Tomorrow, I will file papers forming an exploratory committee so I can take the next step in considering a campaign for President of the United States. This will allow my friends, some of whom are on the stage here today, to begin assessing the level of support for my candidacy and to begin raising funds. I am honored that they have traveled far and wide to be here and I hope they will travel farther and wider in the months ahead.
I want to tell my friends outside of Texas, especially in the early primary states, I wonít be able to visit until this summer. I know I will be late -- much later than other candidates --but if I go forward with a campaign, I will work hard to overcome my late start. First, I have a job to do in Texas.
Iím a person who does in office what I say I will do. Last year, I told the people of Texas I did not know whether I would seek the presidency, and they should factor that in when they went to vote. I also told them I would be here this spring during our once-every-two-years legislative session, fighting for a bold agenda. Through the end of May, I must be here -- working with legislators to build consensus for major tax cuts and for education, welfare and criminal justice reforms.
After the legislative session, Laura and I intend to begin traveling to meet with people, to listen to people and to explore on our own the prospect of a campaign for President.
Many of you know I had doubts and concerns about what a campaign would mean for my family. Laura and the girls and I have talked about this a great deal, and they have concluded that if I run, they will probably vote for me. We have become comfortable that our love is strong enough, that we are close enough, that our family will thrive no matter what life brings.
I do have a compelling reason to consider running for President: I want the 21st century to be one of prosperity with a purpose. If America pursues limited government, low taxes, free and fair trade and free markets, our country will continue to be prosperous. But the purpose of prosperity is not merely material wealth. America must be prosperous and strong so the next century is peaceful. America must be prosperous so our citizens can find high quality, high paying jobs. And we must make the purpose of prosperity to help every single person have a shot at achieving the American dream, to strengthen our families where we find love and values, and to remove obstacles from faith-based groups and our local communities being involved in the compassionate delivery of help to those in need.
I believe in the promise of America -- the fundamentally American conviction that each of us can be what we want to be, can achieve what we want to achieve, so long as we are willing to work and earn it. The promise is meant for everyone, not just a few -- and as we move into the 21st century, I want the party of Lincoln to be the party that makes sure no one is left behind.
As friends begin to work on my behalf around the country, I hope the people of America will learn what the people of Texas know: that I base decisions on a set of core, conservative principles from which I will not waver. I believe government should be limited, that government should focus on a few priorities and do them well. I know the role of government is not to create wealth, but to foster an environment in which our small businesses and entrepreneurs can flourish.
I believe in local control of our counties, cities and schools. l know Texans can run Texas, and that states must be free to enact innovative and constructive reforms. I believe all public policy should encourage strong families and I believe in personal responsibility. Iíve worked in Texas to help usher in what I call the responsibility era, in which all individuals know they are responsible for their actions, responsible for the children they bring into this world, responsible for their families and communities and responsible for loving their neighbors as they would like to be loved themselves.
Iíve described myself as a compassionate conservative, because I am convinced a conservative philosophy is a compassionate philosophy that frees individuals to achieve their highest potential. It is conservative to cut taxes and compassionate to give people more money to spend. It is conservative to insist upon local control of schools and high standards and results; it is compassionate to make sure every child learns to read and no one is left behind. It is conservative to reform the welfare system by insisting on work; itís compassionate to free people from dependency on government. It is conservative to reform the juvenile justice code to insist on consequences for bad behavior; it is compassionate to recognize that discipline and love go hand in hand.
As Governor of this great state, I have proven I know how to lead. I know that a leader must clearly see a better tomorrow. A leader must make decisions based on principles. And a leader must be a uniter, not a divider.
A leader sets a tone. Should I decide to run for President, I will set an optimistic and hopeful tone for America. I will campaign on my beliefs and principles and will not engage in the petty politics of personal destruction. America deserves better.
Finally, a good leader surrounds himself with smart, capable people. Thatís been my hallmark in Texas and I am proud of the leaders who have come together to help me explore the prospects of a national campaign. The men and women on this stage represent the best of the Republican Party. I am grateful they will take time to help me make this decision and to recruit others to lead the campaign. From senior statesmen to current and future stars, they show that ours is a party that is open, that is diverse, that is principled -- that ours is the party with an optimistic vision for the future of America.