABC approached, saying it would be too judgmental, and would only drive people away.
Well, guess what? Uganda today has a rate of infection as low as one-third the rate of many similar African countries.
The conventional wisdom was nothing more than the soft bigotry of low expectations – and it cost millions of lives.
We have committed ourselves to a better approach, to changing people’s behavior by focusing on values. We’re willing to put our money where our mouth is, in Africa and right here in America. And we will save lives.
I said we are judged by the most vulnerable among us, and we will be.
We will be judged by the conditions of our prisons, where too many are subject to the risk of rape or other personal violence. That is unacceptable in a civilized society, and we will put an end to it.
We will be judged by our commitment to truly leave no child behind, leave no child trapped in a failing school.
But no human being is more vulnerable to harm than those yet unborn.
You know, some of my advisors say I shouldn’t bring this subject up too much, because it makes people uncomfortable.
Well, maybe we should be uncomfortable.
People of goodwill can disagree about when we can be sure a human life has begun. And people of goodwill can disagree about whether, at some times and in some circumstances, abortion is the lesser of two evils.
But it is an evil.
One day, generations will look back on an America that called a terrible decision fraught with evil nothing more than personal choice and wonder, how could they? Just as we look back on our slave-owning ancestors who called suffering human beings mere personal property and wonder, how could they?
We should not be comfortable. We can change – we can change our values; we can change our behavior. And we will fight to make that change.
We can come together to do this. The issues that so often divide us, they can unite us.
No one wants to see a life snuffed out before its time.
No one wants to trap a child in a failing school without hope.
No one wants to stand idly by while innocent blood is spilled, whether the blood of our neighbor or someone far away – in the Balkans, in Iraq, or in the Sudan.
We all cherish the vision of the prophet Micah, of the day when we shall sit every man under his vine and fig tree, and none shall make us afraid.
And we pray to see that promised day.
But if we believe in it, we should set our hands to work for it.
Not Democrats and Republicans.
Not liberals and conservatives.
Not men and women, black and white, native-born and immigrants, Christians, Jews and Muslims.
With liberty, and justice for all.
You know, of all the necessary security measures we took after September 11th, none pained me more than the closure of the Statue of Liberty.
For generations, her burning torch was the first light people saw on their long hard journey to America. And when people see her for the first time, they still get a lump in their throat.
Well about a month ago Lady Liberty opened to visitors again. And people from across America traveled hundreds, even thousands of miles to greet her when her doors opened for the first time in almost three years.
Some came to show their gratitude, for opening our doors, to them, or to their ancestors. The doors to hope. The doors to freedom. The doors to opportunity.
But they came to show their pride as well. Not as newcomers yearning to be breathe free, but as free and equal American citizens.
They came to say: those are my arms holding up that torch.
Those are my hands holding open the golden door.
This is my America.
Even though she's a gift from France, Lady Liberty is 100% American. But her light shines not only for Americans, but for the whole world.
When the students in Tiananmen Square cried out for freedom and justice, what symbol did they choose? The built a Goddess of Democracy, and they modeled her on Lady Liberty.
And when their hopes were crushed under the treads of tanks, Lady Liberty's torch burned a little dimmer, for us as well.
American is the custodian only of our own freedom. But we are, and we must be, the friend of freedom everywhere.
"You are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it."
I pray, with God's help, that we will not desist. That we will keep that torch held high, for all Americans, and for all who love freedom.
So let's get back to work.
God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.