Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)
Republican Party of Iowa
Abraham Lincoln Unity Dinner
Des Moines, Iowa
April 14, 2007
Congressman, thank you.  Boy it's great to see so many friends this evening.  It's been a number of years now that I've had the chance to come back and meet with you, and the first time I came I turned to my sweetheart, and some of you have heard me say this before, I said to her, Ann, 'cause we met in high school, did you ever in your wildest dreams see me coming to Iowa to campaign for Republicans and for myself?  And she said, Mitt, you weren't in my wildest dreams.  [laughter].
She's here this evening.  Would Ann and my son Josh come join me?  I want you to see them.  They're why I'm in this thing.  Come on up here you guys.  [applause].  This is Josh; he's the middle son, and married with three children, and this is my wife Ann, and I'm just happy to have them here this evening and to remind myself and to remind you why it is anybody decides to run for president.  It's because you've got someone like this beside you; because you care about your children and their wives and their children.  And that's why I'm in this race.
I want to make sure that America's children have a more prosperous and safe country, that they have the kind of future to look forward to that we had to look forward to thanks to the sacrifices of the greatest generation.  Thanks you guys.  Thank you.  [applause].
Gov. Branstad and Gov. Ray and all the elected officials, Congressman Latham, it's an honor to be here with you.  The Congressman indicated that I haven't spent my life in politics.  That's for sure.  I spent my life in the private sector just like almost everybody else in this room.

I found something interesting in the private sector and that is that if you don't change, if you don't get better from year to year in almost any part of the private sector well you'll probably end up going out of business.  I was at Pioneer the other day, the seed corn business, and they were showing me how every year they try and make the seed better and better and better.  Almost anywhere in the private sector things get better or you go out of business.  And I spent my life there learning how to make things better, or try, and by virtue of that I've learned how to change organizations and make things better.  If there's ever been a time that we need a change in Washington, DC, it's now.  And I'm concerned - [applause].

I'm concerned that Washington hasn't made the changes it needs to make in part because of all the politicians spending so much time talking and debating and arguing and bickering instead of getting the job done.  You see in the private sector talk is worthless.  If you've got somebody that all they can do is talk and they can't deliver and get the job done they ought to get fired.  You have to get the job done; you have to take action.

Now America faces some huge challenges and Mayor Giuliani just described a number of them.  They're enormous in their scope.  It's a new generation of challenges.  It's items we've never faced before.

Number one, this attack from jihadists whose intent is not just to set off a bomb here or there, their intent is to cause the collapse of all the moderate Islamic states and to replace them with a religious caliphate.  They want to cause the collapse of the United States of America and our defeat militarily.

We face other challenges across the world.  A much tougher economic competitor in Asia than we've ever faced before.  China, India, Southeast Asia growing dramatically and trying to take jobs from our country, and we're going to have to raise the bar in this country if we want to stay ahead forever.

Then there are domestic challenges.  We're spending too much money in Washington.  We're also using too much oil here.  Sixty-percent of our oil comes from foreign sources.  Our schools aren't up to snuff, our health care system leaves too many behind, our immigration laws don't make any sense, and look at what's happening to our culture.  Those elements that are the foundational bedrock of what America is are all under attack in this country.

Now some people when they see that America faces challenges they say we have to turn to the source of our strength.  My liberal friends in Massachusetts, and I have two or three, would say to me that the source of our strength is our government.  Now we have a great government, but that's not what makes America strong.  What makes America strong is the American people--hard-working, educated, risk-taking, opportunity-seeking, God-loving, family-oriented patriotic American people who respect the sanctity of human life, who will give of themselves for their great country.  This is what makes America the greatest nation on Earth; it is what will always keep us the greatest nation on Earth. [applause].

And when America faces challenges, you don't turn to say how do you strengthen government, you turn to say how do you strengthen the American people?  You see the Republican Party and conservatism generally are a philosophy of strength.  Military strength.  Economic strength.  Personal strength.  Family strength.  And we've got some work to do on those fronts to face this new generation of challenges.

Military strength.  We have depleted and made it great difficulty for our troops to stand up to the challenges they have today.  In my view we ought to have at least 100,000 more troops in our U.S. military.  We ought to be spending $40-50 billion more per year to make sure we have the equipment they need, they have the tools that they need, they have the technology they need and we have the resources to care for them when they come home.  I want to see us spend at least 4-percent of our gross domestic product on our military budget.  We need a strong, we need a strong military in this country.  Now we're also-- [applause].

I think we're also recognizing increasingly that oil policy is not just about our pocketbooks, it's about our strategic strength and our military capabilities.  We need to become energy independent and we can become energy independent.  We talk about it; we've been talking about it for years, but we have to finally stop the rhetoric and put in place action to get energy independence, and it's ethanol and it's biodeisel and biofuels and wind and solar and liquefied coal and gasified goal and nuclear and more drilling--it's all of those.  It's time for us to use technology to allow ourselves to become more energy efficient.  We must become energy independent to maintain our strategic strength and also to maintain our strength around the world.  Now we have-- [applause].

We have the most robust economy in the world.  Its strength and scale is not in parallel [peril], and as we look forward and see the challenges we have, we recognize we need to keep that economy strong.  When President Bush faced recession and a slowdown and the convergence of all the factors that dampened our economy, he said something that a lot of people shook their head about, in some cases even people in our own party.  He said we need to lower taxes.  They said no, no, no, no we need more money for government.  He said no, no the strength of America is always the strength of the American people.  Give them more of their income so they can invest in the future, they can invest in new companies and new technology and that will propel the growth of the American economy, and boy was he right.  And it's time again to say, let's make sure those Bush tax cuts are permanent [applause].

And I want to add to that, I want to get rid of the death tax forever.  Let's get rid of that thing.  [applause].  And let's also, and let's also tell the American people of middle incomes, you know what?  It's not fair for you to have to get taxed when you earn your money, taxed when you save your money and taxed when you die.  Let's make sure when you save your money, if you're of middle income, you don't pay any taxes at all on interest, dividends or capital gains.  You should save your money tax free.  [applause].

Military, economy, and people.

We need better schools for our kids.  I want to make sure that our kids rise to the occasion as they face a tough global world that they are going to be entering into.  How do you do that?  Better schools.  School choice is critical.  I found that in my schools.  We also decided to change something.  We used to have bilingual education in our state.  Teachers and superintendents and parents could choose a language other than English for their child to be taught in.  Spanish or Vietnamese or Chinese.  And you know what we did?  We said let's take that to the voters and we passed a ballot initiative that said you know what, if you want to be successful in America, you've got to speak the language of America.  [applause].

And we need to fix immigration in this country.  It doesn't make sense to me that people that have skill and education that want to get into this country and wait in line can't get in, but people who have neither can just walk across the border.  We need to secure our border.  [applause].  And I want an employment verification system as well to know who's here legally and who's able to work here and people who hire people who are illegal should be fined and penalized just like they are for not paying their taxes.  [applause.]

Let me mention one more thing and that is if we want to strengthen the people of America there's one place that's most important.  There's one place where the future of America is most importantly being set and that's in the American home.  There is no work more important to our future that the work done within the four walls of the American home, and it concerns me enormously that over our entire country about a third of our kids are born out of wedlock and in some of our cities two-thirds of our kids are born out of wedlock.  Look, moms and dads can help give the kids the values they need, can support them in school, can help them with the head start they need in their life.  Every child deserves a mother and a father.  [applause].

I want you to know I am confident about the future of this country.  It is bright, it is positive, it is going to be marvelous for our kids and our grandkids to enjoy.  I'm optimistic about our future because I've seen the heart of the American people, the source of our strength.  I've met probably most of you in this room once or twice by now.  I've seen people all across the country.  I'm inspired as I do so.

I want to tell one quick story.  I've told a number of you my favorite from the Olympics about Derrick Parra.  He reminds me what it is about America that gives me such hope and confidence.  He's the young guy from Los Angeles, California.  Before our games in Salt Lake City in 2002 his wife said to him, Derrick, why don't you stop rollerblading and start ice skating.  He hadn't ice skated before so he strapped on some ice skates, and he was fast.  He was so fast, after a lot of work and training, he made the United States Olympic Team in speed skating.  Come out to Salt Lake City, skated his heart out, got the silver medal and the gold medal--fastest man on ice in the world.  Absolutely extraordinary.

The Vice President asked me to invite one U.S. athlete to join him at closing ceremonies in the president's box, and I chose Derrick Parra.  As Derrick came in I said Derrick what was the most memorable experience in your Olympics?  And he said it wasn't the silver and the gold, it was being honored to carry in the American flag that had flown about the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 into the opening ceremonies.  He was one of eight athletes chosen to carry in this flag.  It's about 8 by 12; it's badly torn and burned.

As he brought it in, he said he thought the crowd was going to erupt in cheers, but instead total silence, complete reverence.  He carried the flag and stopped in front of the choir and the symphony and they began performing the national anthem.  And he said, Mitt, it was hard to hold on to my emotions with those words being sung while I was holding that flag.  And then the choir did something he hadn't expected.  They were singing an old 1930s version of our national anthem where you repeat the last line with the soprano singing one octave higher and with the orchestration that much greater.  Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.  And he said this time as they sang it a little gust of wind came into the flag and lifted it in their hands, and he said it was as if the spirits of all those who'd fought and died for American liberty had just blown into that flag, and he said, Mitt, the tears began running down my cheeks.  And I've said to myself then and since, it is that spirit, that love of freedom, that love of America that allows us to be the hope of the world.

What you're doing here, in looking at Republican candidates, it'll all come together when this is all finished, is making sure that spirit is alive and strong, because strength is what the Republican party and conservative principles underscore.  Strength.  Strength of our military, strength of our economy, strength of our families and people.  Together we can make this and keep this forever the hope of the world.  Thank you so much.  Great to be with you again.  [applause].

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Time: 13:16