Remarks Announcing Candidacy for President in Hope, Arkansas
Thank you. [applause]
Thank you. [applause]
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. [applause]
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Wow. Folks, it is a long way from a little brick rent house on Second Street in Hope, Arkansas to the White House. [applause]
But here in this small town called Hope, I was raised to believe that where a person started didn't mean that's where he had to stop. I always believed that a kid could go from Hope to higher ground. [applause]
And like a lot of Americans, I grew up in a small town that was far removed from the power and the money and the influence that runs this country. The power and money and political influence have left a lot of Americans lagging behind. They work hard, they lift heavy things, and they sweat through their clothes grinding out a living. But they can't seem to get ahead, or, in some cases, even stay even.
My own parents were like that. My dad wasn't an educated man, but he was a smart man. And he and my mother didn't have a whole lot, but they had honesty to the bone. And they taught my sister and me the basic lesson of life: that we were to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. [applause]
It was here in Hope that I learned how to swim, how to write a bike, how to read, how to work and how to play fair. I learned the difference between right and wrong. And I learned that God loves me as much as he loves anyone, but that he doesn't love some more than others. [applause]
I learned about America. In Miss Mary's kindergarten as well as in Brookwood Elementary School, I learned the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord's Prayer and the preamble to the Constitution. [applause]
We prayed at the start of each day, and we prayed again before lunch. And I learned that this exceptional country could only be explained by the providence of almighty God. [applause]
It was here in Hope that I learned how to handle a firearm and a fishing pole. And I spent a lot of hours with both. I got my first BB gun at age five. It was a Daisy, model 25. I've still got it. It's in mint condition. I learned the basic rules of gun safety. And I never thought about using a firearm to murder someone. [applause] I ran trout lines all night in Bois d'Arc Lake with my dad and grandfather, so we could catch catfish that we'd freeze and we'd live off for weeks.
And it was here that I was baptized in the Garrett Memorial Baptist Church after accepting Jesus in a Vacation Bible School when I was just 10 years old. [applause]
I truly went from Hope to higher ground. It was here that I met the girl who would become my wife of 41 years and give me three children and share what will soon be five grandchildren. [applause]
Now, we knew each other from elementary school, and we started dating our senior year of high school, as she shared.
It was also here that I got a job at KXAR radio at age 14. [applause]
And that job would not only pay my way through school, but it would give me the opportunity to be a mentored by Haskell Jones, the station manager, and one of the few Republicans in the entire county. [laughter]
And it was here that I became the first male in my entire family lineage to graduate from high school, at the very same campus that stands today, right down on Main Street. [applause]
And it was from here that I went on to college at Ouachita Baptist University. And it was also here that I first ran for elected office, when I ran for student council at Hope Junior High School. [applause]
So it seems perfectly fitting that it would be here that I announce that I am a candidate for president of the United States of America. [applause]
Audience: We want Mike! We want Mike! We want Mike! We want Mike!
Huckabee: Thank you. Thank you.
Boy, I'm glad you reacted that way. It would have been a very lonely day had you been quiet. [laughter]
You know, it was eight years ago that a young, untested, inexperienced and virtually unknown freshman senator made great speeches about hope and change. But eight years later, our debt's more than doubled. America's leadership in the world has completely evaporated. And the country is more polarized than ever in my lifetime.
Ninety-three million Americans don't have jobs. And many of 'em who do have seen their full-time job with benefits they once had become two part-time jobs with no benefits at all. We were promised hope, but it was just talk. And now we need the kind of change that really could get America from hope to higher ground. [applause]
Veterans who kept their promises to America and who have kept us free now wait for months for our country to keep its promise to veterans for basic health care and assistance to cope with the scars of the very wars that we sent them to fight. [applause]
Our veterans should be getting the first fruits of our treasury, not the leftovers. [applause]
And my friend, when I am president, our veterans are not going to be left on the streets and in waiting rooms to rot, but they're going to be treated with the dignity that they have earned and deserve. [applause]
When I meet men who have an American Legion cap or one that says "veteran," I never try to fail in saying "thank you for giving me my freedom." [applause]
But friend, we owe them more than a pat on the back. We need to take them from hope to higher ground. [applause]
Washington is more dysfunctional than ever, and it's become so beholden to the donor class who fills the campaign coffers that it ignores the fact that one in four American families are paying more than half of all of their income just for housing. Home ownership at the lowest level in decades. And a lot of young people with heavy student debt aren't likely to afford their first home for a long while.
Our federal policies for affordable housing aren't designed to protect families, but rather to protect bureaucrats. We've got a record number of people enrolled in government-operated help programs like food stamps, and my friend, it's not because people want to be in poverty. It's because they are part of the bottom 90 percent of this country of American workers whose wages have been stagnant for the past 40 years. [applause]
The war on poverty hasn't ended poverty, it's prolonged it. I don't judge the success of how many people are on government assistance as to the success of government. I judge how many people have good jobs and don't need government assistance. [applause]
And we don't create good jobs for Americans by entering into unbalanced trade deals that forego congressional scrutiny, and then looking the other way as the law is ignored so that we can import low-wage labor, undercut American workers, and drive wages lower than the Dead Sea. That's unacceptable. [applause]
Now, as the governor mentioned a moment ago, I governed in a state that was the most lopsided and partisan in the country. No Republican governor had more Democrats and fewer Republicans. I challenged the deeply entrenched political machine that ran this state. My friend, it was tough sledding. But I learned how to govern, and I learned how to lead.
And even in that environment, we passed 94 tax cuts, rebuilt our road system, saw dramatic improvements in student test scores and fought the corruption of the good old boy system so that working class people would finally be given a fair shake. [applause]
And we saw family income increase by 50 percent during my tenure.
Now, there are some who propose that to save the safety nets like Medicare and Social Security, we ought to chop off the payments for the people who have faithfully had their paychecks and pockets picked by the politician, promising them that their money would be waiting for them when they were old and sick.
My friend, you were forced to pay for Social Security and Medicare. For 50 years, the government grabs the money from our paychecks and says it'll be waiting for us when we turn 65.
If Congress wants to take away someone's retirement, let them end their own congressional pensions, not your Social Security. [applause]
As president, I promise you will get what you paid for. Because how can anyone ever trust government again if they steal from us and lie to us? That didn't help when Congress took $700 billion out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare. [applause]
And instead of helping families find affordable health care, we created a monster that forces us to buy coverage we don't want, don't need, and can't afford. [applause]
And imagine members of Congress boasting they will fight to repeal Obamacare, and then turning around and signing up for it.
Real health care reform is gonna focus on prevention and cures, rather than costly intervention. Because hope comes from finding cures for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's. [applause]
The same way that we once lined up at the courthouse in the 'fifties and took our vaccines and eradicated polio. Cures, real cures, could give real hope to families who hear a dreaded diagnosis and are sentenced to a slow and agonizing death. Alzheimer's disease alone will cost well over $1 trillion by the year 2050. Focusing on cures instead of treatments saves money, lives and families.
I remember President Kennedy telling us that we were gonna send a man to the moon and bring him home within the decade. President Kennedy didn't live to see that come true. But I did. And it made me believe that America could do anything it set its mind to. [applause]
And, as president — as president, I'd launch a curative approach to health care and save money and lives, not just save a bunch of government programs. [applause]
We face real threats from radical jihadism in the forms of savage groups like ISIS and state terrorists like Iran. But we put more pressure on our ally Israel to cease building bedrooms for their families in Judea and Samaria than we do on Iran for building a bomb. [applause]
Dealing with radicals who chant "death to America," and who fund bonds and rockets to murder civilians in Israel is nonsense.
So when I hear our current president say he wants Christians to get off their high horse so we can make nice with radical jihadists, I wonder...
Huckabee: I wonder if he can watch a western from the '50s and be able to figure out who the good guy and the bad guys really are. [applause]
As president, I promise you that we will no longer merely try to contain jihadism, we will conquer it. [applause]
We will deal with jihadis just as we would deal with deadly snakes. And let there be no doubt, Israel will know, as will the whole world, that we are their trusted friend. And the ayatollahs of Iran will know that hell will freeze over before they get a nuclear weapon. [applause]
And I commit this to you today: I will never, ever apologize for America. Ever. [applause]
We face not only the threats from terrorism but also the threat of new kinds of dangers, from a cyber war that could shut down major financial markets to threats of an electromagnetic pulse from an exploded device that could fry the entire electrical grid and take this country back to the Stone Age in a matter of minutes. And waiting until it happens is too late.
But we've lost our way, morally. We've witnessed the slaughter of over 55 million babies in the name of choice. And we are now threatening the foundation of religious liberty by criminalizing Christianity and demanding that we abandon biblical principles of natural marriage.
Many of our politicians... [applause]
Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and unelected judges the power to make law as well as enforce it, upending the equality of our three branches of government as well as the separation of powers so very central to the Constitution.
My friend, the Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and they cannot... [applause] ... overturn the laws of nature or of nature's God.
Government in Washington is dysfunctional because it's the roach motel. People go in, but they never come out. [applause]
As president, I'll fight for term limits on all three branches of government. [applause] That would help return us to the founders' dream that serving the public should be a temporary duty, not a lucrative career with generous pensions and paychecks that aren't available to the very people who paid for them. [applause]
And you know, if someone is elected to an office, then give the taxpayers what they're paying for and the job that you said you wanted. If you live off the government payroll and you want to run for an office other than the one you've been elected to, then at least have the integrity and decency to resign the one that you don't want anymore and to pursue the one that you decided you'd rather have. [applause]
As president, I would take seriously the 10th amendment. I would actually abide by it.
This power was never intended to be so concentrated at the federal level. Our Constitution was explicitly clear about keeping the federal government small so it'd be able focus on some simple things, like providing a military and securing our borders.
There're some things being done at the federal level that should've been left in the hands of the states, or even better, the families. There is no constitutional authority to dictate education from the federal government. [applause]
Why even have a federal Department of Education? It's flunked, and it needs to be expelled. [applause]
Education policy ought to be set by states, local school boards and, best of all, by the moms and dads of the children. [applause]
And common sense tells us that the best government is the most local and the most limited. We've supersized the federal bureaucracy, but we downsized the military and left our borders open and uncontrolled.
Yes, we need to address the immigration issues but not with amnesty. But we need to start by taking control of our own borders. [applause]
But as Americans, we oughta get on our knees every night and thank God we still live in a country that people are trying to break into rather than one they're trying to break out of. [applause]
I'm running for president because I know there's a difference between making a speech and making government accountable to the people who have to pay for it. [applause]
You can't spend money you don't have. You can't borrow money you can't afford to pay back. And the federal government ought to live by the rules that you have to live by and they should function under a balanced budget law just like I had to every year I was a governor. [applause]
And I don't want to hear politicians talk about tinkering with the tax code and making little adjustments that still let powerful Washington interests pick the winners and losers. We can never create prosperity for working people, never grow our economy out of the bottomless pit of debt, never be able to move America back to the greatest economy on earth if we continue to punish productivity and subsidize reckless irresponsibility. [applause]
There was a man I met at a machine shop in New Hampshire. And he told me how he started working a double shift to help his daughter pay for grad school. Now, he naturally figured that if he worked 16 hours a day rather than eight, he'd bring home twice the pay. But he found out that the money that he worked for on that second shift put him in a new tax bracket and the government got more of it than he did.
It's not that our tax system is punishing the richest people in America. They can afford accountants and lawyers who will find a way to protect them. It's the people working for wages who can't get ahead if the government penalizes them for trying to do better. [applause]
As president, I'll work to pass the Fair Tax, which would no longer penalize people's work. [applause]
We wouldn't penalize people's work or their savings, their investments, or their good stewardship. And by the way, it would be the end of big government bailouts, and most importantly, we would finally rid ourselves of the biggest bully in America, the IRS. [applause]
The IRS would disappear and April 15th would be just another beautiful spring day. [applause]
Now, the struggle for many families isn't helped when the government solution is fighting over what the minimum wage ought to be. It's a race to the bottom to figure out what the government determines is the least you can make. We need to be promoting the maximum wage, which is set by the worker who's willing to avail himself or herself of training for a job that pays a maximum amount. [applause]
We will never break the cycle of poverty by pushing people to their minimum wage, only by empowering them to reach their maximum wage. That's how we take people from hope to higher ground. [applause]
This country's got to do three things to stay free: feed itself, fuel itself, and fight for itself. Our farmers and ranchers provide food and fiber, and we've got to keep them from being regulated out of business. We also have enough energy resources under our own feet that we could bring affordable energy to America and become the largest exporter so that Americans prosper in developing the energy. And we aren't impoverished anymore by paying for it when it's produced by some Saudi sheik or a Russian robber baron. [applause]
And we need to be able to fight for ourselves by bringing manufacturing back to our communities where we make our own planes and tanks, bullets and bombs. [applause]
The journey that begins in Hope today can lead this nation to higher ground. But I cannot do it without people being my partners, many who have never been involved in politics before now. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I never have been and I'm not going to be the favored candidate of those in the Washington-to-Wall Street corridor of power. [applause]
I will be funded and fueled not by the billionaires, but by working people who will find out that $15 and $25 a month contributions can take us from Hope to higher ground. [applause]
Now, rest assured, if you want to give a million dollars, please do it. [laughter]
But I know most of you can't. I'm just gonna ask you to give something in the name of your children and grandchildren. I walked away from my own income to do this, so I'm not asking you for some sacrifice I'm not willing to make. I don't have a global foundation or a taxpayer-funded paycheck to live off of. [applause]
I don't come from a family dynasty, but a working family. I grew up blue collar, not blue blood.
So I ask you to join with me today, not just so I can be president, but so we can preserve this great republic and someday so that your children and grandchildren can still go from Hope to higher ground. [applause]
I still remember, I remember it well when my dad took me to the dedication of the newly constructed Bois d'Arc Lake, just a few miles from here. It's now named for Dr. Lester Sitzes, my best friend since third grade, who's here today. [applause]
I was a — I was eight years old, and my dad said, "Now, son, the governor is gonna come dedicate this new lake, and I'm gonna take you down there to hear him make a talk, because, son, you might live your whole life and you may never get to meet a governor in person." [laughter] [applause] Had my dad lived just four months longer, he would have seen me do more than meet a governor. He would have seen me become the 44th governor of my state. [applause]
I always wish he could've been there and maybe spent at least one night in the governor's mansion, a place he never thought he'd get close to. But I always wanted to feel that he did see that moment from the best seat in the house. [applause]
And I hope that he's able to watch in January of 2017 when that bashful little kid from the orange brick rent house on 2nd Street is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. [applause]
And with your help and God's, we will make that journey from Hope to higher ground. [applause]
God bless you, thank you very much. Thank you. [applause]
Mike Huckabee, Remarks Announcing Candidacy for President in Hope, Arkansas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/310827