Thank you so very much. I realize that I'm the only thing between you and lunch [laughter] and by the time I finish you are going to really, really appreciate lunch, I feel certain of that. [laughter].
Speaking of eating, I was in Mountain Home, Arkansas during my time as Lieutenant Governor, there to speak at a Lincoln Day banquet, and as most candidates do I wanted to shake everyone's hand. So I stood at the beginning of the buffet line where people would pick up their plates and go through and pick up their meal and then enter into the seating area. So all during the time I stood there and talked to every single person who had purchased a ticket, who had come to the Lincoln Day Dinner. When they all had finished and it was pretty evident that everyone had had a chance to get their food, I picked up a plate and I started to go through the line when a young man who worked at the restaurant said, excuse me, do you have a ticket? [laughter]. And frankly I didn't. [laughter]. And I said, well no actually I don't have a ticket. He said, well I'm sorry but you can't have a plate. [laughter]. And I kind of smiled and I said, well I'm the speaker tonight at the banquet. And he said, well that may be but all I know is that if you don't have a ticket you can't eat. And I smiled at him again and I said, well you know you may not recognize me but I'm the Lieutenant Governor. He said, oh that's great, but if you don't have a ticket I [inaud. ? can't/won't] give you a plate. [laughter].
So I didn't argue with him any more. I wasn't winning or getting anywhere. So I went and sat up at the head table with the person that invited me, and when I sat down he said, aren't you hungry? And I said, well frankly I was but the young man back there told me without a ticket I couldn't get a plate. He was humiliated. He started to stand up and storm back and tell the young man to give me a plate. I said, Dick, sit down; have a seat. I said that is the first teenager who's done exactly what he was told to do in a long time. [cheers, applause].
I think today that sometimes we send people on a mission, we don't always have the expectation they're going to do exactly what they're told. I don't know about you but traveling across this country, and I've been in over 25 states campaigning for various people running this fall, and one of the things I think is there is quite a bit of frustration, sometimes even anger out there among voters. And part of it is because there's some sense that the people's priorities haven't necessarily been Washington's priorities. And there's frustration. They sent people here to make sure that they cut spending and lowered taxes and protected our borders and respected the states, and instead spending is up, we can't seem to agree on anything about how to protect our borders, and one of the great concerns that I think we all ought to be having is that the great ideas of Thomas Jefferson, of having a very limited centralized federal government with the powers left to the states, as so clearly enumerated in the Tenth Amendment, is being ignored with policies like the REAL ID, and the pre-emption of taxation and regulatory policies, and the most recent announcement that the National Guard will really not be under the supreme command of the local governor, but rather under the federal authorities.
It's as if the ghost of Alexander Hamilton has risen from the grave to reinstitute the debate that was settled 230 years ago. And as a result there is some anxiety in the American population, and I think today it's very important that we recognize that peple who are tired of K Street corruption and Wall Street greed are ready for some old-fashioned Main Street values to be put as the priority for all of us who are elected to public office.
Some have called us the E-Bay generation. And certainly today it's amazing what people will buy and/or sell on E-Bay, like Britney Spears' used chewing gum, which sold on E-Bay for $263 or the last hot dog that was ever sold at a Montreal Expos' game, sold for $2,100 on E-Bay. But probably the most outrageous was someone who paid $28,000 for a grilled cheese sandwich that supposedly had the image of the Virgin Mary imprinted in the grilled cheese sandwich. The E-Bay generation has taken any semblance of value right out of the whole discussion and sanity and in some ways politics has become captive to the whole mindset of the E-Bay generation, where in many cases politics are going to the highest bidder who raises the most cash rather than those who raise the highest level of consciousness and conscience.
A year ago when the Gulf Coast was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and later Rita, there was probably not a single person in America who did not feel an extraordinary sense of frustration as we saw every level of government break down, melt down, and completely fail to meet the needs of those stranded out there on Interstate 10 in New Orleans, those left for themselves in the Convention Center or the Super Dome. And part of what really I think frustrated so many of us as we watched this was that we could get television cameras to these people but not a bottle of water or a rescue boat. And what's more exacerbated it was that it reminded us of something for all of us and that is that as we saw those levees breached and the waters pour in and the vulnerability of people who were not in Rwanda or some Third World country in Asia but rather in one of our own states, we were reminded that in a sense all of us live below sea level; all of us do. Protected by the levees of our health, our jobs, our families and knowing that those levees could break and when they do we could be in trouble. But when government failed, the American people did not. And we were once again reminded that the greatness of this country is not in its government, it's in the goodness and the hearts of its ordinary, everyday people. [applause]. And that is a great reminder for all of us.
We did in fact begin to reassess what is our expectation of government. And I want to just enumerate for you today what I sense the expectations of government might be. And the first one is we have an expectation that people in government, those of us elected to public service, would come with true convictions, that we would be willing to define who we are and what we believe without equivocation.
My own background is one of faith. You heard the introduction. I was a Baptist pastor before I got into politics. Don't let that make you too nervous. Some folks ask, are you one of those narrow-minded Baptists who think only Baptists are going to Heaven. Dear friends, I'm much more narrow that that; I don't think all the Baptists are going to make it. [laughter]. I was not a person of politics who embraced faith, I was a person of faith who decided that we needed more of us in politics, and that's why I'm here. [applause]. When I hear people talk about values, I'm always reminded that the ultimate value is that we value people and that is value. That's why we're pro-life. It's not just a political or philosophical argument; it goes to the very root and heart of what we believe about human life and that is that we value human life.
There are two great pillars of politics that I think should govern our public policy and they're pretty simple. And I've told many people that once you accept these, everything else gets fairly easy. The first one: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And the second one: In as much as you've done it unto the least of these my brethren, you've done it unto me. If we approcah life, if we approach policy from that perspective, it's amazing how that we can move past the paperwork and start focusing on the people.
And I really believe if anything in America is a mood it is that they expect us to be more interested in the people stranded on the interstate bridges than filling out the paperwork to make sure that the boat has been launched by the right order. The bodies of human people are not boxes to be moved about and pro-life certainly should mean that we not only care about a person before he's born and being Christian should mean that we not only care about people after they die for eternal life, but as I try to say everywhere I get the opportunity, for me being pro-life means that I care intensely about the value and sanctity of the human life from its conception, but even after that child is born I also care about what kind of safe neighborhood that child will live in, what kind of school he or she will attend, whether or not that child can grow up as a healthy, productive, safe adult, and whether or not that person will have decent drinking water. Those too are issues that we in the pro-life movement must address to show the world that for us pro-life is not simply a passion and concern about a child before he's born, but it's a passion and concern about that child after he's born because we believe life is precious, life is valuable and that is our value. [applause].
We need to be known for those things we're for, not just the things we're against. I don't like it when people say, but you're against abortion. I say, no, I value life. I'm not real fond when people try to tell me that I'm just against same sex marriage. I tell people I'm actually just for keeping marriage in the only manner in which it's even been known in any culture in any civilization throughout all of history, and dear friends, until Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain saying he's changed the rules, let's keep it like it is. [cheers, applause].
I am not against divorced people, but divorce robs people of their dignity and of their trust and it impoverishes many women who have all of the responsibilites but far less and sometimes only a fraction of the income with which to take care of children. Studies have shown that if a person gets in a marriage and stays there, gets a good education, takes and keeps a job, that person has a 90 percent chance of never spending a single day in poverty. And yet today we argue whether or not marriage is valuable. We not only should protect the definition of marriage as we did in Arkansas with a constitutional amendment that redefined and affirmed that marriage is only one thing: a relationship between one man, one woman for life. That is something that we all understand.
But covenant marriage, which simply says that we value this so much that we're going to put roadblocks before people walk away from what should be a commitment of a liftetime. A community marriage policy in which we urge pastors to only marry those people after they've gone through counseling and are willing to fully understand the incredible commitment it is to be married. I've been married over 32 years. I can tell you this, that there's no commitment, no promise, no endeavor in which I've ever been involved that's been more challenging than that. And if you think it's been challenging, you ought to ask my wife how challenging it is married to me. [laughter].
We also ought to be people of compassion. People expect that of us. Being people of compassion means that we deny ourself and our self centeredness.
You know Midas worked real hard to be known as the people that not only did mufflers, but other things too and IHOP worked real hard to let you know that they did have more on their menu that just pancakes. Those of us who are evangelicals involved in politics and public policy also need to work hard to let the world know that we are interested in the things that they're concerned about.
And the greatest example of knowing how that works is looking at the life of Jesus himself. Because he knew that he couldn't get people to focus on his priorities unless he paid some attention to theirs. So he went about the world, and he healed those who were sick, he fed those who were hungry, he made straight the [inaud.] of those who were lame, and he gave sight to those who were blind. And because he touched them at the point of their need, they listened to him when he told about a kingdom that would last for longer that the lengthening of their [inaud.] or the strength of their sight.
Those of us who truly are going to take seriously what it means to be people of compassion have got to realize that for a lot of Americans, what they sit around talking about is not the things we talk about in our circles of politics. They're concerned about a son who may be held back in school, a daughter with asthma or whether or not one broken arm on the playground means they won't have enough money to pay the rent at the first of next month. Those of us who are people of faith have an obligation not only to care about who gets elected but to care about who's living in those communities and I assure you that we will earn the right to present policies that can change America and change the world when we get as interested in all of life and care about all of those folks.
But there's another thing that I would want to mention. People expect their government to operate with competence, to deliver results. In the Book of James, the New Testament says that faith without works is dead. All the rhetoric in the world will not overcome if we fail to produce the results.
Now my story is I was Lieutenant Governor and became the Governor of my state when my predecessor was told that he had the right to remain silent ten and a half years ago. [laughter]. Because of my background and being a former pastor, there were a lot of people that were scared to death when I was sworn in as Governor. They were just confident that I was going to replace the dome of the Capitol with a steeple [laughter] and that instead of legislative sessions we would have prayer meetings. Frankly I'm not sure that either one of them would have done a lot of harm--might have done some good.
But I realized that as governor I wasn't there simply to engage in preaching, but to make progress. So we built roads. We challenged education to get better by raising the standards and measuring with tough testing and holding the stakeholders accountable for the results. We also made sure that we took the lead in conservation to protect our natural resources of the state and took better care of them than they'd ever been cared for. We worked to clean out the corruption of decades of one party control in our state and saw people literally taken to prison as a result of it. We modernized the work of government with technology. We cut taxes. We stood strong for things like art and music in schools so that kids would grow up not only to be automated robots, simply being databases with information shoved into their heads, but creative kids who could think [applause], and who could go beyond and develop both the right and left sides of their minds.
In all of those efforts I found that by putting forth such an agenda we were then able to bring forth pro-life legislation that had never before gotten out of legislative committees and pro-family legislation--parental notification, signing a bill to ban partial birth abortion, having informed consent, and making it a crime to kill an unborn child while attacking its mother.
That focus and the focus that is so desperately needed in America today is a different kind of focus, and I want to challenge all of us to realize that most of the time we fight too much over horizontal politics--whether we're on the left or whether we're on the right. Let me suggest to you that the average American sitting at home tonight having dinner is not as concerned about the horizontal politics of left and right; that person is concerned about the vertical politics. Are we lifting them up or are we going to bring them down? And yes I'm a conservative, unapologetically a conservative, but I also know that an airplane with only one wing won't get off the ground, and I'm more concerned about making sure that without being labeled and stereotyped, that we prove to the world that as believers, as people of faith, that our primary mission is not to have an ideological position in politics, it's to change the world so that every man and woman and boy and girl can really experience and taste what true freedom is and all that it means, not just the freedom to speak out but the freedom within to be all that God ever created us to be. [applause].
I would suggest that we need an evangelical version of "shock and awe." That we would show this country that the people of faith are not just angry folks mad about the things we don't like, that we are people with joy in our hearts that are willing to rebuild America from the ground up and to help people who don't have decent housing to know it, to help people who don't have decent drinking water to drink it, to help people who are hungry at night to know what it is to have food.
And you know some people say, are you worried that government might try to do that. Yes, but I'm even more worried that the church won't do it and the government will mess up trying to do it. [laughter, applause]. That's why those of us who are people of faith need to act out on our souls and consciences and not expect the government to do what we could do if every believer rather than paying half of his income in taxes would give one dime out of a dollar to his church, to the charitable organizations that can make those kind of things happen.
Ultimately I think people have an expectation of consensus, that we would come to the place where we really are about putting aside our pride and [inaud.] it. I heard an African-American pastor several years ago say there are four kinds of pride. There's pride of face, there's pride of place, there's pride of race, and there's pride of grace. I think as I listened to him it occured to me that while we should never compromise our core convictions, we should always be willing to find the solutions that can not only win hearts, but that can change lives.
The fact is I don't agree with almost anything the feminists are about in terms of their agenda, but if we could work even with feminists to oppose pornography and the battering of women and their exploitation, then we should do it. I don't agree with those who advocate same sex marriage. I've made that clear not only in what I say but what I've done, but if it means that we work with them on the consensus to combat the spread of AIDS, it's a worthy objective. I don't subscribe, and I've always been opposed in every election I ever run, strongly, overwhelmingly by labor unions, but if we can work with them to promote better wages and safer workplaces we might even prove that what we're really about is not just to be seen as people with minds which are closed but as people with hearts which are open and with hands which reach out to lift people up.
And my dear friends we live in a world where politics in this city has become so polarized that our government has become paralyzed, and what we long for, what this country looks for [missing sentence due to end of tape]...balances its budget, works for the people's interest and not its own.
W.C. Fields was laying on his death bed and a fellow actor came to see him and was surprised to see W.C. Fields reading a Bible, of all things. And his friend said, Mr. Fields, you're not exactly known to be a religious man; tell me what is this about. W.C. Fields looked up and quite sincerely said, I'm looking for loopholes. [laughter]. I'm afraid that the average person today may be looking for loopholes, but they're aren't any. Freedom has no loopholes. It has people who are willing to make great sacrifices to keep [inaud.].
Just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas a school teacher last spring did something that was pretty remarkable. One day when her students came to class there were no desks. She had had them, every one of them, removed. They walked into an empty room with no desks, and of course they looked around and they said, where are our desks. She said, you don't get your desks until you tell me where they come from. They couldn't figure out what on Earth she was thinking. The second period class came and the same questions and the same answers. You don't get a desk until you know where they came from.
By third period it was all over school--that they had a teacher who had lost her mind [laughter], taken all her desks out of the classroom. By noon the television stations in Little Rock had been notified and they were all out there to see what kind of nut was teaching school and how much were we paying this lady who had taken all the desks out of the classroom.
But at 2 o'clock that afternoon in fifth period, something life-changing happened. Because after all the apprehension and anticipation about why we didn't have desks and when we were going to get them, the lady had pre-arranged and at 2 o'clock, the final period of the day, the door opened and in marched 27 veterans wearing their uniforms, each of them carrying a school desk. They marched in, and they put those school desks down, and the kids were standing against the wall were then instructed by the teacher, now you may take your desk, but don't every forget who got it for you. [applause]. I don't think that anyone will ever forget in that classroom that our freedom [...inaud, applause continues]. Every single one of us as Americans need to remember when we get on our knees tonight, thank God we are in a country that people are trying to break into and not a country people are trying to break out of. [cheers, applause]. Thank you and God bless you. [applause continues].
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