J.C. Watts

Keeping America Competitive in the Global Marketplace

delivered 2005, Harding University, Searcy, Arkansas


Please be seated. Thank you very much. You are very kind. I -- When you stood up I thought you were leaving.

Before we get started I want to ask you to take off your Republican or your Democrat hat, or your liberal or your conservative or your...Independent cap. Take off those caps and put them on your knee or just kind of put there on...the floor. And...I hope youíll listen to me tonight to hear what Iím saying and not listen to me to respond.

You know, as a father I often have to remind myself to listen to my kids to really hear what my kids are saying, as opposed to listening to my kids to respond to what theyíre saying. And -- And thereís a big difference and in politics we like to do that. And a lot of times people in politics, in the political arena, when weíre dealing with current affairs, when weíre dealing with the issues of the day -- a lot of times when the facts contradict what we want to believe, we ignore the facts. We ignore the facts.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late senator of New York, he said once -- I heard him say once down there in Washington -- and he said "In Washington, we are entitled to our own opinions but weíre not entitled to our own facts." So often when the facts contradict what we want to believe, we ignore the facts -- especially in politics.

Friends, weíre living in interesting times in 2005. We are experiencing things today and we are seeing things happening right in front of our very eyes that -- that never in my wildest dreams growing up in Eufaula, Oklahoma, did I ever think that we would be talking about some of the things that weíre talking about -- in terms of current affairs, in terms of where our nation is headed, in terms of where weíre going as a country. Fascinating times.

I was on a radio show last week and I was talking to the host and he said to me -- shortly after Iíd gone on -- he said that there was a restaurant -- he was talking to me about this restaurant that you go in this restaurant and...they wear no clothes. And I said, "Help me, Rhonda." What are we coming to -- restaurants with no clothes. Now Iím still old fashion in that sense. I want people to have clothes on when I go in a restaurant to eat. But interesting times that -- that weíre living in.

And I think the pressing question for us in 2005 America is...there's two questions: one, what are we going to do to equal that World War II generation? They gave us the freest, most prosperous, the healthiest, most wonderful nation there is -- that World War II generation. What are we going to do to equal the World War II generation? And the second question is, what are we going to do to create the kind of future that our kids and that our grandkids deserve? You know Iíve got grandkids today and -Ė and I find myself over the last couple of years, our oldest grandchild is three years old -- will be three March 21st -- and you know itís interesting.

I think a whole lot about that these days. What kind of future do I want for my kids and...for my grandkids? What kind of America do we want over the next 20-25 years? Do we want an America thatís going to be able to compete in a global marketplace with two serious challengers: China and India? Over the next 20-25 years China and India will emerge as serious, serious, serious global players. And we will have to compete with them.

If we want our kids to be -- to inherit a...free, and a prosperous, and a healthy America we must take a look at the systems that we use in 2005 America to govern our nation. You know, friends, we -- we use these old, tired systems, these old, tired models of government that they are inefficient, they are wasteful, theyíre nonproductive, and in the private sector we would have junked them thirty years ago. But in the government sector itís fascinating thing that we say that, you know, we want -- we want different results, but we do the same old thing the same old way and we expect different results. If you do the same old thing the same old way you're going to get the same old results. And I think if we are to compete with China and India, if we are to stay ahead weíve got to look at our systems, weíve got to look at our government models.

Weíve got to look at the model that we use in terms of education. Friends, education is...the quickest way I know, or the best way I know, to do what we talk a lot about in politics -- and thatís "level the playing field." But we also have to understand you never level the playing field -- you -- if you have some kids that go to schools on a daily basis that teach them how to read, and write, and do the arithmetic, and they gain the computer skills necessary to compete in a global marketplace and some kids donít.

The federal government literally forces kids to go to schools that donít work. And friends when we have kids that walk across a...platforms or walk across podiums or platforms on graduation night in May of this year, and they canít read the very diploma that theyíve gotten when they walked across the stage,  we have lit literally crippled those kids for life.

So, again, we must hold education systems accountable. We must say the most important tool, the most important asset that God has given us, the most important treasure that God has given us, are our kids. And our government uses models that theyíve force kids to go to schools that donít work.

About four of the eight years that I was in Congress, I offered amendments to education bills that would allow poor parents -- give them scholarships so that they could send their kids to the school of their choice. It was defeated, but at least the Speaker of the House gave me a vote on those amendments. I remember one of the times that we offered an amendment to try and get that happened, to make that happen. I had one Member of Congress she said to me -- she said, ďPoor people should not be able to live in public housing and send their kids to private school.Ē I said, "Now wait a minute, let me make sure Iím understanding this. Itís okay for Presidents to live in public housing and send their kids to private school. But poor people canít live in public housing and send their kids to private school."

We do it on a college level. You know we...do it on a college level. We...allow kids to apply for Pell grants and we say you can spend that Pell Grant wherever you want to spend it. We did it with the G.I. Bill. We said to those soldiers, to those veterans, you can take this 30,000 dollars or 40,000 dollars and you can go to -- to Harding University, or you can go to Arkansas University, or you can go to Oklahoma University, or you can go to Oklahoma Baptist University, or you can go to Oklahoma City Community College, you can go to -- you can go to Notre Dame, you can go to Southern Methodist Methodist University. You can go wherever you think you can get the best education. Why is it that when we say that we want poor people to have that choice, [they] say, no, no, no, no. Canít do that.

If you give poor people the choice of where to send their kids to school theyíre not going to choose J.C.ís school. That is an indictment on J.C.ís school in itself -- to say if you give Dr. Burks a choice, that heís not going to choose my school; heís going to choose somebody elseís school. Friends, why are we afraid of competition? Competition is a good thing. You know the fact that we have --.

(Look, I've got forty five minutes. When you applaud that takes my time. Donít applaud.)

I bought a tractor for my ranch about a year and half ago. And because I had a phone and a fax, and I could call more than one dealer, I saved -- comparing apples to apples -- I saved from 1500 to 7500 hundred dollars on my tractor. I called four different dealers. I said, "This is what I want. You send me your best and final offer; hereís my fax number. People were competing for my business.

In the private sector if you donít like McDonalds, if you want a hamburger and you donít like McDonalds, you can go to Burger King. If you donít like Burger King, you can go to Tasty Freeze. If you donít like the Tasty Freeze, you can go to Wendyís. You have a choice. If you donít like Ford, you can go to Chevrolet. If you donít like Chevrolet, you can go to Toyota. If you donít like Toyota, you can go to Honda. If you donít like Honda, you can go to Chrysler. You have a choice. In the government we donít, and it hurts you, the tax payer, the consumer.

Man, taxes I...and...Friends, let me tell you something. I'm -- I'm proud to tell you there was never a tax bill that crossed my desk that I didnít vote for. And I didnít for a tax bill, I never voted for tax relief because I was Republican or Democrat, because of some party affiliation. I voted for it because I live it every month. And I know there are people in this country that every month about the twentieth or twenty first of the month, they find that they have more month than they have money left. About the twenty first of every month. Working people in this country pay fifty to fifty eight cents of every dollar they make, and some government tax or government fee, and I find it fascinating that people continue to say to me, "We donít need tax relief." No, nobody wants tax relief. Friends let me tell you something. If you want to get in a short line in life, you get in that line of Americans that believe theyíre under-taxed. Nobody believes that.

Now I think thereís a role for taxes. I just think we pay too much in taxes. Think about it. We get you from the time you get up till the time you go to bed -- the time you get up in the morning, your feet hit the floor, you go jump in the shower, we tax your water. You dry off and put your clothes on we've taxed your clothes. Eat your breakfast, weíve taxed your breakfast. You go and jump in the car, weíve taxed your car. Stop at the local gas station, get fuel, we taxed your fuel. Go to work, we tax your income. Come home in the evening, flop down in the lazy boy, we tax your furniture. Turn the TV on, weíve taxed your cable. Go to bed at night, you fall on your knees and you pray to a true and living God, and you get off your knees and kiss your spouse, you think thatís free. But itís not, thereís a marriage tax. And then you say I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of paying taxes. Iíll just die. Thereís a death tax. And I personally think itís unfair for any family to have to face the IRS and the undertaker in the same week.

Friends, I never voted for tax relief because of my publican, my Republican Party affiliation. I voted for tax relief because I know how real people live. 'Cause I went to the local Wal-Mart on the weekends when I went home. I went to the local IGA and I stood in those grocery lines, and my wife would send me to shop for groceries using coupons trying to save forty cents on a bottle of Tylenol, fifty cents on a box of cereal. Man, I thought weíre the only ones -- in the Watts' household -- that used coupons. I turned around, thereís people behind me, they've got the same forty cent coupon to save forty cents on a bottle of Tylenol, fifty cents on a box of cereal.

You see friends, we donít need more taxes we need more tax payers. And how do you create tax payers? You -- You create an environment for people to invest, to risk their capitol to create opportunity. And you have to allow people the opportunity to make a profit. "Profit" should not be a bad word to us. Iíve been in business for myself before. Iíve gone -- And Iím in business for myself today. And friends Iím -- Iíll be honest with you. Iíve never gone into business to create a job. Iíve always gone into business to create a profit. If J.C. Wattsí companies creates a profit, Iíll create a job. But if I canít create a profit there wonít be a job. Thatís not Republican or Democrat. Thatís not liberal or conservative. That is just a fact.

You want to create opportunity in underserved communities? You want to create opportunity in underdeveloped countries? You want to create opportunities right here at home? How can we say to the rest of the world that democracy and free enterprise -- that they are the social economic development tool for them, if we canít make it work for us right here at home, where the incentives are the reverse of everything that needs to be done to create productive human behavior and wealth?

You will create poverty if you allow the reward for welfare and unemployment to be greater that the reward for working and being productive. Thatís not liberal or conservative; thatís not red, yellow, brown, black, or white; that is just a fact. You will create poverty if you allow the families that breakup to be -- the reward  for the families that break up to be greater than the the reward for the families that stay together. You will create poverty.

You will create poverty if you allow the reward for...the drug dealer or illicit capitalism on the streets to be greater than the reward for the man or woman in his room thatíll go take a second mortgage on your home and take that ten thousand dollars and say, "Iíve got a product or service. Iím going to take it to the marketplace and Iím going to create jobs and wealth legally." You allow the reward for the drug dealer to be greater than the reward for the risk taker, you create poverty. And if you really want to expand and deepen poverty you do this: weaken the link between effort and reward.

Again, friends, we...donít, we in government, we donít like thinking outside the box. We donít like looking at new ways of dealing with old problems. We donít like looking at new ways of governing. Why would we ever encourage? Why would the federal government -- think about this -- why would the federal government ever say in terms of a welfare system -- and I believe there is a role for welfare; I believe we have a moral obligation in this country to assist people that can not assist themselves. I think thereís a role for welfare. But friends why did the federal government say to poor people, okay weíll let you -- weíll...allow you to be on welfare but you canít save money. And how do you get ahead in this country? Two ways to do it: Either you save or you invest.

They said, you canít save money. 1.8 million inmates in America and they said, but you canít marry the father of your children. You canít own a home. You canít have a car. You canít have assets. You canít be dependent on your God-given abilities to get out and do for yourself. You have to be...dependent on us. Five hundred and thirty five people and a President in Washington, D.C. is who you got to depend on. Itís who you got to depend on.

You see, we created a system that didnít improve people -- it maintained people in poverty. And it was a sick, pathetic system. And contrary to popular belief -- popular belief, most people on welfare didnít want to be on welfare. They didn't want to be there. It wasnít -- It wasnít the people in the system. It was the system itself. And we refused for years to change the system -- education, taxes, welfare, healthcare.

[audio-to-text transcription verified to here: 17:50]

Now I...was talking to...Bob Corbin today and he said that here on campus Mr. President you all have a program that you require student to take wellness a Ė- wellness class. When you think about this and Iíve been an advocate of this of --saying why do wait and -- allow somebody to become sixty five put them on Medicare and then they have heart surgery and you pay seventy five to one hundred thousand dollars for the heart surgery. Why not when theyíre twenty five or when theyíre thirty say okay every year that your cholesterol is under two hundred weíll give you five hundred dollar per year tax credit. But that makes too much since for Washington. And then -- friends let me tell you we have made this much more difficult then -- it ever should have been. Because we have fuss, we have refused to use common sense.

Common since should say to us lets reward people for being productive not being unproductive. You know lets reward people for being healthy not being unhealthy. You know Buddy Watts my dad and if you a and Jays heard this story and if youíve ever heard me speak youíve probably heard me tell this story. Because Iíve -- talked about Buddy Watts all over the country. But my father went to his grave in October of two thousand having spent two days in the seventh grade that was the extent of his education. But you know friends Iíve dinned with kings and queens and presidents but I never met a person smarter than Buddy Watts. Everything -- that he accomplished in his life, was because of his faith and good old fashion Ufall, Oklahoma common sense.

Back in nineteen eighty one I was about thirty forty days from graduating from the University of Oklahoma and this is a true story I had gone home one weekend. And daddy and I sat in the front room of his house of this home and then saying you know talking about all of Americaís problems about two oíclock, two oíclock in the morning time to retire and -- daddy said something Iíll never forget if I live to be one hundred and fifty years of age. He said ďyou know juniorĒ he said ďI think I want to go to that there collegeĒ and I kind of chuckled and said daddy what are you talking about your wanting to go college your fifty seven years old, a double by pass patient, momma is diabetic, you got these cows, these rental properties, your pasturing a church why are you wanting to go to college, and he said ďIíd like to see what makes you guys fools after you get outĒ. He said ďyou guys seem to loose your ability to use common senseĒ. Friends it is not as, it is not as difficult as Republicans or Democrats make it.

Illegal immigration, we were talking about illegal immigration in nineteen ninety five and you know what I went to a high school and -- one of the things I did when I was in Congress I would go to high schools and go to government classes and I would have town meetings with high school students. We were talking about illegal immigration in nineteen ninety five. And I talked to this class and we were talking about this and I said okay what do you guys think we should do about illegal immigration? This young lady that was in the eleventh grade she raised her hand and she cong, she said ďcongressman she said I donít understand if itís illegal whatís the issueĒ? Duh. Illegal immigration that what weíre talking about illegal immigration.

Education, taxes, healthcare, bureaucracies, friends if we are to compete in the global marketplace, our students have to learn more science; they have to learn more math. If we are to compete with China and India over the next twenty five thirty years weíre going to have to reform our legal systems, we have to reform our tax systems, weíre going to have to reform bureaucracies. And you think about the bureaucracies in this country that -- waste near about, near about in nineteen ninety eight. We come up with this idea and -- Jay will remember this I said we had a one point eight trillion dollar budget at the time and I and -- we were trying, we were eighteen billion dollars short three weeks before the end of the session. We had made a commitment not to spend the social security surplus. Thereís another novel idea. One of the things we ought to put in the social security plan is, is to say keep your filthy hands off the money that you put in social security for social security. That helps as well, but we were eighteen billion dollars short andÖat the end of the year had to come up with eighteen billion dollars.

So I came up with what I thought was a pretty decent idea. I said okay letís challenge the federal agencies, and departments to come up with one pennies worth of savings in their budget. So I organized a press conference, and I put up on my little board there about eight to ten ideas on what I would do to find one pennies worth of savings, in departments and agencies. Simultaneous to my press conference Secretary of Education, Secretary of Defense, I mean Secretary of Interior, they had press conferences, and they said this we donít have one percent waste in our budget. And as they were saying that I was reading a GAO audit general account office audit that said there were eight hundred and fifty billion dollars in government assets unaccounted for. Weíd lost things like ships; we didnít know where they were. True story. Weíd lost missiles; we didnít know where they were. We have literally reformed or transformed our kitchen more than we have transformed our government.

Anybody in this room remember the times that -- if youíre forty five years old or if youíre probably forty years old you remember the old wood stoves. My grandmother used to cook on old -- wood -- stove. Sometimes take things forever to cook. Today we have a microwave. You see the private sector cooks with microwaves, federal government cooks with wood stoves. Weíve transformed our kitchen.

I was at best buy the other night I and you know Iím -Ė not, Iím not much of a -- techie, a high teach guy. You know I -- but you know I -- literally went to this, went to best buy the other night, and saw a TV. screen on the refrigerator door. And I just had, I didnít, I just kind of walked by it and look at it like it was has leprosy or something. Iím not use to seeing a TV. screen on my refrigerator door. I went to Washington how many of you today have blackberries? A few, when I went to Washington in nineteen ninety five blackberry was a fruit. Today itís this platform thatís got email, and telephone, and -- all these different components to it. See thatís what happens in the private sector.

Friends you think about it. We canít continue to sustain the greatness of America, and we canít continue to be the leader of the free world using the current systems, and models that weíre using. We canít.

I love American history, I love history during that, I love studying history during that -- pre-reconstruction time and pride of eighteen sixty five, but when I was senior, when I was a junior a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma. I took a history class and I had this old history professor that his hair wasnít gray it was white. And Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and he would always have a pipe in his mouth, and never be lit heíd just have a pipe. And heíd be chewing on that pipe, and man heíd make history come alive right there in that classroom. And I took an interest in history, and studied history and Iíll I love reading about history during specially the Abraham Lincoln days. And you know Abraham Lincoln I -- no Ė- President; no President had to lead in the difficult times, or in times that were as difficult as they were in Abraham Lincolnís leadership and his presidency. When we were literally that close. That close to falling apart as a nation.

Friends weíve endured much in this great nation, civil wars, segregation, weíve endured much. But you know when you study American history you -- and -- I you know I literally I -- mentioned immigration. I -Ė literally have I have lees problems with the border than I do the classroom. Anybody that wants to come to this country and pay taxes, and be productive I have no problem with that. But I think thereís things we have to learn about America about being an American. The institutions, the good, the bad, the history of our country, the things that has gotten us to where we are today. You canít, you canít be an American by leaving one foot in one country, one foot in America. I pledge allegiance to the United States of America. But you see we donít teach American history anymore, we donít talk about the institutions the foundations. We donít talk about the sacrifices that men and women red, yellow, brown, black, and white that they made to make America what it is today.

You see weíve got a segment of the, weíve got many in academic community they say that we are programming kids. I donít call it programming I just call it American history. And it seems as though that when we look at American history and we look at where we are today it seems as though we are trying so hard to adopt, when you look at world history trying to adopt what European has done over last thirty five forty years. Especially the European leadership. I believe there are many Europeans that they believe the way we believe and they agree with us. But whole liberal elite European model that they have adopted five things and friends if we adopt them in America I guarantee ya it is a formula for what I call graceful decay.

And you look at world history the liberal elite in Washington. I mean and -- Europe what theyíve adopt every year, almost every year they raise taxes, cut benefits thatís part of the formula of graceful decay. Raise taxes, cut benefits, and the other three things is donít defend yourself, define marriage outside of one man and one woman, and the fifth thing is remove God from all public life. That is the formula for graceful decay raise taxes, cut benefits, donít defend yourself in times of war, define marriage outside of one man one woman, remove God from all public life.

Friends I am a person of faith everything that Iíve accomplished in my life been because of my faith and my education. And I believe that Christ died for the homosexual just like he died for the heterosexual. But friends let me tell you something there is no superior model, no superior model to one man and one woman in a childís life.

We have said I was a youth pastor for eight years, and in poor white communities, poor black communities, poor Hispanic communities. We have tried to encourage those kids to what marriage and what families all about. And in two thousand and three sixty nine percent of kids born in black communities were born to single parent homes. Those statistics are high in poor white communities, poor Hispanic communities, other poor communities as well. But you know what weíve said to those kids in red, yellow, brown, black, and white communities what family and marriage was all about. And all of sudden weíre about to change the model on them. Change the definition we will wreak havoc on our community. Am I against single parent families, no Iím nit. Thank God for those moms in my neighborhood put their foot down, stood tall when that man didnít stand up and take his rightful place in the home and the community. But as I said thereís no superior model to man and a woman playing a role in a childís life. No superior model.

Remove God from all public life as I close. Friends when we allow judges, the more we allow judges to remove God from all public life, the more we weaken the fabric of America. Ninety on percent of the American people believe that ďUnder GodĒ should be in the pledge. Ninety one percent. But youíve got judges in the ninth circuit of California that said weíre going to decide for ninety one percent of the American people and weíre going to side with that nine percent and remove ďUnder GodĒ from the pledge. Ninety on percent. Friends we are a nation not divided on values. We are a nation divided on ugly partisan politics. This place that you and I call home and the rest of the world calls America. Itís a pretty special place. Itís a pretty special place.

And as I think more on a daily basis about the kind of future that I want for my kids and my grandkids. When you ask yourself the question, what do you want, what kind of future do you want for your kids, your grandkids? You canít help but ask yourself what are we going to do to equal that world war two generation? To keep our country safe, to keep our country free, to keep our country prosperous, to keep our country healthy.

And oh by the way that formula for graceful decay donít defend yourself when evil people say they will do evil things to the United States of America we better take them seriously. This is a war; this is a fight, to the end. And Iíve got a pretty simple philosophy: They loose; we win.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Page Updated: 2/12/24

U.S. Copyright Status: Text & Audio = Uncertain. Image = Public domain.































































































































Top 100 American Speeches

Online Speech Bank

Movie Speeches

© Copyright 2001-Present. 
American Rhetoric.
HTML transcription by Stacy Eden & Michael E. Eidenmuller.