Six months ago, I launched my campaign for the Presidency not far from here on a perfect New Hampshire summer day.
I spoke of an America in peril, under a President who had disappointed even his own supporters and was clearly failing. Since then, the unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high. More Americans have lost their homes and more Americans have slipped from the middle class into a world of poverty they never imagined. Our soldiers return from war unable to find a decent job.
Over the last six months, I've travelled up and down New Hampshire and across America. I've listened to anxious voices in town meetings, visited with students who are frightened by the magnitude of their college loans but even more frightened by the lack of good jobs. From break rooms to back offices to living rooms, I've heard stories of the The Great Obama Recession. Of families getting by on less, of long planned-for retirements replaced by two jobs at minimum wage. It's a long litany of dreams deferred and economic stress that quickly become family stress. I've heard stories that will break your heart.
But let me tell you what I rarely heard — hopelessness.
Even in these most difficult times, the worst economy since the Great Depression, I've found Americans refusing to believe that these troubled days are our destiny. Sometimes with pride, often with anger, I've heard time and again, a constant refrain: This is not the America we love! This is not the America we deserve! That this is not the America of yesterday and we will not allow it to become the America of tomorrow!
We are Americans. And we will not surrender our dreams to the failures of this President. We are bigger than the misguided policies and weak leadership of one man. America is bigger than President Obama's failures!
This America of long unemployment lines and small dreams is not the America you and I love. It is not a Live Free or Die America. These troubled years are President Obama's legacy but they are not our future!
This is an election not to replace a President but to save a vision of America. It's a choice between two destinies.
Four years ago, many Americans trusted candidate Barack Obama when he promised to bring Americans together. But now we've learned that President Obama's idea of bringing us together is not to lift us up but instead to use the invisible boot of government to bring us all down.
I have a vision of a very different America, an America united not by our limits but by our ambitions, our hopes and our shared dreams. I am tired of a President who wakes up every day, looks out across America and is proud to announce, "It could be worse."
It could be worse? Is that what it means to be an American? It could be worse?
If I am President I will wake up every day and remind Americans that not only must we do better but also that we can do better! I believe in America!
President Obama boasts that he will "fundamentally transform" America. I want to restore America to our founding principles.
I believe that our founding principles are what made America the greatest nation in the world.
Among these core principles is what the founders called the "pursuit of happiness." We call it opportunity, or the freedom to choose our course in life. That principle is the foundation of a society that is based on ability, not birthright.
In a merit-based society, people achieve their dreams through hard work, education, risk-taking, and even a little luck. An opportunity society produces pioneers and inventors; it inspires its citizens to build and create. As these people exert effort and take risks, they employ and lift others and create prosperity.
Their success does not make others poorer, it makes others better off.
President Obama sees America differently. He believes in an entitlement society.
Once we thought "entitlement" meant that Americans were entitled to the privilege of trying to succeed in the greatest country in the world. Americans fought and died to earn and protect that entitlement. But today the new entitlement battle is over the size of the check you get from Washington.
President Barack Obama has reversed John Kennedy's call for sacrifice. He would have Americans ask, "what can the country do for you?"
Just a couple of weeks ago in Kansas, President Obama lectured us about Teddy Roosevelt's philosophy of government. But he failed to mention the important difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities. President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes.
In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing—the government.
The truth is that everyone may get the same rewards, but virtually everyone will be worse off.
President Obama's entitlement society would demand a massive growth of government. To preserve opportunity, we must shrink government not grow it.
Last month, I laid out specific solutions to the spending crisis we are facing, including Medicare reform. I'm very pleased to see that Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who has been a champion of reform, has joined with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon to push a similar Medicare reform package that I hope will save this critical program.
But this is more than a spending crisis we face. Even if we could afford the ever-expanding payments, an "entitlement society" is a fundamental corruption of the American spirit. The battle we face today is more than a fight over our budget, it's a battle for America's soul.
We can't begin to answer the question of who should be our next President until we start asking ourselves, "Who are we as Americans, and what kind of America do we want for our children?"
I know that my answers to those questions are very different than those of the current President of the United States.
President Obama has spent the last 35 months building a government so large that feeding it will have to consume a greater and greater share of your paycheck. And does anybody in America believe they are better off today than four years ago?
He pushed through Obamacare, an entitlement program we didn't want and can't afford.
He's refused to advance a responsible plan to strengthen existing entitlements. Instead of fostering competition and choice, he's cultivating government dependence.
President Obama talks about a country where everyone plays by the same rules, but when it comes to his favorite friends, he makes sure the rules don't apply. He's given his supporters waivers exempting them from the burden of Obamacare. His NLRB bullies businesses when they don't bow to union demands. In the energy industry, he's picked winners — who turned out to be real losers — like Solyndra.
That's how an entitlement society works — those in government control the resources and make the rules. And while the rest of us stand still, they make sure that their friends get ahead.
The result of President Obama's approach is a staggering list of failures. It took eighteen tax increases just to get Obamacare off the ground. Our growing welfare state is slated to cost $10.3 trillion over the next 10 years, that's $72.000 a household.
I will take a different path.
I will repeal Obamacare. On the first day as president, I will issue waivers from Obamacare to all 50 states.
I will strengthen Medicare by empowering the next generation of seniors to choose the solutions that are right for them. And I'll send Medicaid back to the states because they know how to serve their citizens best.
My administration will create an environment where the private sector can thrive and American businesses can reach their full potential. I'll reduce federal regulation, open up new markets, and fully exploit our energy resources.
I'll cut taxes, cap spending and finally balance the budget.
This time next year, all the yard signs will have come down; Town Hall meetings will be about local budgets, not the defense department or Medicare. It'll be safe to watch television again, at least for a little while. Americans will have chosen.
The path I lay out is not one paved with ever increasing government checks and cradle-to-grave assurances that government will always be the solution. If this election is a bidding war for who can promise more benefits, that's a battle I'm not going to join.
This will be a campaign about the soul of America, about American greatness. I'm confident that Americans won't settle for an excuse that "it could be worse." I'm confident that Americans will refuse to be bought off by cheap promises that turn into never-ending debts for our children and grandchildren.
This is a time when we look beyond who we are today and ask who we will become.
Not far from here, an idea called America was born. It came in a moment when a peaceful people realized they could not continue on the same path. Those farmers and merchants, aristocrats and blacksmiths, put aside their fears to take up arms against the greatest power in the world. There was not a single rational reason to believe they could succeed.
But they believed in God and they believed in themselves. They believed that the guiding force in their lives should not be fear, but rather a strong belief that life without freedom is slow death and an abiding conviction that they could build a better world.
That world is America.
Here in New Hampshire, in Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan — across America — we are at the beginning of a democratic process that those early patriots risked all to secure. This is the moment when we reject failure and commit to make the disappointments of the past few years only a detour, not a destiny. We believe America can do better. Because we believe in America.
And tonight, I ask each of you to remember how special it is to be an American. I want you to remember what it was like to be hopeful and excited about the future, not to dread each new headline. When you spent more time looking for a house to buy than searching for a new job; when you spent more time thinking about a vacation with your family than how to make it to the next paycheck.
That America is still out there. An America when you weren't afraid to look at your retirement savings or the price at the pump.
An America when you never had to wake up to hear a President apologizing for America.
I say let's fight for that America. The America that brings out the best in each of us, that challenges us to be better and bigger than ourselves.
This election, let's fight for the America we love.
We believe in America.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.