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Note: The following speech is unedited material supplied by the Beyer campaign.

Beyer Announces Gubernatorial Candidacy

March 10, 1997

I believe in God, who has given me life that I may serve.

I believe in my family, and the extraordinary love that we share. I'd like to introduce you to my reasons for being -- my good student, class president, beautiful golf partner, Stephanie, my 12-year-old daughter Clara, and the fire and ice of my life, my tender and indomitable wife, Megan.

I believe in my friends. Just look around at this warm, restless generous inspiring group of the best friends a man could ever hope for. You carry me on your broad shoulders.

And I believe in Virginia. In the last 9 years, I have driven 500,000 miles on our commonwealth's highways and byways.

I believe together we can build a new dominion of Virginia. There is much to treasure from Virginia's past -- our independence, our courage, our religious tolerance, our commitment to the mind, even our capacity to change.

But Virginia cannot go backward. Our challenge is to seize the possibilities of the future, and move Virginia forward.

Twenty-three years ago I was hired as a parts truck driver in my father's fledgling auto dealership. I was the lowest guy on the totem pole. As the years progressed, I learned how to fix cars, how to sell cars, financial statements and marketing, and how to inspire people how to work hard.

I've learned thousands of hard lessons in a quarter century of business leadership -- and the most important lesson of all is that an educated worker and citizen is our most valuable asset.

In a tough, competitive fast-changing word, there is only one powerful answer: education. Education leads the way.

Our children are all we've got. And I believe our greatest responsibility is to give them the best education we possibly can.

My first and highest priority will be to make Virginia's schools the best in the nation. This means every school must be successful, no matter the geography or local economy.

Our democracy and simple justice alike demand equal educational opportunity for every Virginia school child.

The new century has few places for those who have not mastered the academic basics of reading and writing, math, science and history.

Every child can learn and must learn -- and we must demand genuine accountability -- real results -- for every dime we spend every year on kindergarten through 12th grade.

Accountability means ending social promotion. Children should not go on to the next grade until they have mastered the basics for the current grade.

I believe we flunk our fundamental responsibility to the students when we pass them on, poorly prepared, an accumulation of failures which can only end in dropping out or a meaningless diploma.

We began this year by requiring summer school and extra help for the 32% of Virginia's 6th graders who flunk the test of basics, the Literacy Passport Test.

In the next administration, we will expand the testing, and the tools and the fight against underachievement.

We will not give up on any Virginia student. And we will get our money's worth.

I believe we must demand real discipline and classroom order for our children to learn. Families have the right to know their kids aren't walking out the front door in the morning, into classrooms and hallways of fear.

We have just given teachers the authority to dismiss disruptive students from their classes. But we must do more. No teacher or student should ever be afraid to go to school.

I believe the best schools require that we attract the best and brightest to teach our children Let's treat our teachers as true professionals.

And by the end of 2002, let's make sure the top young minds in Virginia will consider becoming teachers and pay the state's teachers salaries equal to the national average.

Good teachers achieve the best results with small class sizes, where kids get the one-on-one help they sometimes need. We have started this job. I believe we can finish it, for smaller classes everywhere in Virginia.

This is not all we can or will do. This is just a beginning, and we must not lose sight of the end: Virginia public schools that produce world-quality students -- year after year, every place in this state.

I believe our future is closely tied to attracting and keeping top quality faculty and in making a college education more affordable for Virginia families.

We can do all of this only if we have a governor who makes education, from pre-school through college, the central focus and priority of the next administration.

I have another priority: to make and keep Virginia the toughest and smartest on crime in the entire nation.

We can and must prevent crime before it occurs. That means a stronger commitment to community policing, a full-scale assault on teenage pregnancy, and after-school programs that give young people someplace to go other than to streets, to gangs and to drugs.

To be smart on crime, we will launch an all-out effort to cut Virginia's 25 percent dropout rate in half.

I will personally lead the crusade to convince young people to finish their high school education. Remember: 80 percent of Virginia's prison population dropped out of high school.

But make no mistake about it: we also need stronger punishment for those who have already been caught and convicted. If you're in prison doing time, you can't commit another crime.

As lieutenant governor, I led the creation of the sex offender registry. I proposed and helped pass "two strikes you're out" for sexual predators and no bail for violent offenders.

During this campaign, I will outline new, tough and specific steps to increase punishment for those who break our laws and hurt our people.

I believe Virginia is blessed with abundant natural resources and a hard work ethic. We can and we will make Virginia the best place to start a business, to raise a family, and to build a future.

I come to this job as a businessman -- with a sharp eye on the bottom line. I believe that tax breaks and tax credits can stimulate jobs ands give us the resources we need to grow. I hate debt. And I see no reason to raise taxes.

I have created a small business growth fund -- so that every part of Virginia, from its smallest towns to the biggest cities, will share in our prosperity.

I believe that in Virginia, decisions about health care will be made by doctors and patients -- not by someone you've never seen.

And in Virginia, we'll defend a woman's right to choose, against extremist attacks.

I believe every Virginian has a fundamental right to safe drinking water. And we have an obligation to safeguard the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

I believe we can all live and advance together, black and white, Northern Virginia and Southwest and Southside, Democrats and Republicans.

I believe in Virginia, we govern from the mainstream. For 8 years, I have worked with members of both parties, rejecting the ideological extremes, setting a steady course.

My friends, the mission before us will not be easy -- in the coming months of the campaign or even more in the years ahead. Ad we will not get there along the road of narrow partisanship and harsh ideology.

It was Virginia that suffered when we placed ideology before the needs of our children: it was wrong to deny Goals 2000 funding to our schools.

It was Virginia that suffered when we placed ideology ahead of the protection of our air and water and weakened enforcement of our own environmental laws.

And it is Virginia that will suffer if we choose to selectively enforce the laws of this nation -- as we came so close to doing just days ago.

I believe 40 years of lawyer-governors is long enough.

I believe I'll be the first certified auto mechanic to lead this state.

I believe that our families across the commonwealth will thrive when we let education lead the way.

I believe Virginia needs an education governor.

So my friends, with pride and humility, determination and faith -- I now announce my candidacy for Governor of Virginia.

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