Lamar Alexander
"First-in-the-Nation Primary Kick Off Dinner"
Manchester, NH
May 2, 1999

Thank you Jim Nicholson; ladies and gentlemen it's great to be back in New Hampshire. As I hope you heard from the other speakers, you know there are actually two Tennesseans running for president this time. I've been working overtime to try to make sure that America doesn't become confused and elect the wrong one.

I know that Al Gore is a famous farmer; I know that he invented the Internet; I know that he may have even invented the Chinese campaign contribution [laughter, applause]. America doesn't need a president whose chief claim to fame is that he was the head cheerleader in Bill Clinton's presidency. [applause].

America needs a president who knows that the White House is ours and what happens there is our business, a president who respects the office and the people who put that president there. [applause].

America is ready for a president who is as committed to military men and women as military men and women are committed to our country. [applause].

America is ready for a president who understands that the government should take less of what we earn and we should keep more of what we earn. [applause].

America is ready for a president who will stop labeling us based on race and start leaving us to say those four magic words "I am an American." [applause].

America is ready for a president who honors the job of father and mother.

I want to say words tonight about the subject that's on the minds of most Americans-- parents, schools and children. When I think about the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado I think, as I expect you do of your own experiences. Mine was this:

When I was growing up we carried a pocketknife to school every day; every boy did. But we never once thought about using it on each other. Why was that? Yet kids today are killing each other. One reason is that the culture is tough. It's harder to grow up. And we can and we should do some things about the ultra-violent video games and the guns and the violence.

But there is something else that I believe is even more important. I believe the reason that we didn't use those pocketknives on each other was because we had parents and other adults deeply involved in our lives as children. [applause].

For me, and perhaps for you, it was a grandfather down the street, it was a mom and dad who [inaudible] for a music lesson or a library card, it was nosey neighbors, it was teachers who felt empowered to teach right and wrong as well as math and English; and you know if you got in trouble at school, you got in trouble at home. [applause].

It was scoutmasters and choirmasters who kept us busy and a church that was open so many days of the week it seemed like Sunday came every other day. And that is not nostalgia; that's a recipe for helping young people learn that some things are right and some things are wrong and there is a difference. [applause].

So it is time to put our government and our culture back on the side of parents raising children.

I say end the marriage penalty. Triple the tax deduction for each child to $8,000. Get rid of the laws that discourage family-friendly workplaces and give every family access to a good safe neighborhood school.

Which brings me back to my fellow Tennessean. I was clicking through the television the other night looking for a basketball game and I got Al Gore. He was [inaudible] and he was saying that he wanted radical change in our public schools, but his idea of that is one more federal program from Washington hiring teachers. That's exactly the wrong thing to do. I say send the federal bureaucrats home and send the money back to the adults closest to the children…[inaudible, applause].

Let's get rid of the overhead, the union rules, the government regulations and let teachers teach, pay good teachers more, support teachers who maintain discipline, and change the tenure laws so no child has an incompetent teacher. [applause].

Mr. Gore wants a national school board; I want a local school board, and the real difference is this: Albert Gore knows what is best for you. I want to bring out the best in you. [applause].

Here are the stakes, here are the stakes. Sixteen years of Clinton and Gore or a new direction for our country. I'm ready to bring down the curtain on the Clinton-Gore magic act. I'm ready to lead a campaign to bring out the best in this country.

I've prepared to do that by serving as governor twice, as university president, as education secretary, by co-founding a business. Like presidents Bush and Reagan and Nixon, I have run once before. I have even walked across New Hampshire from Concord to the Sea. [applause].

Other than your elected representatives, no one has spent more time listening to what you have to say about taxes, about Social Security, and about your hopes for the future. I have done that because it will make me a better candidate and a better president. I have done that because I know that our nomination can't be bought, can't be inherited--it has to be earned, and I am here tonight to earn it. [applause].

Give me the opportunity, give me the opportunity and I will wake up every day thinking of how to create the best schools, the best parents, the strongest military and the best economy. I invite you to join me to bring out the best in this country. Let us start in Manchester, right here, right now. [applause].


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