Tampa Bay Times Forum
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Well, this stage and this moment are very improbable for me. A New Jersey Republican delivering the keynote address to our national convention. From a state, from a state with 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans. A New Jersey Republican stands before you tonight, proud of my party, proud of my state and proud of my country.
Now, now I am the son of an Irish father and a Sicilian mother. My dad, who I'm blessed to have with me tonight, is gregarious, outgoing and lovable. My mom, who I lost eight years ago, was the enforcer. Now she made sure we all knew who set the rules. Tell it to you this way: in the automobile of life, dad was just a passenger, and mom was the driver.
They both lived hard lives. Dad grew up in poverty, and after returning from Army service, he worked at the Breyer's ice -cream plant in the 1950s. Now, with that job and the G.I. Bill, he put himself through Rutgers University at night to become the first in his family to earn a college degree.
And our first family picture, our first family picture was on his graduation day, with my mom beaming next to him, six months pregnant with me.
Now, mom also came from nothing. She was raised by a single mother who took three different buses every day to get to work. And Mom spent the time that she was supposed to be a kid actually raising children: her younger brother and younger sister. She was tough as nails and didn't suffer fools at all. And the truth is she couldn't afford to. She spoke the truth, bluntly, directly and without much varnish. I am her son.
I was her son -- I was her son as I listened to darkness on the edge of town with my high-school friends on the Jersey shore. I was her son when I moved into that studio apartment with Mary Pat to start a marriage that's now 26 years old. I was her son as I coached our sons, Andrew and Patrick, on the fields of Mendon (ph) and as I watched with pride as our daughters, Sarah and Bridget, marched with their soccer teams in the Labor Day parade, and I'm still her son today as governor, following the rules she taught me. To speak from the heart, and to fight for your principles.
You see, Mom never thought you'd get extra credit just for speaking the truth. And the greatest lesson that Mom ever taught me, though, was this one. She told me there will be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected. Now she said to always pick being respected. She told me that love without respect was always fleeting, but that respect could grow into real and lasting love.
Now, of course, she was talking about women. But I have learned over time that it applies just as much to leadership, and in fact, I think that advice applies to America more than ever today.
See -- see I believe we have become paralyzed, paralyzed by our desire to be loved. Now, our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to know that social acceptance and popularity were fleeting, and that this country's principles needed to be rooted in strengths greater than the passions and the emotions of the times.
But our leaders today have decided it's more important to be popular, be popular, to say and do what's easy and say yes rather than to say no when no is what is required.
And in recent years -- in recent years, we as a country have too often chosen same path. It's been easy for our leaders to say, not us, not now, in taking on the really tough issues. And unfortunately, we have stood silently by and let them get away with it.
But tonight, I say enough. Tonight -- tonight, I say together let's make a much different choice. Tonight, we are speaking up for ourselves and stepping up. Tonight, we are going to be beginning to do what is right and what is necessary to make America great again.
We are demanding that our leaders stop tearing each other down and work together to take action on the big things facing America. Tonight, we are going to do what my mother taught me. Tonight, we're going choose respect over love.
You see, we're not afraid. We are not afraid. We're taking our country back, because we are the great-grandchildren of the men and women who broke their backs in the names of American ingenuity; the grandchildren of the greatest generation; the sons and daughters of immigrants; the brothers and sisters of everyday heroes; the neighbors of entrepreneurs and firefighters, teachers and farmers, veterans and factory workers, and everyone in between who shows up, not just on the big days or the good days, but on the bad days and the hard days. Each and every day. All 365 of them. You see, we are the United States of America.
Now -- now it's up to us. We must lead the way our citizens live, to lead as my mother insisted I live: not by avoiding truths, especially the hard ones, but by facing up to them and being better for it. We can't afford to do anything less.
And I know this because it was the challenge in New Jersey when I came into office. I could continue on the same path that led to wealth and jobs and people leaving our state or I could do the job people elected me to do, to do the big things.
Now, there were those who said it can't be done, that the problems were too big, too politically-charged and too broken to fix. But we were on a path we could no longer afford to follow.
Now, they said it was impossible -- this is what they told me -- to cut taxes in a state where taxes were raised 115 times in the eight years before I became governor. That it was impossible to balance the budget at the same time with an $11 billion deficit. But three years later, we have three balanced budgets in a row with lower taxes. We did it!
They said -- they said it was impossible to touch the third rail of politics, to take on the public-sector unions, and to reform a pension and health benefits system that was headed to bankruptcy, but with bipartisan leadership we saved taxpayers $132 billion over 30 years and saved retirees their pensions. We did it.
They said -- they said it was impossible to speak the truth to the teachers' union. They were just too powerful. The real teacher tenure reform that demands accountability and ends the guarantee of a job for life regardless of performance, they said it would never happen. But for the first time in 100 years with bipartisan support, you know the answer: we did it!
Now -- now, the disciples of yesterday's politics, they always underestimate the will of the people. They assumed our people were selfish. That when told of the difficult problem, the tough choices and the complicated solutions, that they would simply turn their backs, that they would decide it is every man for himself. They were wrong. The people of New Jersey stepped up. They shared in the sacrifice. And you know what else they did? They rewarded politicians who led instead of politicians who pandered.
But you know, we shouldn't be surprised. We shouldn't be surprised. We've never been a country to shy away from the truth. Our history shows that we stand up when it counts, and it's this quality that has defined America's character and our significance in the world.
Now I know this simple truth, and I am not afraid to say it. Our ideas are right for America, and their ideas have failed America. Let me be clear with the American people tonight. Here's what we believe as Republicans and what they believe as Democrats.
We believe in telling hard-working families the truth about our country's fiscal realities, telling them what they already know: the math of federal spending does not add up. With $5 trillion in debt added up over to the last four years, we have no option but to make the hard choices: cut federal spending and fundamentally reduce the size of this government.
You want to know what they believe? They believe that the American people don't want to hear the truth about the extent of our fiscal difficulties. They believe the American people need to be coddled by big government. They believe the American people are content to live the lie with them. They're wrong.
We believe in telling our seniors the truth about our overburdened entitlement. We know seniors not only want these programs to survive, but they just as badly want them secured for their grandchildren. Our seniors are not (AUDIO GAP).
Here's what they believe. They believe seniors will always put themselves ahead of their grandchildren, and here's what they do. They prey on their vulnerabilities and scare them with misinformation for the single cynical purpose of winning the next election. Here's their plan: whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power when we fall.
Now, we believe that the majority of teachers in America know that there must be reform to put the students first so that America can compete. Now, teachers don't teach to become rich or famous. They teach because they love children.
We believe -- we believe that we should honor and reward the good ones while doing what's best for our nation's future. Demanding accountability, demanding higher standards and demanding the best teacher in every classroom in America.
Get ready. Get ready: here's what they believe. They believe the educational establishment will always put themselves ahead of children, that self-interests will always trump common sense. They believe in pitting unions against teachers; educators against parents, lobbyists against children. They believe in teachers' unions. We believe in teachers.
We believe -- we believe that, if we tell the people the truth, that they will act bigger than the pettiness that we see in Washington, D.C. We believe it's possible to forge bipartisan compromise and stand up for our conservative principles. You see, because it's always been the power of our ideas, not our rhetoric, that attracts people to our party.
We win when we make it about what needs to be done. We lose when we play along with their game of scaring and dividing. For make no mistake about it, everybody, the problems are too big to let the American people lose. The slowest economic recovery in decades, a spiraling out-of-control deficit, and an education system that's failing to compete in the world.
It doesn't matter how we got here; there's enough blame to go around. What matters is what we do now. See, I know -- I know we can fix our problems. When there are people in the room who care more about doing the job they were elected to do than they worry about winning re-election, it's possible to work together, achieve principled compromise and get results for the people who gave us these jobs in the first place.
The people have no patience for any other way anymore. It's simple: we need politicians to care more about doing something and less about being something.
And believe me -- believe me, if we can do this in a blue state like New Jersey with a conservative Republican governor, Washington, D.C., is out of excuses. Leadership delivers. Leadership counts. Leadership matters.
And here's the great news I came here tonight to bring you. We have this leader for America. We have a nominee who will tell us the truth and who will lead with conviction. And now he has a running mate who will do the same. We have Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, and we need to make them the next president and vice president of the United States.
You see -- you see, because I know Mitt Romney. I know Mitt Romney, and Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on a path to growth and create good-paying private- sector jobs again in America.
Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world's greatest health-care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.
Now, we ended an era of absentee leadership without purpose or principle in New Jersey, and I'm here to tell you tonight, it is time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders back to the White House. America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and we need them right now.
Now, we've got to tell each other the truth, right? Listen, there is doubt and fear for our future in every corner of our country. I have traveled all over to country, and I have seen this myself. These feelings are real. This moment is real. It's a moment like this where some skeptics wonder if American greatness is over. They wonder how those who have come before us had the spirit and the tenacity to lead America to a new era of greatness in the face of challenge. Not to look around and say, "Not me," but to look around and say, "Yes, me."
Now, I have an answer tonight for the skeptics and the naysayers, the dividers and the defenders of the status quo: I have faith in us. I know -- I know we can be the men and women our country calls on us to be tonight. I believe in America and her history, and there's only one thing missing now: leadership. It takes leadership that you don't get from reading a poll.
You see, Mr. President, real leaders don't follow polls; real leaders change polls. That's what we need. That's what we need to do now. We need to change polls through the power of our principles. We need to change polls through the strength of our convictions. Tonight, our duty is to tell the American people the truth. Our problems are big and the solutions will not be painless. We all must share in the sacrifice, and any leader that tells us differently is simply not telling the truth.
Now I think tonight -- I think tonight of the greatest generation. We look back and marvel at their courage, overcoming the Great Depression, fighting Nazi tyranny, standing up for freedom around the world. Well, now it's our time to answer history's call. For make no mistake: every generation will be judged. So will we.
What will our children and grandchildren say of us? Will they say we buried ourselves in the sand; we assuaged ourselves with the creature comforts we've acquired, that our problems were too big and we were too small, that someone else should make a difference, because we can't?
Or will they say about us that we stood up and made the tough choices that needed to be made to preserve our way of life. You see, I don't know about you, but I don't want my children or grandchildren to have to read the history book, what it was like to live in American century. I don't want our only inheritance to be enormous government, that it's overtaxed, overspent and over-borrowed a great people into second-class citizenship.
I want them to live in a second American century. A second American century. A second American century of strong economic growth where those who are willing to work hard will have good-paying jobs to support their families and reach their dreams. A second American century where real American exceptionalism is not a political punchline, but is evident to everyone in the world just by watching the way our government conducts its business everyday and the way that Americans live their lives.
A second American century where the military is strong, our values are sure, our work ethic is unmatched, and our Constitution remains a model for anyone in the world struggling for liberty.
Let us choose a path that will be remembered for generations to come. Standing strong for freedom will make the next century as great an American century as the last one.
You see, this is the American way. We have never been victims of destiny. We have always been the masters of our own.
And I know, I know you agree with me on this. I will not be part of the generation that fails that test, and neither will you.
All right. It's now time for us to stand up. Everybody stand up. Everybody stand up. Stand up. Because there's no time left to waste. If you're willing to stand up with me for America's future, I will stand up with you. If you're willing to fight for with me for Mitt Romney, I will fight with you. If you're willing to hear the truth -- to hear the truth about the hard road ahead and the rewards for America that truth will bear, I'm here to begin with you this new era of truth-telling.
Tonight, we choose the path that has always defined in our nation's history.
Tonight we finally and firmly answer the call that so many generations have had the courage to answer before us. Tonight, we stand up for Mitt Romney as the next president of the United States, and together -- and together -- and together, everybody, together we will stand up once again for American greatness for our children and grandchildren.
God bless you and God bless America.