, August 4, 2000
Full Text of G.W. Bush's Acceptance Speech
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Chairman, delegates and my fellow citizens, I proudly accept your nomination.
Thank you. Thank you for this honor.
Thank you for this honor.
Together, we will renew America's purpose.
Our founders first defined that purpose here in Philadelphia. Ben Franklin was here, Thomas Jefferson and, of course, George Washington, or, as his friends, called him, George W.
I am proud to have Dick Cheney by my side.
He is a man -- he is a man of integrity and sound judgment who has proven that public service can be noble service.
America will be proud to have a leader of such character to succeed Al Gore as vice president of the United States.
I'm grateful for Senator John McCain. I appreciate so very much his speech two nights ago. I appreciate his friendship. I love his spirit for America. And I want to thank the other candidates who sought this office, as well. Their convictions have strengthened our party.
I'm especially grateful tonight to my family. No matter what else I do in my life, asking Laura to marry me was the best decision I ever made.
And to our daughters, Barbara and Jenna, we love you a lot. We're proud of you. And as you head off to college this fall, don't stay out too late. And e-mail your old dad once in a while, will you?
And mother, everybody loves you and so do I.
Growing up -- growing up, she gave me love and lots of advice. I gave her white hair.
And I want to thank my dad, the most decent man I have ever known.
All of my life I have been amazed that a gentle soul could be so strong.
Dad, I am proud to be your son.
My father was the last president of a great generation, a generation of Americans who stormed beaches, liberated concentration camps and delivered us from evil. Some never came home. Those who did put their medals in drawers, went to work and built on a heroic scale highways and universities, suburbs and factories, great cities and grand alliances, the strong foundations of an American century.
Now the question comes to the sons and daughters of this achievement, what is asked of us? This is a remarkable moment in the life of our nation. Never has the promise of prosperity been so vivid.
But times of plenty like times of crises are tests of American character.
Prosperity can be a tool in our hands used to build and better our country, or it can be a drug in our system dulling our sense of urgency, of empathy, of duty. Our opportunities are too great, our lives too short to waste this moment.
So tonight, we vow to our nation we will seize this moment of American promise. We will use these good times for great goals.
We will confront the hard issues, threats to our national security, threats to our health and retirement security, before the challenges of our time become crises for our children.
And we will extend the promise of prosperity to every forgotten corner of this country: to every man and woman, a chance to succeed; to every child, a chance to learn; and to every family, a chance to live with dignity and hope.
For eight years the Clinton-Gore administration has coasted through prosperity. The path of least resistance is always down hill. But America's way is the rising road. This nation is daring and decent and ready for change.
Our current president embodied the potential of a generation -- so many talents, so much charm, such great skill. But in the end, to what end? So much promise to no great purpose.
Little more than a -- little more than a decade ago, the Cold War thawed, and with the leadership of Presidents Reagan and Bush, that wall came down.
But instead of seizing this moment, the Clinton-Gore administration has squandered it. We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence. Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander in chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, ``Not ready for duty, sir.''
This administration had its moment, they had their chance, they have not led. We will.
This generation -- this generation was given the gift of the best education in American history, yet we do not share that gift with everyone. Seven of 10 fourth-graders in our highest poverty schools cannot read a simple children's book. And still this administration continues on the same old path, the same old programs, while millions are trapped in schools where violence is common and learning is rare.
This administration had its chance. They have not led. We will.
America has a strong economy and a surplus. We have the public resources and the public will, even the bipartisan opportunities to strengthen Social Security and repair Medicare. But this administration, during eight years of increasing need, did nothing.
They had their moment. They have not led. We will.
Our generation has a chance to reclaim some essential values, to show we have grown up before we grow old. But when the moment for leadership came, this administration did not teach our children, it disillusioned them.
They had their chance. They have not led. We will.
And now they come asking for another chance, another shot. Our answer: Not this time, not this year.
This is not the time for third chances; it is the time for new beginnings.
The rising generations of this country have our own appointment with greatness. It does not rise or fall with the stock market. It cannot be bought with our wealth. Greatness is found when American character and American courage overcome American challenges.
When Lewis Morris of New York was about to sign the Declaration of Independence, his brother advised against it, warning he would lose all his property. But Morris, a plainspoken founder, responded, ``Damn the consequences, give me the pen.''
That is the eloquence of American action. We heard it during World War II when General Eisenhower told paratroopers on D-Day morning not to worry. And one replied, ``We're not worried, General. It's Hitler's turn to worry now.''
We heard it in the civil rights movement, when brave men and women that did not say, ``We shall cope,'' or ``We shall see.'' They said, ``We shall overcome.''
An American president must call upon that character.
Tonight in this hall, we resolve to be the party of -- not of repose but of reform. We will write not footnotes but chapters in the American story. We will add the work of our hands to the inheritance of our fathers and mothers and leave this nation greater than we found it.
We know the test of leadership. The issues are joined. We will strengthen Social Security and Medicare for the greatest generation and for generations to come.
Medicare does more than meet the needs of our elderly; it reflects the values of our society. We will set it on firm financial ground and make prescription drugs available and affordable for every senior who needs them.
Social Security has been called the third rail of American politics, the one you're not supposed to touch because it might shock you. But if you don't touch it, you cannot fix it.
And I intend to fix it.
To the seniors in this country, you earned your benefits, you made your plans, and President George W. Bush will keep the promise of Social Security, no changes, no reductions, no way.
Our opponents will say otherwise. This is their last parting ploy, and don't believe a word of it.
Now is the time -- now is the time for Republicans and Democrats to end the politics of fear and save Social Security together.
For younger workers, we will give you the option, your choice, to put part of your payroll taxes into sound, responsible investments.
This will mean a higher return on your money in over 30 or 40 years, a nest egg to help your retirement or to pass on to your children.
When this money is in your name, in your account, it's just not a program, it's your property.
Now is the time to give American workers security and independence that no politician can ever take away.
On education, too many American children are segregated into schools without standards, shuffled from grade to grade because of their age, regardless of their knowledge. This is discrimination, pure and simple, the soft bigotry of low expectations. And our nation ... and our nation should treat it like other forms of discrimination: We should end it.
One size does not fit all when it comes to educating our children, so local people should control local schools.
And those who spend your tax dollars must be held accountable. When a school district receives federal funds to teach poor children, we expect them to learn. And if they don't, parents should get the money to make a different choice.
Now is the time to make Head Start an early learning program to teach all our children to read and renew the promise of America's public schools.
Another test of leadership is tax relief.
The last time taxes were this high as a percentage of our economy, there was a good reason; we were fighting World War II. Today our high taxes fund a surplus. Some say that growing federal surplus means Washington has more money to spend.
But they've got it backwards. The surplus is not the government's money; the surplus is the people's money.
I will use this moment of opportunity to bring common sense and fairness to the tax code. And I will act on principle. On principle, every family, every farmer and small-business person should be free to pass on their life's work to those they love, so we will abolish the death tax.
On principle, no one in America should have to pay more than a third of their income to the federal government, so we will reduce tax rates for everyone in every bracket.
On principle, those with the greatest need should receive the greatest help, so we will lower the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent and double the child credit.
Now is the time to reform the tax code and share some of the surplus with the people who pay the bills.
The world needs America's strength and leadership. And America's armed forces need better equipment, better training and better pay.
We will give our military the means to keep the peace, and we will give it one thing more: a commander in chief who respects our men and women in uniform and a commander in chief who earns their respect.
A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear and the victory must be overwhelming.
I will work to reduce nuclear weapons and nuclear tension in the world, to turn these years of influence into decades of peace. And at the earliest possible date, my administration will deploy missile defenses to guard against attack and blackmail.
Now is the time not to defend outdated treaties but to defend the American people.
A time of prosperity is a test of vision, and our nation today needs vision.
That's a fact. That's a fact. Or as my opponent might call it, a risky truth scheme.
Every one of the proposals I've talked about tonight he's called a risky scheme over and over again. It is the sum of his message, the politics of the roadblock, the philosophy of the stop sign.
If my opponent had been at the moon launch, it would have been a risky rocket scheme.
If he had been there when Edison was testing the light bulb, it would have been a risky anti-candle scheme.
And if he had been there when the Internet was invented ...
He now leads -- he now leads the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the only thing he has to offer is fear itself.
That outlook is typical of many in Washington, always seeing the tunnel at the end of the light.
But I come from a different place and it has made me a different leader. In Midland, Texas, where I grew up, the town motto was, ``The sky's the limit,'' and we believed it. There was a restless energy, a basic conviction that with hard work, anybody could succeed and everybody deserved a chance.
Our sense of community -- our sense of community was just as strong as that sense of promise. Neighbors helped each other. There were dry wells and sand storms to keep you humble, lifelong friends to take your side, and churches to remind us that every soul is equal in value and equal in need.
This background leaves more than an accent, it leaves an outlook -- optimistic, impatient with pretense, confident that people can chart their own course in life.
That background may lack the polish of Washington. Then again, I don't have a lot of things that come with Washington. I don't have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect.
The largest lesson I learned in Midland still guides me as governor of Texas: Everyone, from immigrant to entrepreneur, has an equal claim on this country's promise. So we improved our schools dramatically for children of every accent, of every background. We moved people from welfare to work. We strengthened our juvenile justice laws. Our budgets have been balanced with surpluses. And we cut taxes, not only once, but twice.
We accomplished a lot.
I don't deserve all the credit, and I don't attempt to take it. I work with Republicans and Democrats to get things done.
A bittersweet part of tonight is that someone is missing, the late lieutenant governor of Texas, Bob Bullock.
Bob was a Democrat, a crusty veteran of Texas politics, and my great friend. We worked side by side, he endorsed my re-election, and I know he is with me in spirit in saying to those who would malign our state for political gain: Don't mess with Texas.
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 am prepared for the work ahead.
If you give me your trust, I will honor it. Grant me a mandate, 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 grown-up crimes. Yet when I looked in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys.
Toward the end of the conversation, one young man, about 15 years old, 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 their hope for me? Do I have a chance? And, frankly, do you, a white man in a suit, really care about 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 or drugs promise peace, and where sex sadly seems the closest thing to belong. We are their country too. And each of us must share in its promise or the promise is diminished for all.
If that boy in Marlin believes he's trapped and worthless and hopeless, if he believes his life has no value, then other lives have no value to him, and we're all diminished.
When these problems are not confronted, it builds a wall within our nation. On one side are wealth, technology, education and ambition. On the other side of that 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 lead 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 pantry 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 and 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."
Government cannot do this work. It can feed the body, but it cannot reach the soul.
Yet, government can take the side of these groups, helping the helper, encouraging the inspired. My administration will give taxpayers new incentives to donate to charity, encourage after-school programs that build character, and support mentoring groups that shape and save young lives.
We must give our children a spirit of moral courage because their character is our destiny.
We must tell them -- we must tell them -- we must tell them with confidence that drugs and alcohol can destroy you, and bigotry disfigures the heart.
Our schools must support the ideals of parents, elevating character and abstinence from afterthoughts to urgent goals.
We must help protect our children in our schools and streets, and by finally and strictly enforcing our nation's gun laws.
But most of all, we must teach our children the values that defeat violence. I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life -- the life of the elderly and sick, the life of the young and the life of the unborn.
Good people can disagree on this issue, but surely we can agree on ways to value life by promoting adoption, parental notification. And when Congress sends me a bill against partial-birth abortion, I will sign it into law.
Behind every goal I've talked about tonight is a great hope for our country. A hundred years from now this must not be remembered as an age rich in possession and poor in ideals.
Instead, we must usher in an era of responsibility.
My generation tested limits, and our country in some ways is better for it. Women are now treated more equally.
Racial progress has been steady; it's still too slow. We're learning to protect ... we're learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back.
At times we lost our way, but we're coming home.
So many of us held our first child and saw a better self reflected in her eyes. And in that family love, many have found the sign and symbol of an even greater love, and have been touched by faith.
We discovered that who we are is more than important than what we have. And we know we must renew our values to restore our country.
This is the vision of America's founders. They never saw our nation's greatness in rising wealth or in advancing armies, but in small, unnumbered acts of caring and courage and self-denial.
Their highest hope, as Robert Frost described it, was to occupy the land with character. And that, 13 generations later, is still our goal, to occupy the land with character.
In a responsibility era, each of us has important tasks, work that only we can do. Each of us is responsible to love and guide our children and to help a neighbor in need. Synagogues, churches and mosques are responsible, not only to worship, but to serve. Corporations are responsible to treat their workers fairly and to leave the air and waters clean.
And our nation's leaders our responsible to confront problems, not pass them onto others.
And to lead this nation to a responsibility era, that president himself must be responsible.
So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.
I believe the presidency, the final point of decision in the American government, was made for great purposes. It is the office of Lincoln's conscience, of Teddy Roosevelt's energy, of Harry Truman's integrity and Ronald Reagan's optimism.
For me, gaining this office is not the ambition of a lifetime, but it is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I will make the most of it.
I believe great decision are made with care, made with conviction, not made with polls.
I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind.
I do not reinvent myself at every turn. I am not running in borrowed clothes.
When I act, you will know my reasons. And when I speak, you will know my heart.
I believe in tolerance, not in spite of my faith, but because of it.
I believe in a God who calls us not to judge our neighbors but to love them.
I believe in grace because I've seen it, and peace because I've felt it, and forgiveness because I've needed it.
I believe true leadership is a process of addition, not an act of division.
I will not attack a part of this country because I want to lead the whole of it.
And I believe this'll be a tough race, down to the wire. Their war room is up and running, but we are ready.
Their attacks will be relentless, but they will be answered. We are facing something familiar, but they're facing something new.
We are now the party of ideas and innovation, the party of idealism and inclusion, the party of a simple and powerful hope.
My fellow citizens, we can begin again.
After all of the shouting and all of the scandal, after all the bitterness and broken faith, we can begin again.
The wait has been long, but it won't be long now.
A prosperous nation is ready to renew its purpose and unite behind great goals, and it won't be long now.
Our nation must renew the hopes of that boy I talked with in jail and so many like him, and it won't be long now.
Our country is ready for high standards and new leaders, and it won't be long now.
An era of tarnished ideals is giving way to a responsibility era, and it won't be long now.
I know how serious the task is before me. I know the presidency is an office that turns pride into prayer. But I am eager to start on the work ahead, and I believe America is ready for a new beginning.
My friend, the artist Tom Lea of El Paso, Texas, captured the way I feel about our great land, a land I love. He and his wife, he said, "Live on the east side of the mountain. It's the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that has gone."
Americans live on the sunrise side of the mountain, the night is passing, and we're ready for the day to come.
God bless. God bless America.
Go to: Vietnam Medal of Honor Citations
© 2000 by Neil Mishalov