Paul Ryan’s remarks to the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 14, 2012, as prepared for delivery:
Thank you all very much. I appreciate your kind hospitality, and I count it a special honor to be introduced by my mentor and friend Bill Bennett.
It’s good to be part of the Values Voter Summit once again, and this time around I bring greetings from the next president of the United States, Governor Mitt Romney.
In this election, many millions of Americans count themselves as values voters, and I am one of them. In 53 days, we have a choice between two very different ideas about our country – how we were meant to live, and what we were meant to be.
It’s the kind of choice that can never be taken for granted. Peace, freedom, and civilized values have enemies in this world, as we have been reminded by events in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.
We have all seen images of our flag being burned and our embassies under attack by vicious mobs. The worst of it is the loss of four good men, including our ambassador to Libya. They were there for the most peaceful purposes in service to our country. And today our country honors their lives and grieves with their families.
All of us are watching events closely, but we know who America is dealing with in these attacks. They are extremists who operate by violence and intimidation. And the least equivocation or mixed signal only makes them bolder.
Look across that region today, and what do we see?
- The slaughter of brave dissidents in Syria.
- Mobs storming American embassies and consulates.
- Iran four years closer to gaining a nuclear weapon.
- Israel, our best ally in the region, treated with indifference bordering on contempt by the Obama administration.
Amid all these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership.
In the days ahead, and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose. Only by the confident exercise of American influence are evil and violence overcome.
That is how we keep problems abroad from becoming crises. That is what keeps the peace. And that is what we will have in a Romney-Ryan administration.
In the all-important election of 2012, values voters are also economic voters. This election will hold the incumbent accountable for his economic failures, and affirm the pro-growth agenda of Mitt Romney.
It is true that President Obama had a lot of problems not of his own making. But he also came in with one-party rule, and the chance to do everything of his own choosing. The Obama economic agenda failed, not because it was stopped, but because it was passed.
And here is what we got: Prolonged joblessness across the country. Twenty-three million Americans struggling to find work. Family income in decline. Fifteen percent of Americans living in poverty.
The record is so uniformly bad that maybe you’ve noticed something: President Obama himself almost never even uses the word “record,” – that is, except when he’s trying to trade on the record of Bill Clinton. In his convention speech, the President never once said that simple word, “record.”
He didn’t say the word “stimulus,” either, because he wasted $831 billion of borrowed money. At a time of mass unemployment, he didn’t even say “unemployment,” because we’re in the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. And by the way, he didn’t use the word “recovery,” either – never mind that recovery was what all America expected from Barack Obama.
He wants us to forget all of these things, and lately he’s been trying out a new tactic. It’s a classic Barack Obama straw man: If anyone dares to point out the facts of his record, why then, they’re just being negative and pessimistic about the country. The new straw man is people hoping for the decline of America.
It’s pretty sad, but this is the closest President Obama can come these days to sounding positive himself. But we have to face up to all that has gone wrong these past four years, so that the next four can be better. Ladies and gentlemen, this nation cannot afford to make economic failure a two-term proposition.
Lately, the President has also been trying out sports comparisons. He compares this fourth year of his term to the fourth quarter of a basketball game.
You can expect more of this, because if there’s anything the man can do, it’s talk a good game. The only problem is, the clock is running out and he still hasn’t put any points on the board.
His whole case these days is basically asking us to forget what he promised four years ago, and focus instead on his new promises. That’s a fast move to get around accountability. He made those ringing promises to get elected.
Without them, he wouldn’t be president. And now he acts as if it is unfair to measure his performance against his own words. But here’s the question: If Barack Obama’s promises weren’t good then, what good are they now?
If we renew the contract, we will get the same deal – with only one difference: In a second term, he will never answer to you again.
In so many ways, starting with Obamacare, re-electing this president would set in motion things that can never be called back. It would be a choice to give up so many other choices.
When all the new mandates of government-run healthcare come down, the last thing the regulators will want to hear is your opinion. When the Obama tax increases start coming, nobody in Washington is going to ask whether you can afford them or not.
When all the new borrowing brings our national debt to 20 trillion dollars, and then 25 trillion, nobody’s going to ask you about the debt crisis, or even help you prepare for it. But we the people need to think ahead, even if our current president will not, to avoid that crisis while there is still time.
Everyone knows that President Obama inherited a bad economy. And four months from now, when Mitt Romney is sworn in as president, he will inherit a bad economy.
But here’s the difference. When a Romney-Ryan administration takes office, we will also take responsibility. Instead of dividing up the wealth, our new president will get America creating wealth again.
We’re going to revive free enterprise in this country – to get our economy growing faster and our people back to work.
On the path this president has set, by the time my kids are my age, the federal government will be far bigger and more powerful even than it is today. At that point, this land of free men and women will have become something it was never intended to be.
We are expected to meekly submit to this fate, but I’ve got a different idea, and I’m betting that most Americans share it. I want my children to make their own choices, to define happiness for themselves, and to use the gifts that God gave them and live their lives in freedom.
Say things like this, and our opponents will quickly accuse you of being, quote, “anti-government.” President Obama frames the debate this way because, here again, it’s the only kind of debate he can win – against straw-man arguments.
No politician is more skilled at striking heroic poses against imaginary adversaries. Nobody is better at rebuking nonexistent opinions. Barack Obama does this all the time, and in this campaign we are calling him on it.
The President is given to lectures on all that we owe to government, as if anyone who opposes his reckless expansion of federal power is guilty of ingratitude and rank individualism.
He treats private enterprise as little more than a revenue source for government. He views government as the redistributor and allocator of opportunity.
Well, the results are in for that, too. Here we are, after four years of economic stewardship under these self-proclaimed advocates of the poor, and what do they have to show for it?
More people in poverty, and less upward mobility wherever you look. After four years of dividing people up with the bogus rhetoric of class warfare, just about every segment of society is worse off.
To see all this played out in any country would be bad enough. To see it becoming the daily experience of life in the United States is utterly contrary to everything we are entitled to expect.
Mitt Romney knows that this country, and all the millions who are waiting for their working lives to begin again, were made for better things.
To borrow the words of another mentor of mine, Jack Kemp, Mitt and I understand that “No government in history has been able to do for people what they have been able to do for themselves, when they were free to follow their hopes and dreams.”
Under the current President, we are at risk of becoming a poor country, because he looks to government as the great benefactor in every life.
Our opponents even have a new motto. They say, quote, “Government is the only thing that we all belong to.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought of government as something I belong to. As a matter of fact, on the seven occasions I’ve been sworn in as a Member of Congress, I have never taken an oath to the government.
The oath that all of us take is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, under which government is limited and the people are sovereign.
In the experience of real life, the most important things we belong to have a very different hold on us. I am a Catholic, not because anyone has ordered me to accept a creed, but because of the grace and truth revealed in my faith – and that’s how we all feel about the faiths we hold.
In the same way, we Americans give ourselves to every kind of good cause. We do so for the simple reason that our hearts and conscience have called us to work that needs doing, to fill a place that sometimes no one else can fill.
It’s like that with our families and communities, too. The whole life of this nation is carried forward every day by the endless unselfish things people do for one another, without even giving it much thought.
In books, they call this civil society. In my own experience, I know it as Janesville, Wisconsin – a place, like ten thousand others, where a lot of good happens without government commanding it, directing it, or claiming credit for it.
That’s how life is supposed to work in a free country. And nothing undermines the essential and honorable work of government more than the abuse of government power.
In the President’s telling, government is a big, benevolent presence – gently guiding our steps at every turn. In reality, when government enters the picture, private institutions are so often brushed aside with suspicion or even contempt.
This is what happened to the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities this past January, when the new mandates of Obamacare started coming. Never mind your own conscience, they were basically told, from now on you’re going to do things the government’s way.
Ladies and gentlemen, you would be hard pressed to find another group in America that does more to serve the health of women and their babies than the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities. And now, suddenly, we have Obamacare bureaucrats presuming to dictate how they will do it.
As Governor Romney has said, this mandate is not a threat and insult to one religious group – it is a threat and insult to every religious group. He and I are honored to stand with you – people of faith and concerned citizens – in defense of religious liberty.
And I can assure you, when Mitt Romney is elected, we will get to work – on day one – to repeal that mandate and all of Obamacare.
Finally, when he tries to make big government sound reasonable and inclusive, President Obama likes to say, “We’re all in this together.” And here, too, he has another handy straw man.
Anyone who questions the wisdom of his policies must be lacking in compassion. Who else would question him but those mean people who think that everybody has to go it alone and fend for themselves.
“We’re all in this together” – it has a nice ring. For everyone who loves this country, it is not only true but obvious. Yet how hollow it sounds coming from a politician who has never once lifted a hand to defend the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, the child waiting to be born.
Giving up any further pretense of moderation on this issue, and in complete disregard of millions of pro-life Democrats, President Obama has chosen to pander to the most extreme elements of his party.
In the Clinton years, the stated goal was to make abortion “safe, legal and rare.” But that was a different time, and a different president. Now, apparently, the Obama-Biden ticket stands for an absolute, unqualified right to abortion – at any time, under any circumstances, and even at taxpayer expense.
When you get past all of the President’s straw men, what we believe is plain to state: These vital questions should be decided, not by the caprice of unelected judges, but by the conscience of the people and their elected representatives. And in this good-hearted country, we believe in showing compassion for mother and child alike.
We don’t write anyone off in America, especially those without a voice. Every child has a place and purpose in this world. Everyone counts, and in a just society the law should stand on the side of life.
So much of our history has been a constant striving to live up to the ideals of our founding, about rights and their ultimate source. At our opponent’s convention, a rowdy dispute broke out over the mere mention of that source.
For most of us, it was settled long ago that our rights come from nature and nature’s God, not from government.
A disregard for rights … a growing government and a static economy … a country where everything is free but us: This is where it is all tending.
This is where we are being taken by the present administration. This is the road we are on. But my friends, that road has an exit, just ahead, and it is marked “Tuesday, November 6, 2012.”
We can be confident in the rightness of our cause, and also in the integrity and readiness of the man who leads it.
He’s solid and trustworthy, faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best.
Not only a fine businessman, he is a fine man, worthy of leading our country, and ready to lead the great turnaround we have spent four years waiting for.
I’m not the only one who has told Mitt that maybe he needs to talk more about himself and his life.
It wouldn’t hurt if voters knew more of those little things that reveal a man’s heart and his character. This is a guy who, at the height of a successful business, turned the entire company into a search and rescue operation the moment he heard that a colleague’s young daughter was missing.
He’s a man who could easily have contented himself with giving donations to needy causes, but everyone who knows him will tell you that Mitt has always given himself.
He’s one of those guys who doesn’t just exhort and oversee good works, but shows up and does the work.
Mitt Romney is the type we’ve all run into in our own communities, the man who’s there right away when there’s need, but never first in line when praise and credit are being handed out. He’s a modest man with a charitable heart, a doer and a promise-keeper.
He’s the kind of person every community could use more of, and he’ll be the kind of president who brings out the best in our country.
When he asked me to join the ticket, I told Governor Romney, “Let’s get this done.” That’s been my message ever since, and now I’m asking all of you the same.
We know what we are up against. We know how desperate our opponents are to cling to power. But we are ready, and I hope you are too, because I know that we can do this.
Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country. Let’s put these divisive years behind us. Let’s give this effort everything we have. Let’s get this done, and elect Mitt Romney the next president of the United States.
Thank you very much.