Photo of Tulsi Gabbard

Remarks Announcing Candidacy for President in Honolulu, Hawaii

February 02, 2019

[As prepared for delivery.  See video for remarks as delivered.]


Thank you so much.

Growing up here in Hawaii, I loved swimming, surfing, and having fun in this paradise we are lucky to call home. But I gradually realized that I was actually happiest when I was doing things for other people, doing things to protect our water, oceans, and beaches.

This was a different kind of happiness than what I experienced when just thinking of myself. It was a deeper happiness, that stayed with me. I knew that no matter what path I chose in life, I wanted service to be the foundation. I am proud to serve our country as a soldier. I'm a Major in the Army National Guard where I've served for the last 15 years.

I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the people of Hawaii and our country in so many ways over the years in the state house where I was elected at 21, serving 100,000 people as a member of the Honolulu City Council, and now for over 6 years in Congress. Thank you for your trust and your aloha.

Our nation was founded on the principle that our government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people -- where all people are treated equally, and with respect, in these UNITED states of America.

But today that vision seems like a far off dream.

Hatred and divisiveness have cast a dark shadow across our country.

We are being torn apart by powerful, self-serving politicians and greedy corporations, inciting hatred, fear, and conflict between us because of the color of our skin, the way we worship, or our political party. This corruption of spirit driven by greed and selfishness is eroding the very fabric of our society … and democracy itself. This is not who we are, America. The best of our nation is exemplified by our nation's veterans who embody what it means to put service above self. Who have sacrificed their own personal interests out of a greater love for our people and our country. Love is not just a feeling. It is a powerful force that drives us to act, to put service above self.

Our men and women in uniform, generation after generation, motivated by love for one another and for our country have been willing to sacrifice everything … for us. They don't raise their hand and volunteer to serve just to fight for one religion but not another; people of one race but not another; people of one political party but not another.

No. When we raise our right hand and volunteer to serve, we set aside our own interests -- to serve our country and to fight for ALL Americans. We serve as one -- Indivisible and unbreakable, united by this bond of love for each other and love for our country. It is this principle of putting service above self, that is at the heart of every soldier, every service member.

And it is in this spirit that today I announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America. I will bring a soldier's principles to the White House -- restoring the values of dignity, honor and respect to the presidency. And above all, love for our people and love of country. I ask you to join me, in this spirit of putting service before self, to stand up against the forces of greed and corruption. The road ahead will not be easy. The battle will be tough, the obstacles great. But I know that when we stand united, by our love for our people and our country, there is no obstacle we cannot overcome, there is no battle we cannot win.

John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

We must heed his call to action today, at a time in our history where it is so badly needed.

We must stand up and fight for the soul of our country. Stand up against bought and paid-for politicians, kowtowing to special interests, selling their votes to the highest bidder.

Instead of draining the swamp, our president has turned it into a cesspool of corruption.

We must stand up against big pharma and insurance companies who extort those who are sick, who put their profits above the health and wellbeing of our people.

We must fight to ensure that every American gets the quality healthcare they need, through Medicare for All.

Stand up against big Wall Street banks who gamble with our money and our future.

Stand up against overreaching intelligence agencies and big tech companies who take away our civil liberties and freedoms in the name of national security and corporate greed.

We must stand up against those who pollute our land, our water, and our air.

We must stand up against corporate private prisons profiting off the backs of those caught up in a broken criminal justice system. A system that puts people in prison for smoking marijuana while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma, who are responsible for opioid-related deaths of thousands, to walk away scot-free and coffers full. This so-called criminal justice system which favors the rich and powerful and punishes the poor CANNOT stand.

Stand up against those who perpetuate bigotry, hatred and violence against our brothers and sisters because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Stand up against this Administration who claims to believe in America First but who sells our troops, our weapons and our interests to whichever foreign country is the highest bidder.

We must stand up against those who dishonor our troops, treating them as political pawns, and mercenaries-for-hire in wars around the world.

We must stand up against powerful politicians from both parties who sit in ivory towers thinking up new wars to wage and new places for people to die. Wasting trillions of our tax-payer dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives, undermining our economy and security, and destroying our middle class.

Trump campaigned against regime change wars when he ran for President, but now bows to the wishes of the neocons who surround him, clamoring for the regime change wars he claimed to oppose, this time in Venezuela and Iran.

These powerful politicians dishonor the sacrifices made by every one of my brothers and sisters in uniform, their families - they are the ones who pay the price for these wars.

In fact, every American pays the price for these wars that have cost us trillions of dollars since 9/11. Every dollar that we spend on regime change wars or the new cold war and nuclear arms race is a dollar coming from our pockets … dollars that should be used to address the very real, urgent needs of our people and our communities right here at home.

We must stand united and stand strong against those in both parties who never tire of war -- neolibs and neocons dragging us from one regime change war to the next, exacerbating the New Cold War, and pushing us to the brink of a nuclear war.

We deserve better. Our country deserves better.

Just over a year ago, the people of Hawaii and our country thought we were under nuclear attack. We saw college students frantically running across UH Manoa campus trying to find shelter. A father lowering his daughter down a man-hole to try to keep her safe. Families piling their children into the car, driving to the mountains, looking for a cave to find shelter. A mother, cowering in a bathtub with her children. A father trying to choose which of his children he would spend the last minutes of his life with. There was no shelter. There was nowhere to hide.

Those of us who serve in uniform made a choice – we made a choice to put our lives on the line to serve our country, willing to pay the ultimate price – we volunteered for that. We chose that. But my 6-year-old nephew, Malu didn't make that choice. You didn't make that choice. Our families didn't make that choice.

Our troops volunteer to serve our country, to go to battle to defeat those who threaten us, to keep the American people safe. To make it so that while they're fighting on the front lines, you and your children can sleep soundly at night. But as powerful politicians beat the drums of war and ratchet up tensions between the United States and nuclear-armed countries like Russia and China, the front lines have come to our doorstep, as we sit on the precipice of nuclear war. Reality is, right now there are around 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world – many of them far more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- enough to destroy the world many times over.

Throughout the 20th century, during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, we were told we had no choice but to live with the fear that at any moment, we could be annihilated by nuclear war. Children in schools practiced reacting to a nuclear alert, hiding under their desks.Those who had money, built bomb shelters. Those who couldn't afford it wondered if and how they would survive. With the dissolving of the Soviet Union, that danger was supposed to have disappeared. But our leaders failed us. Because today, we face greater risk of nuclear catastrophe than ever before in history. This situation is unacceptable. The President's most important responsibility is serving as Commander-in-Chief. I will do so as a soldier who understands the seriousness of this responsibility.

I want to take a moment to recognize and express my appreciation for our fellow veterans who have joined us here today. Please raise your hands and allow us to recognize you.

Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.Those of us who have experienced firsthand the cost of war, fight hardest for peace.

I served in Iraq in 2005 in a medical unit, where every single day I was confronted with the high cost of war and who pays the price. I take seriously the responsibility of securing our nation. I know that weakness invites aggression and that our men and women in uniform stand ready to take on and defeat those who threaten the safety and security of our people. I also know that our current foreign policy is undermining our national security, it is depleting our resources and exhausting our military.

As your commander-in-chief, I will work to end the new cold war and lead us away from the abyss of a nuclear war that could destroy our world in mere minutes.

I will build partnerships with other nations based on shared interests, leading with a foreign policy based not on conflict but instead, cooperation.

I will end the regime change wars that have taken far too many lives, cost trillions of dollars and undermined our security by strengthening terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

I will have the courage to meet with both adversaries and friends in the pursuit of peace and our national security. If we lack the courage to meet with those we disagree with, the only alternative is war. Bending the arc of history away from war and toward peace … will require every one of us to stand up against the military industrial complex and powerful, self-serving politicians who have a vested interest in perpetual war.

When I was deployed to Iraq, there was a big sign at one of the main gates to our camp that read: IS TODAY THE DAY. It was a stark reminder for all of us, that any day could be our last. From the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to sleep, I knew that any day could be my last. It made me reflect -- how am I making the most of the time that I have?

This is the same reality that faces us today. We have no time to waste. There is far too much at stake. The choice is ours. In order to make this change, every one of us must answer the call … to put service above self, putting the interests of our country before our own. Motivated by love for each other and for our country, we will stand up, we will take action and we will overcome.

Love should not be mistaken for weakness. There is no force more powerful than love.

It is love that causes firefighters to run into burning buildings to save the lives of total strangers.

It is love that drives a mother to run in front of a speeding car to save her child's.

It is love that inspires a soldier lay down their lives to save the lives of others.

It is love that inspires us to care for each other, fight for each other, for our freedom, for our country.

What our country needs now more than ever is the spirit of aloha – the spirit of respect and love for one another and love for our country. And this is the most precious gift that Hawaii has to offer to our country and the world - aloha.

Aloha is so much more than just hello or goodbye.

Aloha means that I come to you with an open heart, I respect you, I have love for you and care about you. Whether a friend or a stranger, I come to you with aloha -- regardless of the color of your skin, where you come from, how you worship God, who you love, or what political party you belong. Dr. Martin Luther King saw the power of aloha when he first visited our Islands and addressed our legislature in 1959:

He said: "…we look to you for inspiration and as a noble example, where you have already accomplished in the area of racial harmony and racial justice, what we are struggling to accomplish in other sections of the country, and you can never know what it means to those of us caught for the moment in the tragic and often dark midnight of man's inhumanity to man, to come to a place where we see the glowing daybreak of freedom and dignity and racial justice." After returning to the mainland, Dr. King said of his visit: "As I looked at all of these various faces and various colors mingled together like the waters of the sea, I could see only one face-- the face of the future!".

President John F. Kennedy recognized this power of aloha when he visited Hawaii in 1963 and he said: "We are proud of this city and this state and what it stands for… these islands represent all that we are, and all that we hope to be."

This is aloha. This change must begin with the White House. The White House should be a beacon of aloha -- respect, love and compassion for every American.

Our nation was founded on the values and principles of putting service above self -- rejecting the rule of kings who prospered from the sacrifices of the people, and forming a new nation founded on the premise that leaders should be motivated not by serving their own selfish interests --but to serve the people. Deep inside the heart of every American is the love, honor, courage, and ideals that formed the foundation of this country … ideals that still shine in each and every one of us. Each of us and all of us must rise again now and come together for each other, our country, and the world.

Our cause is to create a new and different path that reclaims our destiny and restores the uniquely American ideal: to seek a higher purpose greater than ourselves, to put service before self. That is the cause that is calling to every American today.

So I'm asking you to stand with me, to build a movement for peace at home and abroad … that will fulfill the promise of America, of freedom, justice, equality and opportunity for all.

Thank you—mahalo and aloha!"

Tulsi Gabbard, Remarks Announcing Candidacy for President in Honolulu, Hawaii Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project