[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
Thank you so much. Thank you, Governor Perry. Thank you, Governors. Thank you very much. Thanks. Honored to be here. Get to speak with and to my fellow governors.
It hasn't been that long, I think, since we all gathered, but, I don't know about you, but I managed to fill up the time. Let's see, I -- I had a baby. I did some traveling. I very briefly expanded my wardrobe. I made a few speeches, met a few VIPs, including those who really impact society, like Tina Fey. Aside from that, it was pretty much same old, same old since we last gathered.
But in the great campaign that has come and gone -- and it was great -- one of the nicer experiences that we had along the campaign trail was seeing so many of my RGA colleagues. And I thank you guys so much for your assistance with John McCain's good run.
Each of you gave your all to the cause and were helpmates and positive additions to Senator McCain's good run. You were there to help when things were looking good, and you were there to help when, once in a while, things weren't looking so good. And where I'm from in Alaska, life would be pretty lonely if all we had were fair weather friends, and you have been friends in all seasons, and for that, I will forever be grateful. And I know Senator McCain also will be so appreciative.
Let me add that I was honored as well to have the support of a former RGA member, and his beautiful wife, who will soon return home from the White House to Texas. In politics, people sometimes go to great lengths to avoid stating the obvious, but I think it's about time that we all remembered that the greatest measure of a President is whether he protected and defended this great country. America's 43rd president took that foremost responsibility, that most important charge, seriously. He poured his life into it. He succeeded in keeping America safe from another attack. I'm thankful he is my soldier son's Commander-in-Chief, and for that I say God bless George W. Bush. And I thank you, Mr. President.
So reflecting on it all these last couple of months, obviously, a lot learned for all of us, all of us governors these past months. And I'm going to reflect a bit on that here and -- and then express where I think that we can all move forward together as a result of what we've just learned.
When I was introduced in Ohio as our party's nominee, it was humbling, and I was proud to represent all of us. But on election night in Phoenix, after a hard and honorable defeat, I was more proud than ever to have been the running mate and friend of a great man, Senator John McCain. Tens of millions of Americans shared our convictions and they gave us their votes. They shared a desire for a smaller, smarter government, and protection of our constitutional rights, and energy independence, and respect for life and equality, and I thank them for their confidence and those votes.
But for us, it was not our time. It was not our moment. But it is our country. And the winner will be our President. And I wish Barack Obama well as the 44th President of the United States. And if he governs with the skill and the grace and the greatness of which he is capable, we're going to be just fine. And as he prepares to fill the office of Washington and Lincoln, know that this is a shining moment in American history. Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for our country.
Now, as we wish him well, and unite, as we all work together, it's time for us to reach out to this new Administration, time for us to reach out to Barack Obama: so that he'll understand our perspective as experienced chief executives, we, responsible for tens of billions of public dollars, and tens of thousands of employees, and policies and projects that do affect the lives of our constituents every single day; so that he will understand that bigger federal government and more unfunded mandates hurt the economy and our states and America's opportunities. Republican governors understand this. That's why Americans look to us for leadership. And that's why we have seen election victories.
So let's reach out to Barack Obama. And this is how we reach out and help our country: showing how lower taxes provide opportunity for the private sector to grow new wealth, and let's embrace the federalist principle that lets local government, government closest to the people, have more say, local government being the most responsive and responsible. We know that, because we live it on the front lines every day in our jobs. Let's help show him and Congress the way.
Look, we need to be greater participants in the monumental debates going on right now with the economic crisis that we're facing. We're hearing now more talk of additional taxpayer bailouts, for instance, for companies and corporations, perhaps even states now, who may be standing in line with their hands out, despite perhaps some poor management decisions on their part, that helped tank our economy.
Republicans can help shore this up without getting any more addicted to OPM -- O-P-M -- "Other Peoples' Money" -- spending it, when -- when a lot of us -- a lot of us just supported that first 700 billion dollar bailout. We need to have a rational discussion. I look forward to a debate and Republican governors participating in this debate of what and when is enough enough. I want our national leaders to expand the debate here and talk about accountability and personal responsibility and corporate habits and activities called to account. We can start talking about the conservative solutions to these economic challenges.
Now, we can do this and we can lead in this discussion and in this debate, and we had better lead with ethics reform and an end to the self-dealing and corrupt special interests on Wall Street and in Washington that contributed to the housing crisis, and elements of the economic collapses. And this has resulted in hardworking, middle-class Americans being the ones who to really get the bum deal in all of this.
And we need to not be afraid of interjecting the solutions that we see based on free market solutions as those that can meet these great challenges. Let's lead in this ethics reform effort. We got to clean it up and we got to end the corruption and the abuse once and for all. And, again, with free market solutions we need to start considering those, debating those, plugging in those solutions.
We want America to be able to trust their federal government again. And here I think the public's going to be looking to Republican governors to show them the way. And we have to reform. And we're able to do it. Governors do things like -- in -- in terms of reform and manifesting our commitment to reform -- we do things like putting our state checkbook online -- that's what we've done in Alaska -- so that everybody can see where every dollar's being spent. It's other peoples' money.
Federal government, they need to do the same thing. We need to be able to help our federal officials see what we do as governors that has led to reforms within our state and progress within our states, allowing our state governments to be put back on the side of the people. We've got to do that on a federal level.
Now, looking back on the campaign, it was such a journey -- such a journey for my family. It was -- It was wonderful. But what a nice return we've had now to a place and to a life that we so dearly love in Alaska. Along the trail, it was my husband, Todd, who was my right hand. And among his many willing -- winning qualities is -- is the gift that he has of optimism and just thankfulness in all situations that he finds.
And going forward, I'm going to count on those qualities a little more, even. Because of course there was disappointment after a loss in a national election like that. You run to win. You run the race to win. It's kind of relying on Todd with that optimism and the thankfulness in all situations, that I'm certainly going to be there with him along those lines.
But far from returning to the great state of Alaska with any sense of sorrow or regret, we carried with us the best of memories and joyful experiences that really do not depend at all on political victory. For years to come, I'm going to remember all the young girls who came up to me at rallies to see the first woman having the privilege of carrying our party's VP nomination. And they inspired me.
With an extra hurdle or two in front of us and in front of these young girls, I -- I feel that we've got this mutually beneficial relationship now -- me and these young girls -- where we're going to work harder, we're going to be stronger, we're going to do better. And one day, one of them will be the President, because in America, there will be no ceilings on achievement, glass or otherwise. And if I can help point the way -- if I can help point the way for these young women or inspire them to tap into their own gifts and talents and strengths, to find their own opportunities, well, it is a privilege.
And I'm going to remember all the people along the way who said that they were praying for us. They were such a strength and a shield, those prayer warriors, and (yes) -- I'm going to remember the Blue Star moms and the special bond that we share, with our loved ones away at war. I'm going to remember all the veterans of war and the POWs, the former POWs that I had such an honor meeting and hearing their stories -- and oh, my goodness, America cannot forget. And -- And we must honor and respect these -- these men who have sacrificed so greatly for us and have such a love of country and need to be heard today.
I'll remember the working people of this country who put their faith in us, the folks who run our factories and grow our food and teach our children and serve us in uniform, those who came out on the campaign trail also to say, you know, they've got a lot of hope for -- for the ideals that we were representing in our ticket.
And I remember folks like Joe the Plumber, who -- yes, who spoke for so many when Joe the Plumber, remember, he suggested that taking more of our families' and our small businesses' hard-earned money, what that does is stifle the entrepreneurial spirit that grew this country into the greatest country on Earth.
And thanks to Joe the Plumber, people whom he was speaking for felt kind of comforted, like, "See, I'm not the only one who sees that," in...this suggested policy that was proposed, that Joe the Plumber kind of got out of Barack Obama that day. That was valuable.
I'll not forget guys like Tito the Builder. He recently became a U.S. citizen, running his own construction company now. And he on the trail, he was telling us so proudly, he says, "Yes, I was born in Colombia, but I was made in the USA. This is a land of opportunity."
And man, just these everyday hard-working Americans whom we would meet. And -- And again, such a -- such a comfort that we had knowing that we aren't the only ones believing in America being the land of possibilities and opportunity, but the federal government, man, it's got to play its appropriate role -- not get in the way of the progress of our families and our businesses -- and for their example and their love, too.
I will remember with gratitude all the families with special needs children who were the stars of the show in our rallies: kids with autism and some in -- in their wheelchairs and these beautiful kids who maybe before were made to feel like there wasn't a place for them in the life of our country. How could I ever forget the banners held up high that would say, "We're here for Trig," "Trig in the White House," and these beautiful children and their families?¹
You know, and always being warned you can't cry on the campaign trail or you can't show that -- well, my goodness, speaking to some of these families and the challenges that they have -- and -- and they who aren't asking anything from government or from anybody else -- perhaps a hand up, but not a handout, these families. I would see them in the audience, and they would hold up their banners. And I'll -- I'll tell you, I came close to crying few times, because they just touched my heart. And it's time that America shows them our good, collective heart.
Governor Crist, one of my favorite persons whom I met along the trail, was one of your constituents at a rally right here in Florida. And his name is Charlie. He's a fine young man with Down syndrome. And he's just so proud and strong and tough. And Charlie and I exchanged e-mail addresses. The last time he replied, he said, "By the way, please quit calling me darling." I was talking about him on the trail once in a while, referring -- and he says, "It's not tough enough." So today in your home state a special shout-out to Charlie, to tough Chuck -- darling Charlie. And I'll repeat what I told him, because it applies to all children and adults who are so unique: that -- that he is beautiful. And I am so glad that my boy Trig is going to grow up to be just like him, and every innocent life being so precious and worthy, and truly we must show them the good heart of America.
Another funny thing, too, on the trail, we had a -- a beautiful group of young Down syndrome young adults and children, and they're holding up their signs. And Down syndrome, of course you're born with an extra chromosome. So their signs were all clever about "We're extra special. We've got this chromosome."
And it reminded me of a bumper sticker that was sent to me from a Down syndrome group in Arizona. You know how we have bumper stickers on our minivans across the nation saying, you know, "My kid's on the honor roll and yours isn't," and "My kid's a better soccer player than your kid." Well, this bumper sticker -- or whatever they say -- but the bumper sticker that was sent to me was, "My kid's got more chromosomes than your kid." Like, all right! We won. We won.
But so thankful that they knew that they were welcome, and that that, too, is what we represented as - as Republicans is -- is that good heart of America, that equal opportunity for all and defense of those who maybe are vulnerable and weak. Heaven help us if -- if we ever stray from that principle, from that value in our party. And it was -- it was wonderful and -- and I was honored to get to represent that value.
Above all, too, I am grateful to the man who took a chance on a Republican governor, representing you, representing all of you, and what we believe in, and with sound executive experience, and on the front lines every day. That is who you are; that is who we are, making tough decisions to best serve the people who hire us. And we are held accountable every day. The buck stops on our desk. We're not just one of many voting "yea" or "nay" or "present." No, there is no "present" button in our office, is there? We have to make the tough decisions.
John McCain knew what it is that we represent, what I represented, and all of you. From the moment he named me on Election Day, I had the rare enough privilege in politics of praising a candidate whose story and character and personal heroism required no embellishment. I said things about him, about how valiantly he has served and what he has overcome, things he could not say about himself because that's just the kind of man that he is: so humble. And elections, granted, they're not a test of valor and merit alone, of course, and the judgment of the majority is not for us to question now. Enough to say that for me, it was the honor of a lifetime to fight for what we believe in at the side of John S. McCain.
So now, with recent elections wrapped up -- yep -- on the federal level, we are now the minority party, but let us resolve not to become the negative party, too eager to find fault or unwilling to help in this time of crisis and war. Losing an election does not have to mean losing our way. And for governors the way forward leads through our own state capitals in reforms that we will carry on or begin anew.
And I promise you Americans will be looking to their governors for reaction, for stepped-up leadership, and for our abilities to unite and to progress. Let the pundits go on with their idle talk about the next election, what happens in 2012. Our concern should be about our state's next great reform, our next budget, our next opportunity to progress in the states that we serve. And on issues like taxes and energy and health care, immigration, education, we will not lack for opportunities to serve and to lead and to show the way. If the new Congress and President err on the side, for instance, of excess taxes, then it will be falling on us to show them a better way.
In our federalist system, we governors have one of the greatest powers there is in an democracy, and that is the power of example. And we in the RGA must use that power to create the growth and the opportunities and the jobs that come from lower taxes and more efficient bureaucracy for everyone.
Now, some things that we need to keep our eye on. If I remember correctly from the campaign, the new president and the congressional majority, they have their own ideas about energy policy. I didn't hear a lot from them about actual production of U.S. energy supplies that we need now to protect our economy and our nation from reliance on foreign cartels and dictators, those who use energy as a weapon. Maybe, though, the fact of having final responsibility for energy policy will change their outlook. But if not, then, again, it will be left for the states, for us to point the way.
And from the North Slope oil fields of Alaska to the outer continental shelf of Florida, we will press on with the great work of achieving energy security, and we can do this, we have to do this. We have the American energy sources, conventional and alternative. And we can bring it about by American ingenuity and we're going to produce it by American workers, and we can do this.
Other issues that we work on every day in our jobs in public service -- when it comes to, for instance, health care, the goal of affordable, accessible care is a goal that we all share. But there still are serious differences about how we reach this.
While Congress, led by Pelosi and Reid and some of the other Democrat leaders -- Barney Frank, etcetera -- and the new president -- while they all debate it, we in the states can still advance our reforms to expand choices and increase competition. And I'm not going to assume that the answer is for the federal government to just take it over and try to run America's health care system -- Heaven forbid.
Governors, let's lead on this reform front too, with medical savings accounts -- those ideas -- and transparency and medical record keeping and elimination of CONs and barriers to more choices. Let's just get it done, and, again, show the federal government the way. And, now, finally in every great reform effort there is an element of self-reform. And Republicans cannot shy away from that challenge either. We must see reform within.
The costs of war and security alone -- that cannot explain a federal debt that's grown to more than 10 trillion dollars. Washington, D.C., leaders spent public money in disregard of the public interest, just like the opponents that they used to criticize. They got too comfortable in power. Maybe they forgot why they were sent to Washington and who they were sent to serve. We're looking now at an American people having to work for their government instead of our government working for the people. And enough -- enough of that.
All of this must change if we are to lead again in Washington, in changing Washington for the better. So in the months ahead, let us build our case with actions and not just words. Let us reclaim our good name as the party of spending restraint and limited government and economic opportunity and personal freedom and responsibility and American tradition. Let us be true to our beliefs, strong in the defense of the weak, unafraid to speak for American ideals, and firm in our support for the men and women who defend those ideals in a dangerous world. And in all that we do, let us carry ourselves with good will and confidence and with a servant's heart. Let's lead by example.
A week ago, America did make her choice. And as for us, with a strong group of leaders here, our convictions, our loyalties, our hopes for this country remain the same, I am sure.
In respect to our presidential campaign, now it is time for us to go our own way and leaving neither bitter nor vanquished, but instead confident in the knowledge that there will be another day, and we will gather once more with new strength. We'll rise to fight again.
In the meantime, governors, I know -- RGA -- we're going to be walking the walk of true reform within our states. We will lead by example. The nation needs us.
And, I say, God bless you, in your states, and thank you for all you are doing for this great country. And we're going to step it up even more.
So, RGA, thank you guys. God bless you.
¹ Trig Paxon Van Palin, son of Todd and Sarah Palin, who has Down syndrome.
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Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement
Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement