As governor, I’ve made difficult decisions, and stood by them under pressure. I’ve been where the buck stops — in business and in government. I’ve been a chief executive who sets an agenda, sets big goals, and rallies people to believe and achieve them.
I am proud of this record, and I’m prepared for the work ahead.
If you give me your trust, I will honor it … Grant me a mandate, and I will use it … Give me the opportunity to lead this nation, and I will lead …
And we need a leader to seize the opportunities of this new century — the new cures of medicine, the amazing technologies that will drive our economy and keep the peace.
But our new economy must never forget the old, unfinished struggle for human dignity.
And here we face a challenge to the very heart and founding premise of our nation.
A couple of years ago, I visited a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas, and talked with a group of young inmates. They were angry, wary kids. All had committed grownup crimes.
Yet when I looked in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys.
Toward the end of conversation, one young man, about 15, raised his hand and asked a haunting question … “What do you think of me?”
He seemed to be asking, like many Americans who struggle … “Is there hope for me? Do I have a chance?” And, frankly … “Do you, a white man in a suit, really care what happens to me?”
A small voice, but it speaks for so many. Single moms struggling to feed the kids and pay the rent. Immigrants starting a hard life in a new world.
Children without fathers in neighborhoods where gangs seem like friendship, where drugs promise peace, and where sex, sadly, seems like the closest thing to belonging. We are their country, too.
And each of us must share in its promise, or that promise is diminished for all. If that boy in Marlin believes he is trapped and worthless and hopeless — if he believes his life has no value, then other lives have no value to him — and we are ALL diminished.
When these problems aren’t confronted, it builds a wall within our nation.
On one side are wealth and technology, education and ambition.
On the other side of the wall are poverty and prison, addiction and despair.
And, my fellow Americans, we must tear down that wall.
Big government is not the answer. But the alternative to bureaucracy is not indifference.
It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity.
This is what I mean by compassionate conservatism. And on this ground we will govern our nation.
We will give low-income Americans tax credits to buy the private health insurance they need and deserve.
We will transform today’s housing rental program to help hundreds of thousands of low-income families find stability and dignity in a home of their own.
And, in the next bold step of welfare reform, we will support the heroic work of homeless shelters and hospices, food pantries and crisis pregnancy centers — people reclaiming their communities block-by-block and heart-by-heart.
I think of Mary Jo Copeland, whose ministry called “Sharing and Caring Hands” serves 1,000 meals a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Each day, Mary Jo washes the feet of the homeless, then sends them off with new socks and shoes.
“Look after your feet,” she tells them … “They must carry you a long way in this world, and then all the way to God.”