DEMOCRACY IN ACTION TRANSCRIPT
When you guys stood up and welcomed me I want to tell you what a thrill that was. I knew I wasn't in Arkansas 'cause people stand up when I'm introduced to speak but they walk out when they stand up too [laughter], so it's a little different. This is quite a joy. I want to introduce my wife to you. Janet is with me and also my daughter is here somewhere [applause] and I want to acknowledge them and thank them for coming with me.
By the way I understand there's some camera crews here from C-SPAN and CNN. I was a little nervous when I first pulled up. I said who are these people? They said they're C-SPAN; it's some "Road to the White House" crew. I said that's good 'cause usually I'm worried that it's "America's Most Wanted" and a Road to the Big House [laughter] that I'm worried about. I don't know about in New Hampshire but in Arkansas there're five most feared words of an Arkansas politician. Will the defendant please rise. [laughter]. One of the reasons I was very happy to get here today so-- It was a joy to meet the congressman [Jeb Bradley], and I know you've had a great time. Is this a beautiful home or what? [applause] Dan and Jennifer thank you for having us here. I told Dan and Jennifer that this was a nice place; in fact we may just stay a while. [laughter]. We have a U-Haul being loaded in Little Rock right now. [laughter].
Well another reason I'm happy to be in New Hampshire, it's such a different experience. There are more people under this tent than voted Republican in the last election in Arkansas I think. [laughter]. We typically vote for the presidents but you have to understand 86-percent of elected officials in Arkansas are Democrat. And so it means that I am on the endangered species list as an elected official. And when elected Lieutenant Governor in 1993 I was the first Republican elected to statewide office in about 15 years and only the fourth in 150 years. So they were so thrilled about it that the Secretary of State who was in office at the time nailed my door shut from the inside so I could not occupy my office at the State Capitol. [laughter]. Now you think I'm telling that like other politicians would, just flat out lying. That is a true story. [laughter]. So true in fact that John Fund from the Wall Street Journal actually flew to Little Rock to see was it true and put his hand on the door to find out that yes there were actually nails in the door frame. And I did not have an office for the first 59 days that I served as Lieutenant Governor. And finally even the Democrats started saying open the man's door. [laughter]. And they did.
But being a Republican in Little Rock sometimes is kind of like being a fire hydrant in a neighborhood full of dogs so--. [laughter]. It takes a little getting used to. And so when I come to a friendly crowd I am delighted. Now I'm going to tell you, this is a true story. I was Lieutenant Governor and elected in the special election in 1993. And because it was a special election I had to run for re-election the following year in 1994. We have this wonderful outdoor festival up in Stone County, Arkansas called the Ozark Folk Festival and it's absolutely awesome. And it's authentic and folk music and outdoor barbecue, cooking and all those sorts of things and every politician in the state shows up and works the courthouse square and walks around shaking hands asking for votes. Well on this beautiful spring day in April 1994 as the sitting lieutenant governor I'm out there shaking hands and getting a pretty good response there, which for me was good because it's a very traditional Democrat county. And I was getting such a good response I guess I got to feeling a little overwhelmed with it and thought you know this is good.
I saw this elderly gentleman, he was standing over by his pick-up truck just off the courthouse square, standing there and wearing bib overalls and looking very much at home basking in the sun at the folk festival, so I walked over to him. I put my hand out and I said good afternoon sir, I'm Mike Huckabee; I hope I'm going to get your vote for lieutenant governor. He looked me up and down. He said partner, you going to get my vote alright 'cause that guy we got down there now, he ain't worth a darn. [laughter]. This is a true story. I promise. Now what do you say to a guy who's just told you that you're not worth a darn? [laughter]. My first thought was he's just kidding with me. [laughter]. But I could look at his face and I realized he had no idea who I was [laughter], and I didn't want to break the news to him either. [laughter]. So I did exactly what most of you would have done. I just said well sir I really appreciate that. I'm glad I'm going to have your vote and I'm going to tell you something; You're right about that guy we got there now; he ain't worth a darn. [laughter] So to be able to come here today is quite a thrill for the simple reason you don't know me and you haven't yet figured out I ain't worth a darn. [laughter].
Now let me let you in on another little fact about my background that you may need to know. I'm not just an Arkansan but I actually was born and raised in a town you may have heard of before, a town called Hope, Arkansas. [groans, laughter]. This gentleman I think is going to throw watermelon at me. [laughter]. No I really did. And do you have any idea what kind of issues that causes when you go around places and you're introduced as a politician from Hope, Arkansas?
I was on an airplane -- this is again one of those things that happen -- and a guy poked me and trying to just make conversation he said where are you from?
I said I'm from Arkansas.
Arkansas. He said, yeah, where?
I said I'm from Hope, Arkansas.
He said man I got a joke about this politician from Hope, Arkansas. [laughter].
I said sir you tell it if you need to, but I need to tell you I am a politician and I am from Hope, Arkansas.
He looked at me and he said that's alright son, I'll tell it real slow. [laughter, applause].
I tell people that I grew up on the streets of Hope and that's true and it was a great community to grow up in because it was the kind of place that many of you remember as a child growing up in where you could ride your bike all over town and nobody really cared where you were. If you got into trouble before you could get home seven people had called your parents and told on you [laughter]; six of 'em had paddled you before you got home. [laughter]. It just was a wonderful small town to live in. But when I tell people I grew up on the streets of Hope, I really think of it sometimes not so much as just a place to grow up, not where I was but as much as anything I think really it was about how I grew up. And I think if there's one message that our party has to give America today and one of the reasons that I'm optimistic even about being here and hoping to help you rally in this county to see good Republicans elected is because frankly I think our party represents what it means to live on the streets of Hope rather than the streets of fear. I didn't get it when John Kerry went out and talked to us about the misery index. I guess I just can't really identify when Howard Dean and (in?) his primal screaming wants to tell us everything wrong with America and everything wrong with every decision being made. It seems like politics ought to be about solving problems, not just announcing them. And fixing things that are broken rather than breaking things that are fixed.
And one of the reasons that I have to be optimistic about the Republican party because growing up on the streets of Hope meant for me not just growing up on some small town in Arkansas, but it meant growing up with the idea that because we lived in this country we could become anything we wanted to be. When I was eight years old my parents took me to meet the then governor of Arkansas. They didn't get down to my part of the state very often. And I never will forget my dad saying now son we're going to take you down to meet the governor 'cause there's a good chance that in your entire life you may never meet a governor as long as you live. [laughter]. And my father passed away 3 1/2 months before I was sworn in as governor. And one of the things I always wanted the most was that he would have been there to see that happen, 'cause he wouldn't have believed it. [laughter].
But the streets of Hope for me mean more than a place; it's an attitude. It's an attitude that I believe ought to be what we're about if we get involved in political activity. And it's not just about one side winning and another side losing, it's about trying to create a better hope for the kids running around here. And I guess if I've got a warm spot in my political heart it's more about children than it is any other group because they're the one group of people to whom we are I believe most obligated. Some of us have made our decisions as adults--what we're going to do and how we're going to do it. But the kid growing up didn't ask how he came into this world or when or with whom.
One thing that I was blessed with was not a family of means. For those of you that think all Republicans grow up you know with silk stockings and perhaps you know with country club memberships, first time I ever, ever visited a country club was on my tenth year class reunion, and I was more a cotton sock kid than I was silk stocking kid. I've got a lot more in common with the people working in the kitchen than the ones at the head table. I've had to learn how to sit at the head table 'cause that's not where I came up. My father was a fireman and on his days off he worked building generators for automobiles. And between the two paychecks that he worked hard to have we still were barely getting one month to the next to pay the rent on a rent house. But I never realized that we were poor 'cause I didn't think we were. 'Cause poverty wasn't about how much you had. The fact is I thought we were fortunate and blessed and the reason we were was because my parents instilled in me the idea that because I lived in America, even though I didn't haven any choice about how I started, it was all about my kind of choice as to how I ended up.
When people ask well how did you become a Republican, because I thought all the Republicans were children of privilege. I said no, no, no you don't understand. I think Republicans understand that what makes us Republican is we believe that every individual has the power and capacity to be anything he or she wants to be and that no entity, organization or group to which we were artificially assigned or arbitrarily assigned can keep us from becoming what we want to be. [applause]. That's the message that we have as Republicans. I became a Republican as a kid, back as a teenager, even to the point of putting balloons on my bicycle handlebars and riding around passing out literature for candidates I'd never met. And the reason that I was a Republican even as a teenager was because I really did believe that there is something about the value of every individual and that it's about our responsibility.
I stand here today very fortunate because not my father, grandfather, great-grandfather or anybody up in my bloodline upstream from me had ever even finished high school, much less gone to college. My parents dreamed I'd get to go to college and I did. And I worked 40 hours a week at a radio station playing records and doing sports and all kinds of stuff to pay my way through college. I'm not telling you that to make you feel sorry for me because I don't feel sorry for me. I tell you it was the greatest experience in my life. I learned what it was to work. I didn't believe that somebody owed me something but I did grow up believing that I owed this country something 'cause this country [applause] has given me the opportunity to do things I never dreamed I could do.
Today we're the folks who believe that people should be employed, empowered, educated and they also ought to be expectant, filled with hope. The reason that we have the right agenda for America, bringing people the jobs, is because we understand that the three things that cause us to lose jobs are excessive taxation, excessive regulation, excessive litigation, and that leads to excessive migration of people moving away and jobs moving to other places. When our taxes are affordable, when the regulations are livable and when the litigation is not strangling, then business can actually survive and create jobs. And folks lets face something. It's the private sector business that creates jobs. Government can't create enough jobs for Americans.
Now look, when I became governor, I found I had a whole lot of new friends that I'd never had before. People that I know never had voted for me but you'd be amazed how many of 'em came and said now governor I know I've never been out front with you before but I just want you to know I'm going to be on your team from here on out. One fellow I never will forget. I mean he had campaigned against me, given money to every opponent I'd ever had. I got sworn in as governor and I guess he got religion. I never will forget--he came in and he says, ah governor I wonder if you can get my boy a job? He needs something to do and if you can get him on with the state I'd really appreciate it. I said well what can your boy do? He said governor that's just it. My boy can't do nothing. [laughter]. I said man bring him on. We won't even have to train him. [laughter, applause]. We're not looking for people to have jobs with the government. That people who have jobs in spite of the government. The Republicans believe that the best way to create jobs is to free up people so they can take their dreams, their hopes, their ideas, and put it into motion. That's how the great companies of the world got started. Not because government opened the door. The purpose of government is to facilitate, not to complicate the free enterprise system and the opportunity for people to have business. [applause].
We want people that also ought to be empowered. And a people empowered are first of people all with good health. Something I myself really neglected for a long time in my own life until I finally realized that I had to make some changes. But I didn't expect the government to make those changes for me. I had to take responsibility. It was my actions. There was no one from the government that had forced me to get too little exercise and take in too much Southern fried food, and folks I took in a lot of it. You know I'd gotten overweight. You may know I've over the course of the last few years lost 110 pounds and I now exercise and I've run one marathon, training for another one. [applause].
Now let me tell you I did not say that for applause but I sure did enjoy it, so thank you very much [laughter]. But you know I got myself in that shape. It was my neglect, my own doing, and I was more than willing to accomodate all the people that every time I went to whether it was a church event or a political event it was always associated with food. Now I realize I'm in New Hampshire. I'm beginning to believe just being here today that it's not a whole lot unlike the South where everywhere we get together you know it's almost like it's sort of a maybe a different Scripture verse from the Bible where two or more gather together, there's a casserole dish in the middle of them. [laughter].
And in the South we don't just eat and eat lots of things, but we fry everything before we eat it. Now folks let me explain something to those of you north of the Mason-Dixon line--when I say we fry everything, we fry everything. At the Arkansas State Fair, you can not only get the fried onion rings, fried french fries, fried corn dogs, but you can get a fried Twinkie®. [laughter]. Yes as if a Twinkie® isn't bad enough for you, we take the Twinkie®, we dip it in batter, and then fry it, put it on a stick and put powdered sugar on top of that. [laughter]. Plus we charge you $3 for it so a 30 cent Twinkie®--3 bucks. Not a bad deal--for the people selling it. You're not into fried Twinkies®, we got fried Oreos®. Same thing. Take the Oreo®, dip it in batter, fry it, put powdered sugar on it. Now largely we eat that way because we like it. The other reason is quite frankly, and I didn't know this until I was [inaudible] is we eat that way because most of us grew up poor enough that you take the thinnest, least expensive cuts of meat and if you batter it and fry it and pour gravy on you can feed a lot more people with a lot less basic food. It's that simple. But it was also killing us. And I realized that we had to make some changes.
In America today we need to change the culture of health 'cause here's what we're focused on. We're focused on a culture of disease which says we've got to keep throwing more and more and more tax dollars and private dollars into treating all of these diseases that we have that have led to record numbers of heart attacks and strokes. And folks it'll bankrupt our states and it'll bankrupt our nation. The option is is that we begin focusing on wellness and encouraging people to take responsibility and change from a culture of disease to a culture of health, and that's not something government can do. Government just simply ought to encourage and create incentives but we as individuals have to make those decisions.
We need to be a people that are educated. Education ought to work. It's pretty frustrating to me to think that when 50 cents out of every dollar goes to K-through education in my state and it's probably not unlike that in New Hampshire. The fact is shouldn't the taxpayers know that we're going to be accountable for the way they spent the money. That it's not must about spending more money, but it's spending it so that a kid doesn't go through K-12 education and at the end of it he still can't make change at a McDonald's window; he still can't point to St. Louis on a map, and he's still not sure how to spell a few simple words. That's why education systems need to be more than simply how long is a kid staying in the classroom, but to raise the standards and to test and to make sure that we're keeping good score. And one thing I salute about the president is No Child Left Behind, and no matter what you've heard about it let me tell you it's the best thing that ever happened in education because it says we're not going to let children spend years and years and let taxpayers spend thousands and thousands of dollars only to find out when the kid graduates high school that he's basically a functional illiterate, that we're not going to leave him lingering back in those classrooms and that he or she will get a decent education and we will hold accountable those who are responsible for getting that child a good education. [applause]. Those are Republican ideas that we need to keep before the people of America. [applause].
Today on the way up here Matt Mayberry [Dover City Councilor] was driving us. He was telling us about a lady here that had hosted her uncle who had come into New Hampshire for a visit. Kind of a tragic story. He came to visit his niece and while there had a heart attack, and they had to take him to the hospital. They got him to the hospital and after a few minutes the doctor came out and says well ma'am I need to tell you that here's the situation with your uncle. His brain is dead, but his heart's still beating. The niece grabbed her cheek and said oh my we've never had a Democrat in the family before. [laughter]. I could only get away telling that out of state at a Republican gathering. [applause].
Well as Republicans I believe that the other message we have is to be expectant. I said we all can grow up on the streets of Hope whether you live in a little town in Southwest Arkansas or not, and I believe that expectation means that we really do believe the best about our country rather than the worst about it, that we have a vision for America rather than a nightmare about America. And when I see people who can tell everything that the president's doing wrong or that Congress is doing wrong or that the states are doing wrong, and always can complain and whine and never have any ideas, I think that's the message we need to show the American people is the difference between what Howard Dean's brand of Democrats are doing and what we're trying to do as Republicans and that's to talk about how we solve problems, not how we just announce them.
It's a great country but it has changed and sometimes the changes aren't always for the better. But I believe that there are many of these changes that we can make that will restore us to some of the best and most wonderful things that we cherish. And in my own lifetime, I've seen some pretty stark changes in this country. We've gone from a culture where we once watched "Leave it to Beaver" and now we watch "Beavis and Butthead." Once was a time when television sitcoms were like "Father Knows Best," where the father had wisdom and he was able to impart positive things to his children. Today television shows are father knows nothing; he's a bumbling idiot that has to have help from an eight-year old just to get in the house. We've gone from drive-in movies to drive-by shootings. From art being Norman Rockwell to Robert Maplethorpe. From a time when no one thought that much about kids praying in school before they ate their lunch to now having policemen patrolling the schools in uniform. I can remember as a kid--I don't know if it happened in New Hampshire--that Gideon's would come to the 5th grade and give out Bibles. Today school nurses give out condoms. I can remember when romance was teenagers holding hands and that was almost scandalous. Today unwed teen mothers often hold babies, not even sure who the father is. And there was a time in America when a parent believed that it was his or her greatest responsibility to make sacrifices for the advancement of their children, unlike today's culture of death and abortion where many people believe that it is their personal right to sacrifice their children for their own personal conveniences.
We are blessed in this country but we have to become the kind of leaders that are thermostats and not thermometers. I think the Democrats represent oftentimes thermometers. They can take the temperature of the room, they'll do a lot of polling, they decide what it is that people are thinking, and they'll simply repeat that back. Real leadership is about being a thermostat. Showing what the temperature is but it's also realizing that the real goal is to help adjust it to what it should be. Where we empower individuals to be able to live, to work and to be safe on the streets of Hope, not the streets of terror.
We've got to recognize that for a lot of people terror is not so much an IED exploding on the roadside but it's the thought of losing a job and not having one to go to, it's the thought of a seven-year old falling off the playground equipment and not being sure that you can afford to go to the doctor and get the arm fixed. It's about wondering whether when you let your child go out to play if some sexual predator down the street will take him away and you'll never see him again. There's real terror that real Americans face every single day. And that's a terror that we can't ignore and that we won't ignore, but it's also the kind of terror that we can replace with the same kind of hope that made America the greatest place on Earth. There are a lot of things about this country today that I guess quite frankly baffle us and even make us mad.
Gas prices. I don't know of a single person that isn't complaining about the high price of gasoline. If there's anybody here not complaining about the high price of gasoline please identify yourself because you're going to buy all of us a tank of gas since it doesn't bother you. [laughter]. But you know in spite of the fact that it is ridiculous and we ought to be working hard to have more biodiesel and ethanol and hydrogen cells and get away from our dependence on the Middle East oil supply but the fact is yes gas prices are high but you know the truth is Americans have cars and most of the world will walk everywhere they're going. We're struggling with the fact that obesity is one of the greatest epidemics we face today and it's really capturing not just adults but children now at record levels and that's the bad news. The good news is we're a land where very few people are actually starving to death, because we're a land of plenty. When I think about the things that we consider to be our greatest problems then I realize in many cases they're simply the excesses of our successes and what we need to do is become once again a nation that believes that we not only have been blessed but we have an obligation with that blessing to give back, to give back in duty, honor and service to other people.
There was a lady who was diagnosed with a very serious disease and her doctor told her she wouldn't live very long. She called for her pastor. He came over to visit and she said pastor I have a very unusual request. My doctor tells me I'm not going to live much longer and I want to get all of my affairs in order. I don't want there to be a bid burden for my family when my time comes. And I want to work out everything in advance including the arrangements for my funeral, my funeral service. And he said well that's very admirable of you not to put your family through that kind of burden at a time when they are going to be very emotional. And she said pastor I have a very special request. In fact it's going to be very, very unusual. He was thinking to himself, I've been around a lot, I've heard it all; I'm sure it won't be that unusual. But then she told him and in fact it was very unusual. She said pastor when they put me in the casket, I know it's traditional to have a person holding maybe a flower, or a Bible or something like that in their hands crossed over their chest. But pastor here's what I insist and I ask you to promise you'll get this done. I want to be placed in my casket with my hands like this but not with a flower or with a Bible or a necklace, I want you to put a fork in my hand. He said excuse me, a what? [She] Said I want you to put a fork. And he was stunned and he thought you know that is the most unusual request I think I have ever heard in my life. And he said please explain what on Earth are you talking--
And she says well that's the rest of it. I want you to be sure and tell everybody why it's there. She said you know pastor when we have these church socials and our dinner on the grounds people will go and they'll go through the lines and they'll eat all this wonderful food that the ladies have prepared and they'll be casseroles and pies and ham and all this stuff laid out--five times more food that we could ever eat. And we'll pile our plates high and we'll go and sit and we'll enjoy and we'll eat, and just about the time we don't think we could have another bit and we've enjoyed everybody's cooking some lady from the kitchen will come out still wearing the apron and she'll tap us on the shoulder and she'll lean down and whisper these three words: Keep your fork. [laughter]. Keep your fork. You're laughing 'cause you know what that means. Even though you've been through all the things what that means is it's not quite over yet. That means that there's still some strawberry shortcake, banana pudding, there's going to be some cheesecake, chocolate cake--I'm sorry to be making you so hungry, but-- So those three words mean something at a church social. And when the lady from the kitchen wearing the apron comes and taps you on the shoulder and tells you keep your fork, it means you thought you've enjoyed this lunch but hang on because the best is yet to come.
And what I think we need to say to America is we've had a heck of a ride as a country, grew up from a rag-tag bunch of people who thought that they had the power to overthrow the oppression of tyranny and taxation without representation. And we've struggled through a whole lot of different chapters and periods of our American history. And unfortunately there's some people in our country that feel like it's all over and it's kind of a downhill slide. But I think the message our party needs to tell these folks is this. Keep your fork. Keep your fork. Because the best is yet to come. There's a lot more freedom and a lot more opportunity and a lot more walking on the streets of Hope for all of us and that's what we need to let folks know. Thank you for letting me be here today. [applause]. It's been an honor and a privilege to be with you. Thank you. God Bless.
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