Robert Dole photo

Remarks at the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames

August 19, 1995

Thank you, Dan Quayle , for that great introduction. I recall that back in 1988, Dan gave me the honor of delivering his nomination speech at the Republican National Convention. And, Dan, I'm hoping that come next August in San Diego, I might have the opportunity to return the favor. I see a lot of friends here tonight: Chuck and Barbara Grassley, Terry and Chris Branstad, Jim and Elisabeth Leach, Bob and Billie Ray — and so many others. I think the highest compliment anyone ever paid me was back in 1988 when Chuck Grassley introduced me with the words: "Bob, you're one of us." A lot of people lose their way in Washington, but those words help me keep my sense of direction. You know what I mean. If you grow up in rural America, there's always a grain elevator on the horizon. And if you just keep it in sight, you're never far from home. That's how I feel about the phrase, "One of Us." That's how I feel about Iowa.

Minutes up the highway from here are farms and towns like the ones I knew as a boy. Those of us who were raised in rural America grew up with a common set of values, a code of living that stays with us all our lives. Love of God and country and family. Commitment to honesty, decency and personal responsibility. Self-reliance tempered by a sense of community. Our great cities can be exciting and magnificent places, but the values nurtured here in the heart of America are the ones that have guided us throughout our history. Those values made us the greatest country on earth. And there is no doubt in my mind that the secret to getting our country back on track is simply to return to them as a matter of national policy.

There are endless reasons to end the failed Presidency of Bill Clinton, but renewing the strength of America by restoring our social and moral order has got to be somewhere near the top of the list.

When I spoke out against the Hollywood movies and music which celebrate sex and violence, it touched a cord with people everywhere. Americans are concerned about the loss of any sense of shame or standard of decency in our popular entertainment. Parents understand the pull of the culture. They know that televisions and movie screens, boomboxes and headsets are windows on the world for our children — an advance report on the adult world our kids are so eager to experience.

Mickey Mantle also understood the dynamic. He was more than a terrific centerfielder with a great batting average. He was one of the greatest sports heroes America has ever known. Publicly, he was an idol of the culture who lived a private life at war with its values. And, in the end, that's what shortened his life. Perhaps his greatest moment came just a month before he died. He looked into the camera and told America's children: "Don't be like me." God bless Mickey Mantle.

For that kind of personal responsibility has not yet been accepted by very many entertainment leaders, by those who produce our movies and music and television. Censorship isn't the answer. We don't need laws or regulations or government intimidation. But we do have a right and an obligation to speak out. To name names. To shame those who deserve to be shamed. Not to impose our morality on anyone else. But to stop the entertainment industry from imposing a debased morality on all the rest of us.

And we're having an effect. Since the spotlight was shone on the seamy productions of Time Warner, the company has put its gangsta rap label up for sale and fired the four top executives responsible for dragging it into the cultural sewer. That was a great first step. Thank you, Time Warner. We welcome you back to the community of responsible adults.

But it's not just the entertainment industry that's the problem. If the fabric of our society seems to be fraying, it's also due to the moral confusion evident in our government, our courts, our schools. Let me give you some examples.

Drug use is up again but enforcement and prevention have been scaled back. When our President warns about smoking, he's talking about cigarettes. Smoking will kill you and kids shouldn't do it. But what's the message of an Administration in which the President thinks we ought to regulate tobacco, but his Surgeon General thought we ought to legalize drugs?

Crime is more random and more violent but our system of justice doesn't seem to keep anyone in jail. Our schools are teaching recycling and AIDS prevention, but our kids can't add and they certainly aren't allowed to pray. Government policies intended to bring the races together instead are tearing us apart. Illegitimacy is epidemic, but our tax code penalizes marriage and welfare drives away fathers. In fact, the welfare dream of the Great Society has become a miserable nightmare in the 1990s — discouraging work and creating a near-permanent underclass in this country. Is this what we want for America?

Across our country, parents and teachers, small businesses and farm families, cities and states are beginning to throw off the shackles of big government, to reject the mandates of the liberal elites who have pulled our country so far in the wrong direction. President Clinton has noticed this prairie fire, and has tried to join it. He gave a series of speeches this summer to outline his thinking. But this is his prescription for America: More affirmative action. No change in school prayer. Don't send welfare to the states. Nationalize health care. Politicize Medicare. Federalize education. Rig the results of our markets. And whatever you do, he says, don't criticize the government.

America's effort to bring its government to heel is unpleasant for those who believe the people are the problem and the solution is more government.

But no, Mr. President. Too much government is our trouble. Returning power to the people is the solution. And that's just what we're going to do.

Yes, we have problems. But they're not too difficult to handle. It's just that our government has gotten too big and our leaders have grown too isolated.

America's policies run counter to American values. I want to be President so I can rein in our runaway government. I want to be President so I can reconnect our government to our values. I want to be President so I can restore the spirit of America.

I know we can. And, for the sake of our children, I know we must try.

I have seen the duststorms of the '30s and the poverty of the Great Depression. I have witnessed the courage of Americans in war and the staggering splendor of American productivity in peace. I have watched as this country has been tested and tested and tested again. You can't come through all of that without becoming an optimist about America. I've seen our country overcome too much adversity not to believe deeply in our potential.

I know what made America great in the first place. I know what has been sacrificed to keep us free. And I will do everything in my power to lead our country back to her place in the sun. I have the experience, and I know the way.

Thank you very much.

Robert Dole, Remarks at the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285587

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