Full Text: Gen. Colin Powell's 1996 Speech

ByABC News

P H I L A D E L P H I A, July 31, 2000 -- Below is the full text of former Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell’s speech to the Republican National Convention four years ago, on Monday, Aug. 12, 1996, in San Diego, Calif. At one point, Powell was booed by the crowd during this speech.

My fellow Americans, my fellow Republicans: I am honored to be with you this evening. I am especially honored to be here with the distinguished Americans that you have just heard from. With President Gerald Ford, a man who at a time of national despair brought dignity and respect back to the presidency. And with President George Bush, who took us through the end of the Cold War and the defeat of communism. George Bush the statesman, George Bush the statesman and my boss who led us to a great victory in the Persian Gulf War. With Mrs. Nancy Reagan, who has so movingly represented President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan, I know, is in our prayers. Ronald Reagan, the great communicator, who gave voice and image to the power of democracy as the way to a better future for all the people of the world. He will be remembered for many things, but, for me, the soldier, the soldiers like Scott O’Grady who we heard moments ago, President Reagan will always be the president who restored the fighting strength and spirit of America’s Armed Forces. I come before you this evening as a retired soldier, a fellow citizen who has lived the American dream to the fullest. As someone who believes in that dream and wants that dream to become reality for every American. My parents came to this country as immigrants over 70 years ago. They came here, as had millions of others, with nothing but hope, a willingness to work hard and a desire to use the opportunities given them by their new land. A land which they came to love with all their hearts. They found work that enabled them to raise a family. Work that allowed them to come home every Friday night with the fruits of their labor, a decent wage that brought sustenance and, more importantly, brought dignity into our home. They raised two children to whom they gave a precious gift — a set of core beliefs. A value system founded on a clear understanding of the difference between right and wrong and a belief in the Almighty. Integrity, kindness and Godliness, they taught us, were right. Lying, violence, intolerance, crime,and drugs were wrong and, even worse than wrong, in my family, they were shameful. We were taught that hard work and education were the keys to success in this country. My sister and I were taught to believe in ourselves. We might be considered poor, but we were rich in spirit. We might be black and treated as second-class citizens. But, stick with it, because in America, justice will eventually triumph and the powerful, searing promise of the founding fathers will come true. We were taught by my parents to always, always, always believe in America. My parents found here a compassionate land and a compassionate people. They found a government that protected their labor, educated their children, and provided help to those of their fellow citizens who were in need. They found their dream in America and they passed that dream on to their children. Here, tonight, over seven decades after they landed on these shores, their son has been given the privilege of addressing the Republican Party, assembled in convention to present to the American people our vision of how that dream can be passed on to future generations. Our vision, first and foremost, rests on values. Values because values are the conscience of a society. Values which must be lived, not just preached. Children learn values by watching their parents in their homes. Values which are then reinforced in their churches and in their places of worship, in the schools and in the communities in which they live. And values, values fuel families. Families that are bound together by love and commitment. Families that then have the strength to withstand the assaults of contemporary life — to resist the images of violence and vulgarity that flood into our lives every day. Families that come together as communities to defeat the scourge of drugs and crime and incivility that threatens us. That#&0146;s why we Republicans believe that the family, fueled by values, must be restored to the central place in American life if we are to keep the dream alive. Yet, families cannot thrive and pass on these beliefs if parents cannot bring home a decent, living wage from a hard day’s work. We Republicans believe that the good jobs needed to sustain families come from a faster-growing economy where the free enterprise system is unleashed to create wealth — wealth which produces more good jobs. In this richest nation on earth, we still have not solved the problems of poverty, of hunger, of poor health care, of inadequate housing, all of which tear away at the roots of strong families. And for which government assistance is a poor substitute for good jobs. So that’s why we are the pro-growth party. We are the party committed to lessening the burden of taxes, cutting government regulations and reducing government spending, all for the purpose of generating the higher economic growth that will bring better jobs, wages and living standards to all our people. At the same time, let us never, let us never step back from compassion. The message we must convey to the American people is that we fight for health care reform, we fight for welfare reform and other reforms not just to save money, but because we believe there are better ways to take care of Americans in need than the exhausted programs of the past. We must be firm but we must also be fair. We have to make sure that reduced government spending doesn’t single out the poor and the middle class. Corporate welfare, and welfare for the wealthy must be first in line for elimination. All of us — all of us, my friends — all of us must be willing to do with less from government if we are to avoid condemning our children and grandchildren with a crushing burden of debt that will deny them the American dream. Let me put it to you, my friends, we all need to understand it is the entitlement state that must be reformed, and not just the welfare state. And we must do it in a way that does not paint all of government as the enemy. Ineffective government, excessive government, wasteful government, that is the kind of government that we Republicans intend to defeat. A nation as great and diverse as America deserves leadership that opens its arms not only to those who have already reaped the rewards of the American dream, but to those who strive and struggle each day against daunting odds to make that dream come true. The Republican party, the Republican party must always be the party of inclusion. The Hispanic immigrant who became a citizen yesterday must be as precious to us as a Mayflower descendant; the descendant of a slave or of a struggling miner in Appalachia must be as welcome — and must find as much appeal — in our party as in any other party or any other American might. It is our diversity that has made us strong. Yet our diversity has sadly, throughout our history, been the source of discrimination. Discrimination that we, as guardians of the American Dream, must rip out branch and root. It is our party, it is our party, the party of Lincoln, that must always stand for equal rights and fair opportunity for all. And where discrimination still exists or where the scars of past discrimination still contaminate and disfigure the present, we must not close our eyes to it, declare a level playing field, and hope it will go away by itself. It did not in the past. It will not in the future. Let the party of Lincoln be in the forefront, leading the crusade, not only to cut off and kill discrimination, but to open every avenue of educational and economic opportunity to those who are still denied access because of their race, ethnic background or gender. I have been asked many times why I became a Republican. I became a Republican because like you, I believe our party best represents the principles of freedom, opportunity, and limited government upon which our nation was founded. I became a Republican because I believe the policies of our party will lead to greater economic growth which is the only real solution to the problems of poverty that keep too many Americans from sharing in the wealth of this nation. I became a Republican because I believe, like you that the federal government has become too large and too intrusive in our lives. We can no longer afford solutions to our problems that result in more entitlements, higher taxes to pay for them, more bureaucracy to run them and fewer results to show for it. I became a Republican because I believe America must remain the leader of the free world. Republican leadership, a Republican president, will bring greater conviction and coherence to our foreign policy — and will guarantee that our Armed Forces remain the strongest and most capable on earth. I became a Republican because I want to help build a big tent that our party has raised to attract all Americans. You all know that I believe in a woman’s right to choose and I strongly support affirmative action. And, I was invited here by my party to share my views with you because we are a big enough party — and big enough people — to disagree on individual issues and still work together for our common goal: restoring the American dream. I am a Republican because I believe in that dream, and I believe that we are the ones to keep it alive. Later this week we will nominate our leader. He is a man of proven courage. He showed his courage in the battlefield. He showed even greater courage in overcoming the wounds of war. He too has lived the American Dream. My family began its American odyssey on the sidewalks of New York. His story began half a continent away. And yet it is a story with common threads. One that is shared in many ways by millions of Americans from every state, from every generation, and from every race and creed. Our candidate’s life began in the wheat fields of Kansas where he was born to poor struggling parents who believed in him. The values they bred in him led him to a distinguished career that took him to the leadership of the United States Senate. That’s where I met him. We worked together closely for years on matters that were vital to war and peace with respect to this nation. I worked with him closely when I was national security advisor and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We could always count on him. I know this man. In an era of too much salesmanship and too much smooth talking, Bob Dole is a plain-spoken man. He is a man of strength, maturity and integrity. He is a man who can bring trust back to government and bring Americans together again. He is a fighter possessed of endless energy, drive and commitment. Bob Dole is the candidate most qualified by virtue of his beliefs, his character and competence to be the next president of the United States of America. And I want you to know how pleased I am, and how pleased I know you are, that Bob Dole had the great wisdom to pick as his running mate an incredible American, a man of passion and conviction, a caring man, my friend, your friend, Jack Kemp, the next vice president of the United States of America. Yes, we Republicans have leaders and principles that are worthy of our aspirations. Let us take our case to our fellow citizens with respect for their intelligence and fair-mindedness. Let us debate our differences with the Democrats strongly, but with the civility and absence of acrimony that the American people long for in our political debate. We stand, we stand on the eve of a new century. A new era, filled with change, anxiety, excitement and opportunity, is dawning. But many of the basic things — many of the most important things in our lives and in the life of our nation remain constant. The pride of bringing home that first paycheck. The thrill you can’t help feeling each time the band strikes up the Star-Spangled Banner and another magnificent young American wins Olympic gold. The daily challenges and joys of raising a family. The tremendous ripple effect of family, friends, and neighbors cooperating in ways that make home, neighborhood and nation better places for us all. These are the things that remain constant. These are the things that unite us. There are other eternal truths, other eternal constants in our lives. Our constant devotion to the principles of freedom, democracy and the free enterprise system. Our constant belief in the promise of this country, a country where the best is always yet to come. A country that exists by the grace of a divine providence. A divine providence that gave us this land, told us to be good stewards of it and to be good stewards of each other. A land that God has truly, truly blessed and that we are proud to call America. Thank you.

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