Lindsey Graham photo

Remarks Announcing Candidacy for President in Central, South Carolina

June 01, 2015

Thank you.

I am lucky to have Darlene as my sister. I'm lucky to have Verna Mae and Hollis as my aunt and uncle who took care of me. To all my family and all my friends, thank you.

Welcome to Central, South Carolina. My hometown.

Many of you have known me for a long time. I'm not aging that well, am I?

Some of you have known me since my family lived in the back of the bar in that building. But I'm pretty sure no one here, including me, ever expected to hear me say, "I'm Lindsey Graham and I'm running for President of the United States."

Thank you.

Audience Member: Over here.

Graham: Oh, yeah, OK. I'll turn back there.

I hope they hear that all over the world—that I'm running for President of the United States.

It's because of you that I can make that statement. Everything I am, everything I will be, I owe to the kindness and generosity and example of people of Central, Clemson, Seneca, Walhalla, and other small towns throughout South Carolina. Thank you. Thank you for everything.

I want to be President to protect our nation that we all love so much. So get ready, I'm ready. [laughter]

I want to be President to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them. Ronald Reagan's policy of peace through strength kept America safe during the Cold War. Remember those times?

Audience Member: Yep.

Graham: But I've come to conclude we will never enjoy peaceful coexistence with radical Islam because its followers intend to destroy our way of life. However, America can be and will be secure only if we have strength. Security through strength will protect us.

I want to be President to meet our problems head-on, honestly and realistically, for the purpose of solving them, not hiding them or taking political advantage of them.

Graham: I want to be President to make government work for you not the other way around.

Audience: Amen. Amen. [applause]

I want to make government keeps (sic) its promises to you, to support your dreams, to embrace your values, and to reflect your character. I want to be President to help us build a future greater than our amazing past. And I will work with anyone to do it.

We've made some dangerous mistakes in recent years. The Obama administration and some of my colleagues in Congress have substituted wishful thinking for sound national security strategy.

Audience Member: Yes, they have.

Audience Member: Yeah, you've got that right.

Graham: Every day the headlines attest to the failures of the Obama-Clinton policies.

Audience Member: That's right.

Graham: It is sad for me to report to you, but Barack Obama has made us less safe. Simply put, radical Islam is running wild. They have more safe havens, more money, more capability, and more weapons to strike our homeland than any time since 9/11. They are large. They are rich. They're entrenched. As President, I will make them small, poor, and on the run.

I'm afraid some Americans have grown tired of fighting them. I have some bad news to share with you. The radical Islamists are not tired of fighting you...

In partnership with others, we must take the fight to them, building lines of defenses over there so they can't come here. Building up and supporting regional forces to go after their safe havens that could be used to attack our homeland.

The world is exploding in terror and violence. But the biggest threat of all is the nuclear ambitions of the radical Islamists who control Iran. Ladies and gentlemen, there are no moderates in Iran running their government.

If the United States isn't firm in our intention to deny them such weapons, Iran will trigger a nuclear arms race in the least stable region on Earth, making it more likely the people who aspire to genocide will have the most effective means to commit it.,...

Our close ally, Israel, is at risk as a result of Obama's failed leadership. With Israel we share values, we share democracy, and our friendship is unbreakable. To our friends in Israel, I will never abandon you. I will always stand firm in supporting the one and only Jewish state. I, too, say "never again."

I'm running for President because I have the experience, the judgment and the will to deny the most radical regimes the most dangerous weapons. But to defeat this enemy, it will require more than military might. The most powerful weapon in our arsenal isn't a gun; it's an idea.

The terrorists are selling a glorious death. We must sell a hopeful life.

I've learned from my travels that a small school house in a remote region educating a young girl can do more damage to radical Islam than any weapon we possess.

However, radical Islam is not the only threat we face. Elsewhere, old adversaries are seizing opportunities to challenge our interests. Putin seized Ukrainian territory and threatens NATO allies.

China is building – literally building – their own islands in resource-rich waters claimed by other nations and challenging free navigation to the seas. Our allies feel the absence of American leadership. Our adversaries are taking advantage. American weakness anywhere hurts us everywhere.

Our enemies are emboldened and our friends are going it alone. Both reactions are detrimental to our national security interest. It is time for America to come back, and come back, we will.

And the way you come back is to make sure that the next President must be an informed and decisive Commander-in-Chief, ready immediately to deal with the threats I've just described.

We've learned over the past six years that speeches alone won't make us safe. If that were true, we'd be really safe. Superior power and resolve is the only way to be safe.

I'm running for President of the United States because I am ready to be Commander-in-Chief on day one.

I am ready on day one to defend our nation with sound strategy, a strong military, stable alliances, and a steady determination. I've been to the Middle East more times than I can count As a United States Senator and a reserve officer in the United States Air Force. To all who have served our country, raise your hand. God bless each and every one of you. [applause]

I've got one simple message: I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race. That includes you, Hillary. [Laughter]

We will have a reset with Russia that sticks.

I know the players; I know our friends and I know our enemies alike, but most importantly, ladies and gentlemen, they know me.

I have listened, learned and prepared myself for the job of Commander-in-Chief. I've served in the Air Force for 33 years. And it has been a true pleasure and honor. I've spent much of my adult life as part of a team committed to defending America, protecting our way of life, making sure that we're safe.

Politicians focus on elections. The military focuses on the mission. If given the privilege to serve as your President, I'll focus on the mission to defend America, to protect our way of life, and to leave the next generation a stronger, safer, better nation than we inherited.

That will not be easy. It never has. There are dangers that must be faced. And as usual, the best of us will have to face the worst of them. The best of us are the 1% of Americans who are the men and women of the United States armed forces.

I cannot promise as Commander-in-Chief that their dangers that they confront will be less, the risks they run, the sacrifices they make, will be fewer or easier. But I can assure them they will have the leadership to defeat our enemies.

I can promise them their sacrifices won't be wasted and they won't fight with their hands tied behind their backs. We will end this conflict on our terms. We will win. Those who believe we can disengage from the world at large and safe — and be safe by leading from behind – vote for someone else; I am not your man.

Those who believe the best way to defend ourselves is to lead the world, to make history rather than be overwhelmed by it–I ask for your support.

Join me if you want to tackle the problems at home that have been kicked down the road because they're too hard to fix or too easy to demagogue.

Washington's failure to do the hard but right thing has put Social Security and Medicare in serious jeopardy. Anybody on Social Security and Medicare? Anybody want to be on Social Security and Medicare one day? All of us.

As my generation retires, both programs are on track to go bust. We're living longer, and fewer workers are supporting more retirees. That's unsustainable. Everybody knows it, but not everybody will admit it.

We have to fix entitlement programs to make sure people who need the benefits the most receive them. That's going to require determined presidential leadership.

I know from personal experience how important these programs are to the lives of millions of Americans. As Darlene mentioned, we lost our parents when I was a young man and she was in middle school. We depended on Social Security benefits to survive.

I've been fortunate. I've done better than I ever dreamed. If I and others like me have to take a little bit less, and pay a little more to help those who need it most, so be it.

And younger people, you may just have to work a little bit longer.

Audience: Yeah.

Graham: As president, I'll gladly do what it takes to save the program that once saved my family.

Now, to those of you who earn for — yearn for a healthy and safe environment, I will join your cause. To those who seek energy independence, I will be your champion.

I am tired of sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas to buy oil from people who hate us. We must have energy independence—

Audience Member: Right.

Graham: And I believe, in the process it's possible to produce a safe, clean environment and create new, well-paying jobs for Americans of all generations.

To my fellow Republicans, I'll be a champion for limited and effective government and a strong national defense. I'll be a voice for social conservative values without apology

Audience: Yes.

Graham: ... or animosity.

I love my party. I am committed to see it grow and prosper.

To my friends in the other party, on the big things we share a common fate. I'll work with you to strengthen the country we both love. Our differences are real and we'll debate them. But you're not my enemy; you're my fellow countrymen.

My enemies are those who despise our shared values. The enemies of enlightenment; the culture of death that seeks to destroy the dignity of life. We'll fight them together with our partners and we'll win.

To Americans who trust neither party, I will seek the political common ground our nation so desperately needs to find.

Audience Member: Yup. [applause]

Graham: That's what I've done before. Don't take my word for it. Examine my record. I've got the scars to prove it. I intend to be a President not of a single party, but of a nation.

Audience: Amen.

Graham: I want to do more than make big government smaller. I want to help make a great nation greater. I've traveled the world and had experiences and opportunities I never dreamed of. I've been lucky so much in my life but never luckier than in the people and place I come from.

Those of you who've known me for a long time know I've had some ups and downs. As a young man, I lost my parents, struggled financially and emotionally, and I would not have made it through those times without you, and the example my parents set for me.

There are a lot of so-called "self-made" people in this world—I am not one of them. My family, my friends, neighbors and my faith picked me up when I was down, believed in me when I had doubts. You've made me the man I am today. I'm a man with many debts to my family, my friends, to you, to South Carolina, to the country. I'm running for President to repay those debts and to fight as hard for you as you've fought for me.

In the end, ladies and gentlemen, that's the only promise I can make and it's the only pledge I will sign, the only one that matters.

If you make me President, I'll fight each day harder than I've fought the day before to keep this country safe, prosperous, and as good as the people who made it great.

I humbly ask for your support and your vote. I will work every day to make you proud.

God bless.

[James Brown recording of "I Feel Good"]

Lindsey Graham, Remarks Announcing Candidacy for President in Central, South Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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