Ohio Governor John Kasich announced his candidacy on July 21, 2005 at his alma mater of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. His speech lasted a little more than 40 minutes.
After introducing his twin daughters and his wife on the stage with him, he turned to the American dream. He talked about drawing inspiration from the past in order to carry it forward to the next generation.
“…we can all work to make sure the next generation is going to be in a position of greater strength than what we received. And I get my inspiration from the people who came before me. And I want to tell you about a few of the ones that inspire me.”
Kasich told of his Uncle Steve who fought in WWII on Iwo Jima. His uncle was not a churchgoing man but said that he told God that if he got off the island alive he would be in church every day for the rest of his life. After the war his uncle would have nightmares and talk in Japanese.
He spoke of his Uncle George who was in the Navy and scheduled to get on a ship to Belgium. There were too many to get on that ship so George was held back. That ship was attacked by a German submarine and sunk, killing all on board. The next day George was put on another ship that went to France. His Uncle George returned home after the war and became a guidance counselor.
Kasich’s father-in-law joined the Marines when he was 17. He wanted to serve his nation.
Kasich’s father was a mailman. He talked about how many people came up to him when his father was laid to rest talking about the impact he had on them. Kasich took the stories of those who inspired him to remind the audience that they too had inspiration in their lives.
Then he talked of those who are no longer sure about the American dream.
“And all of you that are here today—you’re the same way, aren’t you? You’ve got those people who did so much for you who are your heroes. They don’t have to be famous. They’re just people that you love and that you admire.
That American dream is pivotal for the future of our country, but I have to tell you, there are a lot of people in America today who are not sure that that American dream is possible, that that American dream is alive. And I can understand their concerns.”
He addressed some of the concerns that cause people to wonder if the American dream is still alive. Those include job security, debt, medical costs, illegal drugs, and just struggling to get by.
“You know, when I was a kid, you went out and you got a job and you worked at that job your entire lifetime. You got your health care, you got your retirement and everything was good.
Today you could be a 51-year-old man and one day after serving and doing everything the right way, somebody walks into your office and says, ‘I’m sorry, but we don’t need you anymore.’ Can you imagine that conversation? Could you imagine that dad while he’s driving home or that mom when she’s driving home?
They lose confidence. They wonder what their future is. Can they get another job? Can they support their family? Will anybody be there to help them?”
He gave further examples of parents sending their children to college and their children running up big student loan debts. Then their children move back home and can’t get a job.
He spoke of the fear of health problems and the cost of medical care. In addition there is the fear of drug addiction. He addressed the students in the audience.
“Don’t put that big 1,000 pound pack on your back and keep you from your God-given purpose. But all moms and dads worry that those drugs will wash away our own neighborhoods and maybe wash away our children.”
He addressed those who simply struggle all their lives. While he believes in hard work and individual initiative, he acknowledged that there are those who do that and still struggle for a lifetime.
“They struggle for a whole lifetime and they worry that can they rise? Can they pull the rest of their family members up the ladder? The promise of America and they worry about it.”
Kasich turned to members of the minority community asking them,
“Do you wonder, ‘The system I think sometimes doesn’t just work for me, but sometimes I feel like that system works against me.’ You think about the troubles that many of our African-Americans still face today in the world where we have worked to provide equal rights and opportunities. Sometimes they’re not so sure. And I don’t blame them.”
He addressed everyone in general with issues that we all face each day.
“We pick up the paper, it’s Chattanooga, it’s Fort Hood, it’s ISIS. Are we safe? Are we going to be safe to go to the mall? Are we safe to leave our homes?”
After listing the issues and struggles that various groups have that can cause Americans to lose hope in the American dream, he pointed out that we have been through difficult times before.
“These are the worries that many Americans have, but I have to tell you as serious as these are—and they are very serious—we’ve had a lot worse, much worse in this country.”
Kasich listed several times of crisis our nation has faced. These included the Civil War where family members were killing one another on battlefields here in America. He added the racial strife and violence and two world wars where many in our families never came home. He included the great depression and September 11, 2001.
“But guess what? We’ve always gotten through it because the testing is what makes you stronger. It’s the challenges that make you better. I have lived through them and I have become stronger for them and America has become stronger for them and here is how we’ve done it—by staying together. Not by dividing each other, but by staying together with our eyes on the horizon, with our eyes on the horizon about the future.”
He used the example of the community of Wilmington, Ohio. In 2009, the primary employer in Wilmington was impacted by a corporate decision to restructure. Over 8,000 jobs were lost which devastated the economy of the entire area. Kasich described what happened and the hope of the people of Wilmington. The experience clearly impacted his life and his view of public service.
“Let me tell you about these folks. They played by the rules, worked every day, highly productive, teamwork. And one day an employer said, ‘We’re leaving. We’re out of here.’ And thousands of people—thousands of hard working, God-fearing people like your neighbors went from getting a paycheck on a Friday afternoon to visiting a food pantry so they could feed their kids.
I was down there in 2010 after this earthquake—economic earthquake hit Wilmington. We had a campaign bus. My wife was with me. We walked through that food pantry. We looked at the people—preachers and civil servants and leaders and caregivers—they were at the food pantry but had not lost any hope because they had their eyes on the horizon.
We got back on that bus. I will never forget it as long as I live. We got back on that bus and I said, ‘Folks, do you understand?’ Some of them had been with me for a long time, so they got it, but some of the others were rookies. I said, ‘Do you understand what we are doing here? This is not a political campaign.’ And by the way, neither will this be—this is not a political campaign. ‘Did you see those people? Did you see the tears in their eyes? Did you see them hugging their children? Did you see them not hopeless? We’re going to join in and we’re going to help them, because it is our job and our mission as human beings, as children of God to work with them to lift them.’
And guess what? And guess what? And in Wilmington today the sun’s coming up. I told them that the sun would come up again. It hasn’t reached its zenith, but the sun is rising. And the sun is going rise to the zenith in America again. I promise you it will happen.”
He made an important point to the audience when he said that the ones who make this happen are the people in the community – teachers, preachers, moms, dads, doctors, construction workers. In the middle of his speech he paused to speak of a man who had faced tragedy the weekend before. “Like that sweet man in Brown County who saw his family washed away over the weekend. Keep him in your prayers.” He referred to the average citizen as “the glue that holds our country together.”
Kasich told of a time in his life when he was a student at Ohio State. He told how he walked to the stadium and stood at the 50 yard line alone in the middle of the stadium. As a new student, he was overwhelmed with the size of the school. He told how he faced a choice and he directed his words to the students in the audience.
“I thought to myself, either this place is going to take me down or I’m going to take it down, one way or the other. Either it was going to beat me—you know, either it was going to beat me or it was going to be a place—kids, because you’ll face it someday—to help me move forward.”
He used this story to lead into his formal announcement of his candidacy.
“You know what’s amazing? I’m back here today. You could throw a stone and hit that stadium or you could hit that dormitory so many years later. And guess what? I am here to ask you for your prayers, for your support, for your efforts, because I have decided to run for President of the United States.”
He answered the question of “why” he is running for President.
“I do this because, first of all, if we’re not born to serve others – think about this, I want you to think about this. If we’re not born to serve others, what were we born to do? I do this for my family, of course, for my sweet family, for my neighbors, for my friends of many, many, many years, many of whom are working with me today—30, 40 years later.
I really do it for everyone. And I have to humbly tell you—and I mean humbly tell you—that I believe I do have the skills, and I have the experience.
I have the experience and the testing. The testing which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world, and I believe I know how to work and help restore this great United States.”
Next he addressed the question of why he thinks he can do this. The answer to this question introduced the primary focus of his speech and two phrases that he would repeat numerous times to emphasize why he believed that he can be elected as President. The first phrase was, “big ideas.”
“You know, all of my life people have told me you can’t do something, okay? I’ll tell you why, it’s because I do believe in the power of very big ideas, big, bold ideas.”
He used the experience he had in 1976 at the Republican Convention when Ronald Reagan ran for the nomination and lost to Gerald Ford.
“Well, he lost, as you know. And I was there when he met with his closest advisors and he said, ‘We’ve lost the battle. We haven’t lost any war because we’ll all be back and I’m going to fix America with all of your help.’ And, of course he did.
And it further cemented my notion that big ideas, big ideas change the world—big ideas change the world.”
After that convention, Kasich, at 24 years old, decided to run for State Senate. No one gave him a chance to win, but he won. He said that he went on to chair the Health Committee and he learned to work with everyone. It was in that role that said he learned that, “policy is far more important than politics, ideology, or any of the other nonsense we see.”
Kasich then introduced the second phrase that he would repeat as the focal phrase of his speech, when he said, “You know, they said it couldn’t be done. We proved them wrong.”
At the age of 30, he decided to run for Congress against an incumbent. In 1982, Republicans lost 26 seats that year.
“And in 1982 I was the only Republican in America to defeat a Democrat all across this country. And guess what, here is the irony, I got to go to Washington and work with President Ronald Reagan, you know? They said, they said it couldn’t be done, but we proved them wrong again.”
Kasich got on the Armed Services Committee and saw the waste that was taking resources from those who were serving in the military.
“I discovered that these hammers and screwdrivers, they cost thousands of dollars and it was taking the resources from the people that needed it who were serving in the military. We were wasting money and I said, ‘We need to clean this up,’ and they’re like, ‘You know, come on, it’s the Pentagon. You can’t—forget about it, it can’t happen.’
Well, we passed some legislation and we made things right. We saved money, we improved the system, and we helped the military. They said it couldn’t be done, and we proved them wrong again.”
He made a point that while he doesn’t like to spend a lot of money, national security “climbs to the very top of the heap because we must be strong and we must assume our role as leaders of the world.”
Kasich became frustrated with the budget process. A constituent asked him, “What are you going to do about it?” He took his small staff and wrote a budget for the United States. He probably wanted to make this point because one of the responsibilities of the President is to submit a budget proposal to Congress. Kasich used his announcement speech to make it clear that he had already done it at the national level.
“We wrote a budget for the United States of America, and why? Everybody knows me as the budget guy. It’s not about numbers. It’s about vision. It’s about values. And we do not have the right as grown-ups to ring up debts to suit ourselves and pass them on to the next generation. We don’t have that right. Ten years of my life I worked at this.”
He named John Sununu of New Hampshire and Pat Tiberi of Ohio as two who helped him. He said that they cared more about fixing America than getting re-elected. Fiscal responsibility as the key to rebuilding the economy is a plank in the platform of his candidacy.
“They cared about getting the budget balanced and getting the economy going. You know what? They said it couldn’t be done. They said it was too big, too hard, too much politics and we proved them wrong again and we balanced that federal budget. We balanced it.
You want job creation? You balance the books. Am I right? You balance the books. And if I’m President or maybe I should say when I am President—
—I will promise you—I will promise you that my top priority will get this country on a path to fiscal independence, strength, and we will rebuild the economy of this country because creating jobs is our highest moral purpose and we will move to get that done.”
After serving in Congress, Kasich worked at Lehman Brothers and then Fox News. He then told about his decision to re-enter political life.
“I had a great time, but, you know, I had a calling. Here is kind of how it went—I didn’t hear anything but it was clear to me—you’ve had an amazing life. You have a lot of skills. You’re going back. You’re going back. And I sensed it when I was on a trip. And I came back and called my friends together and said I guess we’ve got to do this.
You know, a lot of people, the doubters, they said you haven’t been in politics in 10 years—in a decade—you have never run statewide and you haven’t defeated an incumbent in 36 years in Ohio, and incumbents don’t lose. So we put together a vision. We put together a team. They said it couldn’t be done and we proved them wrong again.”
Kasich emphasized that he is ready for the Presidency when he said,
“If I’m President I know what we need to do, there’s no confusion about that. I know what needs to be done. I have been there at all levels.”
He came into office, $8 billion dollars in the hole and 350,000 jobs lost. He described it as a lot of hopelessness, particularly among the poor and the minorities. “People said maybe Ohio’s best days are behind them. I thought that was baloney. I said, ‘We’ll cut taxes and get the budget balanced.’”
Kasich went to work to make things better. He improved policies and said that, “if we have to knock down the special interests to get it done, so be it.”
“Now, today four-and-a-half years later, a billion in the hole—2 billion surplus, a loss of 350,000 jobs—a gain of 350,000 jobs, and tax cuts, tax cuts of $5 billion—the largest in the country.”
While emphasizing his accomplishments, he acknowledged the human side of public policy.
“And as I hope you all know, economic growth is not an end unto itself. If you’re drug addicted, we’re going to try to rehab you and get you on your feet. If you’re mentally ill, prison is no place for you. Some treatment and some help is where you need to be. You’re the working poor? We’re going to give you an opportunity to take a pay raise and not bang you over the head because you’re trying to get ahead. We’re changing that system. If you have an autistic son or daughter, for most of them, they can get insurance. We’ll work to make sure all of them have it. If you’re developmentally disabled, you’re made in God’s image. They have a right to rise. They have a right to be successful.
And with all this, with all this, they said it couldn’t be done. Guess what, we proved them wrong again.”
Kasich acknowledged that this would be a big challenge. He acknowledged that there were plenty who would say that he was a good guy, but he can’t win. He pointed out a young girl in the audience and asked her if she could paint signs.
“And with all of you, together, we’ll prove them wrong again, won’t we? We’ll prove them wrong again.
So our team, you know, we’ll tame, we’ll tame the bureaucracy, we’ll restore this common sense. Mary Taylor has the Common Sense Initiative, get rid of all the stupid rules. Well, we will do that in Washington. How about putting some people in the government that understand job creators and respect them rather than beating them down, how about that for an idea? How about some common sense?”
He laid out a few broad ideas and a philosophy of governing. One is that each individual matters. He referred to a statement etched into the Holocaust Memorial. “If you save one life, you’ve saved the world.” He asked the audience if they believed that. He talked about some values that can bring the nation together.
The first value he mentioned was the value of personal responsibility.
“Folks, we’re a divided country, but we can fix it. I’ll tell you what I think some of them are: personal responsibility. The dog ate my homework went out in the fifth grade. Here is the thing: we own our lives. I mean, if you’re hurting, we’ll help you.
My mother used to say, my mother used to say, that it is a sin not to help somebody who needs help, but it’s equally a sin to continue to help somebody who needs to learn how to help themselves. Personal responsibility needs to be restored in our country.”
The next value he mentioned was resilience.
“Teach our children resilience. Everybody doesn’t get a trophy just for showing up, folks. You know what resilience is? It’s getting knocked down—and I have been knocked down so many times—but getting knocked down is not the problem. It’s refusing to get up. We need to teach our kids, teach our children about resilience and remind ourselves that you’re 51 years old and you lost your job? You’re going to come back stronger and better. We’ll help you.”
The next value was empathy and being willing to understand others.
“Empathy, this one is so important. I just would ask you to think, put yourself in the shoes of another person…. Yeah, we want to hold them accountable, but the Lord wants our hearts to reach out to those that don’t have what we have. I mean, that shouldn’t be hard for America. That’s who we are. When people have studied our country they have talked about our compassion. And we need to bring it back. Empathy, don’t be so quick to judge. Ok? Me too. Me too.”
The next value was teamwork. He pointed out Tom Moe who ran the Ohio Department of Veteran’s Services. Tom was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He developed a code that he used to communicate with his fellow POW’s.
“. . . he tapped out a code that kept them all together. And it was team that carried them through the most difficult times. Uncle George, it was team that helped you to be successful. The Vietnam veterans and the Iraqi veterans and the Afghanistan veterans…we do best…or the Depression, when we all hung together. Teamwork, team, they’re not the enemy, they’re part of our team. We can disagree, they’re our team.”
The final two values he mentioned were family and faith.
“And then family, look at these families here. It’s the building block of America. It’s the building block of our culture. Let’s recognize it. And, of course, faith, and faith is real simple for me. It’s about the dos, not about the don’ts. What it’s really about is: God didn’t put us on the earth to take care of ourselves. He put us on the earth to make things a little bit better because we live here.”
Kasich closed his speech with an exhortation to recognize that they are the strength and glue that holds America together.
“And, by the way, if you think that I or anybody who becomes President or a big shot—we don’t move America. Oh, we do our part, if we have courage and intelligence, but it’s all of us in the neighborhoods, in the families, across the country, we’re the strength and the glue. Please, please, please don’t lose sight of it….
And, folks, as it has been said many times, the light of a city on a hill cannot be hidden. The light of a city on a hill cannot be hidden. America is that city and you are that light.
God bless you and God bless America. Thank you all very much.”
John Kasich’s speech was more like a sermon, challenging his hearers to recognize their value and their importance. He wants them to believe in America.
The phrase that he repeated and drove home in his speech summed up his exhortation to his supporters, “They said it couldn’t be done. Guess what, we proved them wrong again.”
Kasich is one of two Governors in the race who has also served in Congress. He helped to craft a balance budget for the United States and led Ohio from economic ruin to a vastly improved state that continues to improve.
In the Electoral College, Ohio is a critical state. No Republican has won the White House in recent years without winning Ohio.
Kasich will have a challenge regarding his position on Obamacare. Ohio was one of the states that signed up for it. Kasich believes that there is an aspect of government that must address the needs of the poor, aged, mentally ill, and developmentally disabled.
Kasich presents himself as a compassionate conservative. Most conservatives would agree with government help to those who cannot help themselves. They will likely be leery of Kasich’s acceptance of Obamacare.
The great divide between the staunch conservatives and the more moderate branch within the Republican Party and the nation has not been clearly defined. Most of Kasich’s positions are strong, Reagan-like conservative positions. He also shows in his speech that he does not ignore those who traditionally fit the Democrat voting profile.
Kasich has an uphill climb in the crowded field. He is not likely to be in the top tier of the debate participants for the first debate next week. Kasich is positioning himself to be the unique blend of candidate that is conservative while at the same time being able to work with those who hold different opinions.
If he pulls it off, you can expect to hear him say, “They said it couldn’t be done. Guess what, we proved them wrong again.”
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