"First-in-the-Nation Primary Kick Off Dinner"
May 2, 1999
Thank you. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman for that very nice and gracious introduction. As I think all of you here tonight will gather from what you've heard and from what you're about to hear, the Republican Party has a depth and and array of candidates that is head and shoulders about what the other side is offering. [applause].
They offer two candidates, each striving to say less than the other [laughter]. And this puts a special burden on the Republican Party. The American people expect and the Republican Party must provide a clear, an open, an honest, a vigorous debate about what we believe and why be believe in [it/them]. The American people have a right to know where we see our country, what we can do here at home, and the role we should play overseas. We must be a party that cares about people, about principles and about ideas, and about the enduring values that have made us great and can guide us into the future.
We must offer a clear, coherent and exciting agenda and vision, and that means we must resist the siren calls of pundits and pollsters who have abandoned, who want us to abandon, our basic principles.
All of us, I think, are gathered here tonight have a sense that our country is on the threshold of what should be one of the most exciting and inspiring eras in human history. If you think about it, never before in human history has a nation ever occupied the position that we do today. Not even the Roman Empire, at the height of imperial grandeur, ever had the influence that America now enjoys.
And whether the peoples around the world admit it or not, most have looked to our country for a model, for an example of what a free people can do and achieve in changing times and circumstances. And this is what it ultimately means to be the only superpower left in the world. It simply comes down to this. If America gets it right, the rest of the world has a chance to get it right. But if America gets in trouble, the rest of the world is in trouble. We are the only act left. [applause].
And that leads to the fundamental question of our time. Can we realize these extraordinary opportunities, or are we going to be known in future generations, and damned by future generations, as an era of missed opportunities? And that means as a party we must not adopt a platform of Clinton/Gore light. [applause].
We must remember we are the party of Lincoln; we are the party of freedom. And that means we should declare from here on that we will fight for the right of every American to be free--free from fear of the IRS, free to choose schools that work for our children [applause], free to choose doctors we trust, free for our young people to choose how their Social Security taxes are invested.
Put them in their own retirement accounts away from the grasping hands of the Washington politicians. [applause, air horn]. We can keep the current system for those who are on it and those about to go on it and we should--a promise made, a promise kept--but while we still have the time, we should bring in a new system for young people where they're in charge again.
And freedom also means the freedom from fear of Chinese nuclear espionage and the freedom from fear of a missile attack on the United States. [applause]. And freedom also means we must not abandon the unborn; freedom does mean the freedom to be born. [applause].
After all we have now seen in the Balkans and in Littleton, Colorado a basic fact of life: human nature does not change; it has a capacity for great good but also great evil. And seeing what's happening in the Balkans and what happened in Littleton underscores that we must not give in to indecision, drift, and the kind of feeling that anything goes.
We must once again resist the temptation to enact new laws, new regulations, new bureaucracies, and look to ourselves, and rely upon ourselves again, as parents and as teachers and in our children a strong sense of right and wrong, and instill a sense of discipline and morality and values in our schools. It's in our hands to save ourselves. They say politics is local. Salvation is local; you cannot go to Washington for that. [applause, air horn].
In Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln spoke of a new birth of freedom. A new birth of freedom--that should be our mission, that should be our vision. If we take those words to heart, we will redeem our nation, we will realize our full potential, and we'll astound ourselves and the world with what a free people can achieve. And in doing so, as Ronald Reagan liked to put it, we will once again be that shining city on the hill. It's in our hands. We can do it. We've done it before. And this gets to the great strength of the American people. It's not that we don't make mistakes; we are [inaudible], but when we do stumble or fall, we find the strength, looking to God, to pick ourselves up, and working together to reach new heights. We've done it before and we will do it again. Thank you and God bless. [applause].