Martin O'Malley photo

Remarks at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire

November 23, 2015

Thank you for having me. Thank you for your leadership and what you've done for our country and for your kind invitation.

I'd like to speak with you today about the new challenges we face as a nation in this new century. How we rise — as a people — to meet these challenges and master the profound changes of these new times.

There is no prosperity — no freedom — without security.

Therefore I would like to begin by addressing the changing nature of warfare and conflict in the 21st Century — a change brought home to our consciousness by the attacks on the citizens of Paris last week, and the imminent threat facing Brussels as we gather here in New Hampshire today.

Since the attacks of September 11th, the nature of conflict and warfare has changed

War was very different 25 years ago when the United States in broad coalition with European and Arab nations pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. We were dealing with sovereign states, standing armies, limited objectives, and public support for limited military engagement.

There are very few rules from 25 years ago that still apply to the nature of most conflict today. Peace is no longer achieved when one army on a battlefield waves a white flag. Sending in overwhelming numbers of Marine Divisions will not solve the security challenges we face today.

Victory is not defined by surrender or regime change. Peace and must be constantly maintained. Extremist violence does not follow the Geneva convention. Jihadist ideology does not confine itself to a single theatre of conflict.

Globalization of information, of financial markets, of travel, of economies, has brought with it the globalization of this new form of conflict.

In an era of constant technological change, failed states, international terrorist networks and humanitarian disasters on a scale not seen since World War II... we need new thinking and fresh approaches to confront this new evil in the world while protecting our security and our values here at home.

Governors have led us to victory through two world wars. Not with speeches. Not by retreating to ideology or past positions. But by bringing people together to overcome great challenges. And that is what we must do today.

We must understand how war has changed—and adapt to it, so we can master those changes.

America's security needs in the 21st century demand new thinking... more effective information sharing... and greater collaboration with like-minded people around the world. People who share our interest in protecting human life and defending the global commons we share.

"As our problems are new, so must we think anew and act anew."

In just the past month, we saw a Russian airliner go down in Egypt. Dual suicide bombings in Beirut. The terror in Paris. Hundreds killed and wounded in Ankara. And almost two dozen dead in Mali. ISIL has developed from its safe haven an ability to strike civilian targets well beyond the borders of Irq and Syria.

We must respond to these new developments by BOTH the actions we take abroad AND by the actions we take here at home.

This latest iteration of violent jihadist extremism known as ISIS must be confronted and its leadership destroyed. The United States must work in the broadest possible coalition with all nations of the region and the world who share our interest in protecting the global commons.

While the United States maintains the best and most technologically advanced armed forces on the planet, the military tools we we choose use must be tailored to meet our security needs, and not to undermine them.

This is a global problem that requires a global solution. We must lead this effort, but we should not lead it alone.

Last week, the Security Council gave us a springboard to do just that. In a unanimous vote, it called on member states to "redouble" action against the Islamic State and to "take all necessary measures" in the fight against ISIS.

All five permanent members of the UN Security Council have now seen their citizens murdered by ISIL within the past year. Americans and British beheaded. Russians bombed in mid-flight. Chinese taken prisoner and killed. And French youth massacred in the City of Light.

The United States must take the lead in making this Security Council resolution real. To lead as one strong nation among nations — a concerted international effort to destroy the operational capacity of ISIS. This means using the tools at our collective disposal to destroy and dismantle their deadly operations on many fronts.

When it comes to protecting our global commons against this threat, we must recognize that nations have ground responsibility for their own front yards. Our regional partners must provide the front-line ground forces for this effort.

We can and must provide all necessary military support to those partners, including close air support, Special Forces, intelligence and logistics.

We must work with other nations to internationalize Special Operations.

And we must work with other nations to stop the two-way flow of foreign fighters. This means: shifting intelligence-sharing from a need-to-know criteria to need-to-share imperative; developing solutions with private sector experts on cyber and encryption issues; and sharing best practices with other nations on border and homeland security.

We must improve international efforts to cut-off ISIL's means of financing and funding.

We must do our part in a comprehensive international approach to addressing the humanitarian crises in the region, including global funding to address immediate needs of refugees fleeing the genocidal terror of ISIS.

We must expose ISIL's true nature through a concerted national AND international communications campaign—understanding the cultural and religious misrepresentations that attract the disillusioned and isolated to ISIL's ranks.

Such a campaign must involve the international Muslim community at all levels. As many have done already, they must take the lead rejecting and marginalizing those who have so distorted and hijacked their religion for the purpose of murder and genocide.

There is also important work we must do here at home.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was serving as mayor of Baltimore. On that day and in the ensuing years as governor of Maryland, the knowledge that terrorists might strike us again at any time was always in the back of my mind.

In response, my administration set out 12 homeland security core competencies to make our state as prepared, resilient, and secure as possible.

We strengthened the effectiveness of our intelligence fusion center. Created interoperable communications systems for all of our first responders, throughout our state. Networked our closed circuit television cameras, and adopted face-recognition technology.

We rapidly shared intelligence information at every level. We made our transportation infrastructure more secure. We gave our first responders the protective equipment they needed, put the right response teams in place, and drilled and exercised them to up their game.

And now we need to do more.

Complacency has allowed our Congress and too many of our States to put the development of stronger Homeland Security capacities on the back burner.

Local, state and federal law enforcement must redouble efforts to improve information sharing — this means creating truly functioning intelligence fusion centers in every major City and State. This means interoperable communications and personal protective equipment for all first responders. This means improving the perimeter security and resiliency of our critical infrastructure.

In the age of ISIL-inspired attacks, achieving these core competencies in every state is just as important as our military efforts in Syria and Iraq.

This is not an either or choice. We must do both and more.

The Paris attacks were far more likely to have been stopped by better Homeland security actions in Brussels and Paris than by more firepower in Syria and Iraq.

As far as we know, all the terrorists most directly involved in the attacks in Paris were European nationals, and only one of them had actually traveled to Syria.

Improving human intelligence and the timely sharing of that intelligence will be the key to better results on the ground in Iraq and Syria, and it will be the key to better protection of the our Homeland and the global commons.

Ultimately, our success in confronting this threat — our long-term success in defeating this evil — depends upon the power of our values.

Democracies are very vulnerable to turning upon themselves in the aftermath of a terror attack. Denying this victory to terror depends upon the courage and resolve of the American people.

Individual citizens must resist the fear-based appeals of their own politicians. Some of these appeals are based in fear. Some are based in the sort of political opportunism that can precede fascism or the plunging of our Republic into a security state.

This danger of fear-driven politics in the United States has been on display for the whole world to see over the last two weeks.

Instead of taking steps to improve our nation's homeland security, many Republican governors and presidential candidates are stoking apprehension and fear. Even worse, some are actively stigmatizing the victims of ISIS brutality and genocide. Some are playing right into the hands of ISIS by turning us upon are Muslim-American neighbors solely because of their religion.

Ben Carson said it would be a "huge mistake" for the United States to give refuge to Syrian refugees.

Jeb Bush implied we should admit Christians, but turn away Muslims.

Chris Christie said he opposes taking in Syrian orphans, going out of his way to single out ones "under five."

And Donald Trump proposed a national registry of American Muslims. In response, one Jewish organization observed: "We've seen that. It doesn't end well."

How far the Party of Lincoln has veered - even from just a few years ago.

President George W. Bush deserves great credit for visiting a mosque just six days after 9/11 to make clear that while the United States would rightfully go to war, it was not a war against Islam. Inspired, in part by the example of his presidential leadership in this instance, as Mayor, I too began visiting mosques. Other Mayors across America did as well.

Those now casting suspicion upon an entire faith community—with millions of adherents in the United States and billions across the world—have forgotten that lesson.

ISIS' goal is to create a religious war on global scale. Donald Trump and others are playing right into their hands.

Of course, we must take actions to screen and mitigate against the potential risk of terrorists trying to take advantage of our refugee resettlement program.

That is the reason we have in place what is probably the most thorough and comprehensive refugee screening process of any country in the world. It involves more than a dozen steps and can take up to two years — just ask the rescued members of the Chaldaen Christian community, many of whose members sit in U.S. detention centers awaiting the completion of this arduous screening process.

Every single refugee candidate completes an extensive interview with the Department of Homeland Security.

Those wishing to do us harm will almost certainly pursue an alternative route into America.

None of the 9/11 terrorists came to America as refugees.

Several months ago, I became the first presidential candidate to say the United States should welcome 65,000 Syrian refugees next year. I have personally met with Syrian refugees who fled the same type of violence that engulfed Paris on Friday. I have looked into the eyes of their children.

The United States that my father fought for — the United States that so many of our sons and daughters have fought and died for — does not turn it's back on families fleeing genocide.

As Americans, we must stand with and learn from our brothers in France. They understand that safety and providing refuge to those fleeing death is not a zero-sum choice. The French people are strong enough to overcome fear and remain true to their values: they will still welcome 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years.

Have we become so intimidated as a nation by these barbaric thugs that we are willing to surrender the values of the United States in the face of their threats?

Strength at home is not just about security. It's about our values. It is about our ability to do justice. It is about our compassion as Americans.  The symbol of America's greatness is not the barbed wire fence; it is the Statue of Liberty!

As Americans, we are united by the belief of every person's dignity. By our service to the common good we all share.

The best part of running for President is meeting young people who share this idealism, and belief in all things possible.

If you want to know where our country is headed, talk to young Americans under 30.

You'll rarely find among them people who want to bash New American Immigrants or refugees, or people that want to deny rights to gay couples or their children.

You will rarely find among them anyone who denies that climate change is real, or thinks their government shouldn't be doing something about it.

All of this tells me that we are moving to a more connected, more compassionate, and more generous place as a country.

As Americans, we make our own future.

Our ability to craft a new foreign policy of engagement and collaboration with like-minded nations,... our ability to craft a more effective national security strategy of threat reduction,... these things depend on our ability to give our own children and grandchildren a healthier future — with more opportunity than we have enjoyed — here at home.

The good news and the bad news of our times is this: our country has created now 68 months in a row of positive job growth, so our country is doing better. The bad news is 70% of us are earning the same or less than we were 12 years ago — and that is the first time that has happened this side of World War II.

The great poet laureate of the American Dream, Bruce Springsteen once asked: "is a dream a lie if don't come true, or is it something worse.

We cannot claim our country is working well if our middle class continues to shrink and our poorest families are becoming poorer.

We must return to our true selves and remember, that our economy is not money, it is people — all of our people.

Together we must take actions to include more of our people in the economic success of the United States.

No American family who works hard and plays by the rules should have to raise their children in poverty.

Therefore we must take action, together, to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — wherever and however we can!

We must advance the cause of paid family leave so that all women can participate more fully in the economic life of our nation — because "when women succeed, America succeeds!"

The option of debt-free college should be a reality for every student in America, within 5 years!

Instead of cutting Social Security — like all of the Republican candidates want to do — we must expand Social Security!

I am the first candidate — but let us hope not the last — to put forth a plan to move America forward to a 100% clean electric energy grid by 2050, and create 5 million new jobs along the way!

Do we want wages to go up and not down? It's time to bring 11 million of our neighbors out of the off-the-books, shadow economy by passing comprehensive immigration reform!

Nothing we care about can be accomplished by words alone. We must take action - guided by our values as Americans.

Therefore, we must stop giving a free pass to the bullies of Wall Street.

I have never represented Wall Street and, I sure as hell won't be taking economic orders from the big banks of Wall Street when I'm in your White House!

As your President, I will have the independence and the backbone to fight for you: if a bank is too big to fail, too big to jail, and too big to manage, then it's too damn big, and it needs to be broken up before it breaks our national economy once again!

Our country has always been about the good of the many — not the greed of the few!

And finally, our values must give us the courage to put our children's safety—each and every day— ahead of the craven and morally bankrupt interests of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA has one goal—and one goal only—selling as many guns as possible, no matter the cost in lives.

For forty years, they've dictated what laws should be written.

It's high time we find our backbone again as Democrats and stand up and say no to the NRA.

Right now, as we respond to the attacks in Paris, people on the FBI's Terrorist Watch list can legally buy assault rifles and other deadly weapons because of a loophole in our laws.

Yet every single Republican candidate, when challenged on this issue, has cowered to the political lobbying power of the National Rifle Association. But the NRA is fighting to protect that loophole, and to protect the right of terrorists to buy weapons of mass murder in the United States!

Enough is enough. One American life is worth more than all the gun sales in America.

Next year, the American people will decide. New leadership, or the same old battles? Actions, or words?

It's not about polls and pundits. Thomas Jefferson once said, "In matters of fashion, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock."

A weather vane shifts its position every time the winds change. Effective leaders do not. I know who I am, I know what I believe, and I am willing to fight for it.

We are all in this together. To solve our problems, we must face tomorrow.

A lot of people tell me that I face a tough fight in this race.

Well you know what? — I kind of like the tough fights. I've always been drawn to the tough fights.

Perhaps the toughness of the fight is the way the hidden God has of telling us we are fighting for something worth saving!

The American Dream is worth saving. Our children's future is worth saving. Our country is worth saving. Our planet is worth saving.

I am in this to win this.

I need your help to move our country forward.

Thank you.

NOTE: Remarks as Delivered.

Martin O'Malley, Remarks at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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