Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker became the 15th Republican to announce his candidacy for President. He made his announcement speech on July 13, 2015 at the Waukesha County Expo Center, Waukesha, Wisconsin.
The stage was set to present Scott Walker as a candidate who is close to the people and a hard working leader. There was no podium on the stage. He stood in an area that was surrounded by the audience on both sides and in the front. He wore an open collar long sleeve shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbows.
He opened his speech with three words, “I love America.” He went on to talk about two veterans who had influence his life.
“Mr. Congdon was a bit of a legend in our small town. You see, he had served our country in World War I and World War II. Then, like so many other veterans, he came back and served his community.
Over the years we used to love to see him down at the concession stand at Legion baseball. He’d help out in our church and he was a leader of my Boy Scout troop.
In fact, I can remember over the years before Memorial Day, he would organize me and all of the other Scouts as we would go through and put out flags on the graves of the fallen. It was impossible to be around Mr. Congdon and not share his love for God and Country.”
He told how Mr. Congdon’s American Legion Post helped him attend Badger Boys State where Walker was selected to represent Wisconsin in a program in Washington, D.C. called, “Boys Nation.” It was there that he met another veteran who influenced his life.
“There I met another veteran, a Vietnam veteran from Georgia, by the name of Bob Turner. Now, Bob and all the other veterans that ran that program not only taught us about the federal government and national elections, they shared their love for our country, and they inspired within me the importance of public service when it comes to defending our liberties. Veterans like that remind me that what makes America great is that America is a ‘can do’ kind of country.”
He made a striking contrast of what he learned from these veterans who influenced his life to what he sees today. “Unfortunately we have a government in Washington that just can’t quite seem to get the job done.”
Walker tossed out a one liner describing Washington that is sure to become a classic.
“Washington, or as I call it, 68 square miles surrounded by reality.”
He said that the good news is that there is time to turn things around. It will take bold, fresh leadership from outside of Washington. He said that we need leadership “that knows how to get things done, like we have done here in Wisconsin.” Scott Walker then listed a few accomplishments.
“Since I’ve been Governor, we took on the unions and we won. We lowered taxes by $2 billion dollars; in fact, we lowered taxes on individuals, on employers and property owners. Property taxes today are lower today than they were four years ago. How many other Governors can say that?
Since I’ve been Governor, we passed lawsuit reform and regulatory reform. We defunded Planned Parenthood and passed pro-life legislation. We enacted Castle Doctrine and concealed carry so we could protect ourselves, our families, and our property. And we now require a photo ID to vote in this state. If our reforms can work in a blue state like Wisconsin, they can work anywhere in America.”
Walker said that as he traveled around the country, he heard people saying that they were tired of hearing politicians talk about what they are against. He said that Americans want to vote for something and for someone.
“So tonight, let me tell you what I’m for: I’m for Reform. Growth. Safety.
I’m for transferring power from Washington into the hands of hard-working taxpayers in states all across the country. That’s real reform.
I’m for building a better economy that allows everyone to live their piece of the American Dream. That’s pro-growth.
And I’m for protecting our children and our grandchildren from radical Islamic terrorism and all other threats in the world. That’s true safety.”
Scott Walker’s father is a Baptist preacher. In the delivery of this speech, the influence of living under the same roof of one who wrote and delivered sermons each week was evident. He presented three points: Reform, Growth, Safety, and then expounded on each one.
First, in discussing reform, he illustrated what he did in Wisconsin by taking power from big government special interests and put the power “firmly into the hands of the hardworking taxpayers.” He used education reform to illustrate.
“Today, today people in this state who are actually elected by local property taxpayers literally run our schools. That means we got rid of things like seniority and tenure. That means we can hire and fire based on merit and pay based on performance and put the best and the brightest in our classrooms.
Now think about that. Four years later, four years later, graduation rates are up, third grade reading scores are higher and Wisconsin’s ACT scores are now second best in the country. Our reforms worked.”
Walker explained that the reforms in education were based on a foundation of his belief about smaller and closer government.
“That just goes to show that government closest to the people is generally the best; which is precisely why we need to take power and money out of Washington and send it back to our states in key areas like Medicaid and transportation and workforce development and education.”
Continuing on the subject of reform, Walker talked about how important it is for America to change the thinking from measuring success based on measuring government dependency to measuring success based on how many people are no longer dependent on the government.
“Sadly though, Washington seems to think that success is measured by how many people are dependent on the government. We, we measure success by just the opposite: by how many people are no longer dependent on the government. We understand that true freedom and prosperity do not come from the mighty hand of the government. They come from empowering people to control their own lives and their own destinies through the dignity that is born of work, of work. That’s what we stand for.”
Walker told of his own work experience coming up. His first job was washing dishes at the Countryside Restaurant. Then he moved up to flipping burgers at McDonald’s while in high school to save up for college.
Allow me to make an observation about the two jobs that he mentioned. These are the doors that close to young people who are starting out when government regulation forces employers to pay a higher minimum wage. Businesses like the Countryside Restaurant, which I assume would be locally owned, may decide that the cost is not worth the effort. They go out of business and close down. Larger corporations like McDonald’s may close local franchises or alternatively hire fewer people. Scott Walker, like thousands of others, did not view these jobs as demeaning, but saw them as an opportunity. (End of editorial observation)
Walker’s father was a pastor in a small town and his mother was a part-time secretary and bookkeeper. His grandparents were farmers. His father’s father was a machinist for 42 years. He shared this background to make the point that he and his brother did not inherit fame and fortune from his family.
“What we got was the belief that if you work hard and you play by the rules, you can do and be anything. That’s right. You see, that’s the American Dream. And that is worth fighting for.”
This belief that work and independence from government dependence will help more people live the American dream is the foundation of welfare reform in Wisconsin. He enacted a program that required people on welfare to enroll in a job training program before receiving a welfare check. He also pointed out that in the budget that he just signed, there is a requirement for welfare recipients to pass a drug test.
Walker’s response to opposition for the drug test reveals his approach to facing opposition.
“Now you can only imagine what the defenders of the status quo thought when I proposed those reforms. They said I was making it harder to get government assistance. My reply – ‘No, we’re making it easier to get a job and isn’t that what it’s all about?’”
He brought this back to the family and the need for strong families. He noted that children raised in a household where both parents are involved are more likely to finish school, find a good job, and live a life free of government dependence. In this regard, the federal government has a role in strengthening families by “getting rid of the marriage penalty and by getting rid of policies, welfare policies that make it hard for fathers to play an active role in the lives of their children. We need to encourage families.”
He transitioned from reform to growth by talking about his own family and two sons and their generation of future leaders. He placed importance on assuring that they have the opportunity to grow up with freedom and prosperity.
He contrasted the philosophy of Washington’s top-down approach to building the economy to his ground-up approach.
“Instead of the top-down, government-knows-best approach that you hear from so many in Washington, we need to build the economy from the ground up in a way that’s new and fresh, organic and dynamic; that says as long as you don’t violate the health and safety of your neighbor – go out and start your own career, build your own business, live your own life. You see, that’s freedom – the kind of freedom that’s the cornerstone of the American Dream.”
Walker listed several actions to take to create more jobs. First, repeal Obamacare. He pointed out that on his first day in office as Governor; he approved Wisconsin joining the lawsuit with other states against Obamacare. As President, on his first day in office, he would call on Congress to pass a full repeal of Obamacare.
Next he promised to reign in government regulations that “are like a wet blanket on the economy.” He supports common sense rules, “but let’s get rid of the bureaucratic red tape.” As Governor he called on a moratorium of new regulations his first day in office and he said that he can do the same in Washington.
He called for an “all-of-the-above” energy policy using “what God has given us here in America and on this continent.” Noting that we are an energy-rich country and can fuel our own economic recovery, he called for approving the Keystone pipeline on day one.
Walker again addressed education, this time from the perspective of economic growth. He pointed to the track record in Wisconsin of reforming public schools and putting as many choices in the hands of parents as possible.
“I believe that every child, every child, regardless of zip code, or background, or what their parents [do] for a living, I believe that every child deserves access to a great education – be it at a traditional public or a charter or a choice or a private or a virtual or a home school education. Every child deserves access to a great education.”
He emphasized local control and made his position against Common Core crystal clear. “No Common Core. No nation-wide school board. That’s why I will work so hard to take power and money out of Washington and send it back to our states and our schools where it’s more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the American people.”
To illustrate the point, he took a dollar bill and held it up as he spoke.
“Now think about this. If you were to take a dollar out of your purse or your wallet – where would you rather spend that – in Washington, or at your child’s school? I’d rather spend it at your child’s school and if you give me the chance, we’re going to send those dollars back to help your child at your school.”
The fifth action to grow the economy is to reduce the tax burden “so you can keep more of your hard-earned dollar.” He called for tax levels that are competitive and bring jobs back the United States.
To illustrate his point, an example from Kohl’s department store. He said that he could go to the rack and see a shirt for $29.99 that was marked down to $19.99. Then he takes a coupon from the paper or a flyer that arrived in the mail and it takes 15 to 30% off the price. Then his wife pulls out Kohl’s cash and, “next thing you know, they are paying me to buy the shirt.”
He observed that Kohl’s could still make money because of the volume of merchandise they are selling. They could charge $29.99 and sell some shirts but by lowering the price and broadening the base, they make more money off of the volume.
With regard to tax policy, he said that by lowering the rate and broadening the base, it increases the volume of people participating in the economy. He jokingly said that this was Ronald Reagan’s approach known among economists as the Laffer Curve. Walker calls it the Kohl’s curve. “I believe you can spend your money far better than the federal government and when we do, the economy will get a whole lot better.”
Walker transitioned from the subject of growth, to his third point of safety. He began with a contrast of the approach of a late President with the Obama/Clinton doctrine today.
“In my lifetime, the best President, when it comes to national security and foreign policy, was a Governor from California. Under his leadership, we rebuilt the military. We stood up for our allies. We stood up to our enemies and – without apology – we stood for American values. That led to one of the most peaceful times in modern American history.
Sadly today, under the Obama/Clinton doctrine, America is leading from behind and that has us headed toward a disaster. Think about this. We’ve got a President who drew a line in the sand and allowed it to be crossed. A President who called ISIS the JV squad, Yemen a success story and Iran a place we can do business with. Iran…think about that.”
He told how his brother and he would tie ribbons around the tree in the front of their house during the 444 days that Iran held 52 Americans hostage. He introduced, Keven Hermening, who was serving as a Marine in the Embassy and was one of the youngest hostages.
Using the example of the hostages and the change of administration that set them free, Walker called for the same strong leadership in dealing with Iran today.
“Iran hasn’t changed much since he and the other hostages were released on President Reagan’s first day in office. Looking ahead, we need to terminate the bad deal with Iran on the very first day in office. We need to terminate that deal on the very first day in office; put in place crippling economic sanctions in Iran, and convince our allies to do exactly the same thing.”
He moved from Iran to another striking contrast in understanding the greatest threat to future generations. Obama said earlier in the year that climate change was the greatest threat. Walker’s response,
“Well, Mr. President, I respectfully disagree. The greatest threat to future generations is radical Islamic terrorism and we need to do something about it.”
Doing something about it includes lifting political restrictions on the military personnel already in Iraq and allowing them to help the Kurd and Sunni allies in the fight against ISIS. Walker went on to say,
“On behalf of your children and mine, I’d rather take the fight to them instead of wait until they bring the fight to us.”
He said that we need to acknowledge as our ally and treat them like an ally. “There should be no daylight between our two countries. That’s why earlier this year, when I went to Israel, I not only met with the Prime Minister, I met with the opposition leader to let them know that if I were President, there would be no daylight between the United States and Israel going forward.”
Walker said that the U.S. needs to stop the aggression of Russia.
“Putin bases his policies on Lenin’s old principle; that you probe with bayonets. If you find mush, you push. Under Obama and Clinton, Putin has found a whole lot of mush over the last few years. The United States needs a foreign policy that will put steel in front of our enemies.”
He listed China, saying that we needed to stop their cyber-attacks, stop their expansion into international waters, and speak out against their abysmal human rights record.
He turned to our own defense capacity to protect our national interests here and abroad as well as the support of our allies. He said that begins by rebuilding the Defense budget to at least the levels recommended by Secretary of Defense, Gates.
As a part of our defense capacity, he spoke of the support for those who serve. He said that we honor our men and women in uniform by giving them the resources they need to keep us safe and also by providing the quality health care that they need when they return home.
On the subject of honoring those who serve, Walker believes that it takes a national mindset of winning.
“But most of all, the best way we can honor them is by fighting to win. You see, this is important. Our goal should be peace, but there will be times when America must fight. And if we must, Americans fight to win. Going forward, the world must know that there is no greater friend and no worse enemy than the United States of America.”
Walker completed explaining of what he was for: Reform, Growth, and Safety. Then he moved to the close of his speech with the “why” and his formal statement of announcing his candidacy.
“Veterans like Claire Congdon and Bob Turner remind me that what makes America great, what makes us exceptional, what makes us the greatest country in all of the world, it’s been all throughout our history in times of crisis – be it economic or fiscal, be it military or spiritual -there have been men and women of courage who have been willing to stand up and think more about future generations than they thought about their own political futures.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of those times in American history. And so, after a great deal of thought and a whole lot of prayer, we are, we are so honored to have you join with us here today as we officially announce that we are running to serve as your President of the United States of America.”
In his announcement Walker used the plural “we” to include not only himself as the individual candidate, but also his family and all those who support his values. He went on to tell more of the “why” which included leaving a nation to the next generation that is at least as great as the one he and his wife inherited.
He emphasized a three word phrase that he will, no doubt, use over and over again throughout this campaign, “fight and win.” He will use this phrase to distinguish himself from other candidates who can say that they fight. Walker will say that he doesn’t just fight. He fights and wins.
“Americans deserve a President who will fight and win for them; someone who will stand up for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; someone who will stand up for our religious freedoms and all of our other Constitutional rights; someone who will stand up for America.
You see, it doesn’t matter whether you come from a big city or a suburb or a small town, I will fight and win for you. Healthy or sick, born or unborn, I will fight and win for you. Young or old – or anywhere in between – I will fight and win for you.”
In his closing words, he addressed legal immigration and the American dream. He also touched on the difference between equal opportunity and equal outcomes.
“Over the years, I’ve met some amazing people, many of whom have come here from other places around the world. I’ve got to tell you, to a person, the people I’ve met like that tell me that they reason they came here was not to become dependent on the government. No, the reason they came here was because America is one of the few places left in the world where it doesn’t matter what class you were born into or what your parents did for a living.
In America, you can do and be anything you want. That’s the American spirit. You see, in America, the opportunity should be equal for all of us, but the outcome, well that’s up to each and every one of us here and across this great country.
That’s why we just took a day off to celebrate the 4th of July and not the 15th of April, because in America, we celebrate our independence from the government – not our dependence on it.
That’s why I love America. That’s why we – we – we love America. That’s why – working together – we can fight and win for America. Thank you all for coming out. God bless you all for coming here. God bless our military. And may God continue bless the United States of America.”
Scott Walker drew national attention when he was elected in a strong Democrat state running as a conservative Republican. He gained more attention when he went beyond campaign rhetoric to take on the big labor unions that were in control of the state government. He gained even more attention when he won.
The big unions fought back fiercely, gaining the needed number of signatures to demand a recall election. In 100% of the times it has happened, when a governor faces a recall election, the recall always wins – except this time.
Scott Walker won. The people of Wisconsin went to the ballot box and affirmed the direction he was taking the state.
Through all of this process, Scott Walker built a nationwide network of political support. He represented a conservative pushback against Obama and his policies.
Walker did not speak directly about his personal faith in his speech, although the foundation of his faith was clear. He did not avoid key conservative social issues, but neither were they the centerpiece of his message.
Scott Walker has a broad appeal. He will have support among conservatives. If he is the nominee, those who supported other conservative candidates will not feel that they are holding their noses while they vote for the Republican.
His challenge will be to build a strong enough coalition to stay in the race. His nationwide network puts him in a good position to meet that challenge.
Walker’s three words, “Fight and Win” will be the mantra of his campaign. There is a difference in the fight that he fought in Wisconsin and the fight that he would face in Washington. In Wisconsin, the foes he faced were always opposed to Republicans. The lines will not be as clearly drawn in Washington.
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