Thank you, my friends, for your support and dedication to our campaign. And thank you, Wisconsin, for bringing us to the point when even a superstitious naval aviator can claim with confidence and humility that I will be our party's nominee for President. I promise you, I will wage a campaign with determination, passion and the right ideas for strengthening our country that prove worthy of the honor and responsibility you have given me.
I, again, want to commend Governor Huckabee, who has shown impressive grit and passion himself, and whom, though he remains my opponent, I have come to admire very much. And, of course, I want to thank my wife, Cindy, and my daughter, Meghan, who are here tonight, and the rest of my family for their indispensable love and encouragement.
My friends, we have traveled a great distance together already in this campaign, and overcome more than a few obstacles. But as I said last week, now comes the hard part and, for America, the bigger decision. Will we make the right changes to restore the people's trust in their government and meet the great challenges of our time with wisdom, and with faith in the values and ability of Americans for whom no challenge is greater than their resolve, courage and patriotism? Or will we heed appeals for change that ignore the lessons of history, and lack confidence in the intelligence and ideals of free people?
I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than people. Our purpose is to keep this blessed country free, safe, prosperous and proud. And the changes we offer to the institutions and policies of government will reflect and rely upon the strength, industry, aspirations and decency of the people we serve.
We live in a world of change, some of which holds great promise for us and all mankind and some of which poses great peril. Today, political change in Pakistan is occurring that might affect our relationship with a nuclear armed nation that is indispensable to our success in combating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere. An old enemy of American interests and ideals is leaving the world stage, and we can glimpse the hope that freedom might someday come to the people of Cuba. A self-important bully in Venezuela threatens to cut off oil shipments to our country at a time of sky-rocketing gas prices. Each event poses a challenge and an opportunity. Will the next President have the experience, the judgment experience informs, and the strength of purpose to respond to each of these developments in ways that strengthen our security and advance the global progress of our ideals? Or will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested invading our ally, Pakistan, and sitting down without pre-conditions or clear purpose with enemies who support terrorists and are intent on destabilizing the world by acquiring nuclear weapons?
The most important obligation of the next President is to protect Americans from the threat posed by violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. They are moral monsters, but they are also a disciplined, dedicated movement driven by an apocalyptic zeal, which celebrates murder, has access to science, technology and mass communications, and is determined to acquire and use against us weapons of mass destruction. The institutions and doctrines we relied on in the Cold War are no longer adequate to protect us in a struggle where suicide bombers might obtain the world's most terrifying weapons.
If we are to succeed, we must rethink and rebuild the structure and mission of our military; the capabilities of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies; the purposes of our alliances; the reach and scope of our diplomacy; the capacity of all branches of government to defend us. We need to marshal all elements of American power: our military, economy, investment, trade and technology and our moral credibility to win the war against Islamic extremists and help the majority of Muslims, who believe in progress and peace, win the struggle for the soul of Islam.
The challenges and opportunities of the global economy require us to change some old habits of our government as well. But we will fight for the right changes; changes that understand our strengths and rely on the common sense and values of the American people. We will campaign:
to balance the federal budget not with smoke and mirrors, but by encouraging economic growth and preventing government from spending your money on things it shouldn't; to hold it accountable for the money it does spend on services that only government can provide in ways that don't fail and embarrass you;
to save Social Security and Medicare on our watch without the tricks, lies and posturing that have failed us for too long while the problem became harder to solve;
to make our tax code simpler, fairer, flatter, more pro-growth and pro-jobs;
to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil with an energy policy that encourages American industry and technology to make our country safer, cleaner and more prosperous by leading the world in the use, development and discovery of alternative sources of energy;
to open new markets to American goods and services, create more and better jobs for the American worker and overhaul unemployment insurance and our redundant and outmoded programs for assisting workers who have lost a job that's not coming back to find a job that won't go away;
to help Americans without health insurance acquire it without bankrupting the country, and ruining the quality of American health care that is the envy of the world;
to make our public schools more accountable to parents and better able to meet the critical responsibility they have to prepare our children for the challenges they'll face in the world they'll lead.
I'm not the youngest candidate. But I am the most experienced. I know what our military can do, what it can do better, and what it should not do. I know how Congress works, and how to make it work for the country and not just the re-election of its members. I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it. I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don't. And I know who I am and what I want to do.
I don't seek the office out of a sense of entitlement. I owe America more than she has ever owed me. I have been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. I have never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I haven't been proud of the privilege. Don't tell me what we can't do. Don't tell me we can't make our country stronger and the world safer. We can. We must. And when I'm President we will.
Thank you, and God bless you.