Remarks to the Eagle Forum in St. Louis, Missouri Announcing the End of Presidential Campaign Activities
Thank you. It is such an honor to speak to the patriots of Eagle Forum. In case you didn't know, we have a pretty vibrant chapter in Texas. They have long lived up to the standard set by your outstanding founder, whom I am proud to recognize today, Phyllis Schlafly.
I also want to say a word about the gentleman who is taking over for Phyllis. Ed Martin is a good man — a great leader — a movement conservative who leads by conviction. I am glad to be in his home state of Missouri.
46 years ago I spent a summer in Festus, Missouri. I went door to door, selling Bibles. It was then that I learned what it was like to remain optimistic in the face of rejection, especially when I knew the power of the message I was selling.
It was good preparation for life in politics.
For me, this life has been a dream.
I came from a place called Paint Creek. Too small to be called a town, too remote to be found on a map, it was the center of my universe.
We had an outhouse, and mom bathed us in a number two washtub on the porch. We farmed vast fields of cotton, and attended the Paint Creek Rural School. I was a six-man football player, a proud member of Boy Scout Troop 48, and an Eagle Scout.
I experienced the bonds of family, the power of community, the meaning of faith. And I learned the high calling we have as Americans to protect freedom.
It was for freedom that I wore the uniform of the United States Air Force. I flew C-130 aircraft all across the globe. I lived in places like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. I learned how special it is to be an American.
Later I would become a state representative, ag commissioner, lieutenant governor, and eventually governor of the world's 12th largest economy.
I would truly live the motto of the Paint Creek Rural School: "no dream to tall for a school so small."
I continue to draw inspiration from a trip I took with my father fifteen years ago.
Dad and I went back to his old air base in England for his first visit in 55 years. Then we crossed the channel and visited the American cemetery that overlooks the bluffs at Omaha beach. That flight across the channel he had taken 35 times previously, as a tailgunner on a B-17.
On that peaceful, wind-swept setting, there lie 9,000 graves, including 45 pairs of brothers, 33 of whom are buried side by side, a father and a son, two sons of a president. They all traded their future for ours in a final act of loving sacrifice.
In that American Cemetery, it is no accident each headstone faces west: west over the Atlantic, towards the nation they defended, the nation they loved, the nation they would never come home to.
It struck me as I stood in the midst of those heroes that they look upon us in silent judgment. And that we must ask ourselves: are we worthy of their sacrifice?
The truth is we are at the end of an era of failed leadership.
We have been led by a divider who has sliced and diced the electorate, pitting American against American for political purposes. We are a country more divided by race, income, religion and party than when he entered office.
His lofty words were no match for the reality of the world.
How long ago it seems now the speeches before fawning millions in Europe, in front of Roman columns in Denver. We were told America needed to improve its reputation abroad. Now we are neither liked nor respected.
That's what happens when a president governs based on popular acclamation, instead of based on enduring American values.
We have isolated our allies, and emboldened our adversaries.
ISIS has ripped a swath through the Middle East as large as Great Britain. It could have been prevented. But a naïve campaign promise took priority over stability, and even the blood shed by American heroes. Today, the president remains in denial about the weakness that led to their emergence, and even the nature of the threat. With political correctness expected of a Harvard professor, he refuses to admit we are at war with radical Islam. Mr. President, we are at war with radical Islam.
Naïve policies gave us the Iranian nuclear deal — an agreement that fuels Iran's nuclear ambitions rather than prohibiting them. A president who boldly claimed it was his goal to rid the world of nuclear weapons will have a legacy of nuclear proliferation. All because he places his trust in a regime that is the leading sponsor of state terrorism, in the word of radicals, in inspections that can be easily manipulated.
My friends, this is not the America I know.
Neither is a domestic economy that settles for two percent growth, and neither is a president who ignores the Constitution and issues executive orders to make law.
Washington needs to return to doing its constitutional duty: standing up a strong military, implementing foreign policy from a policy of strength, not weakness, and securing the border with Mexico. And they need to get out of the education business, get out of the healthcare business, and stop utilizing EPA zealots to shut down small business.
Washington is not the fount of all wisdom. The best ideas come from the states.
Liberal Justice Lewis Brandeis once said, "that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."
Each state should chart its own course, whether it is Governor Haley fighting the unions to bring Boeing and Michelin to South Carolina, or Bobby Jindal standing up for school choice. I support the right of states to be wrong, like Colorado legalizing pot. I would rather one state get it wrong than the whole country.
Today Washington has discarded the Tenth Amendment, centralizing power while failing to meet the test of leadership.
Our present-day leaders would have us settle for low expectations, low growth, record numbers out of the workforce. To them, two percent growth is the new norm. They want us to embrace their vision of mediocrity. I, for one, will not.
As Americans we have the power to make the world new again.
But let me issue a couple warnings. First, the answer to a president nominated for soaring rhetoric and no record is not to nominate a candidate whose rhetoric speaks louder than his record. It is not to replicate the Democrat model of selecting a president, falling for the cult of personality over durable life qualities.
Only in Washington do they define fighting as filibustering, leading as debating.
Where I come from, talk is cheap. And leadership is not what you say, but what you do.
Missouri is the "show me state", and this must be a "show me, don't tell me" election, where we get beyond the rhetoric to the record to see who has been tested, who has led and who can be expected to stand in the face of fire.
And for the record, if a candidate can't take tough questions from a reporter, how will they deal with the president of Russia, the leaders of China or the fanatics in Iran?
My second warning is this: we cannot indulge nativist appeals that divide the nation further. The answer to our current divider-in-chief is not to elect a Republican divider-in-chief.
Conservatism is inherently optimistic. It celebrates the power of the individual, it believes in free markets over state-controlled solutions. It knows free individuals can govern their own lives better than centralized government.
Progressives think we need to protect the people from themselves. Conservatives think we need to protect the people from government.
We have had too much government — too many government answers, too much government meddling — all at the expense of individual freedom.
We need to get back to the central constitutional principle that, in America it is the content of your character that matters, not the color of your skin — that it doesn't matter where you come from, but where you are going. In an America blind to color, that champions the individual, that recognizes merit, there is no room for debate that denigrates certain people based on their heritage or origin.
We can secure the border and reform our immigration system without inflammatory rhetoric, without base appeals that divide us based on race, culture and creed.
Let me be crystal clear: for those of us in Christ, our citizenship is first and foremost in God's kingdom, our brothers and sisters are those made in the image of God, and our obligation — after loving God with all our heart, mind and soul — is to love our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of where they come from.
Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant, it betrays the example of Christ. We can enforce our laws and our borders, and we can love all who live within our borders, without betraying our values.
It is time to elevate our debate from divisive name-calling, from soundbites without solutions, and start discussing how we will make the country better for all if a conservative is elected president.
And let me say, I know something about enacting conservative principles. We have done it in Texas.
During my 14 years as governor, Texas created nearly one-third of all new American jobs. We passed balanced budgets, cut taxes, set aside billions of dollars for a rainy day, and elevated our graduation rates to second highest in the nation.
We did this based on conservative principles: Don't tax too much, don't spend all the money, invest in an educated workforce, and stop frivolous lawsuits at the courthouse.
It can be done, all across America, with the right leadership.
2016 is the most important election of our lifetime. I know we say this every election, but this time it is actually true. It is true because we have had six and a half years of an expanding welfare state, and a contracting freedom state.
There are two visions for America: the government-run welfare state of Washington, New York and California, and the limited government freedom state pioneered in places like Texas.
The centralized state offers more regulations, and less freedom. A world where everything costs more, from college tuition, to the cost of housing, to the price of government.
Their answer to our current economic mess is more government solutions, more tax dollars placed in the hands of bureaucrats, more redistribution schemes, and a shrinking pie for the middle class.
As Margaret Thatcher once said, "the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."
But it doesn't have to be that way. With the right nominee, we can cut taxes on corporations and individuals, unleash growth, create jobs, and lift wages. We can create opportunity by drilling for American energy and selling it around the world.
We can restore our reputation abroad by reasserting our moral authority, by standing with allies like Israel, and standing up to adversaries like Iran.
We can be the America we know in our hearts we are meant to be — a nation of ideas and innovations, a place where freedom flourishes, that special land that the heroes of Normandy died to defend.
Conservative principles applied consistently will make life better for all, but especially minority Americans. More African-Americans are living in poverty since President Obama took office. That's because he offers them government programs, instead of creating new incentives for people to work.
We can improve life for minority Americans. The formula is simple: stop politically correct regulation policies that make housing so expensive for single moms, let low and middle-income Americans keep more of what they make, challenge all kids to exceed in school.
We did that in Texas, and now we have the highest graduation rate for minority students.
For me, the message has always been greater than the man. The conservative movement has always been about principles, not personalities. Our nominee should embody those principles. He — or she — must make the case for the cause of conservatism more than the cause of their own celebrity.
I still believe in the power of that message — a message that offers hope, redemption and solace in the midst of storms.
When I gave my life to Christ, I said, "your ways are greater than my ways. Your will superior to mine."
Today I submit that His will remains a mystery, but some things have become clear.
That is why today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States.
We have a tremendous field — the best in a generation — so I step aside knowing our party is in good hands, and as long as we listen to the grassroots, the cause of conservatism will be too.
I share this news with no regrets. It has been a privilege and an honor to travel this country, to speak with the American people about their hopes and dreams, to see a sense of optimism prevalent despite a season of cynical politics.
And as I approach the next chapter in life, I do so with the love of my life by my side, Anita Perry. We have our house in the country, we have two beautiful children and two adorable grandchildren, four dogs, and the best sunset from our front porch that you could ever imagine.
Life is good. And I am a blessed man.
I remain as convinced as ever: there is nothing wrong with America today that cannot be fixed with new leadership. Leadership that champions conservative ideas.
As great as our greatest Republican presidents were — from Lincoln to Reagan — it is their ideas that remain greatest.
Those ideas live on through the spirit, idealism and optimism of this generation of Americans.
We must return to great ideas, to our belief in the power of free individuals, free markets, and free Americans standing watch for liberty wherever it is threated.
This is up to us. It is up to you. And to me. Let's roll up our sleeves. Let's get to work. Let's make America, America again.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Rick Perry, Remarks to the Eagle Forum in St. Louis, Missouri Announcing the End of Presidential Campaign Activities Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/310902