Mitt Romney photo

Remarks at the 112th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in San Antonio, Texas

August 30, 2011

It's a privilege to be addressing the veterans who defended our liberty in the past, and who defend the memory and dignity of every veteran today.

I was born in 1947 — a quintessential baby boomer. I grew up in the shadow of World War II, and then came the wars in Korea and Vietnam. As a boy, I knew that it was American soldiers and sailors and Marines and airmen who had saved us from German Fascism, and who protected us from Soviet Communism. You were our heroes then, and you are today.

You know better than most that the world is still infected with purveyors of hate and oppression. Some are jihadists, some are communists, and some are simply tyrants who clothe themselves in any convenient political manifesto. And so once again, American heroes are called upon to defend liberty.

We rightly call our fathers and mothers the Greatest Generation, but every man and woman who has or now defends American liberty — from the beaches of Normandy, to the Mekong Delta, to the valleys of the Hindu Kush — shares in their heritage of greatness. Every veteran is the greatest of his generation.

The quiet heroes who have fought for our country come from the most diverse backgrounds imaginable: from farmers and subway riders, Ph.D.'s and high school graduates, and from every ethnic background of the American melting pot. But they are united by far more than what divides them.

They believe in America. I believe in America. We believe in freedom and opportunity. We believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. We have a deep and abiding faith in the goodness and the greatness of America.

But today we are united not only by our faith in America. We are united also by our concern for America.

25 million Americans are out of work, or have stopped looking, or have only part time jobs but want full-time work. Home values have dropped more than they did during the Depression. National debt is almost as large as our entire economy, and we owe a huge chunk of it to China. Incredibly, unfunded government promises now total about $530,000 per American household. This cannot possibly stand as the legacy we will leave the next generation.

And the peril of this mismanagement may even be more imminent. We stand near a threshold of profound economic misery. Four more years on the same political path could prove disastrous.

I am a conservative businessman. I have spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy. Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don't know how to get us out!

To win this fight for America's future, we will have to rise above politics. When members of Seal Team Six boarded their helicopters, they did so not as Republicans or Democrats or independents, they did so as Americans. And the final image that Osama bin Laden took with him straight to Hell was not a party symbol — not a Republican elephant or a Democratic donkey — but an American flag on the shoulder of one straight-shooting U.S. Navy Seal.

I start with the fundamental conviction that America is the greatest nation in the history of the world and a force for good. And while we are not perfect, I will not apologize for America!

Our president has taken a different approach. Have we ever had a president who was so eager to address the world with an apology on his lips and doubt in his heart? He seems truly confused not only about America's past but our future.

So critical was President Obama of America before the United Nations that Fidel Castro complimented him for his "courage" and "brave gesture." And Venezuelan dictator and thug Hugo Chavez joined in on the praise.

We can't lead the world by hoping our enemies will hate us less. Ronald Reagan rallied America with "Peace Through Strength."

American strength is the only guarantee of liberty. American strength turned the Cuban missiles around.

American strength caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. American strength yanked Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole. With freedom as our cause, strength is our only sure defense!

Today, President Obama is on a different course.

First, the White House proposed cutting military spending by $400 billion over the next twelve years. Then, President Obama agreed to a budget process that could entail cutting defense spending by $850 billion.

The incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has called a cut of that magnitude "very high risk."

Defense Secretary Panetta has warned that it could have "devastating effects on our national defense." And that's coming from a guy who works for President Obama.

This is the first time in my memory that massive defense cuts were proposed without any reference to the missions that would be foreclosed and the risks to which our country and its men and women in uniform would be exposed. Cuts of this magnitude can only be the product of one of two mistaken beliefs.

On the one hand is wishful thinking that the world is becoming a safer place. The opposite is true. Consider simply the Jihadists, a near-nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, an unstable Pakistan, a delusional North Korea, an assertive Russia, and an emerging global power called China. No, the world is not becoming safer.

And so, on the other hand, that leaves us with the belief that America should become a lesser power. It flows from the conviction that if we are weak, tyrants will choose to be weak as well; that if we could just talk more, engage more, pass more U.N. resolutions, that peace will break out. That may be what they think in that Harvard faculty lounge, but it's not what they know on the battlefield!

But American leadership is more than a budget fight. America must lead with clarity of intent, a commitment of purpose and unlimited resolve. Unfortunately, when we look around the world today, we see a muddled picture of American policy and power.

In the Mideast, we are pressuring our closest ally Israel to make concessions while putting almost no pressure on the Palestinians. The administration was quick to criticize Israel but slow to confront Syria's strongman, Bashar al Assad, even though he facilitated arming Hezbollah, allowed terrorists to cross his border into Iraq to attack U.S. troops, and turned weapons on his own people. Instead of calling Mr. Assad a reformer, the administration should have labeled him a killer.

Mitt Romney, Remarks at the 112th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in San Antonio, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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